Monday, November 6, 2017

November 2017 Task of the Month

Visuals are a must when teaching students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs. Often, we place the visual reminders about rules and routines in centers or show them during group times without remembering that we need first to teach the meaning of these visuals during 1:1 practice with staff.

Then we present the same visual we use at teacher table in a new setting, such as here where the boys are playing with trucks and learning to trade when their teacher shows the reminder that it is time to trade. Because the boys have learned to trade with the teacher when shown this visual prompt during 1 on 1 times, they know what to do when playing with each other.

Once students find the visual prompts meaningful because they have worked on understanding them during 1:1 times with staff, the teacher can then present the visuals during group times. In this example, the teacher has put the important group rule reminders into a flipbook. If a student needs a reminder during group time, she finds the applicable page in the book and shows it to the child. Because the student can look at the reminder and then knows what to do, the teacher does not need to interrupt group time by verbally correcting the student.

In other situations, children might be given small cards with the visual prompt that reminds them of the rule or routine. Here, the student sees the card and understands he is to wait.

Two students will play with puzzles independently. The teacher sets up two puzzles, a bin with the pieces hidden, and a posted visual reminder to give the piece found if it does not fit into the puzzle in front of them. Because they learned the meaning of this visual prompt during teacher time, they know what it means. If the teacher sees that they are not giving a piece that fits into their peer’s puzzle, she does not say anything but instead points to the visual “give” prompt. The teacher follows this procedure because she wants the students to look for the visuals and utilize them instead of being dependent on teacher prompts.

Looking for visuals in all settings and then following the direction given by the visual leads to greater independence for our students.

Monday, October 2, 2017

October 2017 Task of the Month

Our students with autism spectrum disorder obviously struggle with communicating. Even those with a large vocabulary often do not realize how to ask for what they need or want directly. Many students with ASD may say the word but not realize they need to get someone’s attention and make sure they are heard. For this reason, we have our students give an object, picture, or written word to express their needs and wants even when they know the words. Once we are sure they understand not only how to express their needs but also know that communication requires two people. We observe them to see if they make sure their words are heard.

Within our school day, we set up situations where students have opportunities to request their choices.

After a one-on-one work time with his teacher, this student hands a top to request having her spin it. The teacher knows he enjoys watching the movement and will be interested in making such a request. When he hands the top to make his request, the teacher associates a single word, “spin,” as a means of teaching this vocabulary word.

We have students make requests during music times by using objects or pictures. They pick which animal about which to sing for “Old MacDonald” and use pictures to choose which verse they want to hear when singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” We encourage the children to say the word as they choose.

When choosing which crayon, this student has a reminder to use a sentence when requesting.

When requesting sand toys during a playtime, this student has a prompt to include the teacher’s name when making the choice.

A great routine for the classroom is to have students choose what they will eat for lunch. According to the level of the student, they can choose an object that represents the choice, a picture, say the word, or use a sentence to make their request.

This tool from Meyer-Johnson Boardmaker pics allows more able communicators to have prompts to remind them of what they might request or how to respond to requests.

When thinking about designing your classroom, the space, activities, group sessions, individual areas, always be sure to think about how the student may convey his thoughts and wishes. You will find all of the Tasks Galore publications helpful in designing communication within everyday tasks and activities. After all for everyone of us, aren’t we less stressed and better behaved if we understand what is going on around us??!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 2017 Task of the Month

It is September and back to school time! We were always excited at the start of a new school year. It was fun to meet our new students and their parents and to begin problem solving how to teach effectively.

We had to remember, however, not to move too fast. We also had to remind ourselves each year to set up the class in a simple manner that ensured students’ immediate feelings of success. Simple tasks and establishing routines were beginning emphases.

Keeping life in the classroom simple at first allowed us time to observe our students’ skills. We watched to see how they approached a task and their abilities to organize, problem solve, sustain attention, follow routines, etc.

