If your child is having trouble "getting" math and have trouble thinking critically about what they read? They may have difficulty with "fluid reasoning". Fluid reasoning, or Logic and Reasoning is taking information learned and applying it in new ways in order to solve problems. Trucky 3, a game published by Smart Games, can be a challenge for individuals of all ages. This game requires the player to fit unusually shaped blocks fully into the transparent back of a toy truck. In order for the blocks to fit correctly, there is only one solution. There game comes with 3 trucks, a variety of blocks, and increasingly complex puzzle cards. Smart Games also creates other games that support logic, reasoning, and critical thinking.
I had such overwhelming interest when I last posted about this topic, I thought I would expand on it with this article. See below.
The scenario had been set for our adventurer, a long-time client with Asperger's. He had been playing a wizard, a magical healer. He had just learned that in a nearby village was a woman who needed healing. When he arrived at the woman's cottage, however, the woman refused to let him in. So, our young adventurer, our wizard, heroically broke down the woman's door, tackled her to the ground and healed her. Consequently, instead of being treated like a hero, he was chased out of own with pitchforks. The post-game discussion then revolved around why the villagers had reacted so angrily and a great lesson was learned!
In the 1970's really the only tabletop RPG out there was Dungeons and Dragons, and because of its fantasy setting, garnered a poor reputation by some. In the 1980's there were a handful of other RPG systems that were also mostly fantasy based. Now there are published RPG's of every imaginable setting, or you can use any number systems to create your own RPG setting and scenario.
Because of their flexibility, and their scenario driven format, tabletop RPG's can be a powerful tool to teach theory of mind concepts, cause and effect, and even actual historical and political settings. It does take some gaming literacy and a few key ingredients in order to create a successful role playing experience. Below are some general recommendations and guidelines, followed by three recommended role-playing systems for people starting out.
Here are three recommended gaming systems that will be helpful starting points for role playing with kids with Asperger's or high-functioning autism. You must READ the instructions well!
Chronica Fudalis- This is a reasonably priced RPG system that is downloadable and printable. The setting it supports is realistic Medieval Europe so allows for the interweaving of historic events into the story. The example scenario laid out in the instructions is also very strong and helpful for a new game master.
Primetime Adventures- Rather than using dice, this system uses card dealing as its core mechanic. It is intentionally formatted like a television show, with each game playing session being an "episode" for the season. This system can work for even kids around 10 years old in that television and episodes are not a new concept at that point. It also allows for many different settings in that television shows come in a variety of genres, subject matters, and settings.
GURPS- With GURPS, or Generic Universal Role Play System, the sky is the limit when it comes to creating different worlds for your players to explore. Many for-purchase RPG's use GURPS as its foundation.
Remember, role playing is best used as a naturalistic teaching experience in which active learning occurs throughout the game playing experience, rather than being set up from the beginning. Just like things happen in life that are unexpected that we have to deal with, this is the way with well-run RPG. Let the learning and fun happen naturally!
Tabletop Role Playing Games, which for decades have been seen mostly as an adult hobby, a way to make imaginative play acceptable for adults. Over the years though, I have personally watched it greatly benefit teenagers with Asperger s and high functioning autism. It requires them to practice social skills in a safe and controlled environment while still experiencing consequences to their choices within the game. During these games, the player, who designs a character that they pretend to be, has to make decisions for that character. The player has to interact with others players and make predictions about outcomes. Because "theory of mind" can be a challenge for these young adults, they have to exercise these skills as they work with the other team members to accomplish a task. There are many role playing systems out there and settings can vary from science fiction, to fantasy, to post apocalyptic. The sky is the limit when it comes to role playing and it can open up doors for so many kids.
Over the years I have clocked thousands of hours working one-on-one with kids on the autism spectrum, addressing academic and cognitive challenges. During this time, I have learned many things. While the foremost thing I have learned is that every individual with an autism spectrum disorder, is just that, an individual, I have also learned a few "tools of the trade" that I have found to work with a good percentage of my clients with autism.
1) Have an Agenda or Schedule- Kids on the autism spectrum often have trouble tracking time passively, a minute may feel like an hour, especially when doing something challenging. Making a list of tasks to complete and checking them off is a simple way to do this for a higher functioning individual, while a younger, or lower functioning kid would benefit from a consistent visual schedule that can be adorned with smiley faces or stars. It is amazing how effective this is in helping a kid to complete tasks.
One sideline tip...some kids that need more control, let them pick the order of completion, but you pick the tasks.
3) Allow kids Time to Process- Kids on the spectrum often have challenges processing spoken language, and may, in general, have slow processing speed. It is not uncommon for a kid to respond to a question up to two minutes after the question was asked. Continuing to prompt for the question during the wait time, for some kids, actually makes the processing more difficult. It is important, however, to be sure that distraction hasn't taken hold. One way to help this is, if your child can read, by writing the question down.
2) Use a Visual Timer- A timer can be helpful if a kid needs to focus for a specific amount of time with a specific intensity. Individuals often respond to timers in two ways, with anxiety, or by buckling down. A visual timer has little or no ring tone and instead shows the time completed using a visual cue, such as a ring around the timer filing in with a red stripe. The ipad clock app has a very mild ring and a visual element. Timers are also helpful to bring a kid back to work after breaks.
