Lámh Story: Brown Bear Brown Bear, by Eric Carle, read with Lámh signs.

Today I am sharing another video of a children’s storybook signed with Lámh. The book is called Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Written and illustrated by Bill Martyn and Eric Carle. You might know it already as it’s a children’s classic.

It’s one of my favourite stories to read to pre-schoolers as I can teach them many words for animals and colours. It is ideal for children who already use some single words or signs, as this book will help them to put words/signs together into short sentences.

I love this book also because it has lots of repetition; it keeps repeating the sentence I see, a which is a great language exercise for young children.

I read this book using Lámh, but of course, you can adapt it and use other communication systems, such as PECS, or just use spoken words for your child.

Once your child knows the story and begins to copy the signs or words for it, you can do other activities to expand on what they are learning. Create a photo album, or just look at photos together on your phone and while you are doing that, say and sign sentences like I see grandad, or I see mammy, to keep practising saying or signing short sentences.

I hope your child enjoys the story.

Would you like me to read your child’s favourite storybook? Let me know what it is in the comments below as I am looking for new stories to record.

Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive weekly sign videos and more articles to help you communicate better with your child.

Brown Bear Brown Bear, by Eric Carle, read with Lámh signs

Where’s Spot

I’m going to read a book for you! I read books for my own children all the time and I am sure you do too. Books are great for engaging all kids especially at this time when we find ourselves indoors quite a bit. Today I want to read and sign a story that I think your children will enjoy.

The book is called, Where’s Spot?.

In this story, your child will learn the signs for different animals, and also the signs for prepositions such as in, under and behind.

Are you ready to find Spot?

Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive weekly sign videos and more articles to help you communicate better with your child.

Where’s Spot

First And Next Boards

First and next boards are very simple schedules that we use to help children with autism. They can also be of benefit to any child or student who finds it difficult to transition from one activity to another.

The boards help to show what activity has to be done now, and what has to be done next. They are generally presented on a piece of A4 paper or card with the words First/Next displayed clearly. 

First represents what’s happening now, and next represents what’s going to happen later. Put one symbol to represent first, and another one to show next, then explain to your student what task needs to be done now, and what needs to be done next. Use Lámh signs alongside your instructions to further help your student to understand the exercise.

I tend to use real-life pictures of each task with my students. For students that cannot identify pictures yet, I like to use the actual object. For example, I stick a lego brick on the first box and a playdough container on the next box. However, I use symbols for older students. Using symbols helps to simplify the work involved in printing and laminating the boards, as you could, for example, have a symbol for tabletop work, and another symbol for garden time, rather than having to print lots pictures of specific activities.

If you want to introduce the First/Next board to a child for the very first time, make sure you select two activities that the child enjoys. If you know your child or student well, you will know their favourite activities. If you don’t know the child yet, observe the child in the classroom or at home and take note of the toys or activities they enjoy the most.

Prepare the First/Next board by selecting an activity the child likes in the first part, and an activity the child likes even more for the next part. I always begin with two activities children enjoy so they are naturally interested in the boards. If you were to choose an activity that the child doesn’t enjoy with the promise of a reward, they may refuse to take part! So keep it fun and interesting until the student develops the habit of using the First/Next boards consistently. Gradually introduce more challenging activities first and always a preferred activity or a reward next.

Over time, we want to teach children to delay gratification, a skill that is very important for all children, not only children with special needs. Children will be likely to succeed in school, and in life, if they can delay gratification for a better outcome in the future. It’s an important lesson to learn that first we have to complete our obligations and afterwards we can then have time to have fun or relax!

For a toddler that might simply be First, you brush your teeth, Next storytime. Whereas an older child might be able to understand that First, they have to do their homework, Next they get to watch some TV.

One of the very first schedules that I introduced to my son Sebastian was First car Next shop. I did this because he would often become distressed every time we got ready to leave our house, he couldn’t understand why I was interrupting his play. I started showing him the relevant pictures for the activity consistently, and after some time, he began to understand that we were leaving to go to the shops. With time, the battles to get him ready ended, as he was now excited to go to the shops (and get a little treat of course!).

I used the First and Next boards for years, particularly to encourage my son to do things he didn’t like, such as homework. We had a board for First homework/Next Ipad, which is a reward that works for him. Once this habit was established, we didn’t need the visual supports anymore. Now he knows that his homework has to be done before he gets to play on the Ipad, it’s now part of his routine. He doesn’t need to be reminded anymore, he now does his chores and his homework, and he knows he can relax afterwards.

I understand that introducing visual supports might seem tedious to begin with – but it’s really worth the extra effort. Over time and with consistency, you will see your child co-operating more at home and in school, and developing good habits that will be hugely beneficial to both you and your child or student long into the future.

Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive weekly sign videos and more articles to help you communicate better with your child.

The Colour Song

On my blog this week, I’ll be sharing a song with you! I am certainly not a good singer, but I do sing all the time for my students and I am sure you do too – particularly to the younger ones. The song is called “Look at the Colours Over You” and it focuses on teaching 4 colours. I usually sing this song during parachute games. My students love parachute games, and they are great for engaging all children, including those who are quite active and find it hard to sit still.

Before I sing this song, I ask my students to lie down on their backs, on mats on the floor and look at the colours on the parachute. Another teacher in the class and two older students gently shake the parachute over the children, I don’t hold the parachute as I need my hands free for signing.

First, I point and label all the colours on the parachute, and then I sing “Look at the Colours Over You”. It’s an easy song to sing along and to sign, would you like to learn it and sing and sign it to your students? Follow the link below to see the video!

Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive weekly sign videos and more articles to help you communicate better with your child.

