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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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Book Review: Making Technology Work for Learners with Special Needs: Practical Skills for Teachers (J. Ulman)


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computer boy.jpgThis book which came out in 2005, available for $28.95 on Amazon, highlights the fact that technology is no longer just a nice thing to have for special needs students, it is a critical life skill for survival and success in the real world.  Ulman, an instructor of special education at Ball State University, nicely explains the importance of technology skills and how important it is for teachers and parents to also be up to date on technology, so that they can better teach their children.  Although the book is obviously not up to date due to the many advancements in technology since 2005, it still provides a great framework for teachers to get started in incorporating technology into their classrooms, although teachers will want to research more updated software titles (some suggestions at the end of this article).

Chris with E at computer.gifThe book takes the reader through a step-by-step, practical approach to doing a variety of tasks on the computer such as word processing, graphics, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, and using the internet.  Using pictures and easy-to-understand instructions, Ulman explains how teachers can break these sophisticated steps down into manageable instructional sessions and build the skills over time.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 7, which discusses how to use educational software in the classroom.  Ulman points out that computers are often used as a reward in the classroom, but not effectively as a learning tool.  Suggested uses for computers in the classroom include:

* Reinforced Practice (software reinforces previously taught material) (e.g. Stanley’s Sticker Stories from Edmark Reading (now Riverdeep) which reinforces writing skills)
* Tutorial (teach new concepts) (e.g. Creature Chorus from Laureate LearniLAUSD Feb Melvin Dontell Computer_00011.jpgng which teaches young children to use the mouse or touch screen)
* Simulation (simulates some aspect of real life) (e.g. The Oregon Trail from The Learning Company which teaches the student to make decisions to help travelers arrive safely in Oregon (e.g. what to take, when to leave, how fast to move, etc))
* Problem Solving (solving instructionally relevant problems) (e.g. Puzzle Tanks by Sunburst Technology which teaches the student to fill, empty, and transfer liquids between different storage tanks to reach target amounts)
* Graphics (allows users to express their creativity without having to use paper and pencil) (e.g. Kid Pix Deluxe from The Learning Company)
* Reference (dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopedia, etc) (e.g. The American Heritage Dictionary for Children from Houghton Mifflin)
* TeacherLAUSD Feb Parthenia Jackie Computer_0001.jpg Utility (programs that make the teacher’s job easier) (e.g. Boardmaker from Mayer-Johnson which provides thousands of picture communication symbols that can be printed and used for schedules, communication, etc.)
* Student Utility (programs that make the student’s job easier) (e.g. word processing, spreadsheets, etc) (e.g. Inspiration from Inspiration Software helps students plan, organize, outline, diagram, and write)
* Authoring (provides teachers with tools to create their own lessons) (e.g. HyperStudio from Sunburst Technologies helps teachers make lessons as well as presentations for meetings or classroom use)

The book is also very helpful for how to make adaptations for special needs students and gives ideas for the mouse, keyboard, touch screen, switch inputs, and speech recognition.LAUSD Feb Parthenia Isaah Computer_00011.jpg

Because this book is from 2005, I thought it would be helpful to provide a few links to sites that specialize in software for special education, check these out!  Please let us know if you have other suggestions, these are sites that offer multiple products, not specific product sites.
Turning Point Technology

Timberdoodle

Super Kids Educational Software Reviews

SmartKids Software

Real Life, Real Progress for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Strategies for Successful Generalization in Natural Environments


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Real Life, Real Progress for Children with ASDReal Life, Real Progress for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. A book edited by our own Christina Whalen, Ph.D., BCBA has been released this month. To order your copy today click on the book icon.

“The best hands-on guide to the most important part of intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders: helping the children take the skills they learn in intervention and use them whenever and wherever they need them.” —Tristram Smith, Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, University of Rochester Medical Center

Generalization is the key to effective autism intervention—when children can apply new skills across settings, they’ll make broad, long-term improvements in behavior and social communication. The first how-to guide to generalization is finally here! Practical and reader-friendly, this is the book that helps professionals take today’s most popular autism interventions to the next level by making generalization an integral part of them.

Pre-K–Grade 8 special educators, early interventionists, SLPs, and other professionals will

  • enhance 6 widely used autism intervention models with specific, evidence-based generalization strategies
  • get dozens of easy activities that really help children use new skills consistently—no matter where they are or who they’re with
  • learn about generalization from the experts who know best, with contributions from top autism authorities like Ilene Schwartz, Carol Gray, Andy Bondy, Laura Schriebman, and Bryna Siegel
  • provide positive, supportive parent education so they can be active partners in promoting their children’s generalization of skills
  • weave generalization strategies into every phase of intervention planning, not just at the end after skills have already been learned
  • modify generalization strategies for different settings, so children can achieve their ultimate goal: applying their skills successfully in school, at home, and in the community
  • assess the effectiveness of generalization strategies at multiple stages of instruction

Case studies and vivid examples bring the strategies to life in every chapter, and forms and checklists help professionals plan interventions, track children’s goals, and monitor their progress toward generalization. With this urgently needed guide to one of the most important facets of autism intervention, readers will help children generalize social behaviors and communication skills—and ensure better lives and brighter futures.

