Ready Your Class: Visual Aids

Photo Credit: Pexels/Suzy Hazelwood

One of the most important tools that you can have as a provider when it comes to children with delays, special needs, and/or autism are visual aids. These will help in routines, choice making, transitions, and general expression. The different types become increasingly more creative as we go, with the first being an actual system you can order, train staff in, and implement. This is by no means an exhaustive or extremely detailed description of the different visual aids you can use. This is simply a list to give you some ideas. For many of us in the autism field, these aids are part of our everyday vernacular. It would be amazing to see them used in preschools and daycare centers consistently!

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

Photo: Pyramid Educational Consultants/http://www.pecsusa.com

This is one of the most common forms of visual aids with regards to autism. It consists of a system of simple picture cards with a simple word or phrase. I have seen this system used as physical cards and on tablets and AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices. This system was developed by a PhD and a speech language pathologist, and it has a protocol that includes elements of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). The PECS system can be utilized with a number of conditions where the individual may have difficulty communicating. This is also probably the most expensive option, as the training manual alone could run you around $70 USD.

Labels

This one is definitely the simplest visual aid to include. If the child can read or is learning how to read, then simply labeling important items in the classroom (which many providers do to some extent already) can help the child navigate the classroom. These can also be used in conjunction with the next type.

Picture Icons

A picture I took of a client’s games that became one of her icons

These are a more detailed variation of the PECS idea, in the sense that you the provider/caregiver can easily make these yourself. Small pictures of everyday items (with labels if you choose) can go a long way with children who are non-verbal and may not have learned any signs yet. Ideally, you want to use pictures of the actual items that the child sees everyday, along with pictures of common places or activities. These can also be put together on a schedule board. Speaking of which…

Schedule Boards/Time Icons

There is often some form of a schedule board in a classroom, even if it’s mainly for the provider. Using picture icons to create a schedule for the child can help them anticipate what is coming up next in the day. Along with a board to put the activities and transitions in order, you can create “minute cards.” One of the first preschools I worked with created small cards with 3 and 1 minute increments on them (“3 more minutes,” “1 more minute”). They would show these cards to the children in the minutes leading to a transition/end of an activity. Even though the kids couldn’t always count the minutes, the cards were color coded as well (Ex: yellow for 3 minutes, and red for 1 minute). These cards made transitions easier for everyone.

Social Stories

In one of my previous positions, I was one of the go-to people if someone needed a social story. These simple stories can cover anything from a daily routine, to making friends or dealing with loss. I would often create them using Powerpoint and customize them to the child’s favorite characters or activities. Then, I would print them out in color and laminate them before binding it together into a makeshift book. One child who was nervous about going to preschool and making friends loved Pokemon, so I created a friends social story for her using Pokemon pictures. She loved it so much that she asked the Behavioral Interventionist to read it to her whole class, and it became part of the classroom library. Oh, and yes, she learned how to make friends!

A Few Tips

If you have access to a laminating machine, this can help seal the pictures and stories so that they last longer and are more durable.

Encourage parents and caregivers to use a similar system at home. They can take pictures of preferred and everyday items to keep on their phones or tablets. This way, there is a ready supply of visual aids to help them identify what the child may want or need.

Use the corresponding word or phrase associated with the picture so that the child starts to learn the word. For example, if you use a picture of their sippy cup, say “cup” when you hold up the picture.

Make sure you have their attention when using these aids. You may have to place it in front of them, or drop down to their eye level.

If you have other examples of visual aids you have used, please tell us about them in the comments! Next week, we will take a look at sensory aids!

Ready Your Class: Daycare

Photo credit: Pexels/Skitterphoto

In talking with local organizations and providers, a common thread has emerged. There are a lot of questions about how to setup their daycare centers and preschool classrooms to better serve autistic children or those with sensory needs and concerns.

At first, I was thinking of doing one blog post to cover this topic, but I quickly discovered as I wrote that each possible inclusion could be an entire blog post on its own. So, since I haven’t done a blog series in quite awhile, I felt that this would be an excellent time to do a new one called Ready Your Class. While this series is aimed at providers, parents can also use this to help them identify certain traits within a daycare or preschool that can make their child’s days much smoother.

The main areas of interest that I will be focusing on through the posts are: Visual aids, sensory needs, environmental factors, and staff. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think these main areas go a long way in making daycare/preschool days less stressful for kids and adults alike.

The first post, Visual Aids, will go out this week on this site, LinkedIn, and the SPARC Facebook page. I look forward to giving providers some ideas for new tools and setups in their classrooms!

The Logo

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At first glance, the logo for SPARC seems pretty basic.

