Sensory Activities for Your Child with Autism
Will children who are three years old on December 31st enter pre-kindergarten programs?
The rule in Early Intervention is that children are about to age out. Given that COVID19 is here and that the “aged-out” age group of toddlers have no current vaccine of which to take advantage at the writing of this blog post, there are some parents who will be opting to keep them home. They will not have their children in school and remote treatment options may not be available. If you are a parent of a disabled child who may be in this position there is something that you can and should be doing, Research shows that 90% of the brain develops in the first five years of life.
What Can Be Done????
The whole basis of the early intervention, no matter where you are located is that activities can be embedded into daily routines. Hopefully, if your child was enrolled in the program you came to understand that you as an adult are your child’s first teacher. You have learned the “tools” for how to teach language within the context of daily routines.
Toys! These are the tools for children to learn from so if you have blocks, balls, boxes, unisex doll houses, mini brooms and dusters, babies or action figures, teach your children how to use them in imaginative ways.
I personally loved blocks, as a child. You can learn so much from them (and don’t forget the wooden family figures too!!) Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and blocks teach children counting, balancing, colors, size concepts, prepositions so they know where things are in space
Board games can teach basic concepts
Guess Who teaches children to use descriptive terms and answer/ask questions. It facilitates problem solving and reasoning.
Hi Ho Cheerio teaches preschoolers (three years and up) turn taking, counting, following directions.
Chutes and Ladders: When playing this game, your child is working on counting, prepositions, turn-taking, social skills, and following directions.
Reading Skills – preschool aged children learn phonics. Phonics is essential for children to become successful readers and spellers/writers in the early years of schooling and beyond. Introductions to phonics through engaging learning experiences can start from the ages of 3 and 4.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful. The situation we are faced with due to the pandemic is nobody’s fault; but it has its consequences. I hope that this blog will empower you and leave you with knowledge of some ideas for helping your child grow. If you have any questions or additional ideas that may be helpful to share, please leave them in the comments section below. Stay well!
The holidays are coming and even if they are not, you might think: What toy should I buy? What should we play with?? What would be fun?????
Considerations of Difference Between the Active or Passive Choice:
Neurological function when we use active vs. passive or classic toys is different. There are benefits to the use of electronic toys. The key would be to use them in moderation.
Thinking back on my own life experiences with passive or classic toys was different because for the most part, until we were older they did not typically include batteries. Toys were passive and it was my job to activate them. I had to make them move and use my voice to create sounds. One particular example that I recall is my significant collection of dolls, as a little girl and the tea parties I would share with them, in pretend play. I have no recollection of what we said; but as a child it felt like I was a part of that party.
One Day the Batteries Were There:
Then the Batteries were not:
True story – one day I asked a parent to take all of the batteries out of the toys and see what her triplets would do. They all were delayed in language development. The toys had to move. A train could not just move on a a train track when a button was pushed; but the boys used their bodies to push the train on the track. They had to pick up the train, figure out how to put it on a train track so that it balanced, They had to focus on directing the train to go somewhere and figure out how to get it there. When you asked what the train sound said. They had to use their voice to tell me and did!. They created a sequence of events. They problem solved and reasoned out how their game should proceed.
You probably are quite familiar with battery operated toys so let’s think about suggestions of passive or classic toys for the holiday, or not.
Toys can teach the gross motor skills like walking running or throwing like you might learn in sports. The game Twister is a nice one as the weather gets colder and the mesh tunnels that you can crawl through. If you have a “crawler” aged toddler – even add to the game by blowing bubbles and have them “pop” these. If you have a toddler age child play One Little Finger song melody and instead of “tap-at-tap” substitute “pop-pop-pop point your finger up, point you’re finger down and then ask for “more bubbles””. Some of the mesh toys have basketball hoops. Others have at one end a house which for a sensory – highly stimulated child who needs to calm will be helpful.
Toys can teach higher level language skills: reasoning can be learned with games such as Risk, Guess Who and Charades. These help with problem solving focusing attention recall of attributes that have been described.
