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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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Narrative Language and Timo Stories


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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

Meet Timo!


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timo.jpgTimo is a friendly animated tutor who helps children with autism, hearing impairments, developmental delays and other language problems to learn communication, conversation and reading in fun computer programs.  Animated Speech’s software is designed to give speech pathologists, educators and parents who work with these children an important new tool to build comprehension and vocabulary skills.

baldi.jpgThe initial concept for Timo was developed by Dr. Dom Massaro and Dr. Michael Cohen with a grant from the National Science Foundation.  Originally, Timo was called Baldi, and the once university lab project soon became a commercially available product.  Dan Feschbach, the company’s CEO, has grown the company and they now have 3 products available for varying levels of language learning. 

Team Up With Timo: Vocabulary teaches identification, comprehension, and expression of more than 650 woridScreenSection.jpgds including animals, human body, weather and much more.  The program offers pre and post tests for assessing progress and has 6 other levels of learning to teach the vocabulary.  The unique aspect of this program is Timo, who engages the child in conversation using the child’s own name!  The child’s voice can also be recorded so that the child’s parents and other team members can review it after the child’s session.  Rewards are given in response to correct answers and include a large variety of brief animations.  This program has many options for customization and is best for early language learners through about 4th grade vocabulary.

library.pngIf you are looking for more customization, ASC also offers Team Up With Timo: Lesson Creator.  In this program, teachers and professionals and create custom vocabulary and language lessons for the child to do on the computer.  You can use any pictures you want including the ones in the Timo vault, or upload your own.  This is an excellent way to build individualized, personalized lessons for your child.  index5_04.png

For older children or for children who have more language skills, they have Team Up With Timo: Stories, designed by Dr. Lauren Franke and Pamela Connors, speech-language experts.  This program teaches listening skills, comprehension, vocabulary, retelling stories, and reading skills.  Research has shown that being able to retell a story at age 4 is predictive of later success in school.  Storytelling also helps children participate in daily life with friends, family and school.  This program is based on research in language development and uses the Narrative-based language intervention (NBLI) approach that combines storytelling with skill-based activities.   

Timo products are available online and a free trial is provided.

 

 

Speech, Language and Hearing Milestones DVD


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0112825_a.jpgThe American Speech and Language Association (ASHA) now offers a helpful DVD for parents, teachers, researchers, and clinicians which overviews milestons for speech, language, and hearing development in the first 5 years of life.  The website includes samples from the DVD and is helpful on its own but the DVD has much more information and only costs $10 (even less if you order in bulk - for schools, clinics, etc.).  I also think this would be an excellent resource for pediatricians to hand out to their patients and obviously a terrific thing for speech and language pathologists and audiologists to give to parents. 

Speech, Language, and Hearing Milestones: Birth to Age Five is a 44-minute DVD with three main sections:

  1. Introduction to communication. Briefly explains the importance of communication and how speech and language develops. It also covers the role of hearing and the impact of an unidentified hearing loss.
  2. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Describes the credentials and services of the professions, particularly those for children birth to age 5.
  3. Communication Milestones. Individual chapters focus on general communication milestones by the following age ranges: Birth to 3 months; 4 to 6 months; 7 months to 1 year; 1 to 2 years; 2 to 3 years; 3 to 4 years; and 4 to 5 years

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