If you have followed the blog for awhile, though, you may have already discovered the “hidden message” inside of the logo, especially its “spark.” The colors chosen were not an accident. I believe I briefly went over them in a previous post, but I wanted to review the color choice in more detail.

The color blue stands for autism awareness, and it is usually seen as the “official” color for the movement. It comes with a bit of weight, however, as many autistic individuals find the color/movement to be dismissive of entire sections of individuals and not fully representative of the autism community. There is also seems to be a disconnection between the autism workers (who overwhelmingly support this color movement) and the autistic community.

This leads us to the color red, which was adopted by members of the autistic community to represent autism acceptance. This is a little different than its blue “companion.” The autism acceptance movement features an idea of “not us without us,” the valid premise that change and acceptance has to involve and include the very population it is supposed to help. This color/movement also seeks to include the factions of the autistic community who may have been ignored or unintentionally excluded from the “blue movement.”

Finally, we have SPARC’s color of purple.  Purple, of course, is created when blue and red are mixed together. I wanted SPARC to take the positive aspects of both movements, and honor them as one. We can push for both autism awareness and autism acceptance, so long as it is done in a manner than includes the very voices we neurotypicals claim to support, and promotes a healthy expansion of knowledge and resources. The two movements do not have to be at odds with each other, nor do they need to belittle one another. I hope for SPARC to grow into an example that honors the best of both movements, and recognize that both are needed to fulfill the third and fourth A’s of autism…Affirmation and Advocacy.

The Puzzle Piece & SPARC

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I wanted to post this before releasing the next workshop flyer, because this symbol has gotten a very mixed reaction from the autism community…and rightfully so.

The puzzle piece has become a standard symbol for autism worldwide, from representing entire organizations to being featured on necklaces and bumper stickers. For both sides of the coin, it symbolizes autism being a bit of a mystery, a puzzle to be solved and completed. For some, it represents hope that answers may be found. For others, it is dismissive of their lives and experiences.

For SPARC and its mission, it represents something entirely different.

The purpose of SPARC is to educate, and though we don’t adopt the puzzle piece as our symbol (nor will we ever do so), we embrace a different meaning for it.

For SPARC, the puzzle represents connecting the pieces for minority communities.

It means connecting “stranded” families to resources and assistance.

It means establishing support systems for those on the spectrum and their caregivers in these communities.

It means linking a community together in awareness, acceptance, affirmation, and advocacy.

So, when you see the puzzle piece on any flyers or marketing for SPARC, know that it carries a completely different meaning for us. It doesn’t represent autism itself, but rather represents underserved communities being given much needed tools to assist with autism.

Quick Update

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I know, I’ve been quiet lately.

Don’t worry, though, it’s for good reasons! There has been a LOT of planning going on!

I’m not going to say too much just yet, as we are still in the finalization stages, but I will say that SPARC is preparing to team up with another great organization in the Riviera Beach community to offer not one, not two, but multiple SPARC trainings to the public, for FREE. I am beyond excited about this, and once we have everything solidified, we will definitely be announcing the details!

We aiming for an mid-October start, so check back here or like our Facebook page for updates!

Lesson of the day to fellow entrepreneurs: Get to know those in your community, and make your presence known as much as possible by attending local events (armed with business cards!), and connecting to those you have common ground with. You literally never know where your next opportunity or partnership may come from!

Countdown!

We are only a few days away from the first West Palm Beach class “Hello Autism” this Saturday!

I checked out the space today to make sure the equipment and setup would work, and yes, it will have a similar setup to this. I want this to be a discussion as much as it is a workshop, and I want it to become a regular occurrence.

If you haven’t reserved a spot yet, it’s FREE and there are still spaces available! Click here to go directly to the event and register!

1st “Hello Autism” Class Info!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are excited and thrilled to announce that our first community class, “Hello, Autism” is set and ready! Here are the details:

Class: Hello Autism, the first class in SPARC’s community training series

Date: Saturday, August 3, 2019

Time: 2:30-4:30pm

Place: Mandel West Palm Beach Public Library at 411 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach, FL 33401 (Hibiscus Room on the 3rd floor)

Cost: FREE!

RSVP: Email sparcguidance@gmail.com with your name, number of attendees, and zip code. You will also be added to a mailing list to get updates on this and other classes from SPARC, including parking/transportation information.

PLEASE NOTE: RSVP is required for this class, as there is VERY LIMITED seating for it. We can only take a maximum of 20 people for the class. Preference will be given to those in the 33407, 33404, and 33401 zip codes. Don’t worry, though; if enough people email us, we will definitely arrange another class in the near future. Those who attend this class will receive a discount for the second class in the series, which focuses on the school system and autism. Please visit the Classes page for more information about the various class series.