Establishing routines was invaluable during those early days of a new school year. These routines could change over time given the skills of our students or could remain the same for the duration of the year.

Here are a few examples of some of these routines.

Setting up an individual schedule with an individualized type of cue

The cue tells what activity and where to go.

Creating a wait area for transitions

We taught our students to go to their wait chairs to wait their turn for getting their coats before recess or their belongings before going home or for going to the bathroom. When told it was time to wait, we gave some students a small wait card like the one on the bin. This helped them get to this location in the classroom independently. For students who had a hard time sitting and waiting their turn, we provided a basket of fiddle toys.

Setting up routines for turn-taking

In this turn-taking routine, the toy Spiderman head is Velcroed under the photo of whose turn it was.

Establishing a routine for finish

Highlighting the concept “finished” teaches the importance of sustaining attention to complete work or play activities. The concept can then be generalized to many situations. Once students understand the routine of placing completed objects in a finish bin, they can more easily disengage from a preferred activity to make a transition to what is next on their schedules.

Teaching the meaning of important words that can be incorporated into daily routines

We find stop is a valuable word and concept to teach. It can be used in many ways. In the example above, it is used to teach that you press for one squirt of hand soap and then stop or you wash for five scrubs and then stop. The stop sign can also be placed on exit doors or cabinets.

We also try to remember that it is interesting to the students if we teach the important vocabulary in fun ways, such as during a chase game with stop and go signs.

"Back to school ideas" for setting up the classroom and where do to start can be found in all our resources. We hope you will check these out on our website

Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 2017 Task of the Month

Adapted books are books that are modified to make them more meaningful and interesting to readers. There are many ways to adapt a book for an individual student’s learning style or disability. In this post, we will focus on those learners who do best with a multi-modal approach to learning.

We often prepare symbols, props, pictures, photos, or representational drawings for our students to match or sort within a book.

By adding this interactive component, we make the books more motivating. We use cut-out pieces, communication boards and/or story boards. Not only does this make the book more interesting, it also allows the student to demonstrate comprehension by placing the pieces onto the matching picture in a book or onto a story board or by handing the piece as requested by the teacher.

As professionals, we often do not realize all that a student knows or understands until we structure the materials in a way that allows them to show us. By adapting books, we give the student opportunities to explore books further than just stating the words or pictures from a page.

Beginning with our youngest students, they find adapted books to be fun and interesting. Perhaps one child is motivated to turn a page so he can remove a picture and place it into a slot while another student is motivated to finish by placing all the pictures into the book.

Others may sequence cutout pictures to retell a story.

Regardless of the way you choose to adapt a book, the goal is to make it more enjoyable and meaningful Enjoy the journey.

For more information on adapted books and literacy ideas for special learners, please visit and check out Literature-Based Thematic Units for a plethora of curriculum-based information. This book set demonstrates how to utilize the themes in I’m Hungry, I’m Hungry, What Shall I Do? (a simple board book that is included in the set) to design hundreds of ways to help a student with multiple facets of learning.

We have created a very limited number of adapted I’m Hungry, I’m Hungry, What Shall I Do? books to go along with this unit.

The books have:
  •         fully laminated pages,
  •         pre-cut pictures for matching,
  •        Velcro already in place, and
  •      no preparation required JUST OPEN AND USE!

These adapted books are available only on Amazon for $14.95 USD.

Simply click to purchase one of these fantastic and fun books!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 2017 Task of the Month

Our task for this month addresses the need for us to be sure that our students are generalizing all information.  Because a student knows what a cow looks like when he sees the real thing does not mean that he knows a drawing of a cow represents the same animal. So we design tasks to be layered. For example, we may begin by having a child match one toy cow to another toy cow. This may progress to matching a toy cow to a photo of a cow, then an illustration of a cow, then a drawing and so on. Once these skills are mastered through practice and role play we may choose to add words. Many of our students love to read but at the same time may not be comprehending the words. Again, because they know how to read the word cow does not mean that they understand it represents the real thing. Therefore, we have the students match objects to words, photos, pictures, and actions to word etc.

