- Big Mack: This piece of equipment is a great motivational device to focus on turn-taking activities. Countless turn-taking activities can be created and incorporated into every aspect of the school day.
Example: During circle time: taking turns pushing the Big Mack button to respond to prerecorded calendar routines, songs and books. (What day is it? what month is it?; Using repetitive lines work great (Old McDonald had a farm); "Turn the page" -during large group reading; and "my turn" as a visual/physical marker during focusing on specific turn-taking tasks, etc.
- Audio taping: Any type of social interaction, both appropriate and inappropriate, can be taped and then replayed as a teaching method to assist the child in identifying what is an appropriate, and what is inappropriate social communicative behavior. (e.g., interrupting, asking for assistance, drawing attention, initiating varied topics, maintaining topics initiated by others, etc.). Audio taping may also be used to focus on various non verbal social communication skills such as vocal volume or emotional tone of voice.
Attending skills (motivation):
- Voice In the Box: This device can help the child to focus his attention during large group-listening activities. These activities tend to be very difficult for children with autism. Again, countless activities can be created and incorporated into any large group listening time (6).
Example: When the teacher is reading a book aloud to the class, numerous lines from a book can be visually represented with a corresponding recorded message on the buttons. The child can "assist" in "reading" the story by pushing the appropriate buttons for the story. Repetitive line books such as "Brown Bear" work great. The child can push the button for "Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?" Another example would be the line "...but he was still hungry" from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Circle time activities can be programmed in a similar manner.
Big Mack: To increase attention to large group listening/reading activities, record a repetitive line from a story, along with a corresponding visual representation system placed on top of the Big Mack (1).
Example: A picture of the Big Bad Wolf placed on the Big Mack switch with the repetitive line "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down" recorded.
VOCAs as Reinforcement: Many students with autism find the VOCAs to be very reinforcing and thus provide the necessary motivation to attend to and complete other less desirable tasks/activities, if allowed to interact with the VOCA upon completion of those tasks (22).
Organization skills (story sequencing and time management):
- Talk Pad: The physical layout of the "buttons" on this device works well for focusing on sequence stories, because the four buttons are positioned from left-to-right, rather than the Cheap Talk 4, where the buttons are located 2 above and 2 below (6).
Each step of a sequence story can be prerecorded on each of the four buttons in sequential order. The four corresponding sequence story pictures are placed in front of the child not in order. As the child presses the first button in the left-to-right sequence of buttons, he hears the auditory message for the first sequence picture. He can then select the corresponding picture to that message as the first picture in the sequence story, and place it on top of the first button using Velcro. This continues with each of the subsequent buttons and pictures. Printed sentences can also be used in place of pictures for the sequence story.
Language Master: The Language Master (16) provides a motivating and novel approach to focus on sequence stories, a typically difficult activity for a child with autism. The child listens to the sentence on the card describing a picture, which is part of a sequence story. The child can then put the appropriate picture in sequential order for the story, according to the message given on the Language Master.
Timers: Use of a timer (24) (either egg, kitchen, or Time Timer, Inc.) can assist many students with autism in providing much needed time constraints and structure for completing tasks. When given an unlimited amount of time, these students typically take an unlimited amount of time for completion. The use of timers tends to improve task completion. However, caution should be taken in the use of a timer, since some children may become too highly focused and distracted by the timer, and thus become less attentive to completing the task.
Talk Pad: This device can be used as a motivating way to focus the child's attention on phonics. Each button can be prerecorded with a sound from a 3 - 4 "sound" word (e.g., "dog"). The child then chooses the corresponding letter card to match with the recorded sound (6)
Example: The first button of the Talk Pad is recorded with the sound /d/. The child chooses from a selection of the 3 letters that comprise "dog", as well as the entire written word, and places the matching letter on the first button (using Velcro). The child progresses through each button in the same manner. The final button says "dog", and the child matches the whole written word, "dog", to this final button.
Voice In The Box: This motivating device can be used in numerous ways to focus on various academic skills (6).
Example: Varied levels of reading comprehension skills can be addressed from matching simple single pictures to corresponding written words, to questions regarding various written information (e.g., Animal pictures are velcroed to a top-to bottom button column on the Voice In the Box, with corresponding words recorded under each button. When the child presses one of the pictures, such as "dog", the recorded button message says "dog, find the word dog". The child must then choose which written word matches the picture and its auditory message, and place that written word (using Velcro) on the blank button next to the picture of the "dog". When the child places the written word, "dog", on the blank button, the button responds with a prerecorded message of "d-o-g, dog".
Overhead projector: Billy, a child with autism, expressed extreme interest and motivation to the use of this teaching device, calling it "the most beautiful T.V. screen I have ever seen". Most academic areas lend themselves to the use of an overhead projector:
- Allowing the child to do math work on overhead transparencies;
- Teaching the child spelling words via the overhead projector;
- Focusing on reading comprehension by having the child fill-in-the blank for various questions regarding understanding of previously read materials;
- Focusing on mechanics of writing using the overhead projector.