 

Tuesday Thoughts

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I think Tuesday posts are going to be the days where all of my not-quite-realized post ideas are going to go. So, without further adieu…

  • Reading the thoughts of a young adult on the spectrum (via Facebook) has been one of the biggest eye openers for me, because he brings up situations and viewpoints that I never conceived of.
  • The autism world with regards to therapeutic approaches is becoming increasingly marginalized. It’s like being in a circle surrounded by base camps…and you are either not invited to them, or you don’t quite agree with them. Interesting position to be in…and a great launching space to create your own base camp.
  • A parent told me that she was confused when someone asked her what her son’s “special gift” was. She shrugged and replied, “I told her that I didn’t know what it was or what she meant.” I glanced at him, looked back at her, and thought, “Spatial intelligence.” I don’t really see them as gifts, though.
  • I follow several families on the @sparcguidance on Instagram. They are all composed of pure awesome, and I love that they are sharing their journeys. It’s not easy and not for everyone, but I appreciate it.
  • A 2-minute questionnaire has been developed by researchers at Rutgers University that could identify autism in children much younger than the average age of around 5 years old. You can read more about the questionnaire here and here. This is fascinating, especially since it appeared accurate across different socioeconomic groups. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the questions are in layman’s terms, as opposed to overly academic or analytic jargon.
  • Finally, a multiple intelligence note: As I’ve mentioned in my post on spatial intelligence, I’ve noticed that quite a few of my clients have been above average or exceptional in this category, regardless of sex, race, etc. It is not the easiest intelligence to spot, though. So here is a tip for parents: Someone with high spatial intelligence is often good at building, but they may be also really good at directions and orientating themselves to areas. They are really good at games that focus on spatial strategy (like Blockus or Tetris-like games), and can probably help with putting things together, be it a Lego set or that new chair for the living room. The key to remember in any of the intelligences, though, is that the person enjoys it. If they love it and are good at it, you have potentially found their purpose.

Programing Note: We’re on the lookout for guest bloggers, so please drop us a line at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you want to write something about autism, multiple intelligence, life purpose, etc.  We’re also working on our first workshop on multiple intelligence and uncovering them! We will give more information once everything is finalized, but we are definitely excited about it!

Have a great week!

Naturalistic: Connect To Nature

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I’m currently in the process of testing out my Find Your Intelligence assessment, and a peer of mine offered to be a guinea pig. About 10 minutes later, she was staring at me in mild shock over the results. Her top intelligence area was Naturalistic, something that she wasn’t expecting at all.

We talked about what exactly that meant for her. In essence, she is both energized and calmed by being in nature. She spoke of how often she goes into nature to hike, swim, or just walk. As a child, she loved to climb trees and take care of her animals. It was present in nearly every aspect of her life so far, and when those activities were absent, she realized how much more stressful her life would become. In the end, I recommended that she try to do something “in nature” as often as she could during the week, even if it was just a walk outside around the block. A week later, she was still in awe of how she had missed such an obvious aspect of her life and happiness.

For those with naturalist intelligence, nature is like a reset button. I think this is the case for most human beings, but it goes double for those that are high in this intelligence. They need to connect to the living world regularly. It could be as simple as the aforementioned walk, or as intense as snowboarding or mountain climbing. Regardless, it is the interaction with nature that brightens them. For some, it also becomes a focus of exploration and fascination, and they become scientists and educators of nature. Regardless, nature helps them bring out their best.

I am always looking for others to try out the FYI assessment, so you can email me at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you’re curious about it. While there are formal sessions and classes available, I also love just chatting about the MI theory and where other think they fall on it!

So, what are you waiting for, Naturalistics? Get outside!

New Year Prep: 2018 Edition

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Hello! Whew, we made it through 2017!

I hope everyone had a wonderful week full of holiday festivities!

With 2018 right around the corner (like, literally), I will be doing some tweaking of things on the site. I’m not sure if I want a brand new layout or not, but I’m playing around with the idea.

I will also be looking into collaborating with other bloggers to do guests posts, making/posting videos, and giving case studies. In other words, it’s about to get a lot more interactive!

Finally, I really want to do some workshops in several possible areas, including LA, the Bay Area, South Florida, and even New York City. I will keep everyone posted!

So while I may be quiet for the next week or so, trust that I am working on really making SPARC Guidance into something amazing. I hope all of you join me for the ride.

Have a wonderful, fun, and safe New Year, and I will see everyone in 2018!