Blocks, dollhouses, farm houses, cooking centers for pretend play, dolls or action figures with spoons, cups, forks, knives, plates, wash clothes etc. for pretend play. Actions games like twister, balls, bats, basketball hoops, the mesh tunnels that you can crawl through (and for those with small apartments the ability to squash these up and push them under your furniture or behind a sofa for storage. Turn taking games like “Hi Ho Cheerio”. If you have time Monopoly is good as well as Risk for higher level reasoning and for phonic awareness: either Scrabble or Scrabble Junior.
Literacy Skills – Don’t forget the old fashioned book!
Reading can literally expand your brain function and help it develop. There is an actually there is a “. When we sit with a tangible book with non electronic pages we typically can do so at a slower rate. At least, it is easier to do so then with an e-book where you skim quite quickly. Here is a “ that talks about it and may help you consider buying one for someone as a holiday gift this year
References for Further Consideration:
This past week, I made my first video “Language in Boxes” and I encourage you to view it. It is posted at www.betterspeech.com and relates to how we can incorporate language learning into routine activities . They help your children learn language and don’t involve anything beyond just “living”. A part of the video relates to cooking and how it can be used in this way. In mine when we were kids, as I am sure others in homes, meals were an intrinsic part of daily life. As my older brother says – cooking is chemistry. We did a lot of that and really started from scratch,
The video below, talks about making rainbow popsicles (below) starts with a catchy tune and is a great illustration of how you can step by step make popsicles. Perhaps without intentional purpose, the song and visual images illustrates how much fun this can be and some children relate to it because they may have learned to enjoy cooking and have built memories that you can talk about, or even write about when you are done.
THE BRAIN AND COOKING
See that lit up area of the brain below? Cooking helps to develop that lit up area called the frontal lobe. That is the area that involves reasoning (i.e. “what do i need to make i.e. apple pie?” problem solving (“how much should I make?”) attention and drawing inferences.
A SEQUENCE IN PREPARING TO WORK:
Growing up there was a garden in my backyard, every summer. It would start with trips to the farm where dad bought milk for us at home and also manure. Awful combination! However, we learned that manure was good for growing the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, carrots and string beans. Sometimes lettuce was mixed in. My job was to weed the garden as dad fertilized the plants in the hot summer months. At summer’s end, all of the vegetable garden would wind up in a pile to be transformed into fertilizer for the following year when we would start again.
Dad taught me the language of gardening and perhaps you can as well.
Nouns: Plants, manure, soil, the names of the vegetables, slugs, beer, fertilizer and weeds
Verbs: weeding, fertilizing, growing, pulling (out carrots when you could see the orange part of the carrot popping up), digging, burying
Animals that Can Be Harmful to Plants: Then we learned all about how slugs were not good for plants..or flowers in the plot of earth that was doled out to me in the backyard. I learned how to bury cat food containers (we had two) and pour beer in them. Voila – the next morning after these were buried were a handful of slugs in each container.
Descriptive terms: colors of vegetables, ripe vegetables vs those that needed to do so.
Sequencing the Steps for Preparing to Cook: My job was to go outside and pick the ripened vegetables and I learned how to distinguish those that were or were not. Mom would give me a bag and tell me “go get some string beans and carrots for dinner!”.
Pride: Even if it was next to the garbage pail in the backyard, my marigolds were my own contribution every summer!
Cooking Helps Those With Sensory Aversions
I will talk more to you about SOS Therapy in another post; but to share with you briefly, there is a sequential hierarchy in which we learn to eat and breaking the steps up helps children learn to participate in meals. It is a sensory approach, especially helpful for those on the autism spectrum and or those with sensory challenges.
I mention it, because the feeling of the textures of ingredients for “Grandma Rose’s Oatmeal Cookies” are a very salient memory and I can still smell them.