Make generalization strategies a part of these popular interventions:

  • Pivotal Response Training
  • Discrete Trial Instruction
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Social Stories™
  • Computer-Assisted Intervention
  • JumpStart Learning-to-Learn

The Hidden Curriculum and Unwritten Social Rules


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photo_BrendaSmithMyles.jpgI attended the Geneva Centre for Autism conference last week and saw many interesting presentations and one that I found inspiring was a talk by Brenda Smith Myles.  She is the author of a book called The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Rules in Social Situations.  There are a great deal of good books on autism and several with pracial information for intervention.  Few of these books, and few interventions, focus on what is not obvious but what might be extremely important. 

thomas and dash.jpg“The hidden curriculum refers to the set of rules or guidelines that are often not directly taught but are assumed to be known (Garnett, 1984; Hemmings, 2000; Jackson, 1968; Kanpol, 1989)” (from Brenda’s book on page 5).  This curriculum includes things like unspoken rules, slang, metaphors, body language, etc.  Most of us pick up on these things instinctively but it is often difficult for those with autism and other special needs to do this.   

In her talk, Brenda spoke of obscure social situations such as using087_040_Lara_Neighbor.jpg a public restroom or shower, using an elevator, and everyday conversations.  To many of us, these are situations that we have become accustomed to and we accept the social rules, even though we may not always think about them or discuss them.  She gives practical tips for teaching these hidden social rules to children and to adults and stresses the importance of making these a part of everyday life.

templeartpic.gifAnother good resource for learning about the hidden rules in social situations is a book that I have finally started reading by Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron (click here for a very interesting podcast with Sean) called Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism.  This insightful and intelligent book helps you see into the minds of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and how they perceive these strange social situations and rules, and how they cope with these situations.  This book is helpful for professional, families, and those with a diagnosis themselves - fascinating book that I will probably recommend to many of my friends that are not in the field, it really demonstrates how different brains process information from various perspectives and that we can not take any knowledge for granted.000_51_Clark_reading.png

The only thing that is missing from this perspective is how to measure success, how to take data and assess what the child or adult has learned and what they have left to learn.  If anyone knows of a good hidden curriculum type of assessment or measurement, please post here, I would be very excited to take a look at something like that! 

B & E 3.JPGFrom looking at these 2 books and listenting to Brenda talk (and Temple on several occassions), I am reminded how important it is for us to look beyond the obvious in education.  This awareness of hidden information in our world can only advance the science of interventions and assist us with developing programs that result in real-world success.

Universal Usability Book


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51hmkEvnARL__SS500_.jpgIn a new book from Wiley Publishers called Universal Usability: Designing Computer Interfaces for Diverse Populations (click on this link to order the book) by Jonathon Lazar, TeachTown has a chapter written by myself, Dr. Lars Liden (our CTO), Dr. Brooke Ingersoll (now with Michigan State University), and Sven Liden.  In Chapter 9, TeachTown highlights the development process and research for producing TeachTown: Basics.  The chapter briefly reviews the literature on treatments for autism and computer-assisted interventions, it also emphasizes the importance of using evidence-based practices and implications of computer instruction is discussed along with future research directions of TeachTown and other technology-based autism companies.

ABSTRACT FROM CHAPTER 9screen_monkey.jpg (Whalen, Liden, Ingersoll, & Liden)

EVIDENCE-BASED COMPUTER-ASSISTED INSTRUCTION FOR AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS

Current trends in treatment and education for children focus on the importance of using evidence-based practices (e.g. Reichart, 2001).  Because of the numerous treatment and education options available for children with autism, many of which are not supported by research, the use of evidence-based practices is particularly important (Perry & Condillac, 2003) and many schools are mandating these practices.  With recent advances Picture1.jpgin computer technology, there has been a strong interest in the use of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) in the treatment and education of children (Parkin, 2006).  Due to the unique characteristics and learning styles of children with autism, the interest and need for CAI is especially strong (e.g. Goldsmith & LeBlanc, 2004).  In this chapter, evidence-based practices for autism, particularly Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), will be reviewed as well as the research on technology and computers for this population.  The importance of developing evidence-based technology for children with autism and other special needs will be discussed along with the implications for designers and researchers.

Book Review: The Social Skills Picture Book (J. Baker)


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4-rating

 

SocSkillsPict300.jpgThe Social Skills Picture Book: Teaching Play, Emotion, and Communication to Children with Autism is a book which uses pictures of real children to teach over 30 social skills such as conversation, manners, and empathy.  I use this book frequently with older or higher-functioning children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.  Because children with autism often learn better using visual supports, books like this are great tools for making complex social interactions more salient.  I also really like that they used pictures of real children rather than cartoons or drawings.  This helps show peer modeling in a 2-D situation.  When I have used this book, I typically supplement it with video modeling and hands-on activities with peers.  I have never used the book on its own, nor do I think that was the intention of the authors.  I would strongly recommend this book to teachers, behavioral therapists, and speech therapists.  It can also be useful for parents who are trying to teach social understanding to their child, or to use when a play date comes over.

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