Guest Post by Emily Goldhammer
Personal Care Attendant to child with ASD
After discussing how to make taking a walk a richer language activity with Tahirih (See blog post below: Let’s Take a Walk), I created a board to use with my client on his speech generating device (the Go Talk 20+) so that he could help me plan our walking games each day before we went out walking. Together, we make a visual schedule and we take the visual schedule with us. I don't take the Go Talk because it gets in our way. When I actually started to create visual supports for this activity, I had trouble coming up with ideas for our walk that would be motivating and meaningful for my little guy. Our walk activity choices needed to be concrete rather than abstract. I needed to think it through a couple of times.
The activities that I put on the Go Talk for my client to choose included: Walt together, spin, draw with stick (in the dirt), feed birds, pick a flower, stomp on grass, throw rocks, throw rock in the water, drop rock, collect rocks, write STOP, give dog treat, catch a bug, circle around the tree (which we do with a song), read address, write road sign, collect leaves, blow leaf, count (we can count almost anything), run (where we will do a running stopping together game.)
My first version of Let’s Take a Walk had such items as “find tree,” “go to Fig sign,” etc. Yes, those are things we could do on our walk, but why would my young friend want to do them? What are we actually going to do when we find a tree or get to the end of the road? Tahirih looked over my project and encouraged me to go back over each activity and make it more active. To make them more meaningful to a child with ASD or for a child who is at a younger language level, we needed to use action words such as stomp, pick, and throw. I replaced things like “find a rock” with “throw rocks.” I had both items initially, but when I contemplated what my little friend would willingly choose to put on our walking schedule, I realized that it was redundant to put “find a rock” and “throw rocks” together. What if he chose them out of order? How do you throw a rock if you do not have one already? That was where I had my Aha! moment. I chose to exclude “find a rock” and instead create other actions that could be done with rocks.
Not only should the walk choices on a speech generating device be full of action, they should contain items and ideas that will appeal to my friend.. My client loves to manipulate small things such as rocks and leaves. So, those were some of the items I put on our walk board. I also chose (with Tahirih’s help) to add writing and counting to our schedule as my young friend is beginning to write and count. When we get to those parts of our walk, I may be the one to do the writing and need to initiate the counting, but he can say out loud what I am writing and maybe he will even want to try writing himself. Now I have added literacy and math to our walking board!
Please feel free to use the board I have created either with your own speech generating device or just use the pictures and create your own visual schedule with your child. You may want to change the things you can do on your walk as there may be different things to do in your neighborhood. Remember to allow the child to choose what they want to do in the order of their choice (you may want to start with a few things and gradually increase the length of your walks). When you finish doing number 1, take that picture off the schedule and move on to number 2. I recommend laminating your schedule and using Velcro for the pictures to easily move them around.
I hope you will take advantage of our spring weather and take a walk with your child! It would be lovely if those of you who try out our idea commented on what you did and how you did it. We would enjoy getting feedback.