Tasting: Go to a garden stand or farm this fall. It’s a great time of year to learn more about the appearance of fresh vegetables and fruits. There is nothing like them! You can’t forget licking the spoon after stirring the batter when a cake is made!
Tactile: Experience washing, slicing, putting food into a pan, oven or baking
Seeing: Cook with foods and enjoy the visual component of seeing them.
Smelling: After everything is in the oven or on the stove and it is cooking!
To attend or not go to school/get help for your family through home-based services. What are the ethics?? Who should decide and what to do when you consider options? To me, it’s not a one size fits all answer. I feel for some families where remote schooling would be potentially harmful to their health and the consequences that the decision may have. Each possible scenario has pluses and minutes with the Delta variant amidst us, The potential impact on language is something that we may be dealing with for quite some time Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Communication and Language Skills in Children – PubMed (nih.gov)
Regardless of the research, I am concerned about this ethically. Should states allow parents to have the option of in-home schooling available to them? There are considerations.
One parent told me that she would rather have her son (who has ADHD) have services in speech therapy unmasked virtually vs. masked and in person. Interesting statement to ponder. Those with a social communication disorder or an autism spectrum disorder in which social interaction difficulties, problems in verbal and nonverbal communication may be prevalent. Sensory challenges may also play a role with these people and some will undoubtedly have trouble wearing masks. How do you deal with that? There are children who have never been in school – “started”; but never in a school building!
I’m not envious of those needing to make this decision now. There is a lot to think about.
If you are concerned about the Delta variant and may be keeping a child home from school – or preschool know that there are options for your child to learn communication skills at home by infusing, or embedding teaching moments into your day – your daily routines.
To embed involves “learning by doing”. For example, here are some examples of ways that you can help your son or daughter to develop speech and language at home by DOING to give you food for thought so you can consider how aspects of your routines, when we are or are not socially distanced can become teachable ones. At the bottom of this post are some additional insights for how to teach language in the below stated areas of daily life.
Teach Vocabulary: food names and actions
Follow Directions by having them “give me the red pepper.” , have the child find and place the red pepper where it goes.
Answer questions by saying “what is this?” as you pick up i.e. a box of their favorite cereal. You could ask them to tell you “where does it go”
Sequencing the steps: You can teach this by modeling what you are doing in the process of unpacking groceries as you do it. For examplel: starting with saying “Thank you” to whomever has delivered your package. Discuss that you need to “pick up” the bag and “bring it to the kitchen” “unpack “(define that), “put the cereal …” etc.
Doing the Laundry:
Teach Vocabulary: clothing and action words
Sorting – all the dark colored clothes in one pile and the light ones in another Have your child help by putting “all the shirts go here. all the pants go in this pile.
Follow Directions: Ask your toddler or school ages child to “put a pod of soap into the machine” with your supervision.
Sequence: You can teach this by modeling or having your child hear/see the steps being performed: “open the door”-washing machine, “put clothes in” “put in the soap” “close the door”
The idea of embedding activities into daily routines so that parents can help to facilitate development in language with their children in the 0-3 age range and actually beyond is widely used. It appears that in an age of a pandemic, social distancing and altered lifestyles that the need for inclusion of embedding activities into daily living has become even more important. You are your child’s first teacher and that job does not end – pandemic or not, 24/7. Hopefully, these suggestions can help.
Teaching Executive Function through daily routines
On youtube or in the library re books that you can read to your child about this and other daily activities. It’s worth taking a look and previewing reading about each activity even before you do it – or at a quiet time of the day.
We learn in school that there is a typical progression of how language develops, a sequential step by step process that begins the day that infants are born regardless of what you speak. It’s fascinating to watch the “blob” that is born and the “person” that develops, especially in very early years. A reduction in social opportunities has changed family dynamics and still does in areas where a “lockdown” is still in effect. How does this or not impact on language acquisition? Are there changes in the sequence?
Consider these factors.
