We all know that each child is unique. Each has unique skill sets, special talents and particular learning discrepancies. The first thing that should be done is to learn as much about the child as possible. Discover their strengths, their weaknesses, their interests and their breaking points. This knowledge will give educators many tools needed to help build the most suitable plan for the individual child. This also takes time, so while you may have a pretty good broad view and learning diagnosis of the child early on, you will need to be adaptable in changing your methods as you learn more about the child. Often the problem with a language intervention is not that the activity is bad, but it’s just not being modified in a way specific to the uniqueness of the child. If you continuously keep in mind the child’s unique skill set, the following activities can help create a successful environment for quality language building.
Use the child’s interest to motivate them. Whenever possible, find a way to relate the learning material to their personal interests. Most ASD children have very specific and often very limited interests. While this can create problem when fostering learning for seemingly unrelated topics, it really is your secret weapon in building language skills. If you have a third grader who loves all things Star Wars, do a little research and find a way to reference it during language skill learning. Whether the child is lacking communication skills or actual literacy skills, adding their interest to the mix will almost guarantee them to be more active and involved in the learning process. When formulating modifications use these interests to develop picture walks, games and even simple patterns of discussion so that the child can relate those interests to difficult concepts.
Increase active engagement. Get away from the books (picture books included). Practice key skills by having the child “interview” a classmate or another available staff member. Have the child retell or act out a story or lesson they just heard. If necessary pull from their main interests once again. If the class just read a book with abstract concepts such as friendship, have your Star Wars’ fan try to tell a story about the friendship of Han Solo and Luke. Be creative. For ASD children with lower levels of language skills, repetitive games like “I Spy” or Picture Bingo can be very productive.
Be vocal during learning of tough concepts like sarcasm or hidden meanings in texts. Make sure you take the time to pause at these points in literature to explain and discuss the meaning behind certain phrases or entire underlying themes. Team up with the child to find words and phrases that aren’t important to the overall plot. This activity will help tremendously with comprehension and also empower kids with ASD because they will actually have some control over a scholastic activity.
Preview upcoming classroom activities with the child.Kids go to school to learn, most do not come into most lessons knowing much about the topic. While mainstream students quickly adapt and organize new concepts, most ASD students have difficulty in finding both focus and motivation to learn foreign concepts. Because of this it is important to preview new lessons with your students. Give a quick visual background on famous explorers before their Social Studies lesson. Having a brief introduction prior to a more intense study will help ease the child’s frustration and aid focus.
Use traditional activities like music, sports and computing to facilitate better language skills and a deeper understanding of basic concepts. Singing is a great tool to provide a different approach to items that require repetition such as speech and learning items requiring memorization. Computer games are a favorite of almost all students. There are so many language-related games available for free across the Internet as well as special education software. From literacy to comprehension to abstract concept learning, there is a program for any language areas that need to be more targeted. Sports are a great way to engage kids who are great learners when they can physically relate concepts to other ideas. Playing a game of HORSE can help them understand the concept of risk and reward. A sports fan may like to record the score of a baseball game. To them they get to watch the game while at school, but really they may be applying recently studied concepts of number comparison, addition or subtraction or for higher functioning ASD students, percentages.
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