This is a simple yet very well done task which requires the students to match an illustration to its photo as well as the corresponding word.

For more information on classroom literacy and task-making please visit our website and take a look at our Literature-BasedThematic Units book. This book, the fifth in our series, takes a single book and develops multiple units of study. From these studies we demonstrate creating developmentally appropriate, hands on activities for ALL young learners in a variety of curriculum areas.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Groups: The art of teaching students with special needs how to play well with others!

To negotiate the world independently, we need to function in situations where there are others. We take our turn in the grocery line, share space in the elevator, sit near others in the theater, wait to use the gym equipment, and so our day goes. By the time we enter kindergarten, we have already learned many of the rules that govern group interactions. We are ready to be group learners. Playing and working with others have become satisfying parts of our lives.

What if we are asked to participate without knowing the purpose, would we be willing to sit still, remain near others and be quiet?

And, thus, the text of our book Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful begins. Based on our experiences with 100’s of students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs, we describe the strategies and tasks in words and pictures that have helped our students find group settings and interactions more meaningful.

Including group times for students with special needs is essential. If the students know their role within the group and that role is understandable and meaningful to them, they adopt the appropriate group behaviors. They begin to find groups enjoyable and realize being with others is fun. Learning to be part of a group enables our students to become more integrated into school and the community and even their own families.

  • Chapter 1: Structured Teaching Strategies Give Meaning to Group Learning
  • Chapter 2: Visually Structured Routines Make Group Expectations Understandable
  • Chapter 3: Integrating Students’ Individualized Goals Makes Groups Meaningful
  • Chapter 4: Circle Time
  • Chapter 5: Project Groups
  • Chapter 6: Movement Groups
  • Chapter 7: Music Groups
  • Chapter 8: Parties

Multiple examples of visual strategies for group times are included in Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful. Here are a few helpful ideas for creating work systems, communication cues and making smooth transitions during a circle time. 

Individualized work systems for circle times, let students know what is to happen.

Word + picture list tells one students what will happen in group while actual objects tell another. Keeping track of when the activities are finished (by placing an X on the list or putting away the object) and knowing what happens next encourages attention and participation.

Rings indicate how many laps to run in P.E.

Teacher-made book for circle time has a page for each teacher whose class students attend. This helps students learn names of their teachers. For non-readers, the ball is an object that represents P.E. class.

When students go to P.E., Coach B, wearing the same picture as in the book, greets them. Beside the picture is a written + picture reminder to say “Hello, Coach B.”

Students place instruments under their chairs when done. This routine helps ease their transition to a new activity.

You can currently find a great sale on Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful by checking out our Amazon listings. As the saying goes “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. The books on Amazon have slight cover defects but are, otherwise in excellent condition. They are being sold at $19.95 due to printer error and we are passing on the savings of $30 to you! As always, proceeds go to support organizations that provide services for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. Please take advantage of this offer while the copies last and enrich the groups experiences for your students.

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 2017 Task of the Month

While students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs are learning new academic skills, it is essential not to forget to teach them practical, everyday skills. Not only does learning such skills help them become more independent in life but also gives them a sense of accomplishment as they contribute to classroom or home routines.

This nice visually structured task enhances students’ ability to set a table without help. Their teacher or caregiver places placemats on the table and the designated number of pieces in the bin to give them information about how many settings. The jig attached to the basket gives cues in case they forget where each piece belongs on the placemat.

For other students who know how to count, the task can be easily changed so that they place the correct number of items in the basket instead of having this step done ahead of time. A written or picture list can direct them to how many of each item is needed.

Following directions by using a jig, a written or picture list, etc. generalizes to all sorts of academic and daily living tasks.

For more information about designing tasks and structured teaching please visit our website.

*NEW* We are now offering a new grouping of ALL 6 Tasks Galore books at a highly discounted rate when you purchase the set. Find it here!