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Penina Rybak
Products, Special Education

Three Back to School Resources for Autism Intervention

The new school year is upon us and that means new routines and new opportunities for teachable moments and carryover. It also means rethinking your educational tool boxes: what’s worked, what hasn't, and what needs to be tweaked. Children with Autism in particular can exhibit underdeveloped Theory of Mind which impacts their preferences and learning style, making it sometimes difficult to initially establish rapport, provide a lesson that “sticks”, and facilitate overall time on task (TOT) and cooperation. That’s why whole body learning experiences are so crucial. Multi-sensory learning experiences involving toys and tech (I prefer iPad Apps) can jumpstart episodic memory and hit on the child’s inner landscape. I especially like to give children the “run of the room” at the start of the school year, within reason, to establish patterns of behavior, likes/dislikes, a possible “reinforcer roster”, and update baseline data. To that end, here are 3 back to school resources for your toolbox:

1. Evaluate the child in real time with parent friendly checklists

The Socially SpeakingTM iPad App was designed as an assessment checklist to collaboratively and methodically pinpoint areas of strength/weakness and plan IEP goals accordingly using parental input as well as service provider input. TEAM = Together, Everyone Achieves More!

2. Plan lessons that involve whole body learning and movement

There’s a great therapy textbook by Lois Brady et al; Speak, Move, Play, and Learn with Children on the Autism Spectrum. It has been on my radar for some time. It was designed to address key areas of Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Autism Intervention in a user-friendly, multi-sensory manner that appeals to both children and service providers looking to combine elements of play and target vocabulary for increased retention and generalization of learned skills.

3. Bring iPad Apps into treatment for intrinsic visual support

As this recent study revealed, kids with Autism can really gain from using a tablet. The iPad is especially useful in Autism Intervention. Why? An iPad is visually accessible, adaptable, socially appealing, and has an easy to navigate user interface. Its use is predicated on the execution of time-sequenced movements, which facilitates both “muscle memory” and motor planning. Its user interface fosters comprehension of time passing and the "If...Then Contingent", which is a cornerstone of self regulation. The ability to activate/deactivate/transition between Apps, and the intrinsic reinforcer nature of “whole body learning” using these Apps, all promote learning, episodic memory, and attention span AKA time on task (TOT). With iOS 8 around the corner, there has never been a better time to use the iPad in lessons that are visual, customizable, fun, and sequential (clearly delineated beginning/middle/end). Here are some great Apps I recommend, that showcase my points, in developmental order: Honorable Mention for Professionals/Parents: Assembling the right toolbox to get the job done is key to any endeavor, especially those related to learning. Use these three suggestions as springboards for your lesson plans and see how you can more easily and quickly “connect the dots” and help the child in need do the same! Happy new school year and good luck!

WRITTEN ON September 11, 2014 BY:

Penina Rybak

Penina is an Autism Specialist and Educational Technology Consultant, who created the soon to be published Socially Speaking™ Social Skills Curriculum and already deployed Socially Speaking™ Social Skills Assessment Protocol iPad App. Visit her website for more information: