Helping Kids with Autism

Autism – What is it, what can I do to help my child, what resources are available, and what Talk It Rock It products are best for kids with autism?

What is Autism?

You undoubtedly arrived at this page to get information for a child or children with autism. My hope is to suggest some things you can do to help communication and interaction and also to suggest other websites that can give you an overview of what autism is. A child with autism shows deficits in social communication and social interaction. You may also find restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

The range of abilities and challenges in children with autism is huge. The term, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers exactly to that. Children with autism fall on a very large spectrum, making it difficult to fully explain the similarities, differences, and treatment suggestions on one website. The focus of this page will come from specific things I learned when working with my young students and when coaching parents.

What can I do to help my child?

My experience with children with autism – A few thoughts by Rachel Arntson, M.S.-CCC, Speech-Language Pathologist

Most of my career, I worked with young children at the early stages of communication. Many of my students were diagnosed with autism. Because I did home visits, I got to observe, first hand, the joys, struggles, challenges and solutions experienced by caregivers over the years. In addition to hands-on experience, I have also had extensive training in the field of autism and, in particular, toddlers and preschoolers.  Here are some things I have learned.

Parents – You are amazing!

You know your child. You know what he/she likes and doesn’t like. You have undoubtedly tried many things to help build communication and interaction. Some things have probably worked and others have miserably failed, but you have persisted. You have probably figured out how to avoid or decrease tantrums and meltdowns. In knowing this, here are some suggestions.

  1. Keep trying – Keep exploring ways to help your child communicate and interact.
  2. Watch your child – What does he love? We can’t always do just the things your child loves, but those activities will be ones that can be more easily tweaked at first to improve his/her communication skills. Write a list of all the things that your child loves and also what he/she doesn’t like to do. How you approach the likes and dislikes will be different. I have written a book, WE CAN TALK, that discusses many of the ways that I taught parents to navigate their child’s world and teach them along the way.
  3. Get support – Seek out services in your area. Professionals who specialize in autism will be able to guide you in areas where you may not be familiar. Find programs that include you in the intervention process. You are the most important person for your child, and it is so important for you to be involved in what your child is learning.
  4. Know that intervention helps. 6-12 months from now, look back at what you have learned and what your child has accomplished. Rejoice in every accomplishment. Know that your child has unique talents and unique needs. At first it can feel like you are trying to take 10 different puzzles and somehow fit them together to make a whole. Down the road, the puzzle you are piecing together will become clearer and more complete.

These are very general suggestions, but they are the essence of my years supporting parents and kids experiencing the puzzle of autism. In my direct early intervention coaching with parents, I get very specific, but everything started with those basic thoughts. As you begin this journey, see your child as just a kid who happens to have unique talents and challenges but who has a desire to learn. Finding the right tools is part of the journey.

Now, let’s get specific –

Daily routines –

Are you struggling to help your child participate in basic routines? Does he have trouble following routine directions? Does he communicate what he wants and doesn’t want? Here are my suggestions for how to guide your child with daily routines.

JUMP into Daily Routines

Each letter in the word, JUMP, stands for a particular technique or thoughts on how to help your child during daily routines.

J – This letter stands for JOB. With every activity in a child’s life, he or she needs to know what his job is. It may appear that your child doesn’t want to do a specific activity because he looks disinterested, unfocused, and doesn’t follow verbal directions related to the activity. Very often, kids don’t know what their JOB is and, therefore, they may have a fit because the task is confusing. To be an active participant in an activity, determine what is expected, step by step, of your child, and keep the jobs consistent for the routine. Creating the necessary supports to help your child be successful is crucial. These supports can include visual schedules, music, positioning, etc., but the specifics are best addressed by someone who is directly working with you and your child.

U – UNREGULATED children cannot learn effectively and cannot UNDERSTAND the world around them and the words said to them. Most importantly, observe your child carefully and know when he or she is starting to escalate in frustration. When you see that happening, determine what works to settle him down. It may be limiting your use of words. It may be using visuals. It may be trying a calming song. It may be taking a break. It may be that your child just needs to practice that routine many times so that he understands the routine is not going to change. Consistent practice can create a pattern of understanding which then converts to a more regulated child.

The suggestions are so numerous and are specific to your child. Just know that regulation is important. But keeping your child regulated does not mean that you have no expectations for your child. It just means that you need to give your child the support he or she needs to be successful with the tasks that are necessary for him/her to do.

