Sesame Place, a “Sesame Street”-themed amusement park in Pennsylvania, is the first theme park to get Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation. The park stated: “It is our goal to provide every family with an enjoyable and memorable visit, and we are proud to offer specialized services to guests with autism and other special needs.”
The theme park provides its staff members with autism sensitivity and awareness training in areas like sensory awareness, motor skills, program development, social skills, communication, environment and emotional awareness. Each ride at Sesame Place is ranked using a special sensory scale (1-10). Additionally, the park offers noise-cancelling headphones, ride accessibility, and quiet rooms and low-sensory areas to accommodate its patrons. This is a very exciting development for families of children with autism, as they now have an opportunity to attend a theme park that caters to their child’s specific needs while offering an interesting and meaningful experience.
View the links below to read more about Sesame Place and visit the website!
Daily routines (e.g. bathing, meals, shopping, car rides, getting dressed, etc.) provide great opportunities for language development in natural settings. Within these routines, children learn how their worlds are organized, begin to associate words/phrases with specific activities, make sense of social interactions, and practice participating in conversations. Through repetition of routines, children gain confidence and gradually take on more active roles. If a parent waits for the child to start a routine, such as squeezing the toothpaste on the toothbrush, the child can begin to understand his/her role as an initiator. A child’s motivation to understand is heightened in a situation in which he/she is an active participant. In addition, as specific vocabulary is repeatedly attached to an experience or activity, the clearer the meaning will become.
Fern Sussman, Program Director at the Hanen Centre, suggests the following guidelines to build opportunities for participation and learning into daily routines:
- Break routines into a series of small consistent steps so that there’s a shared understanding of how the routine works.
- Be flexible as young children learn best when you follow their lead.
- Label what the child is interested in at the very moment it seems to be his/her focus.
- Be creative! Routines can be made out of anything you do regularly!
A cognitive scientist, Mark Seidenberg, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison found that only a third of the nation’s schoolchildren read at grade level. He cites that the way children are taught to read is disconnected from how language and speech actually develop in a child’s brain. The current research shows that reading success depends on linking print to speech. Skilled reading is associated with children’s spoken language, grammar and the vocabulary they already know. Seidenberg claims that the basic science (of reading) does not go into the preparation for teachers and argues that literacy is not an “either/or” of phonics and whole language. He claims that children need both.
Dr. Prizant, an internationally renowned autism expert, suggests a new and exciting shift in the world of Autism. In this book, his main focus is that “the most successful approaches to autism don’t aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual’s experience and what underlies the behavior.” Dr. Prizant sees behaviors of Autism as part of a range of strategies in coping with a world that feels overwhelming and intense. He suggests that we should not curb these behaviors but rather enhance these children’s abilities and build on their strengths. He argues that attempts to get rid of these behaviors of Autism may actually interfere with important development of the child. Check out this book to learn more!
For parents who are wondering how they can work on their child’s speech and language goals at home, Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP from the ASHA Leader has identified five reasons that books are all you need! The reasons cited are:
1) Books provide a natural context for learning vocabulary: Research has found that children’s books contain approximately twice as many infrequently used or rare words than in conversation and also provide a model of more advanced grammatical structures.
2) Books are efficient: A single book can target multiple communication skills.
3) Books are convenient: Children’s books are portable and typically low-cost.
4) Books are fun: Choosing a story that a child is interested in and motivated to read can facilitate learning language and carryover of those skills.
5) They do not have LED screens: A growing body of evidence suggests negative effects of screen time in young children, particularly speech and language delays, disruptions in sleep patterns and mood swings.
For the full article and a list of books to read for each speech and language skill, click the link below!
When you are cooking in the kitchen, many of your children are curious and want to help. It is often difficult to have a child participate in the cooking process due to safety and height of counters. It is also hard to cook with an active toddler running around the house. This has all changed! A new product has been developed that allows your child to be at the level of the countertop safely. Whether or not your child is old enough to actively cook, the kitchen is a place where you can model/incorporate many language skills. Many companies make a version of this product and we have even seen people making their own. The kitchen is a beautiful place for language so we wanted to share this product!
Researchers from the University of Washington recently conducted a 5-year longitudinal study of 241 families to study home literacy and its impacts. The participants included a group of first- to fifth graders and a group of third- to seventh graders. The study found that children with higher reading and writing achievement at school engaged in more reading and writing activities at home. Parental rating scales also indicated that children’s ability to self-regulate attention spans remained consistent throughout the study, however, executive functioning skills including goal-setting, often improved.
Wilson Reading System is a research-based, systematic, multi-sensory reading program designed to improve the five areas of reading including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. It is a 12-step program, with the first 6-steps teaching consistent foundational patterns, and the later 6-steps teaching more complex concepts. Letter-sound knowledge is taught systematically and paired with a multisensory approach as it is the building blocks for reading and writing. The multi-sensory approach is shown to activate more neurons during language learning and improve the chances that it becomes stored in long-term memory. The program is for students in grades 2-12 who have word-level deficits and poor sound/symbol systems for both reading and spelling. This program is appropriate for students with language-based learning disabilities, labored readers, students who know words by sight but have difficulty reading non-sense syllables, and students who speak and understand English but cannot read or write it. Wilson is frequently taught in schools in a group setting, pull-out services or through private reading tutors who are Wilson certified.
In speech therapy, Wilson concepts can be useful to many of our students who have poor phonological awareness and have difficulty learning to read. Using a multi-sensory approach to learning gives our students more than one pathway to retain and learn the information as they may struggle with the auditory channel alone.
The American Speech Language Hearing Association and Read Aloud 15 Minutes have collaborated on a series of handouts for parents that discuss speech and language development. The handouts are grouped by age and offer a bounty of useful information on communication and literacy skills. Check them out here.
Did you know that “The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” (from Becoming a Nation of Readers, a 1985 report by the Commission on Reading)? Many people are aware of the importance of reading out loud to young children, but don’t know how important it is to read out loud to all ages. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, the 1998 report by the Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, recommended three important practices to support language and literacy development for children of all ages. Check out the article below to learn about these practices and find suggestions to support your child’s literacy growth! https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200303/ReadingAloud.pdf