Monday, April 27, 2015

Vine Kids

Vine hit the scene a few years back as a different way to shoot and share videos as six-second clips that loop or repeat. I played with it, shot silly things like a tired me landing at Logan at 3 am, and maybe too enthusiastically smashing a toilet that had sat in my garage for a year. I stuck with Facebook.

Vine Kids (Free, be sure to change the App Store search from iPad only to iPhone, as this is an iPhone app that will run on iPad) on the other hand, is a simple and limited app that gives you access to kid-friendly Vines, the looping videos that the site trades on. Kid-friendly subgenres include silly animations, animals and kids doing funny things, or even quick clips featuring kid-recognizable characters such as Grover or the Minions.

The app does not let you search, which I wish it did, but the repeating nature of the short videos makes it suited to a quick language activity-- you know, the kind where your students think they are getting a reward but actually are practicing skills? A good warm-up or wrap-up! Take a look at the videos themselves and see what is unstated, which is of course the kind of information that you can scaffold your students to state: story grammar elements such as character and setting, and description of these, verbs, situational aspects such as prediction of what came before and after the snippet, discussion of perspective, feelings, and who must have shot the video.

Above: Hampsters eating salad! To get started with Vine Kids, just tap the screen and swipe right and left to navigate through the available videos.

Also consider using Vine itself as a follow up, as it has some educational applications. Vine is public, like Twitter, so you wouldn't want to include kids in your videos. BUT it is easy to use and could be used to shoot quick language-based videos such as:
-how-tos- steps in a task
-items in a category
-a play script (e.g. your Fisher-Price mailman picking up the mail from the Little People town mailbox and delivering it.

DO NOT use Vine Kids if you are put off by a fart noise or even bird poop, or with kids who cannot come back from such a thing to be productive or regulated. I also could do without these videos being included but they are thankfully only occasional!

Have you ever used Vine in your work? Share a link in the comments!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Autism Awareness Month: Make Social Learning Stick!

Make Social Learning Stick! How to Guide and Nurture Social Competence Through Everyday Routines and Activities by SLP and social cognitive specialist Elizabeth Sautter is a book all clinicians working with students with social learning and executive functioning challenges should have on their shelves! The book synthesizes the work of some greats in the field--Elizabeth herself, author of the Whole Body Listening Larry series, The Incredible 5-Point Scale creator Kari Dunn Buron, Leah Kuypers, author of Zones of Regulation, Emily Rubin of SCERTS®. executive functioning guru Sarah Ward, Michelle Garcia Winner of Social Thinking® and play expert Pamela Wolfberg-- into a practical how-to guide to teachable moments across the day. The book provides suggestions for structuring activities and scaffolding language and cognition at home, in the community, and around special events such as holidays. The goal of the book, above all, is to "make social learning stick" by emphasizing the power of the milieu and thus to maximize generalization of skills.

The book begins with a brief overview of cognitive factors in social learning, including sensory processing, regulation, language and theory of mind, but wastes no time in getting to its purpose: presenting functional suggestions of activities to build "social smarts" across daily events. These include themes such as starting the day, getting ready for school, meal preparation, play, chores, and other daily routines. Community themes target moments for learning while at the mall, supermarket, grocery store, restaurants, and other locations.

Each theme features talking points about "hidden rules" or expected and unexpected behaviors for the situation, as well as integration of "job talk" that "helps the child take ownership and become more willing to jump in and complete the task." For example, when asking the child to check the weather so as to plan for the day's events and clothing, one can say "You be the weather reporter." Also within each themed page are suggestions of activities and discussions that can help the child build observation skills, situational awareness, conversational language, organization and self regulation, among other areas.

Image from Make Social Learning Stick on Pinterest

The latter section of the book contains helpful gems: a glossary of social cognitive language, rationale for some of the evidence-based practices espoused in the book such as milieu teaching and social narratives, and visual strategies such as the 5-point scale, sample visual schedules, and conversational supports such as a web of "Wonder Question" starters to help the child come up with questions to ask other people (a sampling of these forms can also be found on the book's website).