M – MUSIC, MOVEMENT, and MOTIVATION can be very helpful with daily routines. Music and movement can also be helpful in teaching children common vocabulary, concepts, direction following and questions.

MUSIC – Music can help children stay calm and regulated. Using songs during a daily routine can help a child know how long a particular activity is going to be. For example, when singing a song during a tooth brushing routine, the child will know that the task will be done when the song is done. This helps a child stay regulated during that activity. When you relate the words of the song to the words used during the routine, that is a win-win – Your child learns the words of the activity PLUS stays regulated.

MOVEMENT – To establish a connection to a child, I love combining movement with a song. Swinging a child while singing “Swinging, swinging, now we STOP”, rocking them in a laundry basket while singing, Row Your Boat, or rocking back and forth while singing a song entitled, “Roly poly” can be wonderful activities to establish interaction, eye contact, shared enjoyment, and communicative intent. Movement combined with music can become a way to establish the crucial connection between you and your child.

MOTIVATION – As I mentioned earlier, focus on the tasks that a child enjoys. Those motivating activities can often be the easiest to promote communication skills. But even in daily routines that are not preferred by your child, you can explore ways to make the activity more MOTIVATING for him/her. Music and movement are certainly 2 things you can use. Visual schedules and video modelling an activity may also be helpful. Giving him a job can certainly create motivation and a sense of accomplishment and participation. Always try to remember ways to make any activity as motivating as possible for your child.

P – PREDICTABLE routines will help a child stay regulated, learn vocabulary, and establish connections with loved ones. Think of the steps involved in an activity and follow the steps the same way each day. Think about the words that you will say in a routine, and keep them the same. Perhaps even consider using a song to complete the routine. Also consider creating a visual schedule illustrating each step in the routine so that your child can learn the steps through visuals versus just words. When your child can participate in the routine and stay regulated, you can vary it to help your child cope with changes. Flexibility is important for children to learn, but consistency and predictability are the first techniques to pursue. Changing the routine comes later.

What routines do you target first to make them predictable? I usually look at daily routines in two ways –

  1. Routines that are difficult for a child.
  2. Routines that your child enjoys.

Creating predictability in both is great, but you may be able to expect more of the child when he/she is enjoying the routine.  You may also be able to vary a routine more with one that a child knows. To give specific suggestions here for your child would be unwise since your child is unique. Please get support from professionals who live in your area and can guide you with specific suggestions related to your child and your family.

Diagnosing and helping young children with autism – Are there any resources?

Yes, there are many resources for diagnosing and treating children with autism. My career was spent mostly with young children from birth to age 3 and also with the preschool age, 3-5. When I give information about certain topics, my focus is on young children. That is my area of expertise, so that is the age group I feel most comfortable in giving suggestions.

www.Autism Navigator.com is a must-see site – I have one major resource to recommend to parents who have a young child with autism and to professionals who serve them. Even if you work with older children, this website is amazing. I was trained by Amy Wetherby, PhD and professor at Florida State University. Dr. Wetherby created Autism Navigator, and I think it is the one of the best resources in teaching how to recognize autism in young children and how to provide intervention. Please check out www.AutismNavigator.com, look at their Red Flags checklist, their lists including 16 Gestures by 16 Months, and their many videos that compare and contrast typical communication and interaction with the communication and interaction seen in children with autism. This site is so valuable and will guide you better than I can do in this site.

Using Talk It Rock It Products for Children with Autism

Many people ask what the best products are for a child with autism. Here is a very general suggestion of Talk It Rock It’s best tools to use for kids at the beginning stages of communication:

          Kids with Autism Bundle

  1. Imitation Exploration Songs Set 1This song set is our most basic of sets and encourages beginning imitation and early vocabulary.
  2. Animal Face PostersThe Animal Face Posters are my favorite tools for teaching imitation, eye contact, and the give and take of communication.
  3. Blast Off Board Starter SetThe Blast Off Board Starter Set is AMAZING for helping children learn to point to pictures.
  4. Talk With Me – Big Book of Exclamations 2Talk With Me is a must-have book for combining gestures, simple, first words, and noises.
  5. WE CAN TALK – Tips for Enhancing Your Child’s Speech and LanguageWE CAN TALK is a book for parents that includes 9 basic techniques for helping a child’s communication skills.

