Friday, May 2, 2008

Teaching Children With Autism: Printables Can Help

Autism is a neurological disorder that usually becomes apparent by age three. It typically causes delays in developing communication and social interaction skills. Autism currently affects 1 in 150 kids.

My son has Autism. He is an intelligent, energetic, and adventurous four year old boy. However, like most Autistic children he struggles with some basic language and speech concepts as well with understand social cause and effect. He is currently enrolled in speech therapy to help him improve his language skills. Teaching children with Autism requires a lot of repetitive instruction and learning materials that break complex social interactions or parts of language down into simple parts. Most of the resources that our speech therapist uses to teach my son come from specialized clearinghouses of special needs educational tools and are visual aides. Some can be prohibitively expensive for the average parent to purchase.

When my son had difficulty learning his prepositions I developed a printable based off of the resources his therapist was using. It worked very well. I began to incorporate other printables into our daily lives. I wrote a blog post about some of the printables I used and recieved a lot of positive feedback from parents.

Printables provide a wonderful free resource teaching children with Autism. Through my searches online I've found that there are free printables available to teach almost any concept. Some require only a small amount of modification and others require a great deal of creative thought. I use printables to teach speech and social concepts.

There are many times that I can't find the printable I want. Last year I wanted to teach my child what type of clothes to wear during what weather. We were struggling to keep him from walking outside in t-shirts during the winter! I couldn't find a printable that conveyed this lesson well. BUT, I did find an awesome picture of a little boy named Tommy at Learning Pages (free membership required). Tommy is the main character in "Tommy Tales", a free online book series available on the Learning Pages website. I used Tommy to create a folder game. My son and I spent time arranging weather conditions and clothing around and on Tommy until we had learned the concept. I encourage parents of Autistic children to create the printables they need when they can't find what they want. Or you can email me, and if I have time I'll create one for you. If you want a copy of my version of Tommy you can download it here, but keep in mind that I am most likely in severe copy write violation of the good people at Learning Pages. ****If you represent Learning Pages and would like this printable download removed just email me and I will do so.****

In this folder game I taught site words using clip art. We first started matching the pictures themselves. Then matching the words to the pictures. We ended with gluing the words under the correct pictures. Clip art is another great resource for making printables to teach any number of subjects. Good clip art (like the kind that comes from English as a second language websites like can even be used as PECS. I've also used clip art to explain concepts like "Little" and "Big." I still have that printable if you need it you can download it here. The resolution wasn't very good on the clipart so of course the images are kind of fuzzy. But, it works just as well.

Printables are great for teaching children with autism conventional knowledge as well. My son and I just spent a whole day exploring frogs using printables we found online. When teaching about a subject I usually like to include a book, a craft, a puzzle or coloring page, and an activity. All of the information, ideas, and materials I needed to teach my son about frogs were available online and I managed to fill an entire rainy Saturday with froggy fun.

Don't underestimate the power of the humble printable in teaching children with Autism. Printables are a powerful tool for parents and educators. I will be creating and uploading more printables for teaching autistic children so book mark me.

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