Communication board for a party

blogEntryThumbnailAt the transition center, we had a party before spring break. In order to provide an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) support for the nonverbal students, I created a party communication board using the Go Talk Now app for iPad. I used the communication board on an iPad, and I printed it out for staff and parents to use.

You’ll see below that the party communication board has 9 buttons comprising pronouns, verbs, comments, and requests. It also has core vocabulary buttons for greetings (e.g., Hi, How are you, Bye) via the exclamation point button. Consequently, the communication board is an AAC support for communicating a variety of language structures beyond simple labeling of objects like food.

Party communication board

Substitute SLP

blogEntryThumbnailFor the past month, I was a substitute SLP at a local speech clinic in San Diego, CA. I covered for a couple clinicians while they were out. It was interesting because I never substituted like that, plus I was asked to provide therapy to different age groups and do it in a private practice setting. One of the age groups is two-year-olds.

It had been a couple years since I provided therapy to two-year-olds, and even then, I only worked with them for a year during my six years as an SLP employee of a school district. Prior to that, I received some experience with two-year-olds during grad school, but I usually gravitated to working with older children. So, I felt the need to prepare for the little guys.

After reviewing goals, I realized that I needed to practice signs and phrases appropriate for fun activities. I went to YouTube almost immediately to search for child-friendly ASL signs, and discovered great video demos from a woman with a business called My Smart Hands: The real-life and animated videos reminded me of signs for finished and fish, but also taught me signs for farm and songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Viewing the signing videos led me to thinking about activities I would do, and what I would say during the activities.

During the speech sessions, I targeted signs in activities with toys, songs, and books as I sat on my cushion with the child nearby on the ground. I also found myself modeling words with VC (Vowel-Consonant e.g., “up”), CV (Consonant-Vowel e.g., “go”), and CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant e.g., “pig”) combinations in 1-3 word utterances. It all came back to me as I demonstrated self-talk (talking about what I was doing) and parallel-talk (talking about what the child was doing) strategies to facilitate communication. Despite occasional tantrums, it was very fun and rewarding therapy with the two-year-olds. I also liked sharing strategies with the parents during or after sessions, so they could enhance progress at home.

Preparing in advance for the sessions seemed to help me a lot. Overall, I enjoyed my substitute SLP stint that consisted of a fair amount of therapy with two-year-olds. I look forward to upcoming opportunities as a substitute SLP. Luckily enough, I was recently asked to cover again at the private practice in April.

Image source: YouTube page for My Smart Hands.

Interview with The Social Express

blogEntryThumbnailI am pleased to have Marc Zimmerman and his company The Social Express participate in an interview. The Social Express™ is engaging, educational software for children and young adults with social learning challenges. The software - available for iPad, Mac, and PC - is designed to teach users how to think about and manage social situations, helping them to develop meaningful social relationships and succeed in life. The iPad app for The Social Express™ is being offered at a promotional rate of $44.99 through the end of April, celebrating Autism Awareness month. That’s 50% off the introductory price of $89.99!

I asked Marc and his company to answer five questions regarding The Social Express™. Below are the questions that were answered:

What was your company's inspiration for creating The Social Express?
The founders Marc and Tina Zimmerman are parents of identical twin boys who were diagnosed 10 years ago with Autism. Teaching them social awareness has always been their #1 goal. Their inspiration came when a therapist introduced her laptop into therapy. The twins were very interested in the technology but the program was not holding their attention. That’s the day they chatted about leveraging technology with engaging content.

What kind of research was done to create the content in The Social Express?
According to the content director Mary Anne MacLellan, M.A., CCC-SLP, The Social Express™ is based on best practices and programs that feature cognitive behavioral techniques and visual strategies. The lessons presented in the software adhere to California State Board of Education Content Standards and the Common Core Standards. References incorporated in The Social Express™ include the following:

Buron, K.D., & Curtis, M. (2004). The Incredible 5 Point Scale: Assisting students with autism spectrum disorders in understanding social interactions and controlling their emotions. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Crooke, P., Hendrix, R., Rachman, J. (2007). Brief Report: Measuring the Effectiveness of Teaching Social Thinking® to Children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Gray, C. (2010). The new social story book: Revised and expanded 10th anniversary edition. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons Inc.

Gray, C. (1994). Comic Strip Conversations. Jenison, MI: Jenison Public Schools.

Myles, B.S., Trautman, M.L, Schelvan, R.L., (2004) The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Williams, M.S., & Shellenberger, S. (1994). “How does your engine run?” A leader’s guide to the alert program for self-regulation. Albuquerque, NM: TherapyWorks, Inc.-the Alert Program

Winner, M.G. (2005). Think Social! San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

Winner, M.G. (2007). Thinking about YOU Thinking about ME. San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

Winner, M.G. (2008). A Politically Incorrect Look at Evidence-Based Practices and Teaching Social Skills: A literature review and discussion. San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

Zins, J. (2004). Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What Does The Research Say? New York: Teacher’s College Press.

How did your team collaborate to create The Social Express?
There were over 20 people collaborating on this project. Skype, conference calls, and personal interaction is how the team stayed in touch.

How did The Social Express fill any kind of void in the app market?
In addition to using a cognitive behavioral approach, it has been stated that The Social Express is the highest quality production app made to date. The company exhausted it’s resources to present animation that meets Hollywood’s standards and content that would be effective in teaching people social-emotional skills.

Describe a success story using The Social Express with a child.
Mandy Nite, the creator of Welcome to Their World blog, shares encouraging results about her young daughter’s progress since working with The Social Express. Nite posted the following assessment on her blog: “This app has everything imaginable about social skills learning except Nite’s daughter, who will turn eight years old soon, has significant social skill problems, high functioning autism and ADHD.  Nite explains that after her daughter completed just half of The Social Express lessons, “She is starting to use what she learned in The Social Express in the real-world.”Nite continues, “I’m amazed everyday by the progress she’s made. She has even started to talk with other children one on one slowly with a little prompting and a few reminders of social skills but is getting the hang of it.”