Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Benefits of Visual Schedules: 12 Reasons Why Visual Schedules are Helpful for Kids with Autism and/or Hyperlexia

How does using a visual schedule benefit kids with autism and/or hyperlexia? Let's take a closer look at 12 benefits of visual schedules. Then be sure to grab the free printable cheat sheet too!

Back when my kids were about three and one, I made this visual schedule as a way to build routine and structure into our day. I was hoping it would also help us deal with transitions.

Little did I know that that visual schedule would have such a tremendous impact on our daily life!

Since then I have been a big fan of using visual schedules and routines for kids, especially those with diagnosese such as autism or hyperlexia.

Here are 12 benefits of visual schedules and the reasons why you should be using one, if you aren't already.

Visual schedule: 12 reasons why visual schedules are helpful for kids with autism or hyperlexia

12 Reasons Why Visual Schedules are Helpful for Autistic & Hyperlexic Children

I remember when we first started implementing and using a visual schedule in our house. It was simply life changing for us!

Here are some of the reasons why using a visual schedule is important for kids with autism and/or hyperlexia.

1. Provides organization, structure, and predictability to the day

Visual schedules are a great way to build routine and inform kids about the expectations for the day.

2. Supports literacy development

Since visual schedules often incorporate words with pictures (at least my free visual schedule does!), it aids in comprehension, recognition of words, and the relationship between words and pictures.

3. Reinforces & supplements verbal instructions

Many kids with autism and/or hyperlexia struggle with expressive and receptive speech so verbal instructions can literally go in one ear and out the other. Using a visual schedule with these kids reinforces those verbal instructions.

4. Teaches time concepts & sequencing

Even if you don't use specific times alongside your visual schedule (we never did because that would have been a disaster with J when he was younger!), the format of a visual schedule clearly illustrates the sequence of events for the day. These kids can literally see what comes next.

Visual schedules can also be used to teach abstract concepts such as first, next, last or before and after.

5. Teaches responsibility & planning

Kids can take part in planning out their day by helping their parents or teachers build the visual schedule or routine for the day. Doing so allows them to think about and plan out tasks in an appropriate sequence, helping to build strong executive functioning skills.

Kids also learn to move onto the next task or activity on the schedule on their own after completing the previous one.

Visual schedules can also be used to break down tasks into smaller steps, allowing these kids a better way to master basic life skills.

6. Eases transitions

Switching tasks can be extremely tough for kids with autism or hyperlexia, especially if they are unexpected changes.

A visual schedule, however, reduces meltdowns and struggles about moving to the next task because the schedule visually depicts what comes next. As a result, the schedule helps kids anticipate any changes.

7. Reduces anxiety

The reason why changing tasks can be difficult is because kids don't always know what comes next, causing anxiety. However, as pointed out above, visual schedules ease transitions. As a result, anxiety can be reduced too.

8. Provides independence

Kids can check the visual schedule when they want and move onto the next task by themselves by referencing the schedule to see what comes next.

Also, visual schedules reduce the need for students to ask teachers or parents what they can do next or what time a particular activity is happening at. They can simple check the schedule independently.

9. Builds self-esteem

Since visual schedules allow children to develop responsibility and independence, kids' self-esteem can also be strengthened. Kids can see the progress they make by checking off things on the visual schedule and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

10. Plays to the strengths of kids with autism

Kids with autism and/or hyperlexia are strong visual learners. Using a visual schedule plays to this strength.

11. Allows change to be introduced easily

A new task or activity can easily be introduced into a visual schedule by placing it between two items already on the schedule. Since kids can see the new change visually and where that change takes place, they can adapt better to those changes. See benefit #6 for more information about this benefit.

12. Available for referencing throughout the day

Many kids with autism and/or hyperlexia struggle retaining and/or comprehending verbal information. Using a visual schedule at home or in the classroom allows for these kids to check the schedule whenever they want, without having to rely on memory of what was spoken to them earlier. Visual schedules are not fleeting like language is.


>> CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE

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Free printable cheat sheet about the benefits of visual schedules for kids from And Next Comes L

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Free Printable Daily Visual Schedule Planner for Activities & Events

Free printable visual schedule planner for kids to write out a plan for activities and events.

When I first made a visual schedule for my son many years ago, I had no idea the impact it would have.

Same goes for social stories.

Having visual tools available for my hyperlexic son has been a game changer.

Whenever he is feeling anxious or nervous about a new activity or event, we always break it down for him. We explain the what, when, where, who, and why behind the event. We show him relevant videos, photos, and websites (if applicable). We discuss the event multiple times before the day of the event.

Essentially our goal is to have him be so comfortable and familiar with everything involved so that he can be prepared. It also helps ease his anxiety and reduces the likelihood of a meltdown because he already knows, ahead of time, what to expect.

This visual schedule planner sheet for activities and events is a tool that you can use to break down any upcoming event or activity for your child.


Free printable visual schedule planner for kids to plan out activities and events

About the Free Printable Visual Schedule Activity Planner for Kids

This printable is one page and has spots for kids or adults to fill in details about an event or activity that they will be participating in. It can be used for field trips, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, or really any new social situation that your child needs help with navigating.

It will help outline details about the activity or event including:

  • Where the event or activity is taking place
  • When the event or activity is taking place
  • What they will be doing at or during the event or activity
  • Who else will be at the event or activity
It's a great visual schedule tool!

To get your copy of this printable, simply click the link below.

>> CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE

Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

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Friday, May 17, 2019

One Super Simple Activity to Teach Perspective Taking Skills to Kids

A simple activity that will teach and improve perspective taking skills in kids. Plus, a definition of perspective taking and what it means.

Teaching social skills doesn't have to be complicated (or boring).

It also doesn't have to consist of worksheets.

After all, hands-on learning is the best, especially when it comes to kids.

Something that involves your child engaging with their senses - and their whole body - is particularly effective.

This perspective taking activity for kids is super simple and takes only a few minutes to do. Yep, just a few minutes of your time and you can have an incredibly powerful way to show your kids how to consider and understand another person's perspective.

Teaching perspective taking skills - 1 super simple activity!

Perspective Taking Definition: What is it Exactly?

Perspective taking is the ability to perceive or understand another person's point of view besides your own. It's where you consider someone else's thoughts and feelings about something in order to see things from their perspective.

An Easy Perspective Taking Activity to Show Your Kids

This activity involves physically putting yourself into someone else's place so that you can see what they see from their perspective. It's like asking the question, "Do you see what I see?" Kind of like that Christmas song, Do you hear what I hear?

For this perspective taking activity, you'll need:

  • 2 chairs
  • 2 people
Both people sit in a chair, facing each other.

One person (person A) says, "Tell me what you see behind me," and the other person (person B) names a few objects that they can see.

If you want to be more specific and concrete, you can say, "Name two (three, four, etc.) objects you see behind me."

Now it is person B's turn to ask person A to describe or name the objects that they see behind person B.

Both people will likely respond with different objects because they are each seeing the room from their own unique position in the room. They are simply sharing what they see from their point of view and perspective. For example, person A might see a poster and a window while person B might see a stack of books on a table and a bowl of fruit.

Next, both people switch chairs.

Once seated in the opposite chair, both people can begin to see the room from the other person's perspective and position in the room. They start to see the objects that they couldn't see previously because they now sit in a different position and have a different point of view.

And that's it! I told you it was super simple.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

20+ Effective Strategies for How to Teach Social Skills

Strategies and tips for how to teach social skills to kids at home or at school.

While I would argue that the most important skills to teach your children would be emotional self-regulation skills, it's certainly no secret that it's important to be teaching social skills to our kids as well.

But how do you teach social skills to the kids who particularly struggle to understand social rules?

How do you support them in their social skills development?

And what can you do to help teach these skills at home?

