10 Reasons Why I Like the Picture Exchange Communication System

I talked in my last post about important considerations in addressing expressive vocabulary for individuals with autism.  Today I want to focus on one of my favorite methods of introducing communication for students who are either nonverbal or functionally nonverbal (they talk but don't use language to get their needs met): The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). PECS is a system for instructing students to communicate using pictures or symbols (pic/syms) in place of words.  Students physically exchange a picture to request an item, to comment on or describe something, and eventually to have a conversation.  PECS encourages and models speech along with the picture exchange, but the picture is designed to serve in place of the words.


Expanding Expressive Language for Individuals with ASD

I've been talking about receptive vocabulary for a bit, so as promised, I want to talk about expressive language.  I thought I would start off with some of the ways that we can help students expand both the function of their expressive language use as well as its form.  It's important to remember that expanding expressive language goes beyond just getting longer sentences, particularly for students with ASD.  It includes increasing the reasons or functions of the use of language, expanding the situations in which the student uses expressive language, initiating and independence of language, and finally expanding the types of vocabulary.  So, let me review some of these and I'll be back in the next few posts to talk about strategies in more detail.

How Do You Use It Linky: Throwback Thursday with Popsicle Sticks


I wanted to link up with Speech Time Fun for her great linky on How Do You Use It? This month focused on popsicle sticks and I love them. Below is a post from earlier this year that talks about different ways to use them.








More Ways for Teaching Receptive Vocabulary (and a freebie!)

In my last post and the one before that, I've talked about receptive vocabulary and how to help students learn in ways that are fun and functional.  In this one I want to introduce a new product, share a couple more ideas of how to teach vocabulary in fun ways.   And I want to tell you how to get a free sample.


Students with autism and other language delays and disorders need explicit instruction in vocabulary beyond simply naming items.  One way that we address this is to work on receptive and expressive characteristics of items and actions.  Specifically we work on features (i.e., adjectives like color, size etc.), function (i.e., what we use it for) and class (i.e., categories it can fall into).  This set of activities was developed to help students practice these skills in a variety of ways in addition to the explicit instruction of them.  Teaching vocabulary using a variety of materials and interventions is important to assure that students generalize their skills.  

Fun Ways to Teach and Generalize Receptive Language Concepts (FREEBIE)

I wrote earlier  about teaching the different functions of language and things to think about when teaching receptive vocabulary.  I thought I would follow that up with different ideas of ways to keep teaching receptive vocabulary fun and functional.

1.  Flash cards / Discrete Trials

You can use flash cards and discrete trials, especially when teaching the vocabulary the first time.  You don't want to get stuck at this step though, because the skills are unlikely to generalize beyond the instructional setting.  To keep this from getting too repetitive, here are some ideas to keep it fresh.

Have You Met My Sister? Let Me Tell You What She Has Taught Me

The internet is really a fascinating place.  I write; I hope others read.  But we really don't know that much about each other.  In preparing this year for National Autism Awareness Month, and today, World Autism Awareness Day, I began to realize that there is a lot you probably don't know about me.  Many of you don't know that my "day" job is to travel around the country and provide support and training to educators (and families) working with individuals with autism in schools.  Many of you don't know that I also teach graduate courses in autism and in ABA.  OK, so there's a host of things you probably don't know about me.  However, only one is important today.  You probably don't know how I got into this field in the first place.  And that is the story that I want to share today.

Celebrate Autism Awareness Month with a Sale: Linky with Store on Sale

Yep!  I am having a sale.  In fact, several of us are having a sale to celebrate and get the word out about National Autism Awareness Month.  Everything in my store will be 20% for April 2 and 3, 2014.  In addition, 50% of all my profits from this week will be donated to the Autism Society of America.  They use donations to fund their call center that offers someone to talk to and connect with for anyone who needs some support or information about autism.

So, if you are a buyer, check out the stores below that will be having sales on some or all of their products on April 2 and 3.

If you are a seller having a sale, link up your store to the site below and feel free to grab the button above if you want as well!





