Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do2Learn and Autism Awareness Month

If you are reading this blog you are are probably pretty aware of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). If you are not, let me give you the short version. ASD was first identified in 1943 and as of today we don't know what causes it. There is a lot of reliable research going on right now, so we may have an answer soon. What we do know is that ASD affects 1 in 110 (CDC announced on 3/29/12 that the numbers are 1 in 88) children born today and that more than 15 million Americans (we are talking about loved ones, care givers, educators, and professionals) are impacted by this disorder everyday. ASD is 4 times more prevalent in boys than girls and is a lifelong disorder with no known cure.

April is noted as Autism Awareness Month worldwide and April 2nd is WORLD Autism Day. On April 2nd it has become tradition to “light it up blue” by changing your porch lights to blue bulbs, hanging blue lights along your house, requesting your city to change lights on significant buildings to blue for the day to increase awareness of about Autism. If you have not thought about doing this at your house, you still have time to go out and pick up a blue bulb. They can be found at your local grocery store or hardware store.

Do2Learn's team of educational and clinical experts understand the impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder's on those who educate, love and care for them. That is why on the D2L website you will find so many “FREE” areas of activities along with our products that are for purchase. Our Facebook page is also a good place for you to come and share with us and each other about what works and does not work for you in your class, home, and in the community. We also have started a LinkedIn group for that reason as well.

Do2Learn is committed to providing quality resources for parents, teachers and professionals. We explain to you how to use those resources and provide a way for you to ask us questions and leave us comments. We also provide those resources on our website. We also want to offer you a way to communicate with one another about our products too. Please be sure to take advantage of all the resources that Do2Learn has made available.

Share with us how you are increasing Autism Awareness in your community! We really do want to know!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Visuals From the Past

David finally tackled that last stack of boxes in the corner of our guest room this morning. This forced me into making a keep or toss decision on a box of paperwork that was labeled “Kaitlin”. What a treasure I found among the old IEPs, teacher notes, etc. So today is your lucky day! You get a glimpse of just a bit of the visual structure we have used in the past with Kaitlin. Shhhh, don't let her know I am sharing her “rock star” story! LOL!

Kaitlin, like many young children with Autism, struggled with sensory issues and bath time was not fun for anyone in our house when she was younger. Not only was she dealing with the sensory input of the water, the noise echoing in the bathroom, but also having to have her clothes off, the learning of the routine of bathing and of get the idea. So we used this great “jig” that was laminated for bathing and for drying. I have some pictures of the drying one here to show you. After Kaitlin would complete drying each part of her body in order she would close that section (Velcro was used) and it would be “finished”. When the entire “jig” was closed she was finished with drying off.
Once Kaitlin began to shower and bathe independently (YES, it does happen!) we had a week where we would go into the bathroom after her and it was like we were being rained on. We could not figure out what was going on, water was dripping from the ceiling! Finally, I heard Kaitlin singing one night and I snuck in and she was singing her heart out and jumping up and down, slinging her VERY long hair around while she was in the shower. This led to a social story and the image below being placed in our shower. We no longer had that issue! She still has “rock star” potential though <wink>!
Finally, when we began to teach Kaitlin the importance of knowing when to purchase her own personal products we started with her toiletries. Making a shopping list with Do2learn's Make-A-Schedule made this a super easy task on our part and then we just laminated it and used dry erase markers. We had Kaitlin use this list as part of her weekly schedule and check off what she needed to ask us to purchase for her. As she got older Kaitlin began to make these purchases herself with assistance. This was a great way to build into her schedule a way for her look at what she would need supply wise.

Thanks for strolling down memory lane with me today. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. What unique visuals are helping you get through specific situations with your loved one or students with Autism right now?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Find Do2Learn Products at the ASNC 2012 Conference

I was at the main office of the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) in Raleigh, NC today for several meetings and had the opportunity to run into the Bookstore while I was there and chat with Dawn Eberwein, the Bookstore Sales Specialist. She was packing up stock to set up the “mobile” bookstore at the ASNC 2012 Conference to be held in Charlotte, NC on March 30th – 31st. What a huge task that is for Dawn, because the ASNC bookstore is the largest non-profit, ASD specific bookstore in the United States and she was having to choose a good cross section of what conference attendees would want to purchase to have there on site.

