Teaching the concept of ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ – modelling with symbols on lolly sticks!

The abstract concept of ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ can be difficult for children with autism to understand. Therefore, the concept of ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ often needs to be taught explicitly, and an effective way (from my experience) to do this is by modelling the language at the exact time the child is either clearly liking or disliking something.

 

Model language: for example “Steph likes tomatoes” or “Steph doesn’t like the swing”

 

Verbal language can be reinforced and emphasised using sign and symbol. A warm mention of  The Garden School in Hackney where we put ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ symbols on lolly sticks which makes a great easily accessible resource! One side has ‘like’ on and the other side has ‘don’t like’ on, therefore making it quick and easy to change as required.

 

like and don't like lolly sticks

 

In my classroom I would have a pouch on the side of my cupboard which was easily accessible to me at any time, so in the right moment (it can happen anytime!) I could quickly grab the ‘like/ don’t like lolly stick’ and show it to the child whilst they are obviously enjoying/ disliking something.

 

like and don't like lolly sticks

 

If the child is verbal, they are likely to repeat the language. I have even had a child get up from her table and walk to the pouch to take the lolly stick and tell me she did not like something, brilliant! She then began using the language ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ independently herself.

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Understanding level of sense making – The ComFor assessment tool

the garden school comfor assessment

From left to right: Myself – Stephanie Reed, Jarymke Malijaars (Ku Leuven), Pat Quigley (The Garden Head of School) and Beth Junor (Specialist ASD Speech and Language Therapist).

I was very grateful to attend the ComFor training held at The Garden School in January. The ComFor assessment is a tool used to determine what would be the most appropriate form of augmentative communication for an individual with autism and little or no verbal language.

The ComFor Assessment

The assessment is a very methodical range of sorting activities which aim to identify what forms of supports an individual can make sense of in order to put in place the most appropriate augmentative communication intervention. These supports include objects, pictures, line drawings, pictograms, photos and written language symbols. The assessment uses different levels of sense making to understand where an individual may be functioning. These levels of sense making are:

  • Sensation: How babies experience the world and learn to react to their environment (i.e cry for attention)
  • Presentation: The individual begins to learn the function of communication and can communicate actively in the present context (i.e looking at, pointing to and babbling towards a cup)
  • Representation: When speech is used and a word represents an object (i.e. the word “drink” is used to ask for a drink). If an individual does not speak, but they learn that a picture, symbol or object refers to an action (i.e. to drink) then they have reached the level of representation
  • Metarepresentation: When language is used and understood beyond the literal meaning (i.e. a joke or sarcasm)

The ComFor assessment aims to ascertain which level of sense making an individual is operating at and therefore, which type of augmentative communication approach would be most suitable.

Below are photo examples of different forms of augmentative communication implemented after the ComFor Assessment at the appropriate level based on the individuals level of sense making (with photos taken from Met Andere Woorden – ‘In Other Words’)

Objects of Reference
Objects related to the activity are used to communicate what is coming next (i.e. bib for lunch time)

object of reference asd teacher comfor assessment

Assembling objects
The child below is able to take the object and place it into the awaiting object (i.e. cup in cup holder) in order to have a drink

assembling objects asd teacher

assembling objects asd teacher

Assembling pictograms
The pictogram will slot into the correct place (i.e. headphones where the headphones are used)

assembling pictogram comfor assessment

Matching pictograms
The child below is able to recognise the pictogram and then transition to and take part in the activity that is displayed in the pictogram (i.e lunch time):

matching pictogram asd teacher comfor assessment

The ComFor assessment is an extremely invaluable tool to decide on the most appropriate form of augmentative communication in order to ensure the individual understands and is able to communicate to their full potential. Further information on the ComFor assessment tool can be found at the offical ComFor website here as well as in the journal article ‘Making Sense in a Fragmentary World’ (Neons & Van Berckelaer-Onnes, 2004, Sage Publications and the National Autistic Society).

 

Setting up a choice board to aid communication and implement structure

ASDTeacher choice board

The School Setting:

A school setting for a child with autism should be highly structured and have familiar routines that the child can anticipate. Communication should be encouraged through speech as well as sign, symbols, photos and objects, depending on the ability of the child. A classroom set up specifically for autistic children should be low arousal (calm and quiet environment with neutral walls and dividers so it is not too distracting) with objects and toys organised neatly and clearly labelled (no clutter!).

To encourage communication for children able to understand symbols or photos, the child would have to ask for an object of choice through speech, sign or through giving a picture or a symbol sentence to an adult of the desired object in exchange for the object. You will be aware if  your child uses pictures or symbols at school.

The Home Setting:

The home setting tends to be less structured and toys and objects tend to be freely available and open to the child. This can be great for some children and families as it promotes independence and enables children to do things for themselves. In some circumstances, having every object freely available to a child can lead to a child having free rein of the house and taking whatever they want as and when they want it, which for some families can cause many difficulties.

If a child is using pictures or symbols to enhance communication at school, you can also implement them at home. Encouraging a child to ask for an object whether its is a favourite toy or a drink can promote good communication between the child and family members. Apart from aiding communication, having a picture choice board can also enable the child to use 1 object at a time and if managed consistently, encouraging a child to tidy a toy away if asking for a different one could also help to reduce the amount of mess and encourage independence!