The Colour Song

Cooking With Your Child

Have you heard of Temple Grandin? She is an American autistic professor and an advocate for the rights of autistic people. I attended one of her talks in Dublin a few years back. At the talk, many parents asked her how many hours of early intervention our children should be receiving. Temple delivered straight, down to earth and practical answers that I found very refreshing.

One of the things she spoke about was how to help children learn and develop in school and at home, in addition to their therapy sessions. She advised the audience to encourage children to help out, and to give them responsibilities. She felt very strongly about this particular idea. 

Temple spoke at length about cooking together, which really stuck with me and I have since introduced this in my own home by cooking more with my boys. This week I’ll be talking about cooking and baking with children. I’ll share some of the ideas Temple Grandin spoke about, and some others that I have learned while observing my own kids in the kitchen.

Involving children in the kitchen can be quite messy – but I guarantee the mess will be worth it! Cooking and baking provide so many opportunities for development, below are a few examples…

Exploring textures

The kitchen can stimulate all senses, which can be both good and bad for autistic children. Focus on the textures your child likes touching, and you can gradually introduce less preferred textures. Most ingredients used for baking can be fun to explore for children with autism: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate chips or other dry ingredients.

Sieve the flour, pour the milk, taste the chocolate, smell the vanilla, and let your child crack and play with the eggshells if they want to. Mixing ingredients together can also be interesting especially if the mixture forms a wet paste which can often be a more challenging texture for autistic kids.

At home, we enjoy making pizza dough, and I encourage my children to help me knead the dough. This wet texture can be challenging for children who have some sensory difficulties. I offer a small piece of dough to my child with autism, as he doesn’t like the feel of it, but he is ok if it’s just a small amount. I encourage him to squeeze it, poke it, and roll it with a rolling pin or with his hands.

Some children may love exploring textures, while others may hate it! Never force a child to touch or explore foods/ingredients if they really don’t want to – instead they can help pour and stir, without having to touch the food directly.

Developing language and conversation

Having fun in the kitchen will also naturally encourage interaction and communication with your child.

If your child is using a communication system such as PECS or an IPad, ensure that you have it in the kitchen with you. Make sure to prepare in advance, if you need to add any pictures or symbols for the ingredients, and any keywords you might want to work on. If your child communicates with Lámh, practice the signs you will need.

Remember to create opportunities to communicate. If your child wants to pour the milk into the mixture, just give them a little bit of milk in a jug. When the milk is all gone, ask your child “Do you want more milk”? while using signs, and encourage your child to sign back to you. Or you could offer chocolate chips in a bag for example that the child can’t open, and ask your child “Will I open the bag“? and wait for your child to sign for open back to you.

Clearly label all the items as you are using them and make sure you communicate slowly and clearly. Sometimes we use too much language, and that can be confusing for children who have a language delay. Rather than overusing chat and conversation, use clear short sentences and repeat words and new concepts several times, so they learn them. With older children, you can expand on this and create opportunities for full conversations. I encourage my older students to tell me how they would like to decorate the cupcakes, to tell me about the flavours they like and the ones they don’t, or even give me instructions on how to make the mix.

Listening and following instructions

Encouraging children to cook, provides a great opportunity to practice the skills of listening and following instructions.

I find it helpful to have visual supports to hand. I normally print pictures of all the ingredients and symbols of the instructions to follow. I use the pictures to reinforce the verbal instructions I give to them.

Practice following instructions by asking your child “pass me the sugar, or find the eggs please”. Encourage them to listen and carry out the instruction. As children develop better attention and concentration, you can challenge them a bit more by asking them to give you two items together – for example, “pass me the spoon and the bowl please”. Or you could ask them for an item that is not on the counter, for example, “get the eggs”, so the child has to retain that information in their head, walk across the kitchen, open the fridge, find the eggs, and get back to you. You are practising how to pay attention and focus.

As children learn to read, you can begin to incorporate reading to this task. Print easy recipes for children, most of them have simple clear instructions and some illustrations. Let the child read and follow the instructions as independently as possible.

Maths

Cooking also involves maths and problem solving, although most of us don’t even realise how much we rely on our mathematical skills in the kitchen! Baking a cake will require counting the eggs, weighing flour and sugar, measuring liquids, dividing the dough, and timing the oven. You can practice the whole maths curriculum while making cupcakes!

If your child is young, you might just practice counting ingredients or looking at the numbers on the weighing scales.  

Challenge older children with more advanced concepts such as dividing a pizza in half or in quarters. Or even more, decide you want to make a bigger cake this time and help your child figure out how to double all the ingredients.

Fine motor skills

Working in the kitchen will also encourage children to practice hand dexterity. Baking will require opening bags, unwrapping ingredients, pouring from a jug to a bowl, stirring with a spoon, rolling with a pin, and you can also introduce cutting with a plastic knife or picking up very small ingredients such as raisins. All of these activities will help children to develop better hand and finger dexterity.

You can also incorporate bigger movements to help develop shoulder strength, which is also very important for good fine motor skills. You can practice arm and shoulder strength activities by asking your child to help you wipe the counters with a cloth, or by asking your child to carry some heavier items like bringing a flour bag from the table to the counter.

Independence skills

Independence is one of the most important skills that we can teach to all children, but particularly to children with special needs. The advice that I always give to special needs assistants in schools, is that their goal needs to be to “walk themselves out of the job”. That means, that you are not there to do things for the child, but you are there to teach the child how to do things for themselves.

Baking together can be an easy and fun way to introduce children to the kitchen and cooking. Make it a fun and pleasant experience for them. In time, maybe they can learn to make themselves a sandwich, pack their school lunch and to take responsibility for setting up the table and cleaning up after meals.

Your turn! Do you cook or bake with your child at home? Have you tried baking with your students in school? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive weekly sign videos and more articles to help you communicate better with your child.