Therapies

A Quest for Social Skills for Students with Autism or Asperger’s: Ready-to-use lessons with games, role-play activities, and more!
by JoEllen Cumpata and Susan Fell
Future Horizons, 2010

About the Book

Why start a social skills program?
The question is not why, but why not?

With inclusive education becoming the norm in schools nationwide, teachers often struggle to address students’ non-academic needs—but teachers need ready-to-use lessons that won’t interfere with their curriculum.

QUEST (Questioning, Understanding, and Exploring Social Skills and Pragmatic Language Together) is a social skills program created to help middle school students with ASD who struggle with pragmatic language and social skills.

Developed by a school social worker and speech language pathologist, the program uses an intensive, proactive approach to teaching social skills, combining written instruction with games, activities, and student interaction.

Six helpful units—School Survival Basics, Understanding and Managing Emotion, Communication Skills, Making Friends and Interacting with Peers, Personal Safety, Vocational Readiness—can be implemented either chronologically or on their own. Evidence-based research supports the methods used and students have a great time learning-by-doing, through role-play and real-world experience. Parents are kept in the loop with email updates and evaluations. Everyone wins with this program!

Best of all, the book includes a CD of printable worksheets, letters, forms, and more!

QUEST covers: Greetings, Paying Attention, Daily Hygiene, Asking for Help, Understanding Feelings, Getting Angry/Calming Down, Managing Stress, Starting a Conversation, Making and Keeping Friends, Gossip, Bullying, and Teasing, Resisting Peer Pressure, Dating, Internet and E-mail Safety, and many more!

My Thoughts:
I am extremely impressed with this book. The lessons seem perfectly suited to the upper elementary and older students, which is where my son is now. With his moving into fourth grade this year and to a school with a more established social skills program, he has actually begun receiving group instruction on a regular basis, through a combination of push-ins during group work in science and social studies to lunch bunches and other small group activities. I can see the lessons in this book tying in very easily with what the SLP is doing, as well as being age-appropriate for the kids.

The manual is divided into several topical sections:

  • The school survival section has many of the things we are trying to instill in my son right now, from paying attention and asking for help to organizing his workspace and using an assignment book. Plus there’s even a lesson on daily hygiene, which is quickly becoming more important at our house!
  • The sections on understanding emotions, communication skills, and making friends are all topics that he has been working on for years, but these lessons seem to provide a fresh approach to use within a structured classroom setting that also emphasized practical application of the skills.
  • The personal safety and vocational readiness skills seem most appropriate for middle school and high school, students, although some of the information is more and more needed by younger students as kids may still encounter bullying and gossip, as well as be socializing online at an earlier age than the previous generation.

The book also includes a CD with PDF files of all the necessary printables for the lessons, making it as easy as possible to prepare and implement the program. I am excited about being to share this with my son’s SLP and hope that she will find it to be as useful as I think it will be!

Discount Opportunity: If you order A QUEST for Social Skills directly from Future Horizons, you can use the code INTERRUPTED to receive 15% off and free shipping in the continental US.

Note: I received a review copy for free, but all opinions are my own. I am an affiliate of Future Horizons and receive a small amount of compensation for any sales made using the promotional code provided. You can use the code INTERRUPTED when ordering books or other materials – or even conference registrations – to receive 15% off plus free shipping in the continental US.

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In-Sync Activity Cards: 50 Simple, New Activities to Help Children Develop, Learn and Grow!
by Joye Newman, MA, and Carol Kranowitz, MA
Sensory World, 2012

About the Set
These two experienced authors have over seventy combined years of teaching experience and have learned the best ways to help children learn and grow using their motor development skills. Now parents can tap that experience and genius, using these handy cards to help their kids grow, learn, and develop to the best of their abilities!

Divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced activities, each card tells you why and how the activity works, what you need for it, and ways to make it more challenging. It also tells you what to look for, to make sure your child is getting the most out of the activity.

My Thoughts:
I was very excited to get this set for review, especially since I have been so pleased with an earlier set from the same publisher, called Move-About Activity Cards (linked to my review). I have found them to be very useful with my son, and the school team really likes using them during his sensory breaks.

This set is much more detailed and seems like it would have a lot of different applications, from sensory and movement needs, to development of motor planning and imitation, as well as direction-following skills.

The cards have great illustrations and are color-coded by skill level, plus each one includes ideas for how to make it a bit harder, which makes it very easy to customize for individual abilities and interests. They also include clear instructions regarding what materials you need and what you have to do to set up the activity, which is extremely helpful when planning which ones are workable given your resources at that time.

For my own child, I could see these cards being useful for his sensory breaks or even to work on turn-taking (i.e. allowing someone else to be in charge) in a peer group without the competitive stressors involved in playing a game. Although he is 10 and starting the preteen phase of his development, I still believe he would be drawn to the novelty of the cards and the imaginative activities.

