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 Toys and Games

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Should You Eat Cookies in the Bathtub? The Behavior/Context Card Game (Ages 4–12)
I couldn’t find a game that engaged kids while helping them understand which behaviors may be appropriate, and which may not, depending upon the situation—so I created one. Singing is fine at a birthday party but not in a library. Eating is permitted in some classrooms, on some occasions—but not all. The judgment as to whether or not a given behavior is appropriate in a given context is apt to vary among families, as well as ethnic and religious groups, and the game permits for this diversity.

Teaching the fine points of appropriateness—concepts and problem-solving strategies that come intuitively to some children—is the goal of Should You Eat Cookies in the Bathtub?

The game consists of two decks: 26 Behavior Cards: (laughing, running, scratching yourself, telling a joke, yelling “Hi!”, telling others what to do, etc.) and 26 Context Cards: (recess, classroom, on an airplane, doctor’s office, movies, kitchen, roller coaster, etc.) I Many card combinations will stimulate discussion, perhaps of specific instances. Others will almost always be inappropriate regardless of context (“hitting,” for example) and some are appropriate activities you’ll want to reinforce, such as “saying please and thank you.” A few may be just silly and fun to laugh over. All good.

Instructions with notes on the benefits of the game are included.

Should You Eat Cookies in the Bathtub? may be played in three different ways, depending on the players’ level of knowledge, expressive language, social awareness, and abstract thinking. As the child’s knowledge and capacity to apply that knowledge grows, you can vary the game. For 2–6 players. $24.95

Available at amazon.com

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Marbleworks (Ages 5 and up)

This was one of my son’s favorite toys for many years. Marbleworks is a construction toy that includes a variety of unique chutes, ramps, and track pieces in an assortment of colors. It’s an engaging way to foster interaction and teach conversation skills. When assembled, marbles travel through the connected chutes. Some pieces have a ‘waterwheel’ type component, others zig-zag. Funnel-type pieces cause the marble to travel in circles before finally plopping down the chute at the bottom to complete its journey.

As with any good construction toy, there are limitless ways that the track or maze can be constructed. I have sets that I purchased from Discovery Toys which have held up remarkably well through my son’s childhood and eight years after that, standing up to frequent use at my office.

I have found this toy especially helpful in cultivating collaborative play and for reinforcing the idea that a conversation is a connection between two or more people. For group play, each “player” is given an equal number of pieces. The idea is to associate the connections needed to make the track work with the verbal connections needed to make a conversation work.

Each child in turn contributes something on-topic and then is allowed to connect one of their pieces to the rest of the track. When pieces are put together in a way that won’t work, we say “disconnect!” Similarly, when a child provides off-topic information, we correct them with the same phrase—“disconnect!”

The track acts as a visual representation of how conversation means connection. A piece of track in isolation is no fun—but connected, the results are pretty cool! This is a great toy for any child but is especially therapeutic for children on the spectrum on a supervised play date. Available at: amazon.com

cosmic catchCosmic Catch (Ages 7–10)
This is also a popular game in our social skills groups but can be played with just two people. While there are four game options, we generally stick with the most basic one. Each child selects a brightly colored hand tag. The electronic ball audibly calls out color names that correspond to the hand tags worn by each child.  If “white” is called out, the player holding the ball tosses it to the player with the white hand tag. If “red” is called out next, then the ball is tossed to the played with the red tag. The ball keeps count of how many consecutive catches are successfully completed and the group can work together to break their own record.

Improvement requires increasing attention/awareness and using nonverbal communication more effectively. The game requires that a player listen (to the color called out), look (to see where the ball might be coming from), and then, especially if their color is called, express readiness by looking at the person with the ball, positioning the hands, etc. Each of these behaviors is needed to make the seemingly simple task of catching the ball possible. Available at: amazon.com
 
parachuteParachute (Ages 3 and up)
A chance to use the parachute is always met with excitement in our social skills groups. Our goal is to give group members the sense of working together towards a common goal. To this end, we toss a ball into the center of the parachute with the goal of keeping the item from falling to the ground.

Depending on the size of the group and the size of the parachute, each child holds one or two handles and spreads out so that the parachute is almost flat or taut. To keep the items from falling, the kids must continuously adjust the amount of pull each exerts. To make it more challenging, we simply add more balls.

This activity encourages visually referencing others and coordinating responses accordingly. The kids also have to attend to how close they are to their neighbors, and the handles space the kids out so you don’t have to!. A 10’ diameter parachute works well for 3-6 children. Available at: amazon.com

 


Books

For children:

Manners. Aliki. HarperCollins, 1997. Ages 4–8. Available at: amazon.com

Simon’s Hook: A Story About Teases and Put-Downs. Karen Gedig Burnett and Laurie Barrows. GR Publishing, 2000. Ages 4–8. Available at: amazon.com

Don't Squeal Unless It's a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales. Jeanie Franz Ransom. Magination Press, 2005. Ages 4–8. Available at: amazon.com

Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power & Positive Self-Esteem. Gershen Kaufman, et. al. Free Spirit Publishing. 1999. Ages 9–12. Available at: amazon.com

For parents:

Asperger Syndrome and Bullying: Strategies and Solutions. Nick Dubin. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007. Available at: amazon.com

Super Skills: A Social Skills Group Program For Children With Asperger Syndrome, High-functioning Autism And Related Disorders. Judith Coucouvanis. (2005). Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2005. Available at: amazon.com

Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome and Social-Communications Problems. Jed Baker. Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2003. Available at: amazon.com

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism. Temple Grandin. Future Horizons, 2005. Available at: amazon.com

 


DVDs

modelme kids sum120Modelme Kids sells DVDs which model appropriate social behavior showing children in real-life settings. Each DVD has a theme and contains several video clips accompanied by clear and concise explanations for each behavior. Peer models of desired behavior provide a powerful learning tool. Modelme Kids DVDs cover a wide range of topics including basic social skills like appropriate greeting and listening behaviors to more complex skills like social problem-solving and building confidence. Available at: modelmekids.com

 

Learning from bees. Some children with ASD do not recognize a need to improve their social skills. How to explain what’s in it for them. Learn more.

What stimulates sensory systems, muscles and is calming to lie on top of? Stability balls. Learn more.

Losing track of time. Help your child with time management by making it visual. Learn more.

Addressing anxiety, depression, anger and low self-esteem. A game which can be used to help modify emotions. Learn more.