Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 2016 Task of the Month

This is a great self-contained task that addresses many skills. Using colorful snowflake-shaped pieces similar to ornaments, students choose a wooden stick from the “start container.” They hold the stick with one hand while pulling off the snowflake (which is attached to the stick with Velcro) with the other hand. This step of the task enhances the student’s pincer grasp and finger strength. They next decide the color of the snowflake and sort it accordingly. Finally, they need to fit the stick into the slot provided requiring the fine motor skill of wrist-rotation as well as eye-hand coordination to place through the opening.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gift Ideas for The “A”utism Family

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 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 Simply google “sensory toys”, “fidget toys” or “therapy toys” for a myriad of ideas. There are also lots of DIY sensory activities out there so be sure to check out the Tasks Galore Board on Pinterest!


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

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 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.


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.


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!


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.


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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 2016 Task of the Month

Smethport Mind Your Manners Language Cards

As we approach the holidays during which friends and family gather for celebrations, manners are wonderful concepts to address.

In this task, we ask our students who show the potential to comprehend such concepts to make comparisons between 2 pictures that depict appropriate or inappropriate manners. These specific pictures are from a commercial product, Smethport MindYour Manners Language Cards. We adapted this set by placing a black square in the left corner of each picture.  Into the square, students place a happy, smiley face if the card showed the appropriate or ok behavior and a sad face if the card showed the inappropriate behavior or not ok behavior. The pieces of the task are segmented into containers and reminders of the comparisons being made of ok and not ok are provided as visual cues.

On this day, the student made a mistake when comparing table manners. When we check the students’ independent work and see mistakes such as these, we realize that the student requires more direct teaching of the concepts. We would teach the concept in real situations, such as role-playing the correct and incorrect behavior. Then we would reinforce this teaching with the same concept shown in pictures. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Teaching the Tasks (part 4)

This Tasks GalorePublishing blog entry continues addressing the questions we ask when designing tasks:
We addressed the first question in the blog entry on July 13, 2016 , the second question in the blog entry on August 9, 2016, and the third in the entry on September 18, 2016. This entry will discuss the fourth question:

Is the Task Created Using Visual Cues that will be Meaningful to the Individual Student?

We want our students to look at a task and immediately know how to proceed independently. An important way of conveying this information is by using visual cues to highlight important information and give instructions. Instructions tell the student how to put the separate parts of a task together in the correct sequence. Instructions may be given using objects, pictures, or written words. Think about your students and what types of visual information will make sense to them and then design their tasks using those types.

For this student, objects define what to do. She does not yet understand the meaningfulness of pictures or written words but does know what to do when actual objects are set up from left-to-right.

To help her keep track of her progress in washing the dishes, the dirty ones are segmented into bins. She chooses one from the first bin, washes, rinses it, and then places it in the red container that indicates it is finished. When all the bins on the left are empty, all the dishes washed, rinsed and in the finish bin, she can watch a favorite video. She is independent with this task because the visual cues make sense to her.

Some students do not understand initially that pictures represent actual objects.  A method to help teach this skill utilizes a cut-out jig. In this task, the shapes of the wooden pegs are cut into Styrofoam trays. Under the cut-outs are pieces of colored paper to highlight and coordinate with the colors of each piece. The student finds the peg that fits and matches and then screws the parts together.

The flip book with its pictures, numbers, and words gives visual directions about the sequence to follow when making a sandwich. A student who comprehends the meaning of pictures, can count, and knows pages in a flipbook represent a series of steps, can use these types of cues.

For another child who can read written text, this list gives instructions about packing lunch. The large X’es highlight how many of each category to choose.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October 2016 Task of the Month

Our October task of the month uses Halloween-themed toys. Students choose a top from the left side of the tray and play with it in the “Spin” section of the tray. After the top stops spinning, they sort it by color into either the orange or black designated containers. They proceed with each top in the same sequence until they have emptied the tray of the toys and placed each into the correct container. 

Once students learn how to play with the tops during 1-to-1 teaching, we would next make this activity available in a classroom play area as a free choice option. 

The tray is affixed to the box and the containers are inserted into openings cut into the cardboard.  With the materials segmented and stabilized, students do not have to set up this play interest. It is “ready to go” and, thus, more likely to be chosen.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Teaching the Tasks (part 3): Addressing the Questions We Ask When Designing Tasks

  • Does the task address the student’s educational goals?
  •  Is the task multi-modal?
  •  Does the task incorporate student’s interests and strengths?
  •  Is the task created using visual cues that will be meaningful to the individual student?
  •  Are pieces of the task organized systematically?
  •  Is the task designed so that the student can manage it independently?
  •  Has the student mastered the task?  

We addressed the first question in the Teaching the Tasks part 1 and the second question in the Teaching the Tasks part 2 . This entry will discuss the third question: 

Does the Task Address the Students’ Interests and Strengths?