Discount Opportunity: If you order In-Sync Activity Cards directly from Future Horizons, you can use the code INTERRUPTED to receive 15% off and free shipping in the continental US.

Note: I received a review copy of this set for free, but all opinions are my own. I am an affiliate of Future Horizons and receive a small amount of compensation for any sales made using the promotional code provided. You can use the code INTERRUPTED when ordering books or other materials – or even conference registrations – to receive 15% off plus free shipping in the continental US.

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I don’t know about you, but I spent the first several days after hearing the diagnosis of autism frantically reading everything I could get my hands on, trying to figure out what I should be doing to help my son. I swung daily from feeling that there must be one perfect answer to the question to feeling like I should be hitting every area at once so as not to lose any more precious time.

I was blown away by the fact that the Birth-3 team thought 45 minutes of speech therapy and 45 minutes of occupational therapy a week was plenty. And even though the preschool program offered 12 hours a week in the classroom along with the therapy sessions, I still felt an intense pressure to do more.

So we did. We have tried a lot of different therapies, with a variety of outcomes. We have done music therapy, art therapy, occupational therapy, a listening program, speech therapy, sensory integration therapy, behavioral therapy, Floortime, psychotherapy, a special diet, supplements, and medication, to name a few. Some were effective and have stuck with us, while others likely did more to make me feel like I was doing something than they actually helped Michael.

I don’t pretend to have all (or even most) of the answers, especially since at times I still battle the same insecurities and fears that I always have, but here’s a few things I have learned along the way:

  • Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, and don’t let every little issue become your whole life. The conversations about nursing versus bottle feeding that were so all-consuming when your child was an infant aren’t even on the radar when you are talking to the second grade teacher about spelling or math.
  • Quantity is important, but quality is even more so. As much as some people would like you to believe you must do 40 hours of ABA a week, or 8 Floortime sessions a day, it is critical to give your child yourself, present with them, engaging with them however you can.
  • Along those lines, nothing takes the place of getting on the floor and playing with your kid. For some people, this is natural, but for me it was easy to retreat to the computer and my books and focus on researching and learning to find the “right” answers. If I could go back, I would spend half that time just hanging out with Michael instead and really paying attention to what makes him light up with interest and curiosity.
  • You have to pick your battles; that is, figure out what your top goals are and prioritize any therapies that addresses those issues. What skill or activity would make things better for your child and for your family? What would make them more functional and independent in their communication or daily life? Once you know what you want and what your child wants, you can make decisions about where therapy may fit in with those goals.

When it comes down to it, we are all imperfect people, raising imperfect children. We want to prepare them for life as best we can, to pass on our values and ideals, to let them know they are loved and to celebrate their uniqueness. We cry for them when things are difficult and rejoice with them when victories are won. We do the best we can at any given moment, and so do our kids, and that’s enough for me.

Note: This post was written for the Best of the Best, Edition 9: Therapy and Special Needs Kids.

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For a compilation of some of the best posts on social and play skills related to children with hidden disabilities, visit the S-O-S Best of the Best, Edition 2: Social & Play Skills.

There are some amazing bloggers represented in this list, both parents and professionals, and I am honored to be included among them with my post about the playgroup Michael attends.

You can also find information on the next two topics and details on how to submit a post for consideration in an upcoming Best of the Best at Help! S-O-S for Parents blog.

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This is a day late because I didn’t get online until late yesterday and ran out of time, but I have a number of links I wanted to pass on.

Floortime

What is Floortime? – K over at Floortime Lite Mama put together a great post with the basic concepts of Floortime. In it, she talks about the concepts it is based on as well as how it looks in practice.

If you’re interested in more information, she also wrote about the difference between classic Floortime and using Floortime as a lifestyle in Portrait of a Floortime Evening and shared her heart about being mom vs. therapist over at Hopeful Parents.

Life Lessons

Autism: The Teacher at Puzzled – This is a thoughtful essay about the lessons we can learn from raising an autistic child. As she puts it, just like a non-elective class in college, we didn’t choose this path but can choose to learn from it.

Sensory Processing Disorder

I have been thinking a lot more about this topic recently, especially as I am reading a couple of books about SPD to review for this blog. The Gift Blog just published An Interview with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, one of the foremost researchers in this area at the current time and one of the people working very hard to get SPD accepted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

On Advocacy

Advocacy Power – More Parents Leading the Way – If you are looking for some guidance on advocating for your child, this is a great place to start.

For those of us already in the trenches, An Open Letter to Special Needs Professionals really speaks for how I am feeling much of the time when dealing with many doctors, educators and other people in Michael’s life.

On a more practical note, this article on 5 Tips to Help Autistic Students with Transitions is concise and clearly written for teachers and other professionals who may not have a solid understanding of autism. In fact, I already passed it on to Michael’s autism consultant to share with the team.

I hope you find some encouragement and new ideas in one or more of these posts. Please let me know if there’s a particular topic you want to hear more about and I will do my best to find information on it.

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