I was excited to see that she had quite a number of Do2Learn products packed and ready for purchase. So if you are planning on attending the ASNC 2012 Conference, make sure you go and see Dawn at the Bookstore. You will be able to pick up the following and more!
  • Feelings & Emotions Activity Book

If they have sold out of our products at the conference or do not have exactly what you are looking for from Do2Learn, remember that you can always order directly from us when you return. We hope you all have a great time!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eye Tracking and Autism

The research world has recently come alive with lots of information on eye tracking and how it affects those with the diagnosis of Autism. There are studies on how eye tracking can assist with the actual diagnosis and then there are studies on how eye tracking can help teachers in the classroom, like this one published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

One known fact is, if you have a problem with eye tracking, you are likely to have an issue with reading. Liken it to trying to read a magazine while riding in the back of a pick-up truck while it is going down a bumpy dirt road. That is what children with eye tracking issues experience when they are trying to read. It is a struggle to keep their eyes on the straight line of text. Their eyes may jump (unconsciously) from one line of text to the other and therefore the information they are taking in is jumbled. Eye tracking issues cause problems with information intake even when reading is not involved.

There are lots of programs available to work on eye tracking issues and Do2Learn developed one specifically for early learners many years ago. We knew the importance of eye tracking, emotions, and facial recognition, so we combined them together in a “two games in one” game pack. Fantastic Faces combines our Feelings Game and our Eye Spy game. Eye Spy teaches those early concepts of eye tracking that are so very important for children with Autism to focus on. The Fantastic Faces combo also provides trackable progress reports and printable activities. (this combo is only PC compatible)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Disability Evaluation and Identification

In my part of the United States it is really beginning to feel like Spring. Our flowers are blooming, the weather is in the mid 70's (f) during the day, and no one wants to be in the house at all. Everyone is headed outside to enjoy this great weather. Of course we have the days when it is rainy and that is the perfect time to enjoy working on some Spring Coloring Pages.
This is also the time of year when parents start heading out to parks with their children. Sometimes this is when we may first begin to see that maybe our child may not be doing the same things as other children his or her age. Or we notice that our child's behavior is very different in how they approach play with other children of the same age. The best and first thing to do if you have concerns about the development of your child is to consult your pediatrician. They can reassure you that everything is fine or direct you to wonderful local resources for evaluation and support if there are any concerns.

Do2Learn has an entire section dedicated to Disabilities on their website. The evaluation and identification process is explained in simple and easy to understand steps. During a time when parents are feeling overwhelmed with information this page will be a wonderful resource to assist them when they need to refer back to the process that they are going through with their child.

This Evaluation and Identification page is one that teachers, doctors, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, early intervention specialists, etc. can share with parents at the very beginning of anything suspicious going on developmentally. You will help empower the parents by giving them information that is clear and easy to understand.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Do We Recognize Faces?

Researchers, Jason M. Gold and Patrick J. Mundy, have found that people recognize an entire face no better than how they recognize each individual feature as it is shown alone. “Surprisingly, the whole was not greater than the sum of it's parts,” says Gold. These findings appear in the journal Psychological Science, which is published by the Association for Psychological Science. A summary of this article can be read in the March 9, 2012, ScienceDaily research news review.

Do2Learn released it's game FACELAND in 2009. FACELAND was designed and developed by Donna Stanger, a teacher for over 20 years and an educational software developer since 1979. Donna is responsible for over 100 award winning programs from Edmark and Sunburst including Muppet Slate and Imagination Express. Donna and the team at Do2Learn knew back before 2009 that those individuals with Autism struggle with recognizing facial expressions. 

Strategies teaching facial recognition led to FACELAND and here are some of the effective ways that this game works:
  • Breaks down the entire face into smaller concepts (clues).
  • Promotes clue acquisition via spaced repetition.
  • Combines clues for “part to whole” learning.
  • Checks for understanding of clues using new examples.