Until next time,

Gearing up for National Autism Awareness Month--Freebies


Those of you who follow me on Facebook have probably seen my cover photo and profile pic change like 15 times in the last two days.  Sorry about that.  I've been getting ready for National Autism Awareness Month.  Most of you who follow this blog are already familiar with autism and its impact on the individual as well as their families.  Many of you have personal experience with it. Certainly you are not the group that needs to have awareness raised.  However, you, as teachers, family members, and individuals on the spectrum, are the folks who can help to raise others' awareness.  With the rising numbers of individuals diagnosed with autism, it's surprising that people are not aware of what autism is and the impact that it can have.  For those of us in the autism community, that is what April is about.  Not helping them understand that autism exists, so much as helping them understand what autism means for the family, for the individual and for the community (large and small).  In order to do that, you need tools of information to share.  Being able to share information directly with the teacher down the hall who asks about it when she sees a ribbon on your Facebook page, or a neighbor who sees an autism ribbon that you are wearing, allows them to have a better understanding of autism and the needs of this very special community.  The one thing we have always known about autism is that we need a community--and sometimes we need multiple communities--to help make the changes in our environments that make the world a better place for individuals on the spectrum.  Here are some examples.

  • ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability with an average 17% growth rate per year. One person is diagnosed with ASD every 20 minutes. 
  • ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. 
  • Changes in screening processes over the years have led to an increase in screening toddlers for ASD, resulting in a 12-18% increase in diagnosis of ASD for children by the age of three.
  • ASD costs the nation over $137 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade.
  • Individuals with ASD over a lifetime experience violent crime at a higher rate. 
  • During school years, 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying.
  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.
  • Roughly half of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their siblings who do not have autism. 
  • More than one-third of children with ASD who wander are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number.
  • Of the estimated 54 million Americans living with a disability, only 20 percent are employed or seeking employment, compared to almost 70 percent of Americans living without a disability.
Those facts come from a fact sheet distributed by the Autism Society of America and you can download it here.  It has information on wandering, on employment and on the impact on families and economics of communities.  For those of us in the autism community, now is the time to gear up with information and have it readily available.  

Now is a time to help others in your school and your community understand what is needed to support families and individuals impacted by ASD. Now is the time to talk to local business owners about the opportunities they have for hiring people with ASD and educate them about the possibilities.  

Now is the time to talk to firemen and policemen and other first responders and service providers about what autism is (and isn't) so that they understand when they are trying to help someone or ascertain what happened in a situation and the person doesn't respond the way they expect that it is because the person has autism, not because they are ignoring them or deliberately disobeying them. 

Now is the time to contact your senators and congressmen to tell them of the need for funding and support for programs to counteract the huge financial burden that families face in getting help for their child with ASD and their family as a unit.

And now is the time to use social media to tweet, and pin and share information about autism and the needs of the community.  Use hashtag #NAAM2014 on your messages to show the community that we are strong and growing but need their help.  To help you spread the word about NAAM, I've created some Facebook cover photos and profile pictures below.  You are welcome to download them and use on your Facebook page.  Just right click on the picture you want below and save it to your computer then you can upload it to your Facebook page.  Thanks to Lisa Parnello for creating this totally amazing artwork!  

I will be back tomorrow with an exciting surprise of some of the things coming up this week.  Stay tuned this week for linkups and other surprises as well as some blog posts about what autism means to me and how I got started with it in the first place.  Until then, spread the word, download the free pics below, and you can always go to the Autism Society of America's NAAM page for more ideas.  The Autism Society actually started Autism Awareness Month?  They started observing it in the 70s and in 1984 it was officially adopted by Congress.

Let's Create a Better World for Autism!






















Until next time,

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays


New Autism Prevalence Numbers and Ideas for Autism Awareness Month

If you have ever heard me speak, you have probably heard me say that when I began my career, if you had told me that autism would be a household word that everyone is familiar with, I would not have believed you.  And I'm not that old.  Just in the 15 years I've been back in Florida, I began my consulting career getting on planes and if someone asked what I did, and I said I worked with autistic kids, people assumed I meant "artistic."  Today, I sit next to people on the plane and they ask what I do, if I say I work with kids with autism, they have a story to tell me about their child, their nephew or their friend's child who as ASD.  Autism prevalence rates have increased significantly in the last 20 years, clearly.  As you may have heard, today, the CDC released new numbers in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder.  The new number are 1 in 68 children (8 year olds) have an autism spectrum disorder.  I want to spend some time translating and relaying the numbers and then I want to spend some time talking about ways that you may be able to help your community be more aware and accepting of individuals with ASD.

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