Sunday, April 17, 2011

Growing and In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow by Carol Stock Kranowitz and Joyce Newman

Just like the other two books in this series, Growing and In-Sync-Child focuses on the importance of incorporating motor and sensory activities into the routines of children on a daily basis. Although this volume doesn't specifically focus on children with Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) it provides an outstanding range of ideas for helping all children become more sensory aware and physically active. It provides valuable information about typical developmental patterns as well as guidelines for helping parents and other adult caregivers choose activities that will be most beneficial to their children in specific situations (for example, using an activity called Angel Wings to help a child calm down when he/she is a little bit out of sorts. These activities can be used successfully with children who demonstrate more overt characteristics of SID, but are really great for those kids who are considered to be typically developing. I use it a lot to help with ideas in the therapy room to help my clients get and stay organized during a session.

The Out-of Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (Revised Edition) by Carol Stock Kranowitz

This is a companion volume for the book The Out-of-Sync Child. For children who have been given a diagnosis of Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) this is a wonderful resource filled with play activities that are designed to promote sensory awareness as well as help children learn how to meet their own need for sensory input. Along with general information about SID, the book has seven specific chapters that are dedicated to each sense: Touch (tactile), Balance and Movement (vestibular), Body Position (proprioceptive), Seeing (vision), Hearing (auditory), Smelling (olfactory) and Tasting (gustatory). Each chapter offers a wide range of play ideas for children of different ages and developmental abilities. The book also provides information related to the best activities appropriate for children with coexisting conditions such as Asperger's, Autism. I have found this book to be an invaluable resource for me in therapy and have encouraged many of the families I work with whose children have ASD to check it out. 

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (Revised Edition) by Carol Stock Kranowitz

Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) is a challenged faced by many children. Although the diagnosis is common for children with ASDs, SID can affect children who may be described as difficult, picky, oversensitive, or clumsy. Simply put, SID is considered to be a condition in which the nervous system misinterprets information from the senses, making it difficult for individuals with SID to organize and process the sensory information they encounter in their everyday lives.  From being overly sensitive to the tag in a shirt to wanting to sit in small or cramped spaces, SID can have a profound impact upon being able to successfully engage with other people in meaningful social relationships. This book provides guidance for parents who may be concerned that their child is experiencing some type of SID. This book is an excellent overview of all of the sensory systems, including vision, touch, balance, proprioception, hearing, taste, and smell. It also discusses the typical pattern of sensory development and provides checklists for parents (and professionals) related to possible areas of sensory dysfunction. If you're interested in the basic of SID this is a wonderful resource to have.

Friday, April 8, 2011

TalkAbility: People Skills for Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum - A Guide for Parents by Fern Sussman

This is another tremendous resource from the Hanen Centre ( that focuses on helping verbal children affected by Autism, Asperger's, or other socially based communicative impairments to build more positive social relationships with people in their immediate environments. Like all of the Hanen publications, TalkAbility is filled with practical information and tips for parents and other adult caregivers, teachers, or therapists that can be used to support the development of more advanced language skills. This is a great upper extension program for children who have outgrown More Than Words but still need some support when it comes to accessing social and peer relationships. The TalkAbility guidebook is very user friendly and offers suggestions on how to help children develop better conversational skills, learn to be better story-tellers, become more adept at pretend play, and most importantly, learn how to make friends. There's also an excellent chapter that discusses how adults can become their child's "play coach" in order to help facilitate peer interactions.

More Than Words: Promoting the Communication Development of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Social Communication Challenges DVD by the Hanen Centre

This is the companion DVD for the guidebook discussed in the previous post. It's a wonderful supplementary piece to the book and provides terrific video illustrations of how to apply the concepts presented in the More Than Words guidebook. What I like about this DVD is that it is a collection of taped segments of parents interacting with their children that clearly show how the More Than Words strategies can be used with children at a wide range of developmental levels. Often I hear parents say things like "Well my son does these things for the therapist but he won't do them with me" and this DVD is a great way to show families that they can be successful social and communication partners for their children. There is narration that accompanies the taped segments and each section corresponds to a specific chapter in the More Than Words guidebook.  As good as this DVD is, it certainly can't replace actually participating in a More Than Words training program with a Hanen certified Speech-Language Pathologist. However, if a program isn't available, the DVD and guidebook can go a long way in helping adults best prepare themselves for working with children from this population.

