Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 2018 Task of the Month

Happy New Year! We at Tasks Galore hope that you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2018 will be the best year yet for our families and friends.

Are your children not playing with their new holiday toys? Maybe they will be more interested if these are organized in a way that makes how to play with them more understandable. Here are 3 examples of how we have modified some store-bought toys for our students.

You will notice with these 3 examples that all the pieces are self-contained on a tray or on a box. This strategy enables the students to focus on the toy and not be frustrated by pieces falling, etc.

This toy Fisher-Price xylophone becomes more interesting if we use familiar characters on the sticks and organize the materials with a clear beginning and a clear ending. The student chooses one of the sticks and makes music with it by striking the colored keys. When finished with the first stick, he places it in the spaceship and proceeds in the same fashion with the remaining characters.


This ramp is easier for our students to use with the pictured adaptations. It aids many children if we place the ramp on a tray with edges to contain the car when it rolls down the ramp and if we set up the activity with a “start” box and a “finish” container for the cars. The child takes one car from the left, rolls it down the ramp and then places it in the container on the right. Pushing the car through the slit in the lid adds both interest and fine motor work.


Car toys can be fun if the pieces are organized and the point of the activity is clear. Below cars are Velcroed onto the box top. The student removes each, rolls it down the ramp, and into the opening. The car disappears into the box giving the student a clear understanding that it is finished. Once all cars are in the box the activity is over. Knowing when an activity will be over can greatly reduce behaviors due to misunderstanding, differing expectations or confusion. Some students need to begin playing with toys with this type of structure before being expected to play with a toy garage, for instance, that has so many variables.


Tasks Galore: Let’sPlay explores why and how we structure and teach play to our students. This wonderful resource including hundreds of play ideas may be found at www.tasksgalore.com or www.amazon.com . *Make sure when you order from Amazon that Tasks Galore is the seller to get the best deal and to get the product you are looking for.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 2017 Task of the Month



Many times, we create tasks that are fun for students but can be frustrating for them at the same time. When pieces keep sliding, moving, or falling off when the student retrieves the task or attempts to put it away the student will not be successful. A cookie sheet is a fabulous way to present these tasks with multiple pieces. Simply glue small magnets onto the pieces and voila! This task can be set up in a variety of ways for individual students. We always plan tasks that can be adapted for a variety of learning levels. For example, one student may need a reduced number of pieces available to them and some black dots on the tree. They would place the pieces using one to one correspondence. Another student may be able to have colored dots to match with a variety of the pieces, again completing one to one correspondence but with the added component of color matching. Another student may have a list of decorations to check off such as “put 4 red circles n the tree” and finally another student may be able to have this task open ended if they are beginning to learn that not all activities have a distinct ending. It is a great idea to have a variety of activities for students to explore when their work is finished. Unscheduled time is often the most difficult time for our students with Autism, so it is helpful to have “what’s next” activities available until their next work session. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Tasks Galore Publishing Is On The Move!


After many years of wonderful experiences and making memories we will be leaving our Raleigh, North Carolina offices for a new home in the neighboring city of Durham. Our staff and services will remain unchanged. As always, our goal will continue to be serving those who have autism, their families and caregivers.

Our new mailing address is:

Tasks Galore Publishing, Inc.
5806 Henner Place
Durham, North Carolina 27713

Our phone number 919-789-8275 and email info@tasksgalore.com will remain the same.

Keeping with the modern and everchanging world of technology please note we will no longer be receiving orders via facsimile. We are saying goodbye to the old fax machine!

Our office will continue to accept all purchase orders, simply scan and send via email.

Questions?? Please visit our website www.tasksgalore.com, email info@tasksgalore.com, or phone us at 919-789-8275.

Are you looking for the perfect holiday gift? Our products may be purchased by mail, through our website or on iTunes. We also have “scratch and dents” which have very minor imperfections available on Amazon. Be sure to check out the super prices coming up on Amazon! Our move is your gain!