Well, there are lots of different things you can do to help teach your child social skills, which I can sum up nicely as: explain, be patient, practice, model, prompt, and praise. But, if you're like me, you crave more practical suggestions and ideas to try. So below you'll find these 6 broad tips broken down into 20+ strategies for teaching social skills to kids.

How to teach social skills to students with autism

One Thing to Remember When Teaching Social Skills to Autistic & Hyperlexic Children

When it comes to teaching social skills, remember that it should be individualized to the person.

What and how you teach depends on their learning style, their individual skill sets, their interests, their goals, and so on.

What works for one kid, might not work for another. One child might need help with turn taking skills, while another child might need help with being a good sport.

In the case of a hyperlexic child, for instance, using their ability to read is a great way to teach them social skills. That's why tools like written social scripts are so effective with these kids.

Or, as another example, many autistic children benefit from using visual prompts so try to include visual aids or cues when teaching social skills.

How To Teach Social Skills at Home or in the Classroom

There are lots of different social skills to teach your child at home or in the classroom. This list of 50 social skills is pretty comprehensive, but I also know how overwhelming it can be to tackle that entire list.

Remember, these are skills that you are helping your child to learn over the course of many years.

Psst, many adults still struggle with some of these social skills so trust me, you've got plenty of time to work on them.

So what do you think? Are you ready to dive into these strategies?

Let's do it!

1. Explain Social Interactions

Explain all the ins and outs of different social situations to your child. That may include:

  • Using social stories to explain different skills and situations
  • Outlining the hidden rules of the situation
  • Breaking the skills down into smaller steps
  • Verbally explaining the situation directly to your child
  • Using visual cue cards to outline the different steps involved or support your child during the situation (e.g., these turn taking cue cards)
  • Watching video clip examples and discussing what happens or what's involved
  • Reading picture books together on the particular skill or topic you are addressing and discussing the social rules mentioned
  • Narrating and describing your own social skills to your child (e.g., "I really want a turn to play this game so I'm going to ask, 'May I have a turn please?'")
  • Providing written scripts of the language they can use during social interactions

2. Be Patient

Social skills don't come easy to many people so remember to be patient. Your child might need to be reminded of hidden rules through prompting. And they might need to practice the skills many, many times before it sticks. And even when it does stick, they might still make mistakes, just like we do as grown adults from time to time.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!

The more your child can practice, the better it will stick. Besides, there are lots of different ways to give your child an opportunity to practice including:

  • Role-playing the social scenarios
  • Rehearsing social scripts (this is really helpful for skills like greeting others, introducing yourself, etc.)
  • Playing games together (e.g., try one of these listening games or play a board game together)
  • Joining a group, team sport, camp, or activity club around your child's interest so they have an opportunity to interact with a variety of different people (e.g., science camp, social skills group, local hockey team, etc.)
  • Doing a variety of social skills activities
  • Practicing specifically what you want to work on
  • Providing different environments, people, and situations to practice in and with

4. Use Modeling & Be a Good Role Model Yourself

Want your child to have good social skills? Model them yourself. I mean if you are terrible at sharing or taking turns, then how can you reasonably expect your child to be good at the skill themselves?

Children are always watching so make sure that what you are modeling is what you want them to emulate in the future.

Video modeling is another option for modeling social skills. You can find lots of videos on YouTube for this purpose.

5. Prompt, As Needed

It's easy to forget all the steps involved or even the hidden rules of the social situation, especially when you're just learning. So be sure to prompt your child, as needed, to help them be successful when they are practicing their social skills. You can try:

  • Prompting verbally (e.g., "It looks like you are wanting to play with that toy. You can ask your friend, 'May I have a turn with that toy please?' and maybe your friend will let you try it out.")
  • Using a visual prompt or aid (e.g., pointing to a visual cue card or a prewritten script to guide your child to know what comes next)

6. Provide Feedback, Encouragement, and Praise

Be sure to praise your child for their efforts! And encourage them to try out their new skills and/or encourage them for trying, especially if anxiety or sensory needs made it particularly challenging. Offer them feedback on what went well, what could be improved, etc.