The Aims of the Picture Choice Board

– Encourage communication by giving the child a means to request a particular object.
– Promote a communication exchange with a family member- the child requests by giving a picture card to a family member who then responds by giving the desired object.
– If a child can talk, it gives a child a visual prompt to say the correct word.
– Narrow the selection of choice down- there could be a selection of as little as 2 choices or 8 plus!
– Implement structure, routine and familiarity which could help to reduce anxiety

 

Making a Picture Choice Board:

Minimum requirements:

Pencil and paper

Maximum requirements:

Computer picture editing programme (e.g Microsoft Word)
Access to the internet/ digital camera
Laminator
Scissors
Velcro

Here is one way of making a picture choice board. Say your child’s favourite objects to use at home are;
Tangle toy
Lego
Thomas the Tank Engine Puzzle
Gym ball
Computer
Spin top

You can find pictures of all of these easily by searching on Google Images. Here are the pictures I found:

 

gym ball                       tangle                      spin top

 

 

Windows-PC                         Thomas-the-Train-jigsaw-puzzle                       lego


The picture needs to look the same as the actual object in order for the child to make the connection between the picture and the object. Alternatively, if you have a digital camera or phone with a camera, you can take a photo of the exact object. You may also be able to find symbols that your child can understand and generalise to different types of one object (e.g puzzle for multiple types of puzzle). One good free symbol website is Do2Learn and there are many others (I will write a post on this at a later date!). Schools are lucky to have funding for symbol computer programmes to make numerous good quality symbols, but they can be very expensive.

communication photo choice board

Once you have found appropriate pictures, they can be printed on one page for the child to point at or they can be cut into individual pictures. I would recommend buying a laminator and laminating sheets to make durable individual pictures. Laminators start from around £10 for the cheapest  and go up in price for better quality. Believe me, I would not be able to run my classroom without a laminator!

If you do not have access to a computer then it may be worth trying a drawing of the object, it may make just as much sense to a child as a photo depending on the child’s ability. Here is 2 examples of drawings I have done!

 

asdteacher spin top picture card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it is easy enough to make individual drawing picture cards or below is 1 way I have created individual picture cards on the computer programme Microsoft Word (you can use any editing programme):

ASDTeacher choice board

I have created these pictures into individual picture cards ready to be cut and laminated. I positioned the pictures, wrote the corresponding text below (for the child to pair the text with the picture to develop their reading skills) and then I put a box around them to separate individual pictures.  I used Microsoft Word however, you can use any computer programme that edit’s pictures.

Download picture cards example PDF

Once you have made some picture cards, you may want to use velcro to attach them to a board (perhaps a laminated piece of A4 paper). Velcro is another essential for ASD Teacher’s!

Using the Picture Choice Board

Ensure all of the items on the choice board are definitely available to use. Place the choice board somewhere within the child’s reach and view such as on a table or on the side of a unit. Make sure that the child does not get the item they want until they give you the picture card (or point to it depending on what your child is used to doing). This will be very hard at first as your child may be used to taking the objects whenever they want by themselves. If necessary, place your hand over their hand and physically prompt them to give you the picture card and then give them their desired object straight away. After doing this enough times, a child can learn that when they give you a picture card, they get the corresponding item and will request by themselves. Make sure these physical prompts are gradually reduced as the child learns what they need to do. Be consistent with using the choice board and make sure whenever an item is requested, the child gets it.

Remember, not all children can recognise pictures, photos or symbols. Ensure you know your child can before trying to introduce a system like this.

Please ask any questions in the comments and I will reply as soon as I can!

Free iPad apps I am using in the classroom

I currently have 1 iPad for my class of autistic children and I use it for 1 to 1 and group sessions. IPads are extremely motivating and rewarding for any child and the learning opportunities are endless. Here are some of the iPad apps me and my class love to use.

 

POCKET POND

Pocket Pond

by TriggerWave LLC

“Create relaxing ripples while you enjoy the sounds of nature. Interact with the fish – scare them, feed them, and watch their schooling behaviour”.

Pocket pond is a great cause and effect app which is a favourite of most of the children in my class. When the screen is touched the pond ripples and the fish swim away. The lifelike sound effects make it feel like a real pond.

 

GRID PLAYER

Grid Player

by Sensory Software International

Grid player is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app which uses widget symbols and speech. The symbols can be pressed to create a sentence. All of the children in my class are using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and I am currently using this app with 1 of my pupils who is at a more advanced stage of PECS and has a large vocabulary. As I have not been using this app for that long, I feel I am yet to use it to its full potential. Grid Player can be used with different grid sets and there are over 12,000 widget symbols. I would definitely recommend parents, teachers and speech and language therapists to download and explore the communication opportunities of this app.

 

ILOVEFIREWORKS LITE 

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 18.54.22

by Fireworks Games

Ilovefireworks is another great cause and effect app where you can create fireworks displays by pressing the screen. With 3d graphics and real sounds, this is another favourite of the children in my class!

MYCHOICEPAD MEMORY

photo

By My Insane Logic Ltd.

“A simple, fun and engaging way to aid language development and learn Makaton.”

The MyChociePad Memory game is a simple matching pairs game using Makaton symbols. Once a pair of symbols have been matched, a short video clip of  the Makaton sign is shown for the child to practice. This is great for practicing and learning new signs. There are 3 different game levels so 4, 6 or 8 tiles can be chosen. Core vocabulary symbols and signs come with the free edition of the game and over 100 signs and symbols can be purchased for £4.99 in the full edition. This app will be great for parents and teachers to learn signs as well.

Another favourite iPad app used in our classroom is Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box (£1.49). I wrote a full review here

What are your favourite apps? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

My singing choice board

I do a singing session at the end of every day with my class of children with autism. Previously the children were taking turns to choose from a choice of song symbols and now I have moved them on to choosing whether to ‘watch’ an interactive version of the song on the interactive  whiteboard or ‘sing’ the song. The verb is colour coded yellow and the song is green to help the children place the symbols in the correct order.

What resources do you use for choice making for singing or other activities?