To remain "on message" for this blog, as I reviewed the book I found many possible simple technology tie-ins. Technology, after all, is part of our "everyday routines" that the book promotes as context for social learning, and using technology can make visuals and information more accessible, as well as ease the process of creating visuals for children. Some examples:

  • Being the "weather reporter" as referenced above can be facilitated with an app such as The Weather Channel or simply asking Siri, "What's the weather?"
  • Visual schedules can be easily made with apps such as Pic Collage or Keynote (as can 5-Point Scales, as I outlined last week).
  • Asking kids to "match the picture" of a completed task or chore can be made more explicit by marking up the picture with Skitch.
  • Essential and frequently used pictures or visual supports can be saved to an album in the Photos app or as PDF to an iBooks collection.
  • Activities such as discussing the layout of the supermarket to promote executive functioning can be made more visual through a quick diagram in an app such as Doodle Buddy.
  • and so on...
For SLPs and others working with students with social learning challenges, this book can serve as not only an essential guide within parent training and consultation, but also contains many points that can shape our own therapy activities and use of teachable moments! The book can be purchased through Autism Asperger's Publishing Company.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Autism Awareness Month: Keynote and Displaying Visuals (and The Incredible 5-Point Scale)

I have always been a fan of using presentation tools like PowerPoint and Keynote in un-PowerPointy ways (i.e. no reading of bullet points). Presentation tools offer a flexible space to position and interact with text, images, and visual elements such as tables for a wide range of uses in therapy activities. Creating a weather journal, for example, is much easier in a presentation app because you can place the text and pictures (i.e. of the clouds) anyplace you want on the "slide"- thereby bypassing many formatting difficulties in the moment of working with the student. In our recent App-titude column, Nathan Curtis and I discussed how the desktop versions of Keynote or PowerPoint can be used similarly in telepractice activities to arrange and sequence personalized photos for targeting objectives such as verb and concept use, vocabulary and storytelling. You can add backgrounds, animation of slide elements, video and even audio to make activities even more engaging.

In another recent App-titude column, I discussed ways that apps can serve as visual tools to facilitate conversation and play, and tie in with approaches such as Social Thinking® and The Incredible 5-Point Scale. I had the pleasure of hearing Kari Dunn Buron speak last year, and she described how the 5-Point Scale was designed to tap into the "systematizing" strengths of students with social learning challenges, leading them to better perspective taking and empathizing (see the work of Simon Baron-Cohen). 5-Point Scales are an extremely helpful and versatile tool. They can be used in systematic, focused ways much like the implementation of an individualized social story for a student with more intense needs. For our students with more moderate or nuance-based challenges, instruction can include a repertoire of scales to be referenced in naturalistic activities.

Here's where I love the Keynote app for iPad ($9.99, free for any Apple ID linked to a device purchased after September 2013). A 5-Point Scale can be created simply within a Keynote Slide by using a table and colored fonts. Once the concept is established using a scale related to a target for your group, expand your students' thinking by creating other scales illustrating the range of social behaviors in other situations. The key idea is that the 5 represents extremely unexpected behavior or situations. Depending on the scale, the target can be a 1 (as in calmness) or a 3, as in moderation on a spectrum from too much to too little (as in talk time). Developing the language with your students helps them feel ownership for the scale and also gives you a good window into their thinking. The power of the tool is that it can spark discussion and gentle cueing, "I know this problem feels like a 4 to you. Remember what other kinds of problems we labeled a 4?"

Try developing your own scales in Keynote. Once created, to save the loading time (and potential of accidentally moving stuff around with your finger) tap the "share square" and "open in another app" as PDF, whereupon you can choose iBooks. Your scales will then be saved in the "PDF" section of the app for use in future sessions. 5-Point Scales are also excellent tools to extend into the classroom, as all children can benefit from social-cognitive strategies, and of course are great to send home. You can send your materials to anyone as PDF files from the Keynote app.

A file with a number of scales I have developed with students (silliness, a prank scale based on a recent discussion about April Fool's day and social judgment, one on the social thinking of Hide and Seek which was useful for an egg hunt and playing the game Snipe, and a few others) are available to be downloaded from Dropbox by clicking the image below. This is a PowerPoint file downloadable without a Dropbox account, so from your iPad you can tap Download, then Open In... and choose Keynote (once you have installed it) or use in PowerPoint or Keynote on a computer.

Click on the scale to download a template

Some resources to learn more about The Incredible 5-Point Scale are available at the website. Also check Pinterest for some innovative ideas about using 5-Point Scales. The Should I or Shouldn't I? games from Social Thinking are also good ways to start with Five Point Scales.