- Children learn through interaction with objects and others in the environment. Mirror neurons have an impact on development of social skills and perhaps they have not developed to the extent that we would hope due to reduced opportunities for socialization, especially with those diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
- Children have had less physical activities.
- Some may have been home with parents who were working and may or may not have had more opportunity for “quality time”.
- Some preschoolers and kindergartners may have been “in school”; but never in a building. Will their learning style be different?
Digging into the research online, i found a scientific study that provides information on what parents did with their children during “lockdown” and documents that actions of parents and caregivers indeed has had an impact. For those still on “lockdown” perhaps it is helpful to think about the results of the research.
Please provide comments about your experiences. How did you interact with each other? With less social opportunity, how have your family members been affected in terms of language? Did communication change in your home and if so, how??
This blog post is short and sweet. I need your thoughts:
How has the pandemic impacted your child’s development of language? Please share in the comments section below
We learn in school that there is a typical progression of how language develops, a sequential step by step process that begins the day that infants are born, It’s fascinating to watch the “blob” that is born and the “person” that develops, especially in very early years. That can be a whole other post. However, for now – a reduction in social opportunities has changed family dynamics and still does in areas where a “lockdown” is still in effect.
I wonder – are there changes in the sequence of developmental steps that are “typical”. Children have had less physical activities. Some may have been home with parents who were working and may or may not have had more opportunity for “quality time”. Some preschoolers and kindergartners may have been “in school”; but never in a building. Will their learning style be different?
Indeed, digging into the research online, i found a scientific study that provides information on what parents did with their children during “lockdown” did indeed have an impact. For others now who still are or may be on “lockdown” perhaps think about the results of the research.
Please provide comments about your experiences. How did you interact with eachother? With less social opportunity, how did your family spend time?. The more that speech language pathologist know about your concerns and about the history of your child’s communication needs, the more we are able to help. Thanks!
Schools are closed and there is still a pandemic brewing in our midst. Some remain unvaccinated and the question of what will come next has arrived. Technology will most likely be on the minds of students who now have more free time and ideas for developing routines and rules around it abound. However, I have another one for you and it came out of the blue in a discussion within the past two weeks.
I asked a parent, as a part of an evaluation that I was conducting about how much screen time their eight-year-old has. The answer was an awesome idea to consider.. the 5K rule “For every 5,000 steps she moves she get a half hour. The most she can get is one hour of time using her tablet”.
You are probably thinking.. how is this measured? That was my question.. and the parent had a marvelous idea. An exercise tracker. They are very easy to get, so click on the green link!
I recall struggling with the one-hour rule of television unless there was a special program on or one that we had to watch for school. What did my brothers and I think of doing???? Perhaps I can share some ideas with your family. I was raised before computers and summertimes were different, to say the least. It gives me an opportunity to share another way to have fun! We had a different way of talking one another and still do – bringing new experiences to the next generation.
Mom was a librarian …there were always trips to the library. My dad taught us to work in the backyard and we weeded the area where he was growing vegetables. I even had my own area for marigolds. It is heartwarming to me to know that in my own home city of NY that there are Community gardens in New York City (dailykos.com) so that these skills can be learned. Check with the parks department in your area I learned that cat food cans filled with beer attracted slugs and collected a lot of them that way because slugs would ruin the crop. We went to the park and raced after the Good Humour truck to get an ice cream pop down the street as the bell of the truck was heard when we finished dinner. You can have a lemonade stand at a city park in NYC, perhaps in other areas as well. We went to the local pool, drew pictures, and I kept a diary. Playing in the park or backyard was always an idea. The very fondest memories were those that last a lifetime… family vacations. To this very day, we talk about our childhood trips. We still have them and share our memories with a new generation of family members. I hope that they will have the same experience as we did…
Oh! Please don’t forget to take pictures and perhaps write a story about the details so that you can continue with new traditions and remember the old. It will give you more about which to talk and even share virtually during that half or whole hour 🙂
Parents have called me to schedule sessions this week and declined services provided remotely, although insurance companies are providing coverage and many professionals are providing it. THAT is the impetus for this post and I think one that may be of help to you!
