Lesson and activity visual instructions – teaching resources for children with autism

During my subject, class or group lessons I will give each child a visual step by step instruction resource that me and my teaching assistants will have made using a symbol computer program (My school uses ‘Communicate In Print’) I print the symbol resources I’ve made and then laminate them.

The instructions give the children a visual step by step guide to the activity. This gives the children a visual structure to the lesson where the beginning and ending is clear. Visual step by step guides promote independence as the children are able to see the steps first and are not completely relying on a verbal instruction from an adult. More able children who can read are able to follow visual instructions with increasing independence as they read each step before undertaking the task.

Here is an example of a booklet for children who understand symbols but are not yet reading and possibly have a short attention span (hence no more than 2 symbols per age).

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

The large symbols are easy to see and focus on for a child with a short attention span. Only 1 symbol per page allows the child to focus only on that symbol instruction rather than seeing multiple instructions on 1 page. Before beginning each step of the task we will look at the symbol, point to the symbol and then say and sign the symbol. When the step is complete, I will say “…….  has finished” and the children will then move a red square onto  the box next to the symbol to highlight that step has finished. (See photos above – when a child puts a red square next to the symbol, this means the step has finished). This routine can be taught using physical and verbal prompts initially before reducing them as the child becomes more familiar and confident with the routine.

For the children who are more able and perhaps recognise a few words, the following visual instructions would be more suitable for the same activity. As the child becomes more able to read and understand text, these instructions can simply be written bullet points.

Visual instructions

The next instructions follow the SCERTS model (http://www.scerts.com/) for visual in-task schedules. The steps to be undertaken are on the green side and when the step is finished, the child moves it to the red side. These instructions show a clear beginning and end to the activity. I make these instructions for the children in my class that recognise some words or can read. After completing a step I ask the children “whats next?” and they read the next step on the green side. I will then model the task for the children so they can see how to do it before they begin the task. As you can see I have differentiated the 2 boards below for children at different levels by using a maximum of 2 symbols per instruction on one and much more detailed text on the other.

SCERTS in task schedule

 

For parents and schools without a symbol program, resources like this can be made with photos and images found simply on the internet (searching a word on google images will bring up a large selection of related images!). You don’t even need to have access to a computer or the internet, just simply drawing a picture will be just as good. The instructions above could just be simple drawings of first a pizza, tomato sauce, cheese, the toppings and the oven down the side of a page!

Please post any questions below.

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.

 

Poisson Rouge, a great online learning resource

If you’re not aware of Poisson Rouge, I recommend you have a look at it now! Developed by a team of linguists, graphic artists, musicians and educational psychologists, Poisson Rouge is an amazing free interactive children’s website full of activities and games and autistic children will love it!

The great thing is there is no text or instructions and the screen is easy to navigate. There are lots of great activities which can develop hand-eye coordination, mouse skills, number skills, reading skills, music, different languages, colour and so much more! All of the children I have taught across the primary age with or without autism could all learn and play independently on this great online educational resource.

“No text, no instructions, but carefully designed visual environments and soundscapes make
Poisson Rouge Interactica’s productions resemble nothing else in the interactive world.” http://www.poissonrouge.com/

What do you think of Poisson Rouge? Can you recommend any other great online resources?