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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

As many of you know, I work with a 6-year-old with moderate Autism. He had a fair amount of expressive language until he had this wierd regression with it about a year ago. (no other skills regressed except spoken language.) Since then we've been doing a variety of things to help him (he uses pecs) and one of them is more signing. He understands a variety of simple signs and they often help him to get the language out when he sees us sign them. However, we really want to get him into more signing himself - partly so that at least a few more people will understand what he's saying when his articulation is poor, and partly because it helps him to speak.

We'd been working on more lately and he's starting to sign it more and more. (no pun intended.) Today after lunch at the picnic bench, he wanted to go back to the playground so he used eye contact to show me that is what he meant and said "more", signing it at the same time very well. He's probably signing "more" about 4-5 times a week.

I am upping the amount of signing that I do when I speak with him but I'm going to have to prompt him to use it himself until he starts to spontaneously. He has some fine motor issues - although his fingers are very strong, he has trouble imitating a hand position (like a thumb's up). Can you recommend some signs that might be simple for him to make but have a lot of power in them?(in terms of control - very meaningful words.) Some examples of power words he says but has trouble articulating are:

-go out
-open door
-yes
-no
-help me
-pour
-push
-potty
-i want
-come
-give me
-get me
-throw (as in ball)

If you tell me which words, I can look up the signs.

Thanks so much! (I'd also greatfully accept recommendations for signing books designed for toddlers/young children.)
 

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Eat, drink, please, thank you, more, stop/all done/finished, hurt/sick, and help are pretty important ones.


I would recommend the Signing Time! video series--it's geared to toddlers/children and has songs, etc. with kids signing. There is also a series of signing flashcards from Sign Babies--they're big enough and durable to use in a photo album/communication book as well.
 

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Don't take this the wrong way, but I would avoid "more" like the plague. Same with "I want" "please" "help" etc. The problem? For kids with autism with limited communication repertoires, these words become the all-purpose mand (request). A kid will learn "more" and use it to get EVERYTHING from here on out. You won't want to extinguish this response which will make shaping it into more varied requests very very difficult. For example, your kid loves videos, french fries, the trampoline, and tickles (for example). It would be better to teach him these four separate signs instead of just "more" which is only one word. Does this make sense?

The strategies for teaching kids with autism sign are different from the reasoning one might use with typically developing toddlers or babies- one does not need to worry as much about using signs like more and please, but I would be very cautious about making them first words for a child with autism.

Just my opinion. For more info on this topic, I highly recommend attending a conference by Vince Carbone www.carboneclinic.com He uses teaching techniques that have taught previously nonverbal children to speak, some over seven years old.
 

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Hmmm...I don't know... You bring up good points, but I've worked with autistic adults and children--most of which were non-verbal. They were just as 'demanding' with the actual word (like "pasta") and would repeat that over and over again and throwing a major violent tantrum if they didn't receive it. I guess it just depends on the person--the OP mentioned that language regression seemed to be one of the only major issues. I would think with higher functioning individuals with autism, more, please, and want would be ok. We never saw a problem with using them with even individuals with moderate-severe autism. Just like any other word, we could sign "no more" or let them know it wasn't an option. With the individuals I worked with, the response was never extinguished just as the individual never stopped asking for pasta even if it was denied a couple times...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi therdogg,

Thanks for your input. I am a behavior analyst, and am fully aware of the issues you have raised. I just didn't make my initial post long because many members here have heard me talk about my students and my experience.

My student is expected to use as many words as he can in the appropriate situations. Therefore, if he wants me to tickle him, he tells me "I want tickle." and if I stop, he needs to say "I want more tickle." before I continue. This would occur with the use of signs as well. He understands that he needs to first request something and only uses "more" for something that has already occurred which he wants to occur again.

I accept the use of "I want more" alone when he is unable to articulate or sign what he wants more of. I find another prelinguistic method to help him indicate that if his PECS aren't available. So with the playground example, after he said "I want more", signed, and made joint attention with me towards the playground, I helped him to point to it. If his PECS had been right there, I might have asked him what he wanted more of and let him use his communication binder to tell me.

As for "please", I'd be happy if he NEVER used the word if it meant that he spent that time learning and using a more important word. Unless it is imperative to a social situation, "please" has very little meaning.

I do disagree with "help". I think that help is a VERY important word to be able to say and sign, which is why we do "Help me". There are an infinite variety of situations in which he may not be able to articulate, sign, or use PECS to show what he needs but can ask for help. I can then help him to say what he needs help with if it's within his means, such as telling me to "push" the button to turn on a toy. But if he can't, he can still get help. It is also an important social tool - to realize that you can't solve a problem but if you go to someone else and show them, they might be able to solve it with you.

