Sesame Street Theme Park for Kids with Autism

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!

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sesame-place-becomes-worlds-first-theme-park-designated-as-a-certified-autism-center/

https://sesameplace.com/philadelphia/

Incorporating Language into Daily Routines

 

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!

 

http://www.hanen.org/SiteAssets/Articles—Printer-Friendly/Public-Articles/The-Power-of-Using-Everyday-Routines-.aspx

5 Reasons to Use Books for Practically Any Speech Language Skill

 

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!

http://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2664650

Online Games to Help Boost Reading Skills

Does your kindergartener-2nd grader need an extra reading boost over the summer? Improving phonological awareness (syllable counting, rhyming, segmenting, and word manipulation) has been proven to help improve a child’s reading ability. Check out these fun online games to play with your child. Remember, play these games with your child so that you can help teach and reinforce skills not quite mastered.

http://pbskids.org/games/rhyming/

Comic Strip Conversations

Social Stories describe a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. For many years, we could only create these stories via paper and pencil, but wonderful apps for both Apple and Android products have been developed that allow parents and therapists to create colorful, simple, and engaging social stories. Although your child’s therapist may have some great ideas for appropriate social stories, if you’re curious, the following link offers nice instructions on how to develop your own social stories as well as questions to ask while reading it with your child.

https://www.erinoakkids.ca/ErinoakKids/media/EOK_Documents/Autism_Resources/Comic-Strip-Conversations.pdf

Planning for Summer Learning/Fun

Spring is upon us and before you know it you’ll be celebrating the end of another school year. Research tells us that kids lose up to two months of learning over the summer. So it is even more vital to continue to support learning for kids with learning disabilities, speech/language, and pragmatic impairment.
Although there are many camps designed for children with various diagnoses, don’t overlook your city’s park district summer camps or activities. They offer a plethora of classes that tangentially support, receptive/expressive language and social skills. For instance, an acting class’s primary goal might be to produce a play, but it may also support social and expressive language skills.

Here are a list of possible camps based on various needs/interests:

ADHD/Autism Spectrum Disorder:

http://jcys.org/locations/highland-park/camp-star

http://autismcil.org/camp-aspire/

http://oneinahundredprogram.com

Apraxia of Speech:

http://www.theapraxiaconnection.org/upcoming-events/2014/7/28/midwestern-universitys-lets-talk-summer-speech-camp

Physical Limitations:

http://www.ric.org/services/sports-and-fitness/sports-programs/caring-for-kids/

Developmental Disability (spina bifida, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism):

http://www.easterseals.com/ci/our-programs/camping-recreation/residential-camping-programs.html

Deaf and Hard of Hearing:

http://www.illinoisdeaf.org/Outreach/Events.html

http://www.lionsofillinoisfoundation.org/services/camplions/camplions.htm

Reading/Writing Camps:

http://www.nl.edu/readingcenter/summerreadingprograms/

http://www.niu.edu/outreach/reading/

http://www.niu.edu/clasep/camps/cwritingday/index.shtml

Park Districts:

http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/

https://www.skokieparks.org/

http://www.cityofevanston.org/parks-recreation/

Improve Executive Functions Through Aerobic Exercise!

In the last few years’ executive dysfunction has become a hot topic in the world of education. It has become an important area of research for good reason! There is mounting evidence to indicate that the collection of skills that comprise executive functions are a stronger way to gauge academic and social success than IQ. So what does this new buzz word mean? It is an umbrella term for the collection of the following skills: regulation of emotions and impulses, organization, sequencing, adapting, recalling information, persisting through a task even when it’s difficult, working memory, and task initiation. Reduced development in these areas can affect all areas of academics and social interactions.  We are all born with the capacity to develop these skills, and they continue to be refined all the way through early adulthood. Unfortunately, little is known about improving these skills.

Beware of computer programs or tutors that market themselves as boosting executive functions. Computer programs like “Tools of the Mind” are not supported by evidence and anyone is allowed to call themselves an executive function tutor; it is an unregulated area. They are not licensed by a governing body. But all is not lost! Aerobic exercise is a well supported way to improve these skills in both children and adults. In particular, working memory, focused attention, inhibition, and task persistence are developed.

Check out this article for more information: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/secretlife/blogposts/the-science-of-smart-surprising-way-to-improve-executive-function/

Here’s another piece from Harvard about creating opportunities for your child or teenager to practice executive functions: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Enhancing-and-Practicing-Executive-Function-Skills-with-Children-from-Infancy-to-Adolescence-1.pdf

Car Time = Language Time!

Car time can be a natural and fun way to reinforce speech and language skills. Check out the list below for specific ideas for toddlers, pre-k -kindergarten students, and 1st-2nd graders. One favorite strategy is talking about schedules and using specific words like “before, after, first, then” to talk about the day. You could even talk about activities from the previous or next day to reinforce past and future verb tenses.

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/reading-language/reading-activities/reading-activities-in-the-car/