Teaching Social Communication to Children with Autism

These manuals by Brooke Ingersoll and Anna Dvortcsak are great extensions to the STAR program, which is the alternate curriculum within my structured classroom. There is one which is “a practitioner’s guide to parent training” and one that is “a manual for parents”. I use both of these manuals to help coach and support my learner’s families. Especially during these times, our families really need the “why” when we are asking them to implement strategies at home. We are no longer in the classroom to show them the successes that we are having, so we might need to try a little harder to get the buy in that our learners need. Families feel stressed. They have instantly become therapists, related service team members, and teachers. Some for more than one child in their home! These manuals explain the “why” to the strategies and lessons we will review and give a nice layout to what we will be working on with families.

Break it Down

These lessons are broken down into 3 parts, which I will use throughout the year. When we were in the classroom, I was able to model with their children what we were working on in the classroom and how to implement the strategies. Now that we are meeting in a virtual setting, we need to break it down even more. My learners are getting information from the speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, social worker, physical therapist, English as a New Language teacher, and me! That is a lot of strategies, a lot of lessons, and a lot of information for our families. I am breaking down the family involvement piece even more so that we can take one step at a time. We want our families to be able to ask questions, show concerns, model what we are asking, and gather feedback from us without becoming overwhelmed.

Part 1

The first family involvement day is reviewing our plan. We will discuss the following:

  • the challenges they might face and the possible solutions to those challenges
  • the plans that we have for the year of family coaching
  • a rationale as to why the carryover in the home is important
  • modification that their child might need
  • resources they might find beneficial

Part 2

Part two of the program dives into the lessons and “homework” that we have for families. For a virtual setting, I have slides that I will share with families so that they have access to everything that we go over. Part 2 starts implementing the lessons in the home. They are all broken down in a way to help the families and learners feel successful. We are there to help coach them through and answer questions as they need. It is also nice to have families involved and seeing other families doing it as well. They can use each other as teammates and they have another family who is going through something similar as them. The lessons in part 2 are as follows:

  • setting your home up for success
  • follow your child’s lead
  • imitate your child
  • animations
  • model and expand language
  • playful obstruction
  • turn taking
  • communicative temptations
  • expressive and receptive language
  • social imitation
  • teaching your child to play

Part 3

The last part of the program that I use for family involvement days reviews the guidelines of the parent training program.

  • review of setting your home up for success
  • making play interactive
  • modeling and expanding language
  • create opportunities to engage your child
  • engaging opportunities for your child to communicate
  • putting it all together

This program also has an appendix of 30 forms for the families to use. They range from data sheets, flowcharts, schedules, and surveys. Always listen to the families and run your coaching based off of their needs and their most concerning areas.

During remote learning, many of my 1:1 Zoom lessons, recorded videos, recorded sessions, recorded “homework” assignments are videos of me running the programs and lessons with my son. I use family involvement days to show them again so the families can also see it being done. When we are in the classroom, I also send families recordings of their child doing these lessons with me. This will help with consistency, helps teach generalization of skills, it helps explain the ideas we are trying to convey, and can also act as a video model for the learner. Family coaching is always important to me. Now more than ever, we need our learner’s families to be on board and they also need to feel successful when we are coaching them!

Heather Hoeft
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