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Archive for July, 2008

Narrative Language and Timo Stories

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

S7300660.jpgVocabulary and text comprehension are critical skills for reading and academic success. The ability to understand and tell a familiar story forms a strong part of the foundation for these later skills. Between the ages of two and five, children’s narratives (i.e. ability to recount events or tell stories) progress from simple phrases about past events to telling more elaborate personal stories (like what happened at school or at the dentist that day) to retelling of familiar children’s books, and on to creating stories of their own.

Narrative skills are critical for school success and are often a strong predictor of kindergarten readiness and later academic success.  When children are asked “What did you do over the weekend?” by their teachers, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other language difficulties often have trouble answering this question. Similarly, when asked “What did you do at school?” by the parents, the child demonstrated the same frustration in understanding the question, remembering, and verbally recounting the experience. Even children who have recovered from other language deficits often demonstrate difficulty with narrative language skills.

Types of narratives include recounting events, unsolicited accounts of events, event casts (i.e. “broadcasting” of ongoing actions), making up stories (i.e. fictional stories), and scripts (i.e. response to tell what is done in aS7300618.jpg certain situation) (Heath, 1986). These skills not only tell us about a child’s language and literacy development, they also give us insight into their social, emotional, and cognitive skills (Engel, 1995).

Research in speech-language pathology supports the significance of narrative language:

Bishop and Edmundson (1987), in a prospective, longitudinal study of language-impaired children, found that the best predictor of a positive outcome was the ability to tell back a simple story to pictures.

Botting, Faragher et al. (2001). McCabe and Rollins (1994), and Westby (1991), have similarly documented the importance of oral narrative skills for a child’s social and school success.

Loveland (1989) compared children with ASD to children with mental retardation and found that both groups were able to answer questions about a puppet show or video skit they observed, but that the ASD children produced more bizarre responses demonstrating their difficulties with grasping the story as a representation of meaningful events. When compared to typically developing peers, children with ASD lacked the complexity in responses compared to their peers (Losh & Capps, 2003). The children in this study also showed problems inferring, building on causal relationships in narrative contexts, and demonstrated deficits on emotional understanding measures.

Narrative Based Language Intervention (NBLI) is a hybrid language intervention approach that combines naturalistic activities (such as story telling) with skill-based activities to address children’s language and communication goals (Swanson, L. A., Fay, M. E., et al. 2005). The goal of NBLI is to help children develop skills for generating narratives while at the same time addressing their individual needs to develop crucial underlying language skills.

Some of the benefits of NBLI include the ability to target multiple language goals simultaneously (i.e. narrative skills, comprehension, morphosyntax and complex syntax, vocabulary, and social thinking); and the ability to target other goals simultaneously (e.g. memory, sequencing, pretend play, self-help skills, reading).

ABOUT TIMO STORIES

Animated Speech has incorporated NBLI with scaffolded (i.e. making implicit information more salient and gradually building complexity ) stories to improve the story retelling skills, products_stories_03-new.pngpersonal narratives, answering questions, following directions, imitation, reading comprehension, syntax, and vocabulary skills of young children with autism and/or significant language problems.

Animated Speech, with support from Dr. Lauren Franke (speech-language expert), has developed a computer based NBLI program called Timo Stories.

Timo’s Library has 6 colorful stories at 2 levels about everyday events and problems and includes 2 levels of materials:

Timo Stories Pic.pnga) Level 1: Mostly simple sentence patterns and concrete concepts

b) Level 2: Incorporates complex sentence patterns and more complex sentence patterns

Timo Stories includes the following key features:

· Stories depicit predictable events, in language that is simple, yet complex enough to cover a range of topics

· Addresses comprehension, story-retelling, vocabulary, turn-taking, verbal reasoning & more using stories about common events and problems

· Combines a naturalistic linguistic environment and direct teaching

· Timo’s Think Tank features 6 activities to practice vocabulary in multiple contexts

· Story Scramble reinforces sequencing and retelling each story

· Tracks student progress

· Based on Narrative Based Language Intervention (Swanson et. al. 2005)

· Engages and motivating stories and Timo engages child through dialogue and calling the child by name

· Offers intensive opportunities to learn via books and reinforcing games

· Stories written in an explicit style as a processing aid

· Provides Ideas for activities away from the computer for generalization

Timo Stories has many benefits for the student including:

· Supports and promotes social interaction with Timo rather the just working on the computer.

· Offers numerous opportunities for children to build their comprehension, syntax, and story retelling skills.

· Emphasizes earlier development of mental state vocabulary.

· Teaches child to grasp and remember information – retelling stories with increasingly complex syntax and concepts.

· May help with the development of early theory of mind skills.

· Opportunities to learn & practice vocabulary in multiple contexts of increasing complexity.

· Stories & activities designed to help students develop background knowledge of every day events & problem solving

Summer Strategies

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

One of the most difficult things facing families is what to do every year when summer comes!

Here are some useful sights to help you with the process:

1) This article gives practical advice for finding a summer program.

2) This article, written by a parent, is extremely helpful and talks about the importance of keeping up home programs over the summer.

3) This blog talks about ESY (Extended School Year) and your legal rights. In fact, this whole blog is about Law & Education and it written by an experienced lawyer - it is well done - I recommend checking it out!

4) Research often shows that children with autism are likely to lose skills when there is treatment is removed - typically developing children do not show as dramatic of a drop in their abilities with breaks in education. This finding has been shown in many studies in which a treatment is shown to be effective and generalizes to the natural environment - but at follow-up - skills are no longer present. Here is an example of a study with these kinds of findings (you may have to to order the original article if you are interested in reading the whole thing).

5) Many parent organizations (e.g. FEAT), clinics (e.g. New Horizons), and even summer camps (e.g. MySummerPrograms) are also available!

6) If you are not able to obtain services for summer or if you are getting limited services and think your child would benefit from more - TeachTown: Basics is an excellent gap-filler for your home or school program. In addition, Animated Speech Company offers software programs suitable for older children needing additional help with language.

Best of luck with your summer programs and stay tuned for tips for going back to school!

Simons Foundation hosts article about digital tools and children with autism

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Last week, the Simons Foundation website published an article about using digital tools to help children and teens with autism. The article features a plethora of examples of current high tech products and their positive effect within the autism community. Some of the products mentioned in the article, such as TeachTown: Basics or the Behavioral Image (BI) Capture system, were specifically designed to be used with the special needs community. The article also reports that some autistic teens are benefiting from products not specifically designed for the special needs market, such as the SymTrend, a PDA designed to help teens track their school performance, or SecondLife, a web-based virtual reality game.

The whole article can be found here.

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