Our team included the ability to produce student progress reports and for extensive student tracking. This is a huge bonus for classroom teachers who need this kind of data for IEP reporting. The game uses real faces, not cartoon images. So, your student is learning exactly what they will be looking for in the expressions of others. FACELAND was awarded the Children's Technology Review's Editor's Choice Award in 2009.

How exciting to know that Do2Learn was ahead of this research in getting FACELAND out and available to our customers! If you don't have your students playing this yet, get FACELAND now.

Please take a look at Do2Learn's YouTube FACELAND Video!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Flash Cards—The Power of Something Simple

We had a great question on our Do2Learn Facebook page earlier this week regarding flash cards. One of our followers asked if we offered flash cards on our website. Yes, we do and I will give you the link to get to those in a bit. This question got me thinking about my first flash card experience, at least the first one I could remember. Those multiplication tables! Man, did they give me a hard time. My parent's tried all the educational tricks they could find. They used the grid, then some crazy finger trick for the 9's, but what finally worked was a good old set of flash cards that we went over and over again. I am sure my teachers and parents used flash cards to teach me things before those dreaded multiplication tables, but those earlier memories did not stick like this one. I did learn from that experience though and continued to use flash cards throughout my educational career to learn many subjects and prepare for many tests. I also loved using them with each of my daughters as we learned things from shapes, to letters, to symbols on the periodic table.

Why do flash cards work so well for all of us when we are trying to learn something new?

  • You can take them anywhere. Flash cards are just that portable!

  • You can study one-on-one with your student/child or turn it onto a group game/activity. Studying can be a lot of fun with flash cards.

  • Flash cards make it easy to sort out what is already known from what needs more work.

  • All ages of learners use flash cards. Toddlers to college students use them in learning!

Do2Learn has put together several sets of flash cards for you to download and print to use with your students/children. They can all be found here on our products page. Two of my favorite sets are the Preposition Flash Cards and the SignLanguage Flash Cards.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vacation with Autism

We are heading out for a week long vacation tomorrow. Yay us! Lots of vacation memories have flooded my mind this week as I have prepared for this vacation. Packing for vacation is a breeze, now. Hubby packs his and I pack mine, give Kaitlin her list and then I double check her packing. Pretty simple, NOW, but you know when you toss in a young child with Autism and go on vacation, the game changes!

Is a family vacation even possible when you have a young child with Autism? Sometimes that answer is just a flat out NO for some families. When faced with that situation where the whole family can not go on vacation together, there are lots of options. One really great option is to find an appropriate respite or camp situation for your child with Autism for a week and the rest of the family can go and enjoy a week of fun too. When Kaitlin was really young she could not tolerate traveling for long periods of time in a car nor the sound of the ocean. She really LOVED camp though! It was a win-win time for us and we learned to not feel guilty about those separate vacations when she enjoyed a week at camp and we took her older sister to the beach.

So maybe family vacations are possible, but you know there are going to be bumps on the way. How do you make it smoother? Take your structure with you! Prepare for the vacation by using a social story ahead of time. The social story can highlight some of the events that are expected to happen during the vacation. I suggest that you add visuals into the story that will make the story interesting to your child. You can read this before the trip, on the trip and after the trip to remember the vacation by. I would also take along any picture schedules and other portable forms of structure you have or could make. Use a daily check off form to write in activities and have your child check off the activities as they are completed. Add just one or two activities at a time, in case there are changes. 

Pack familiar items from home that bring comfort. Be ready for lots of down time! Being in a different place, with lots of different sensory input can make for lots of overload for our kids with Autism, so build in that downtime. I promise you that it will be needed. Do2Learn has lots of games that can be played with just a deck of cards (if your child is older) and/or a few other items you can bring along. So while you are planning checkout these "Homemade Games" and note the skills that your child will learn while having fun!

Lastly, breathe, it's vacation. You are there to relax and have fun. No battles on vacation...remember you may have to be the one that is the most flexible. If you find you spend your days doing nothing but watching the waves when the plans were originally to visit amusement park after amusement park, remember it's vacation and you are going to be rested!