Your praise and encouragement will motivate them to keep learning, while your feedback gives them the tools to be more successful in the future.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Positives of Autism

A list of ten positive traits about autism and the benefits of having those traits.

Autism has a primarily negative narrative.

A quick Google search quickly confirms that.

The diagnostic manual focuses on the negatives of autism. So do the reports that parents of autistic children, like myself, receive from therapists and specialists. Negative language like "rigid" or "delayed" or "significant difficulties" are prevalent in both.

And, honestly, it's exhausting and disheartening to read because there are actually a lot of positive traits that come with being autistic.

The benefits of autism diagnosis

10 Positive Traits of Being Autistic

I've mentioned before that I'm thankful for my son's autism diagnosis and that there's nothing to be sorry for when it comes to being autistic, so I hope he's already picked up on the fact that there are a lot of positive traits that his autism gives him.

Like his raw honesty and straightforwardness.

And his intense passion for things like video game history or math. Or traffic lights and intersections, an interest of his that comes and goes in waves.

So please, join me as I share 10 positive traits of autism over at CBC Parents.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

15 Super Fun Trampoline Games for Kids

Looking for games to play on the trampoline? Try one of these fun outdoor trampoline games for kids like the classic crack the egg game or a fun trampoline ball game.

When you have a sensory seeking kid who likes to jump all the time, like I do, then investing in a trampoline is certainly a great idea.

Both of my kids love the trampoline and spend hours on it year round. We jump when there's snow. We jump when there's rain. We jump when it's sunny. It doesn't matter what the weather is when it comes to having fun on the trampoline.

Here are 15 super fun trampoline game ideas to try with your kids.

Trampoline game ideas and activities

But First...A Disclaimer for These Outdoor Trampoline Games

Use common sense and adult supervision when playing these trampoline games. I am not responsible for any injuries that result from playing the games listed below. Use these games at your own discretion.

Ideally, you want to use a trampoline with a net, but if you are still rocking an old school trampoline like we are, then you can try this trampoline safety hack to help make your trampoline a wee bit safer.

Fun Games to Play on the Trampoline

What games are fun on the trampoline? Well, I'm glad you asked because here's some of our favorite games to play on the trampoline. Many of these games I played as a kid myself!

1. Crack the Egg Game (aka Pop the Popcorn)

One person sits in the middle of the trampoline, pulls their legs tight to their body, and holds their legs with their arms, pretending to be an egg. Everyone else jumps to try and get the egg to crack (i.e., they let go of their legs).

2. Slithering Snake

This game needs at least three people and a skipping rope. Two people hold onto one end of the jump rope and wiggle it along the middle of the trampoline so it looks like a slithering snake. The other person tries to jump over the jump rope snake. If they touch it, then they lose!

For a fun variant, move the jump rope up and down, instead of side to side, to create waves or flames for the person to jump over.

3. Poison: An Easy Trampoline Ball Game

You'll need as many balls as you can find for this activity. Add them to the trampoline and start jumping. Here's the catch though...the balls are poison and you have to try and avoid them. When a ball touches you, you're out. The last person standing wins!

4. Four Corners

I remember playing this game a lot as a kid. I also remember it being the game where I got a black eye in grade four...ah, memories!

This game works well if you happen to have a rectangular trampoline, but since most people have round or oval trampolines, you might need some chalk for this game. Divide the trampoline into four zones by drawing chalk lines for each zone on the trampoline.

The person designated as "it" stands in the middle of the trampoline with their eyes closed and counts to 10. All the other players walk or jump around, picking one corner to stand in. When the person who is it says the number 10, everyone freezes and stops moving. With their eyes still closed, the person who is it will point to a corner. Whoever is standing in that corner is out of the game.

5. Horse Style Trampoline Game

If you are familiar with the basketball game horse, then this game is tons of fun to play. One person performs a trick (e.g., a butt stomp, a spin jump, etc.). Then the other players try to copycat and perform the trick themselves. If they can't do the trick, they get an H, then on subsequent turns, O-R-S-E. If you spell HORSE, then you're out of the game.