More Than Words: Helping Parents Promote Communication Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Fern Sussman

As a professional who works with children with ASD and their families there are just some resources that are an absolute must have and for me More Than Words is definitely one of those resources! The guidebook, which is typically used by parents when participating in a More Than Words Training group facilitated by a Hanen Certified Speech-Language Pathologist, is filled with outstanding information about how to effectively promote social communicative development in children  with ASD. What is so wonderful about this book is that it shows parents (teachers, other caregivers, and therapists) how to apply a core group of language support strategies to children at four different levels of developmental functioning. Beginning with children at the "Own Agenda" stage (children who prefer are not yet intentionally communicating with other people) and continuing until children reach the "Partner" stage (children who stay longer in interactions with other people and who are beginning to use words, gestures, or picture exchanges for a wider range of reasons), this guide provides practical suggestions on how adults involved in the lives of children with ASD can encourage these children to participate in more socially directed exchanges, which is the best place for meaningful language to develop. The book also helps parents identify and manage other factors, such as sensory issues, that may be contributing to their child's inability to engage in social exchanges. The guide helps parents (and professionals) to identify developmentally appropriate communication goals for young children based on current levels of social communicative development. It is an outstanding resource that is a perfect hands-on guide for helping adults tackle the challenge of engaging a child with ASD. The guide is published by the Hanen Centre located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Hanen Centre has a world-wide reputation for creating educational programs and materials that are designed to help parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists promote language development in young children within the context of meaningful social relationships. If you're looking for more information about the Hanen Centre, check it out at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Playing, Laughing, and Learning with Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Practical Resource of Play Ideas for Parents and Carers, 2nd edition by Julia Moor

As any parent of a child with Autism knows it is very difficult to find activities that encourage their child to socially engage in activities with other people. This book is a great great resource for parents of children with ASD who are about 2-years-old or older. The book starts out talking about why social play is so difficult for children with ASD and why it is so important for parents and other who care for children with ASD to promote play skills that require these children to engage and interact with us. Moor discusses structured play activities where principles of ABA can be applied to help the child become more successful in play based exchanges. She provides suggestions for table-top games and activities, music, physical games, water play, and outdoor play activities that are appealing to children of many different ages at various levels of functioning. There is also a very interesting chapter on how to find websites that present interactive games appropriate for a child with ASD. Personally, I have found some great activities in the book that have worked well in therapeutic settings. Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is that the activities are written in very family friendly language that would be easy for someone who didn't know a great deal about how to play with a child with ASD to understand and implement.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Communication Temptations - Part 2

As I mentioned in the post about wind up toys, communication temptations are activities that are designed to encourage the child to interact with other people. Wind up toys are a great temptation device, but other activities can be equally successful. Here are others that I have used over the years.

Bubbles: Open a container of bubbles, blow some bubbles, put the wand back in the jar, and close the lid tightly. Hand the bubble container to the child and wait to see what happens. When the child hands the bubbles back to you, open the jar again, and repeat the sequence. Every time you close the bubble container you're giving the child another opportunity to practice communication skills.

Balloons: For older children balloons can be a safe option for play. Blow up a balloon, let it deflate, and then hand an identical balloon to the child. Wait for the child to hold the balloon out to you as a request for you to blow more. You can do this task with just one balloon, but I prefer to use two for sanitary purposes. If the child hands me his/her balloon I quickly switch it for my own balloon.

Treasure Box: Find a toy or other object that the child really enjoys using. Put it in a clear plastic container that the child is unable to remove the lid from ( large, clean plastic peanut butter jar with a screw on lid works well). Show the child you can open the lid, but close it again before he or she takes the toy. Hand the container (with the lid screwed on tightly) to the child and wait to see what happens! Initially the child my become frustrated, but that's okay. If you are patient and stick to your plan, eventually the child will realize that in order to obtain the desired object you have to be involved in the process.

