Hi, I’m Jen from Speech Universe, and I am so excited to be doing a guest post for Kristin!
I work at a school that has three self-contained Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classrooms. The school social worker and I were looking at ways to consolidate 18 students who typically were seen one on one twice a week. We knew that we wanted to start some groups to work on social language. We have quite a range of students. They are K-5th grade, and range from completely non-verbal, to verbal (lots of PECS, devices, and phrase speech in between). The first year we started working together, we began doing “Fun Fridays” in one of the classrooms. We would typically bring in a game and a snack to make. We worked with the whole class (six students), the paraprofessionals, and the classroom teacher. Some days it got a little noisy and crazy! The kids were having fun, but we realized quickly that there were too many cooks, and not enough learning going on. The following year, we decided to stray from our original plan of working with everyone at one time, and broke down the classrooms a bit by ability. We also started to use a repetitive “formula” for our sessions. Both of these ideas have worked out really well.
We have broken our classes up into “higher level” groups, and “lower level” groups. Each group contains 3-4 students. The “higher level” students are verbal, however struggle with answering questions, and participating in conversational exchanges. The “lower level” students are typically non-verbal or minimally verbal. Most of them have either a PECS book, or a high tech communication device. We do not currently have any students on a high tech communication device that fall into our “higher level”; however we have in the past.
A typical group for our “higher level” students looks like this:
1. Feelings Check-In: The social worker created a visual choice board for feelings. The students pick how they are feeling at that time and put it onto the sentence strip. Students are able to pick from 10 different feelings and create sentences. They have all started to state their feelings quickly and sometimes without the visuals now! Please see the end of this post for a FREEBIE!
Conversation : This year, we have decided to really focus on conversations, or asking questions of peers. We have been using visuals I made for conversations. These have been really great with our students. The activity consists of five visual boards that have all of their favorite items in categories. The categories we have really focused on are: toys, food, animals, colors, and tv shows. They have started to ask each other questions about their favorite things and waiting for the answers. We have really encouraged them to get their peers attention by using their names and orienting their bodies toward each other.
I apologize that I cannot give the conversation board away as a freebie. We often use Boardmaker symbols, and they do not allow people to give away products that include their images. You can find the conversation activity that we use HERE.
Turn Taking Game: We have had a lot of fun playing turn taking games. We play any kind of turn taking game that we can find (or that I steal from my kids at home). Some examples of games we have played are: Gone Fishing, Zingo, Don’t Break the Ice, Go Fish, and a touch and feel box. They also LOVE a Marble Castle game that the social worker has. During these games, we focus on orienting toward each other, requesting turns, requesting parts of the game, and sharing. Another big part that we focus on is WAITING! We always have visuals on hand for our games. We can usually print out the visuals pretty quickly on Boardmaker. The biggest visual we use is the WAIT card.
A typical session for our “lower level” students looks like this:
1. Feelings check-in. For these guys we usually offer a choice of two or three feelings words. Typically we offer ‘happy, sad, and hungry.’ They love picking ‘hungry’ because then that usually leads to them requesting a snack with their communication book or device (and us playing grandma and giving in to the request).
2. Simple turn taking game. We are just starting to introduce these with these groups. We usually make it around about two times in the group before they get really restless and we need to switch activities. We use the same games as above, but may adapt them a bit more.
3. Requesting! We usually have a third person with us who can act as a silent prompter. We focus a lot on the PECS model of requesting. We have been so excited with the results! I bring in my big box of reinforcing toys with all of the visual icons printed out for each one. Students are then able to pick what they want to play with, and then we start making them request the items. Our students range from requesting one item on the front of the book, to requesting using the three word sentence “I want ____.”
It has been such a rewarding experience working closely with the school social worker. I think we both learn things from each other every day. Our groups continue to be a work in progress, but I think the students are really benefitting from all of our experimenting.
Here is my FREEBIE! It is an example of a feelings check-in sheet you could use. This one does not contain Boardmaker pictures, the graphics are from mycutegraphics.com and graphics factory.com. You can find the feelings check-in sheet HERE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Thank you so much for reading my really long post! I am so excited to share what I have been doing, and really feel like I didn’t even share everything! If you have any questions, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/speechuniverse
Thank you, Kristin for allowing me to share on your blog!