Tag Archives: Autism

Hanen eSeminars: Choosing initial vocabulary targets and a competition for Autism Awareness month


I took my first Hanen eSeminar a couple of months ago, and I’ve been able to apply what I learnt, straight away. I think this is the first eSeminar or online training, that I’ve paid for. It was easy to log in and I could watch the 2 hour video whenever I wanted with 30 days of unlimited access. There was also a handout to download. Continue reading

Summary of Research Paper: Using Full Language with a Child with Autism, Emerson and Dearden

A plate of red jelly

I was delighted to hear how well a little client of mine had done with a new activity (a large container of jelly!) at nursery this week, although I was disappointed that his teacher had predicted he wouldn’t be able to access it.

I then read this journal article: The effect of using ‘full’ language when working with a child with autism: Adopting the ‘least dangerous assumption’ by Anne Emerson and Jackie Dearden, Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 29 (2), 2013. This research paper resonated with me because it discussed the implications of underestimating a child’s ability. Continue reading

Using music to engage children with Autism: tips, techniques and resources


I recently attended a workshop at The Music House for Children on introducing musical learning to children with Autism. I was energised and inspired by the session and left with several practical ideas I’m keen to try out. The workshop was led by Kirsty Keogh, it was refreshing to hear from a professional outside of speech therapy. Kirsty is experienced at working with children and young people with Autism, I could see from the videos examples how well the children responded to her. Continue reading

Teach Me With Pictures: pictures scripts for children on the Autism Spectrum

Teach Me With Pictures

A friend has published a practical resource for developing play and communication skills in children on the Autism Spectrum. Ruth Harris, along with two colleagues, has written Teach Me with Pictures. It’s a book of picture scripts that are ready to use – you can photocopy them or print them from a CD-ROM. Ruth has been working on the book for a while; she spoke about it at the initial Therapy Ideas Live event back in July 2011. Congratulations Ruth, Simone and Linda, it’s wonderful!

The book begins with an introductory chapter, explaining what picture scripts are, their benefits and how to use them. Continue reading

Ageing with autism and managing expectations in therapy


On Wednesday evening I attended the National Autistic Society’s Ageing and Autism launch event. Francesca Happé talked about the huge gaps in the research, and outlined the things we don’t know about what happens when people with autism age. As autism was first used as a diagnostic label in 1943, the children diagnosed then are now approaching their 60s and 70s.

Saskia Baron’s brother Timothy, was one of these children. In 1961 he was diagnosed with “Childhood Psychosis” which later became known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is now 57 years old. Saskia talked movingly about growing up with a sibling with autism, and her worries about Timothy’s future. She described how difficult it is for Timothy to let people know when he is unhappy or in pain. More positively, she talked about how she’s observed that Timothy is still able to learn new skills. Saskia agrees that early intervention is important, however, she feels it’s not justified to remove therapeutic resources in late childhood or early adulthood, as the door to learning is still open.

My clients with autism are between 3 and 6 years old, they’ll be approaching old age in 60 years! Saskia’s presentation made me think about two things, how can I support the siblings of my clients? And how can I teach my clients ways to express their pain?

This week I also had a wonderful conversation with Keena Cummins. I’m using her VERVE technique with several families and was thinking about how to manage parents’ expectations. All the children have been making great progress due to the efforts of their skilled and perceptive parents, yet these parents often express frustration that their children aren’t using more words. Keena suggested I’m clear about what I want parents to focus on:

 “During these therapy sessions I want you to focus on his playing, I’ll worry about his talking. I want you to think about how you’re supporting him to play, explore the toys, and try out his ideas. We’ll be thinking about his words later.”

This makes sense to me, I’ll try it out this week.

Appreciating that therapy is about More Than Words

More-Than-WordsMore Than Words is a wonderful name for Hanen’s program for parents of children with autism or social communication difficulties; they’re right, it is about so much more than words. I find it tricky to answer the question: what is speech therapy? It’s so broad, and the name is a little misleading — during More Than Words I worked intensively with parents without ever targeting speech. Continue reading

Two communication approaches for children with Autism: Intensive Interaction and the Attention Bucket

On Friday I attended a conference: “Intensive Interaction and Play Techniques: encouraging Communication for Children with Autism”. I came back inspired — I can’t wait to try out the ideas!

Here’s a summary of two of the presentations.

Intensive Interaction

The keynote presentation was given by Dave Hewett, who, along with Melanie Nind, developed the Intensive Interaction approach. He pitched his talk at just the right level — making great use of video clips, the talk was both clear and fun.

Dave talked about the fundamentals of communication, such as enjoying being with another person, taking turns in exchanges of behaviour, and using and understanding eye contact. He questioned why most of the approaches we use to teach communication don’t attempt to teach these fundamentals of communication first. It seems obvious: if a child hasn’t acquired the fundamentals, it’s very difficult to learn anything else. So why do we tend to start by teaching symbolic representation?

Dave & co started working on Intensive Interaction because they felt the existing curriculum was inadequate — this was in the 1980s. He asked us to think about whether this is still the case today. We don’t expect babies to follow a timetable, so why do we expect this from children with Autism, some of whom are at the same developmental level?

Dave’s visualisation of communication learning and performance showed how complicated the process is. He suggested that the conventional linear teaching approach probably won’t work for something this complicated. He uses the idea of a spiral to describe learning through Intensive Interaction and play: learning takes off and spirals upwards; repetition means that each activity builds on what has gone before.

Again, this seems obvious to me. However, I often identify a target, and then consider which therapy activities I will use to work on it. Which takes me back to the linear model! I’m going to need to think about this: Dave suggested using video as a progress outcome, but I can’t write that on my goal sheet…

Attention: the Bucket

I also attended a workshop called: “Attention: getting it, building it and sharing it — the Bucket and Beyond”. Gina Davies started her session with a dancing chicken, giving us what she gives the children: “an irresistible invitation to learn.”

Like Dave, Gina also used video clips: she showed us a group of children with autism, before and after her 6 week program of attention work — it was amazing. The children in the ‘after’ clip were able to maintain such good attention that the Teaching Assistants in my group didn’t believe they were autistic.

As I understand it, Gina’s program works like this:

The children sit on chairs in a semi-circle facing the lead adult. The adult has an opaque bucket, with a lid on, containing highly motivating toys. She must be the most interesting thing in the room, so anything more interesting must be put out of sight. Along the same lines, the supporting adults should be boring! When a child gets up out of his chair, he must be slowly and calmly guided back to his seat — without verbal instructions.

The adult at the front takes out a toy from the bucket and demonstrates it to the children. The children’s reward must be intrinsic to the activity: the joy of watching a dancing pig! Gina suggested using 4 or 5 different toys in each session.

When the program begins, the children are only able to cope with sitting in their chairs for around 5 minutes, but after 2 mornings each week for 6 weeks they are able to maintain focussed attention for between 10 and 20 minutes. Each morning session is made up of around 4 cycles of 5 minutes bucket time and then a period of free play. Gina also said that at The Little Group, where she devised the program, they take the children running before they start the bucket time!

Gina was an outstanding presenter — I came home rambling on and on about buckets, and was so excited I had to text a friend, to share the bucket idea with her! I will definitely be giving this a try. I will also use it to support me in my quest to get the child-height sink removed from our therapy room; it’s competing with me as the most exciting thing in the room, so it has to go!

Gina also had lots of great ideas about motivating activities to do with the children once they had integrated attention. I need to email her and ask if I can add the flour castle, spagetti fireworks and lemonade fountain to this site!