Snack: This is a lot like the treasure box but it involves an activity that many children love - Eating! Sit down for snack with the child and get some juice or crackers for yourself, but don't offer any to the child. Quickly the child will let you know that he or she wants something (maybe by screaming) and then you say something like "Oh, you want juice too?" and pour a tiny bit of juice into a cup (also give cookies in small pieces). By only giving the child a little bit a time, he or she will have to keep coming back to you to get more. The more children interact with us for specific purposes the greater their chances are for using language (verbal, signs, or pictures) more spontaneously.

These techniques work for most young children learning language but are especially useful when used with children with Autism.

Communication Temptations Using Wind Up Toys

When speech therapists work with children who have social communicative disorders or children with Autism, one of the most effective techniques for promoting interactions is through the use of something called communication temptations. These are activities that are designed to increase the child's interest in communicating by making communication a meaningful and fun activity. There are many different forms of communication temptation that can be used, but the basic premise is that an adult is able to use, obtain, or manipulate an object that a child is interested in but that the child cannot operate independently. I like to use simple wind up toys as communication temptations (especially with young children with Autism). I wind up the crab or alligator just enough to make it briefly move so the child is attracted to the toy. When it stops I wait to see what the child doesn't. Typically a child will reach for the toy and try to activate it without any help from an adult. When the child is unsuccessful often they will go to an adult for help and a communicative exchange has been established. It might not be truly social initially, but as the child learns that another person can actually help make toys fun it's a great hook for building more complex communicative turns. The most important thing when choosing a wind up toy (or any object) to use as a communication temptation there are two things you must consider. First, the object must be something that the child is interested in. Toys that have lights, makes sounds, or move are good first choices to try. Second, the object must be something that the child cannot operate, open, or obtain independently. In order for a communication temptation to work the child must need to involve another person in the activity. Finally, when choosing a wind up toy (or any cause-effect toy for that matter) make sure that it is something that poses some challenge for the child to operate. The purpose of playing with these toys is not for the child to immediately be able to operate the toys independently, but rather to learn how to use them with the help of another person.

Early Intervention Games: Fun, Joyful Ways to Develop Social and Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders by Barbara Sher

Children who has been identified as having Autism or a Sensory Processing Disorder typically have difficulty actively engaging in fun social play activities with the people in the world around them. Sher, who is a teacher and occupational therapist, provides a wonderful range of different activities that can be used to help support these children develop meaningful social relationships with their primary caregivers and peer groups members as well. I was impressed with a variety of activities suggested and how easy the majority of them are to implement in a therapy setting. She uses simple materials that could be found in most homes and turns everyday items into creative toys. With games titles like "Pudding Party", "I'm Here!", and "What's in the Sock?", it's impossible to not want to read further in this wonderfully written and straightforward book. Sher also provides an excellent overview of what sensory processing issues actually are and an excellent chapter on why certain types of games can help children with sensory processing challenges. Personally, I have found this book to be invaluable in my own clinical practice and am thrilled that I have a great resource to go when when I'm feeling "Stuck" in terms of coming up with a new activity a child might enjoy. This book is never far from my fingertips! It's also available for Kindle, so on-the-go reading is a breeze as well! It's an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and clinicians alike and has enough diversity of activities that you're bound to find one that works for that especially challenging child.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April is National Autism Awareness Month

Since the 1970's April has been recognized as National Autism Awareness Month. This disorder affects 1 in 110 children in the United States. Early intervention for children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an important step in helping children live fulfilling and successful lives. Although there are no absolute indicators for the disorder there are red flags that every parent should be aware of so they can have their child evaluated early if any developmental concerns arise. Filipek et al. (1999) found that the following behaviours should be used as guidelines for immediate evaluation for the possible presence of ASD: (1) no babbling by age 12 months; (2) no gesturing (pointing or waving) by 12 months; (3) no single words by 16 months; (4) no two-word spontaneous (not just imitated) phrases by 24 months; and (5) any loss of any language or social skills at any age.

Filipek, P., Accardo, P., Baranek, G., Cook, E., Dawson, G., Gordon, B., ..... Volkmar, F. (1999). The screening and diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29, 439-484.