6. Telephone Style Trampoline Game

Everyone sits at the edge of the trampoline. One person performs a trick and then sits back down. The next person does the same trick and then adds a trick of their own. Then the next player performs the previous two tricks and adds another. Keep repeating this sequence until someone messes up the sequence of tricks. Whoever messes up the sequence is out of the game. Continue playing until there is only one player standing.

7. Bum Wars

This game starts with everyone bouncing on the trampoline until someone chants, "1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a bum war!" All players immediately do a butt bounce and try to land on their feet afterwards. However, you can only jump on your feet once. If you double jump, then you're out!

8. One, Two, Three, Sit!

For this game, everyone stands in a circle on the trampoline. One person says, "1, 2, 3, 4, sit!" When the person says sit, everyone sits down on the trampoline at the same time.

9. Pool Noodle Trampoline Games

Grab some pool noodles and try a few of these ideas:

  • Have a jumping pool noodle sword fight
  • Play the poison game mentioned above with pool noodles instead of balls
  • Play the slithering snake game using a pool noodle (instead of a skipping rope) that a person wiggles back and forth

10. Hot Potato

You'll need one soft ball for this game. A water balloon also works! A player is designated as "it" and stands on the ground while everyone else stays on the trampoline. The person who is it throws the ball at the players on the trampoline. The people on the trampoline have to try and catch the ball. If a person drops the ball, gets hit by it, or stops jumping, they are out. Keep playing until there is only one player standing.

Even More Fun Trampoline Activities for Kids

Here are some of our other favorite ways to play on the trampoline, but aren't necessarily a "trampoline game" per se.

1. Sprinkler Jumping

Sprinkler jumping is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. Simply, grab your swimsuit, put a sprinkler on underneath the trampoline, and start jumping. Please note that the trampoline gets extremely slippery when wet so please be careful with this activity.

2. Chalk Drawing

My kids love to draw on the trampoline using chalk. It washes off easily with some water or during a rain shower. You can even draw games on the trampoline using the chalk like we did for this trampoline time telling game for kids.

3. Trampoline Basketball

This activity is a pretty much a daily occurrence for my kids. We pull their adjustable plastic basketball hoop right to the edge of the trampoline and let them jump and slam dunk to their heart's content.

4. Jumping with Water Balloons

My kids absolutely love to do jumping with water balloons. Blow up some water balloons, put them on the trampoline, and start jumping. Watch the balloons pop and explode as they bounce. Again, the trampoline will get super wet so please be careful with this activity.

5. Snow Jumping

Trampolines aren't just for summer you know...head outside in the winter after a fresh snowfall to try some snow jumping. It's a lot of fun! Please note it does get slippery on the trampoline when there's snow so again, use your discretion.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

11 Easy Hand Games for Kids

A list of awesome and fun hand games for kids to play when bored. We're talking games like rock, paper, scissors or a hand stacking game.

My son needs to keep his hands busy quite often. They're always fidgeting or touching something. Or he has them in his mouth.

So waiting in line or for appointments can be a bit of a challenge for him some days.

Whenever we go out and about, my purse is usually filled with fidgets, chew necklaces, snacks, a calculator, and more. But sometimes they don't cut it or sometimes I just bring my wallet and keys, leaving my purse at home.

That's when I usually need to suggest one of these easy hand games for kids to keep his hands busy.

These hand games are great boredom busters and brain break ideas for kids with autism, SPD, or ADHD. However, all kids will love them!

The best part is that these fun hand games require nothing more than two sets of hands, making them the perfect games for on the go!

Hand games for kids

Hand Games for Kids to Play When Bored or  to Play With Friends

All of these games for kids require two players (minimum) and use just their hands to play. No fancy materials required!

They're perfect to play with fidgety kids while waiting in line, waiting at the doctor's office, riding in a shopping cart, etc. They make great boredom buster activities while out and about or great brain breaks while at home or in school.

