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).