Thank you for your continued patronage and dedication to Tasks Galore. We are thrilled to have reached so many readers over the years and to have made so many new friends. We hope to make many more in our new home!



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Gift Ideas for The “A”utism Family (a replay worth reading)


Time for making that list and checking it twice and you have a loved one on your list who has Autism. You want to get them something that they will enjoy and use, but what direction do you even start to look for that special gift? Thankfully you are reading this blog today, because we have a few ideas to get you on the right path for your holiday shopping. These ideas will help you purchase a gift for that someone special who has Autism, an educator who teachers those with ASD, or parents and caregivers of those with Autism. (These ideas can of course be used for everyone)

SENSORY TOYS

Sensory toys are great for all ages and stages of development. The holidays can often be overwhelming to our friends with autism. Crowded spaces, unplanned events or company, changes in routine etc. A sensory toy or activity will help them to remain calm.  Please be sure to purchase age and developmentally appropriate toys for your loved one. Teachers love these for their classroom and parents love them for around the house, in the car, medical visits etc., anytime there may be unpredictable circumstances. These items can be found at educational stores, big box stores, or ordered from Amazon.com. Simply google “sensory toys”, “fidget toys” or “therapy toys” for a myriad of ideas. 

BOOKS and MOVIES

Of course we highly recommend TaskGalore books for those teachers/parents on your list!! Hahaha! We all know how helpful these books are for them in the classroom and at home. If we can assist you in your book choice, please contact us at info@tasksgalore.com.

For the loved one in your life who has Autism, choose books that are appropriate to their reading level (ask the parents if you don’t know, they will be so happy to share this information) and especially geared to their special interest. I remember the year my own loved one was into plumbing books and was super thrilled to get a manual on how bathrooms were plumbed. She held onto that and read it for years!! Movies are often a big hit, ask mom and dad if your recipient has a favorite. Again these are all activities that will be helpful when the holidays get to be too much.



PUZZLES/LEGOS and GAMES

Puzzles are usually a hit with our especially talented visual learners with autism. Choose the puzzle that will excite as well as challenge the recipient. Your friend with autism may need to be excused from the holiday group for a while and working on a puzzle OR Lego activity will be comforting.
Games on the other hand can be a wonderful way to work on social skills! We had a blast not long ago with a game night where we played Pictionary, and Pie Face! We want to encourage all to play and to learn to be good winners and losers, take turns, and enjoy laughter with friends. However, remember that it is ok too if your friend with autism prefers to watch. They will still be a part of the activity.



EXERCISE EQUIPMENT

For the little guys a trampoline or trike, ball pit or sit and spin will be lots of fun. An adolescent or adult may prefer an exercise bike, exercise video game, or even light weights. Exercise as we all know is also a great stress reliever.



GIFT CARDS FOR ACTIVITIES

Just like all of our children, our friends with autism will probably have a favorite place to visit. The aquarium or zoo, museum or gym, movie theater or park. Purchasing admission to one of these may be a fun idea. Just be prepared for the question WHEN? This gift may need to come with a calendar! Setting up a play date for these activities will only enhance social skills, so think outside the box!



GIFT CARDS

Does your friend with autism get upset with surprises? Do they open a gift and frankly state “I don’t want this!!” Perhaps in these cases it would be good to give a gift card and the recipient will then be able to have the gift they choose.

THE GIFT OF TIME

Wherever possible give the gift of time. Maybe you could make a special visual recipe set and bake some cookies for the holidays with your loved one. Or take a stroll to see decorations in an outdoor mall along with an “I Spy” card to check off. Whatever that gift may be will take just a bit of prep work to make the activity predictable and understandable and create a very special memory for you both. 

Don’t forget Mom and Dad may truly treasure the gift of time as well! Caring for a child with autism can be all consuming so we need to remind families that it is ok to have a night to themselves whether it be for a soak in the tub while you take their child for a walk or the parents have a date night. Simple gestures are often the very best.


Whatever you choose we hope you have fun with your search! We know your kindness will be appreciated.



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