And about "I want", we are working on a variety of sentence stems that apply to different situations. "I want" was the first one taught and I have seen how it was very easy for him to overgeneralize it to other types of sentences (like commenting.) So we're working on it.
 

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Hi there- I must have flaked out when I read the post, I didn't realize he had so many other words. I've known of kids who are taught more or please as a first word, and suddenly everything is "more" or "please" or (worse) "more please" and it can impede acquiring other words.

You said you are a behavior analyst- do you mean by this that you are board certified? If so, cool! The world needs more BCBAs. (or are you a BCaBA?) Were you at aba in Chicago? Great conference!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by therdogg
Hi there- I must have flaked out when I read the post, I didn't realize he had so many other words. I've known of kids who are taught more or please as a first word, and suddenly everything is "more" or "please" or (worse) "more please" and it can impede acquiring other words.

You said you are a behavior analyst- do you mean by this that you are board certified? If so, cool! The world needs more BCBAs. (or are you a BCaBA?) Were you at aba in Chicago? Great conference!
That I would agree with--if the only words (or first words) were more, help, or please, I can see where that would be a very bad habit.
That's a great point!
 

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I used to practice at the New England Center for Children in Massachusetts, but I moved away from there over a year ago...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I practice on the West Coast.

I wish I were certified...I have the supervised employment hours; I'm about to get my MA in moderate-severe special education; I downloaded the sample tests from the main website and I would ace the test...The problem is that there are no college classes near me that meet the requirements. I am looking at PhD programs to apply to for next year and one that I like in Toronto includes required courses that apply to the BCBA certification. Otherwise I may have to take them, if offered, on nights or weekends at a school further away.

In the meantime, at my current job, I've been providing a home program for a young boy with Autism for 3 years now and I'm about to begin my first supervision case. (I've been ready to do that for a while but there weren't any near me, and I don't drive.)

My main focus for my MA is prelinguistic communication, and I plan to study that for my PhD or EdD as well. My MA project is writing a manual for teachers and other educators/parents that teaches them strategies adults can use when eliciting or responding to the communication of prelinguistic children that helps to build communication and language skills. I'm very excited about it, and I'm going to be presenting at a regional conference for special education teachers next January. I could have presented at the CEC conference next year as well but I missed the deadline.
 

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You might try the online program via Southern Illinois University. It is excellent and meets all requirements for the BCBA people. A colleague of mine took it and said it was great. Congrats on your first supervision case


Jenne
 

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Jenne- do you know if there is financial aid avail. for the S.I.U. program? And do they do online testing? I thought one of the programs required proctored exams at a local univ. (but this was ~2001).

I really wish there were more west coast BCBAs. IT's hard to get certified when there are so few people to work under.
 

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Hmmm. I can find out about the proctured tests. I would assume it is all online because work is submited online not through the mail. But if it has to be proctured any librarian can do it
I know that SIU offers financial aid. It may be in the form of subsidized loans though. Here is the program website. I only had a minute so I didn't look too hard but it looks like it is 100% online.

http://www.siu.edu/%7Erehabbat/online/webbased.html

Hope that helps,

Jenne
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow! That's great. I wish I had known about it last year - I could have already taken most of the courses! Ah well, I never thought to look for an online version.
 

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Sorry for the OT -
back to the OP:
IME teaching a couple signs for R+ items can encourage more spontaneous signing - ie "cookie", "outside," "swing," "tickle," or the like.
Also, I agree with teaching "help", especially in conjunction with some signs for tasks likely to require help.

"Potty" of course. Sometimes "all done" is good, depending on the functioning level of the child
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the input everyone.

I should have stressed that I'm looking mostly for signs that are easy physically to make, given his fine motor issues. Of course, I want to teach him ones that he will make often that are very meaningful to him. But I want to start with ones that he can make easily just through imitation or simple hand-over-hand.

So, for example, a sign that included making a fist with your thumb sticking out wouldn't work because I haven't been able to teach him to stick his thumb up, and I want the focus to be on the communication the sign makes rather than on how to make the sign.

Does that make sense?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
cookie would be great because he really likes them and for some reason, he hasn't been able to make the sound /k/ in the initial position in about 8 months.

open is also great because I expect him to ask me to open the door if it's locked but he has trouble getting the 'open' out although 'door' is easy for him to say.
 
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