Monday, April 8, 2013

April is National Autism Awareness Month!

To celebrate, this post is all about autism spectrum disorder. I’m sharing some of my favorite therapy activities, facts on autism and ways you can celebrate this month! Hold on tight-this post is jam-packed!

Therapy Activities 
1.     Social Videos (all ages). These have worked incredibly for my caseload this year. Students are able to watch themselves performing a task with complete independence. For more information on social videos, see my post HERE

2.      On-topic and Off-topic visuals (all ages). Students are made cognizant of when they are providing an on-topic remark and when they are not. I reward my students at the end of my session for having more on-topics than off-topics. Click HERE to download my visuals for free! 



3.     Social Language Development Scenes (sells in both Adolescent and Elementary from Linguisystems).  I absolutely love these pictures for social group at my middle school/high school level students. Each scene comes with questions on the back to ask. Click HERE for some amazing sample pages!  My students love discussing and describing the situation. 



4.       Turn-taking (upper level grades). For practice on conversation skills, I love these conversation sticks by Liz's Speech Therapy Ideas. Oh, and this Conversation OO-NO by Debra Brunner is genius! To pair it down, I remove all the wild and draw 2/4 cards so my students are only practicing asking and commenting. 



5.  Figurative Language Activities (upper level grades). Students with social language disorders benefit from practicing non-literal activities. See my Ultimate Figurative Language Pack for Upper Level Students to practice these statements using BINGO, situations, and popular songs!



6. Asking Questions (elementary). Perhaps one of my favorite apps to use with younger students who are on the spectrum: Bag Game. One student chooses an object to hide in the bag and others ask questions to try and figure out what it is. This app is asked for over and over during social groups.


Facts on Autism Spectrum Disorder (information found on AutismSpeaks.org)
*Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States
*Autim receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
*Boys are 5 times more likely than girls to have autism
*There is currently no known medical cure for autism
*The diagnosis criteria changes in May 2013 to eliminate previous subcategories on the autism spectrum, including Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS, childhood disintegrative disorder and autistic disorder. Instead, all of these subcategories will take on the broad term "autism spectrum disorder."
*Speech-Language Pathologists are a vital part to an intervention team as "social communication impairment" is now one of two categories under which a person can be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.


Ways You Can Celebrate Autism Awareness Month
*If you know a relative or friend with a child having autism spectrum disorder, offer to give them the night off and babysit for free. As you know, this disorder can take a lot of energy so giving parents/caregivers respite goes a long way!
*Post a sign on your therapy room door making others aware of autism spectrum disorder. List facts and information for others to become better educated.
*Make a resolution to spend a few more minutes (than what their IEP states) with a student having autism spectrum disorder, either during therapy or consulting with teachers about strategies.
*Throw a social party at the end of the month, inviting those with autism spectrum disorders and peer models. My students love having fancy tea parties or popcorn parties. Just make sure to check allergies prior to celebrating.
*Donate to the cause. AutismSpeaks.org or Organization for Autism Research are the big organizations but finding one locally would be really neat too.


Finally, I just wanted to give you a word of encouragement. Students identified as having autism spectrum disorder are perhaps some of the most challenging kiddos on our caseload at times. We see progress one day and none the next. Negative behaviors all too often arise with difficulties in communication. However, as therapists, we know it's all worth it when we see that little light of understanding come into a student's eye. Keep persevering  It will come and it will be worth it....

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Nicole Allison
SpeechPeeps