1. Hand Stacking Games

You can play this game with as many kids as you'd like. Simply take turns stacking a hand on top of the other person's hand higher and higher. Whoever's hand is on the bottom of the stack goes next. Keep stacking hands until you can no longer reach the top.

You can also play the game backwards. The hand on top of the stack goes next and adds their hand to the bottom of the stack.

Or try stacking your two hands at the same time, alternating turns with the other player(s).

Hand stacking game

2. Fist Stacking Games

Similar to the hand stacking games, you can stack your fists. Each player makes a fist and takes turn stacking their fists higher and higher. Again, the fist at the bottom of the stack goes next and play continues until you can't reach any higher.

You can also try playing the game backwards by stacking downwards. Or try stacking your two fists at the same time (just stack your own fists on top of each other).

Hand stacking game using fists

3. Secret Handshakes

My kids became obsessed with secret handshakes quite a few months ago and they are such a fun hand game to play! You can either come up with your own secret handshakes or search YouTube for some awesome secret handshake ideas (we like the ones from GoNoodle).

4. Rock, Paper, Scissors

No list of hand games for kids would be complete without rock, paper, scissors. Pretty sure this game doesn't need any explanation, but if your kids need one, then try this free printable social story about how to play rock, paper, scissors.

5. Thumb Wars

"1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a thumb war!" Simply link same hands together in a fist with the other player and have your thumbs wrestle. The first one to pin the other's thumb wins!

6. High Five Games

One person holds up one or both hands in different positions and encourages the other person to give them a high five (or high ten).

Possible positions include a high five, low five, high ten, low ten, one hand high and one hand low, two hands really far apart, crisscross high tens, or crisscross low tens. Be creative and see if you can come up with different positions! Don't forget to try "down low...too slow!"

When I play these high five games with my kids, I try to do them rapidly. As soon as they high five or high ten, I switch to a new position. And usually the more ridiculous positions the better as it really gets them giggling! Especially if I do a really wide high ten where I stretch both of my hands out as far as possible. Obviously, my kids cannot reach both hands at the same time since they're still little, so they end up laughing hysterically when I do that.

7. Stella, Ella, Ola

We play the two player version of this game, the same one that I played as a little girl.

Both players hold their left hands up and then join their right hands together. As you sing the song, you move the joint right hands back and forth, slapping against the left hands with the beat of the song.

At the end, you have to try to slap the hand that lines up with the final word of the song while the owner of that hand has to avoid getting their hand slapped.

The words that I sang as a child are different from what I could find on YouTube, but you could really make up any chant you want.

Games to play with hands

8. Multiplication Game

To play this game, pretend you are about to play rock, paper, scissors. However, instead of picking rock, paper, or scissors, you display any number of fingers that you want (anything from 0 to 10).

The other player picks a random number of fingers to display as well.

Then you try to multiply the two numbers together as fast as you can.

So if person A holds up five fingers and person B holds up two fingers, then you have to shout ten as fast as you can. This game is a hit with son who has hypernumeracy.

Games like rock, paper, scissors

9. Addition Game

Similar to the multiplication game, except that you add the fingers together. We usually call this game "1, 2, 3, add 'em up!"

So if person A holds up two fingers and person B holds up all ten, then you have to shout twelve as fast as you can. This game is a hit with my son who has hypernumeracy.

10. Hand Slap Game

One player holds both hands with palms facing up. The other player places their hands with palms facing down and hovering slightly above the other person's hands.

The player with their hands on the bottom tries to pull their hands out and gently slap the top of the other player's hands, while that player tries to move their hands out of the way before getting slapped. The key is to slap gently!

Hand games to play when bored

11. Sign Language Spelling

If your kids know some sign language, then you can ask them to spell words using alphabet signs. I taught both of my kids how to sign when they were babies, a skill that came in handy with my hyperlexic son's speech delays, so every so often we like to play this game to keep our ASL signs in tip top shape!

Want to learn the ASL alphabet? Try the free printable ASL sign language cards to help!


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