Many of our students have difficulty engaging with a task and sustaining attention once engaged.  We find, if we incorporate their interests into our task designs, they are able to pay attention quite well.  Assess how easy or difficult it is to capture your students’ attention.  If they need help with this ability, determine both their interests and their areas of strength and how these could be used when working on their educational goals. 

To encourage a student’s participation for a turn-taking game with a peer, we added pictures of his favorite toys, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.  While throwing the balls into the basket, he and his playmate stand on the pictures.  His interest in the characters increases the likelihood that he will join the game. Once engaged, however, he learns playing the game with a friend can also be interesting and fun.

This student had a special interest in cats and knew the names of most breeds.  We used this interest when creating a task to work on her filing skills.  She had to identify the first letter of the breed and then place the cat card behind that alphabet letter.

Many of our students have both interests and strength in letters and numbers.  This student did not like touching squishy textures.  By placing the texture (pudding) into a plastic bag and asking him to touch for the purpose of writing letters, he was willing to give it a try.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Creating Curriculum Activities for Classroom Units and Themes (Plus Sept. 2016 Task of the Month)

When we consulted in a specific classroom, we were amazed at the skills the students learned. Children we doubted would read because of their cognitive challenges read. Children we doubted would ever speak spoke a few words. We believed much of this surprising skill development was a result of how well the teacher integrated a monthly or bimonthly theme into her curriculum in all learning centers. Having a lengthy period for one theme allowed for the repetitive practice that the children needed.

The teacher would choose to present the theme primarily through a book that had repetitive lines and clear colorful pictures, whether the pictures were true to life photos or fun illustrated fiction. She also used accompanying books that emphasized vocabulary associated with the theme.

These words became the focus for expressive and receptive language and literacy skill development. In addition, she and her assistant would create multi-modal tasks and games that illustrated the theme within each curriculum area.

To help illustrate how to create a well-rounded collection of tasks based on just one simple unit of study we wrote a story book that supported a food theme and included vocabulary and concepts important for early learners. We had Michael Arrigo create clear and colorful illustrations. Triggy became the character in the book who had tough decisions to make about his food and drink choices.

Then to demonstrate how to integrate this food theme throughout the early learner curriculum, we put together our book Tasks Galore:  Literature-Based Thematic Units.

As a new school year begins, the September Task of the Month consists of two tasks from this book. The integrated approach to learning a unit or theme as demonstated in Tasks Galore: Literature-Based ThematicUnits represents a best practice for all early learners. We have seen the benefits of these useful strategies when we watched students gain new skills using a multi-modal approach to learning. Thus, we feel this approach is a very important one for educators of preschoolers and early elementary students to adopt.

The first task is in the vocabulary and language section in the literacy chapter of Tasks Galore Literature-Based Thematic Units. Children pick an action card, read the words, look at the picture, and pretend the action. This gives students practice reading the words they encounter in the story as well as an opportunity to generalize their reading to a new situation. Students demonstrate their comprehension of the words. Practicing the actions within other play scripts also helps generalize the vocabulary.

This activity can be taught during 1-on-1 teaching times, practiced during independent table times, and then provided to the students in a housekeeping or block center. We teach students how to both set up the activity and pretend the actions.

The second task is in the science - physical science section of the book.

Students take a food card and rank it according to the descriptions: “I like it best,” “It is OK,” or “Yucky, I do not like this.” They place the card beside their rating.

Young children and students with special needs often require that abstract terms be presented in concrete ways. Here, for example, the abstract word, “favorite,” might be more easily understood when a thermometer enables students to visualize the meaning. Because they primarily learn about their world through sensory experiences, abstract thoughts and intangible concepts are difficult to grasp. It is important, therefore, to focus science lessons around things that the children actually can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. As a result, they continually are immersed in science as they discover new and different ideas about how the world, themselves, and others work. Such discoveries enable science to become real.

Using this one simple story book there are sections in Tasks Galore Literature-Based Thematic Units on
  •  Literacy (Vocabulary and Language, Phonological Awareness, Knowledge of Print, Letters and Words, Comprehension, Books and Other Text and Source of Enjoyment)
  • Numeracy (Patterns, Number Concepts, Geometry and Spatial Sense, Measurement, Data Collection and Money)
  •  Science (Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and the Environment
  •  Social Studies (Spaces and Geography, People and How They Live, People and the Environment, People and the Past)
Each section has a wide array of activities and descriptions for differing cognitive levels within the context of the curriculum. Our hope is that teachers will be able to develop a multitude of curriculum activities based on their own current theme or unit of study.

The start of the school year is always a fun-filled time for students, families and teachers. We hope this book will serve as a wonderful guide to make learning fun and meaningful.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook for fun giveaways and sales. September’s giveaway will be the two-book set of TasksGalore: Literature-Based Thematic Units and the online sale for September and October will be for this book as well! So be sure to check it out! This sale will only be available on through our website.