Sunday, December 5, 2010

iSupports for Children with Autism: Cookie Doodle Language Therapy

Ten Ways to Teach Communication Skills Using Cookie Doodle iPad App.

I invite you to watch the video below first before reading about some of the learning objectives you might target while using this app. 

1)     Joint Attention
  • With many young children who have autism, it is difficult to establish Joint Attention (JA is when two people are doing, looking at, feeling, intending the same thing at the same time--and know that they are both together in this enterprise).  iPads are visually riveting.  It is relatively easy to get most children with autism looking at things on the ipad.  The child knows that you are both looking at the same thing, in part, because you can easily both be interacting with the pictures on the program.  When you say Hmmm, what color?  Brown.  I choose brown  the child can see that you selected something that was brown and if the next time you name a different color and select it, the meaning of the color word becomes increasingly obvious.  If you say Cut, cut, cut while cutting the butter, the child sees what the word might mean.  These programs give the child practice in maintaining joint attention with another person because it is easy, and highly pleasurable for the child to maintain joint attention in this kind of an activity.
2)     Taking Turns
  • It is relatively easy to move the iPad from one person's reach to another person's reach, allowing each person to take a turn.  You can create a turn taking activity easily.  If at the same time you announce Mommy's Turn and then David's Turn, you are making the act of turn-taking even more obvious.  When first taking turns, make Mommy's turn really quick and David's turn longer.  Eventually, make turns more evenly timed so that David can play with another child and not just mommy.
3)     Speech Sounds
  • One of the ways that we teach a child new speech sounds is we let the child hear the sound repeatedly--often slowing the production of the word down to emphasize the target sound a little.  I might choose the Cookie Doodle app, for example, when I was helping a child use the "k" sound instead of the "t" sound in appropriate words.  This would be the child who pronounces the word cookie as "tootie".   There are so many opportunities to emphasize the "k" sound while playing this particular game. This therapy strategy would not even require that you ask the child to say the "k" sound, at least not at the beginning, but rather that you just find as many opportunities to say words with a "k" sound as you can while playing.  Here is a little sample of how one might talk while playing if the idea was to say as many "k" words as possible.  "Wow! You chose green.  Green Cookie?  Yuck! No Cookie for me!  I don't like green Cookies.  I can't eat green cookies! My turn.  I will make green cookies too but Yuck!  I won't eat them.  I will cut, cut, cut, cut my cookie and no one can eat it.  Cookie crumbs.  You can't eat cookie crumbs." 
  •  While I might find another app for another sound, I would not need to. With a little thought, one could probably target any sound using the same app.  Write out a little script for yourself to help you think of how to say the same sound over and over in different words while playing the game together. If your child is working on sounds with a Speech Language Pathologist, ask this professional for help with choosing sounds to target in play.
4)     Vocabulary
  •  It is easy to teach vocabulary with any activity where the child can see exactly what you mean as you say the word.  Some obvious vocabulary to teach with this game would be descriptive words (colors, shapes, sizes), space/location words (down, up, next to, beside, on top, on the edge, far away, close), action words (cut, sprinkle, stir, color, bite, eat, pour, shake),  politeness words (please, thank-you, your welcome), labels (bottle, egg, salt, bowl), time words (first, second, third, after, next time, last time, before).  You might want to look on your child's treatment plan or IEP to see what kind of vocabulary goals your child has or ask your child's Speech Language Pathologist to help you choose some words.
5)     Pretend versus Real  
  •       Anything you teach in the two dimensional world of a computer screen or for that matter, a book, is pretend, not real in this presentation. You can make the concept of pretend versus real more clear if you use these words while doing the activity on the screen and then repeating the activity in the real world.  E.g.  Let's make pretend cookies versus Let's make real cookies.  Cookie Doodle is very easy to do in both worlds.  The concept of "pretend" versus "real" can be a useful concept to teach. It has long intrigued me that with typical children, we tend to throw pretend and real together and let children sort out what is pretend versus real eventually--as in the case of Santa Claus.  It is much more pervasive than the clearly deceptive manner in which we present Santa.  We do things like threaten to eat your little toes while changing a baby's diaper--what a horrible thing to say to a child but we smile as we say it and apparently, young children trust our smiles more than they trust our words.  That might, in fact, be what we are teaching as we say this.  Trust my facial expression, not my words when there is any doubt.  We give children books with stories where animals talk, dinosaurs walk the earth, and orphaned children live at Hogworts Magic Boarding School.   For children with autism, who tend to be very literal in their thinking, it can be useful to teach, from an early age, that some things are real and somethings are pretend.  We want all children to enjoy rich imaginative lives but there can be some distressing confusion in our cultural approach for children with autism.   
  •       I want to make another point,under this heading of pretend versus real and slip it in here. A child is much more likely to use new communication skills that are taught in the two dimensional world of computers if these same skills are explicitly taught in the real world soon after. Don't expect a child to use the vocabulary, for example, that you teach with Cookie Doodle, unless you also teach that vocabulary in other real places--such as when cooking real cookies.
    Next blog post will cover the following communication learning objectives.  If you can think of more learning objectives and strategies related to using Cookie Doodle--please put them in the comments section. 

    6)     Planning and Sequencing
    7)     Politeness  (Caring for the Needs of Others)
    8)     Mental Flexiblity
    9)     The Language and Concept of Gradation
    10)  Beginning and Ending Activities Verbally

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