I think that the novelty of what this actually has been confusing for consumers and we as practitioners are also learning,,,
One of the benefits, of telehealth is that if you are a parent, young adult, adult with any kind of need, virtual intervention enables professionals and patients/clients to have a venue for reaching out to one another. Interstate compacts are in the works which means for consumers that there won’t be in issue if you want to work with someone who is out of state. Check with the person you want to work with and they should be able to tell you if the state they are in has joined “the compact”. I will try and update information periodically as a part of this post. Things are changing quickly,
In my experience of the past year and in reading those of others in the industry on social media the aim of intervention has been met very effectively through remote services. With those of a very young age group, the caveat is that a caregiver MUST be present and actively involved. Indeed, parents have been posting testimonials about the benefits of virtual therapy https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/5-skills-my-child-gained-during-virtual-learning
Another byproduct of virtual therapy has been the sense of empowerment and responsibility that is taken on the part of adults assisting students or older ones getting treatment for themselves. I would think that may even make virtual therapy sessions even more valuable,
In reviewing articles on the web related to the topic a good point is raised https://eyaslanding.com/telehealth-in-speech-therapy/ “The American Association of Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) has provided data through over 40 published, peer-reviewed studies to confirm that online speech therapy services produce outcomes that are as good as face-to-face therapy. There is currently research regarding implementation of teletherapy for articulation therapy, fluency/stuttering therapy, expressive and receptive language therapy, as well as parent coaching and strategy implementation”. Another advantage of the use of telehealth is that
In the area of feeding therapy, the goals are medical in nature and I have been finding feedback from others who tell me that it has been very helpful. Through telehealth families have become much more focused on learning and then practice more with their children. Treatment becomes more meaningful as a result because you partner and to your credit and share the therapeutic experience in a more authentic way. Caregivers are not so much watching therapists; but learning by doing.
Current Professional Research about Effectiveness of Telehealth Services
The current review aimed to determine if telehealth-delivered SLP interventions are as effective as traditional in-person delivery for primary school-age children with speech and language difficulties. The reviewed research was limited and of variable quality, however, the evidence presented showed that telehealth is a promising service delivery method for delivering speech and language intervention services to this population. This alternative service delivery model has the potential to improve access to SLP services for children living in geographically remote areas, reducing travel time and alleviating the detrimental effects of communication difficulties on education, social participation and employment. Although some initial positive findings have been published, there is a need for further research using more rigorous study designs to further investigate the efficacy of telehealth-delivered speech and language intervention.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5546562/ and another reference was http://American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS): K-12 Speech-language pathology user’s guide. Maryland: American Speech Language Hearing Association; 2003. [Google Scholar].
For older students https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2017_AJSLP-16-0070 These results suggest comparable treatment outcomes between traditional service delivery and telepractice for treatment of children exhibiting speech sound disorders. The findings provide support for the use of tele practice for school-age children.
For those concerned about feeding The benefit of the use of telehealth for feeding therapy is also starting to be documented in the research https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2020_AJSLP-20-00252
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) (2002; 2005) states that one way to improve access to speech-language pathology services for underserved populations is through telepractice. Telepractice involves delivering speech-language pathology services at a distance through the use of telecommunications technology. Anecdotal evidence and empirical research to date suggest that services provided by telepractice are effective (Brennan, Georgeadis, Baron, & Barker, 2004; Forducey, 2006; Kully, 2000; Mashima et al., 2003; Mashima & Doarn, 2008).
In closing (for now): Virtual therapy, tele-health, remote intervention… it goes by a number of names I believe will be here to stay. As a result it is worth learning more about as an option. If you are a professional or parent, please leave comments so that others can benefit from reading this post and I will continue to be updating it as more information is available.. thanks! many are motivated to use it because of its convenience. Telehealth may be more time efficient for an ever evolving world. Children become excited when technology is used and become highly motivated with activities that may be used