7) When it Comes to Handwritten Work, Less is More- Busy worksheets with multiple math problems can be overwhelming, even if your child has mastered the skill. Write out the same problems on a marker board, cut the worksheet into strips, or cover up some of the problems so only some are visible. Also, find different ways for them to express their knowledge, such as matching games with note cards or fun iPad apps.
4) Integrate The Student's Interests- You may be completely sick of hearing about the Transformers or microwaves, or weather patterns, whatever the intense interest is for your child on the spectrum. That said, the best way for any of us to be productive is for us to be productive in an area that is interesting. Use The Transformers to teach word problems or vocabulary words like "metamorphosis", or use a microwave to teach prepositions...put the popcorn in, on, under, and by the microwave.
6) Plan Breaks- Some kids on the spectrum can work for extended periods of time if they have a couple of 5 minute breaks to stretch their legs and play. Be sure that these breaks have finite time limits and that it is clear that once they are done, it is time to return. Putting the breaks on a visual schedule can be very helpful.
5) Teach In Short Snippets- More is not always best. It is better to schedule an hour with 12 different short tasks than one long task. This will keep your student from shutting down. More can be taught in 5 minutes about compound sentences than in 30 minutes of doing a long worksheet on the skill.
8) Don't Assume- Especially when working on reading comprehension, don't assume that just because something is an "old hat" concept to you, that it is to your child. It is amazing how often the concepts we take for granted, such as the idea that it snows in winter, not in summer, is lost. Many times, the best thing that you can do to help a child understand what they read is to help them understand the world. It is difficult to comprehend something you read if you don't have a certain amount of background knowledge on the subject.
9) Use Visual Media- Show pictures of what you are reading before you read about it, watch videos that mirror the concept you are teaching. Some people think that it is cheating to teach a concept before someone reads about it, but in this case, you are priming the your child for comprehension and success.
10) Be Sensory-Friendly- If a kid needs a sensory seat cushion, a weighted blanket, or to stand up in order to complete the tasks, allow for these things. They will help with focus and let you get more out of study time.
I would love to talk with you further about the work that I do with kids on the autism spectrum. I love to find creative educational solutions for families! Feel free to contact me!
If you are looking for a way to teach problem solving, planning, and strategy, check out resource management games. This is a very boring term for a fun type of strategy board game which requires you to manage various resources including currency, materials, and manpower in order to accomplish goals. These games often skip out on dice and instead use card decks, various types of markers and pawns, and tokens. There are several kids edition resource management games. Two popular ones are Kids of Carcassone and Catan Junior. These are great for kids ages six and seven, with the more adult versions ready for kids around the age of nine. They really require strategy and thought, so be ready to be challenged along side your kids!
Today I took my ten month old son to Sense-Able Gym. It is one of a few sensory gyms in the Dallas area. These "gyms" don't have traditional exercise equipment like ellipticals or weight sets, but rather, they are stocked with hammock-like swings, rock climbing walls, roller slides, tunnels, and "crash pads". These gyms are all about letting a kid improve sensory, motor, and social development by letting them explore sensory experiences like climbing, tugging, swinging, crashing, and falling. Many sensory gyms, besides letting families bring their kids in for free-play or sensory circuits, also have pre-school programs and other fun weekly activities. For children with sensory integration dysfunction or challenges with fine or gross motor skills, sensory gyms can both be a respite from a disorganized world and a place to improve motor skills and sensory processing. For my son, today was all about practicing of his new army crawling skill, enjoying the swings, and about experiencing a new place. When we got home he had a two hour nap. We will definitely be back!
Below, is another mother's experience with Sense-Able Gym in her own words.
"My boys (ages 7 and 2&1/2) have loved Sense-Able Gym ever since we discovered it two years ago. They have plenty of diverse equipment and activities that appeal to kids across varying age levels, from infants and toddlers through preschool and school age. As a busy mom, I love that we don't have to schedule sessions and/or be limited to certain time slots for when we drop in to play. Through ECI being allowed to come have sessions using their equipment and our frequent play visits there, Sense-Able was one of the first places our younger son tried crawling and pulling up to cruise and walk. Our older son has gotten plenty of sensory integration, started becoming braver with swings, climbing, and has been in a karate class there for over a year. Also, we held a joint birthday party there and had enough variety to keep both kids' friends (ages 6 and 1 at the time) happy and busy at the same time. Whether you need therapy equipment to work on, social interaction with other kids and parents, or just an air conditioned indoor gym where your children can play for hours, they are a great affordable option. The ladies who are the owners and their staff are incredibly friendly and helpful."
For kids with sensory challenges, a crowded room where you are required to sit and be quiet can be an unpleasant place. This has made traditional theater experiences quite inaccessible for some kids on the autism spectrum, or with sensory integration dysfunction. The Dallas Children's Theater has worked to change that with sensory friendly showings. They leave the lights up, keep the sound a little lower, and have a quiet place to escape to for kids who need a break. They also include some fun interactive activities before and after performances.
If you are looking for an Amazing science program that can be adapted to multiple age-levels and abilities, check out Real Science 4 Kids! This curriculum has a real hands-on experiment with every lesson, teaches high level science concepts even to the youngest participant, and uses the scientific method as its foundation!
To provide useful information to families regarding educational strategies, interventions, and tools.