Of all of our products on our website, the above 5 items are my biggest suggestions for working with young children with autism. If you purchase them all individually, the cost would be $122. With the Autism Bundle, you can purchase all of these items for $100. You can also go to each of the website pages of each item to read more or watch videos about these great products.

Talk It Rock It Songs, Printable Visuals, and Movies for Children with Autism

Our songs have been very valuable for professionals and for parents in helping their child learn vocabulary, learn to imitate, learn to follow directions, and much more. Our songs were created by a speech-language pathologist and contain specific speech and language goals and techniques embedded within each song.

Talk It Rock It songs

  • Are recorded with adults and kids taking verbal turns to encourage imitation and verbal turn taking.
  • Come with printable visuals and/or movies. Children with autism benefit from visuals for teaching vocabulary.
  • Contain simple vocabulary of high interest. From bubbles to puppies, Talk It Rock It creates songs that kids love.
  • Are repetitive. For example, the word, bye, in the Bye Song, is repeated 73 times in the 2 minute song.
  • Are great for all kids, but especially kids with autism.

There are so many other benefits to using Talk It Rock It songs. It is best to listen to the song samples and view the printable visuals and movie samples to get a true picture of our songs.

Here are some other general suggestions for using music with your child with autism.

  1. Music should be a part of your everyday life: Do you find yourself making up little songs as you go throughout your day? Does your child pay attention when you sing? Does your child react in any way to music? Does it serve the purpose of calming your child? If you answer YES to any of these questions, I applaud you for using music in your life and the life of your child. Explore different types of music and observe your child’s reaction. If you notice a positive response, expand on it. Make up songs as you go. Children don’t care about the quality of the song or your musical ability. The interaction that takes place is the important thing.
  2. Finding and using your child’s interests: To enter the world of a child with autism, you may need to start with your child’s interests. For example, some children LOVE trains, and for that reason we have written two songs related to trains. Use Express Train (Imitation Exploration Set 1) or Booga Choo Choo (Imitation Exploration Set 1) and create your own train gestures – moving around in a circle as you sing the words.
    Maybe your child loves animals, bubbles, cars or slides. Many of the songs we have written focus on objects or activities that children do love.

    If we don’t have a song that emphasizes your child’s interests, we suggest that you create your own songs that emphasize the unique items your child loves. In our song sets, Talk It Rock It has included instrumental tracks that allow you to write your own songs related to your child’s interests.
  3. Common Vocabulary: If your child is just beginning the process of learning speech and language, we recommend starting with common vocabulary. We have found that music is a great way to reinforce the comprehension and production of words common to a child’s world. Repetition is the key, and in our songs you will hear much of that. For example, the word “go” is repeated 82 times in the song Go (Rock and Roll with a Language Goal Set 2). Other songs such as Puppy, Puppy, Puppy, Baby Blowing Bubbles, and Hi (Imitation Exploration Set 1) and I Love (Rock and Roll with a Language Goal Set 2) are excellent examples of how we use music to teach common words and phrases. Use our printable pictures or movies to correspond with the songs and make up actions of the words to the songs. Sing these songs both with recording and without.
  4. Getting your child’s attention: Children with autism are often inattentive to others. Using songs such as Noisy, Noisy, Noisy (Imitation Exploration Set 1) that emphasize silly sounds or exaggerated movements are excellent to get your child’s attention. Add gestures and props to the sneezing, coughing, kissing, and yawning, so that your child will become more watchful. Make it fun! Make it animated. Make it silly when possible.
  5. Daily Routines: We encourage you to use our songs to discuss the steps to an activity or daily routine. Our Owie song (Imitation Exploration Set 1) gives children practice saying power words such as “owie” and “all gone” This song has been known to give children the words to say during natural “owie” occurrences. Other daily routine songs (and there are so many in our song sets) include Brush, Uh Oh, Slide, Scrambled Eggs (Rock and Roll with a Language Goal Set 2), Bath Time, and Let’s Eat (Imitation Exploration Set 1). Our hope is that the words in our songs will transfer into the real world of your child’s functional communication and not just provide musical entertainment.
  6. Imitation: Many children with autism need to learn the process of imitation, and our song sets are packed with encouragement and cues to imitate. The cue, “Your turn” is used frequently in our songs. There are so many imitation opportunities that are too numerous to mention in one small paragraph. The level of imitation significantly varies in our songs ranging from single vowels and noises to multi-syllable words and phrases.
  7. Use Multiple Senses: We encourage a multi-sensory approach to our songs. Act out whatever songs you can, using your body or a stuffed animal. The Monkey Song (Imitation Exploration Set 1) is a great example of a song using verbal imitation AND movement. Use common objects or pictures whenever you can.
  8. Social Interaction: Learning social games and interaction skills is of utmost importance for children with autism. Our songs, Round We Go, Ball, Ball, Ball,(Rock and Roll with a Language Goal Set 2), and Horsie, Horsie (Animals Movin’ and Groovin’ Song Set) are great examples of social games with songs.
  9. Responses to Questions: We encourage you to use our songs to teach responses to questions. Our songs, What’s That? and What Happened? (Rock and Roll with a Language Goal Set 2) is an example of how to use music to understand and answer ‘Wh” questions. This song could be acted out with a puppet in a question-answer game. Other types of questions to practice include visual or verbal choice questions as modeled in our Milk and Juice song (Imitation Exploration Set 1). The list is endless on how to use music to help your child learn functional communication. We, at Talk It Rock It, know that music can help your child learn and can be an enjoyable activity that you can do together.

Testimonial

Hi my name is Marcia and I have a daughter with autism. She was diagnosed around the age of 3 1/2. She had very limited speech, mostly saying “mama, “da da,” and “book.” She was also using basic sign language.

A person who worked with my daughter doing individual therapy sessions suggested I take a look at www.TalkItRockIt.com to see what products they offer. When I went to the website I was amazed at the songs they offered and decided to order them.

My daughter, now 8 is actually singing the songs word for word because of these incredible songs. She gets so excited when we put them on for her to listen. We recently purchased “Rock and Roll with a Language Goal,” and she loves it. I know that Talk It Rock It has been a remarkable tool in assisting my daughter with her speech.

This product would be wonderful for all children with or without speech difficulties.

Marcia from Pennsylvania

Blast Off Board

I have found the Blast Off Board a must-have for children with autism. There are so many ways you can use the board, and it is motivating and fun. Kids with autism are often able to match colors and shapes but may not be able to point to pictures upon request. The Blast Off Board gives children motivation to point to pictures by poking their finger through the holes on the back side of the board and watching the magnet fall out the other side. This 2-sided board can be expanded into other boards with additional magnet and overlay sets. If you want to help your child point to pictures, follow directions, answer questions, imitate words and phrases, and many other tasks, the Blast Off Board can be a great tool for you.

Testimonials

My son is using the magnets from the Blast Off Board on the dishwasher and is saying the color of the magnet and putting it back in its original holder (the big magnet you cut the magnets out of) like a puzzle. He’s also saying a few of the words (boy, wheel) too! Some I hadn’t even told him what they were yet! I’ll take it! Worth every penny to get a new word!!

Patti D from Georgia

Thank you very much Rachel- I am a speech-language pathologist who works in a public school with a special needs preschool.  We have 3 classrooms of children with lots of differing ability levels, several children on the autism spectrum, late talkers, and some behavior disorders as well.  Your songs are a HUGE HIT! The kids are wild until I turn on Talk It Rock It songs, and they all sit and listen. We have only been at it about 2 weeks, but some of the children are really starting to participate. The teachers cannot believe the improvement they are seeing in just 2 weeks! The songs are great and the pictures are a great size for group time and are interesting enough to hold their attention. Good stuff!  Keep it coming. Thanks again,

Lori Kennedy MS CCC/SLP Parkview Primary School, Bedford, Indiana

I want you to know that I love your songs for the 2 year old language delayed kids I work with. We read the same book and sing the same song for 1 month. The kids will imitate the motions and words, and parents are reporting they are singing at home and singing in the car. When they get to school in the morning, they begin singing…They especially love the Monkey Song. What more could you want to increase language in a 2 year old?

Jill Walton, Speech Language Pathologist

I am a speech-language pathologist working primarily in the birth to 3 Early Intervention population. I have been using the Blast Off Board now for about two weeks and love it for my two year olds that have difficulty with speech production. The children are very motivated to “play” with the set, and I can elicit more trials with targeted sounds/syllables/words using this set!  Thank you for providing such a valuable tool.

Judy Stubbmann