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Nava R. Silton, Ph.D

Marymount Manhattan College
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A collection of stories, experiences and uplifting tales regarding the world of disabilities and the individuals who have them.

Creative Lesson Plans For Children On The Autism Spectrum --Featured Author: Jenny Wise

Nava Silton

Because children who fall on the autism spectrum learn differently than other children, it’s important to alter their lesson plans to fit the parameters of their needs. A good education is crucial to helping your child make the right decisions (and steer clear of poor choices) as they get older, so making sure they’re learning as much as possible early on will give them a good head start.

This can prove tricky, however, and some parents and teachers aren’t sure where to start. The first thing to do is make a list of the things your child needs assistance with. Some of the biggest issues that children on the autism spectrum face include communication, motor skills, and language. Engaging them in these areas every day will help them build stronger skills, so it’s imperative to create a lesson that encourages your child to face these challenges. 

Fortunately, there are several games, puzzles, and lessons you can do with your child or student that will aid in these areas. Here are some of the best.

Motor skills board

Fine motor skills are often difficult for children on the autism spectrum to master, so one of the easiest ways to help them learn how to manipulate objects is to create a board full of small items such as zippers, buttons, flaps, and knobs. You can pick up notions at a local crafts store and sew them individually onto a piece of fabric, which can be wrapped around a piece of sturdy cardboard and secured with staples or glue.

Bag full of questions

Many children on the autism spectrum have trouble acknowledging that others have information they don’t, so a game of “What’s In The Bag?” will help them understand how to relay questions to find out what’s inside. Fill the bag with items from around the house that interest your child, such as toy dinosaurs, coins, etc. and guide them toward the right conclusion by encouraging them to ask about shape, size, and color.

Asking for help

Help your child learn to ask for help by providing him with a puzzle that has one piece missing. When he comes to the part that requires this piece, he’ll need to figure out how to request help from an adult. For nonverbal children, this can be a frustrating exercise, so be sure to give him a picture card or work out a hand signal.

Practice handwriting

Writing and grasping a pencil can be difficult tasks for children on the autism spectrum, but you can help them practice by providing a laminated piece of paper full of large letters. Give the child a dry erase marker and have him practice tracing the letters on the laminate.

Self portrait

Art allows children to express themselves in a way they may not be able to with words or signals, so it’s important to give a child on the autism spectrum the tools to create. Set up a mirror and give him a piece of paper and a crayon or paints and have him draw a self portrait. You may do the same to show him how to do it.

Innovative Microsoft App Provides Assistance to Those With Vision Impairment

Nava Silton

Seeing AI, Microsoft’s newly released app that uses artificial intelligence, has the potential to alter the lives of those who are visually impaired. The app is designed to utilize the camera of a smart phone to take images of everything that surrounds the individual. Once the image is captured the app will dictate aloud what is in that image. The technology within the app is able to identify specific items, as well as people. If an individual is having a conversation, the app is able to identify the speaker’s age, facial structures, and emotions. Not only can Seeing AI be used with smartphones, but it can also be used with SMART glasses. The creator of Seeing AI, Saquib Shaikh, went blind at a young age and was able to put his knowledge of the challenges those with visual impairment face into the development of Seeing AI. The success of Seeing Al illustrates the advancement of technology for those with disabilities and how such technologies are helping them gain further independence.

NEW GOOGLE MAPS FEATURES BROADEN ACCESSIBILITY DETAILS

Nava Silton

Google Maps is widely known as one of the most popular resources individuals use to navigate and learn information about new locations. Google Maps has just updated its platform to have additional features, which allows locations and users to provide extensive details to let other users know if the location is accessible for individuals with disabilities. For individuals who have disabilities, or for their caregivers, it is extremely important to know this information in order to plan accordingly. Now users can look in the accessibility section for a location and see if it has accessible entrances, seating, restrooms, parking, and elevators. This update displays Google’s objective to be inclusive to all of its users. As a result of these new features Google has already added accessibility information to more then 7 million places worldwide. Read more about the updated Google Maps accessibility features here

Hurricane Grill & Wings' April Fools' Day "Blue Wing Sauce" Hoax Goes Viral for Autism Awareness

Nava Silton

What at first glance might look like a crazy joke is actually a spectacular fundraising event. Hurricane Grill and Wings released electric blue wings flavored “Blazin Blue Raspberry.” The wings are meant to raise awareness for Autism, which is represented by the color blue. During the month of April for every plate of wings sold in one of the company’s 62 locations, a portion of the proceed will be donated to the Autism awareness organization Els for Autism. The restaurant chain projects raising $15,000 for the organization. Read more about this April Fool’s Day joke turned fundraiser here

ABC’s Speechless Honored For Promoting Disability Awareness

Nava Silton

ABC’s Speechless, a show depicting a teenager with cerebral palsy, has been selected for a special award from the people behind the Emmy Awards. Speechless was named as one of six shows to the Television Academy Honors. The shows receiving this honor were those “that explore and confront significant issues facing our society in a compelling and impactful way.” Speechless was selected for its showcasing of both the highs and the lows of daily life for individuals with disabilities. The main character, played by an actor with cerebral palsy, has dealt with a range of current and common problem for the disability community including inspiration porn and trying to gain independence. Read more about Speechless and the Television Academy Honors here

Motorized Wheelchairs will Now Be Able to Be Waterproof

Nava Silton

Motorized wheelchairs are extremely helpful for individuals with physical disabilities. They allow these individuals to move around with ease without the need of upper body strength or an assistant pushing them around. However, these chairs do lack in one major way. Their batteries and electronics make them insufficient for use at beaches, waterparks and pools. This is where Dr. Rory Cooper comes in. Cooper, who holds a Ph.D in electrical and computer engineering, was approached by park officials of Morgan’s Wonderland to create a waterproof wheelchair. Morgan’s Wonderland of San Antonio is a fully accessible, 25-acre theme park. Cooper’s PneuChairs are going to be available for guest of the newest addition to Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, a $16 million splash park that will open late spring. Learn more about PneuChairs, which name comes from the pneumatic power it runs on, here

PBS Kids to Promote Autism Awareness Month Through Inclusion of Characters with Autism

Nava Silton

In honor of Autism Awareness Month in April PBS Kids is using the platform of their most popular children television shows to educate and promote awareness about autism. This initiative will start with the introduction of Julia, the new Muppet with autism, on Sesame Street. In the brand new episode Big Bird meets Julia for the first time and learn more about her condition. In addition to Julia, PBS Kids will air a two part episode of their popular show Dinosaur Train showcasing a dinosaur who know a lot about the other dinosaurs, but has difficulty with social interactions. Lastly, PBS Kids will be playing reruns of episodes of the show Arthur which include a character named Carl who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Learn more about PBS Kids efforts to promote autism awareness in the Huffington Post article here

The Chocolate Spectrum Cafe and Academy Trains Teaches Job Skills to Individuals with Autism While Making Delicious Chocolate

Nava Silton

Just in case you needed another reason to eat chocolate, The Chocolate Spectrum, in Jupiter, Florida makes delicious, gourmet chocolate while teaching job skills to individuals with autism. The Chocolate Spectrum was started by Valerie Herskowiz in 2013 and became a brick and mortar shop in 2016. The original purpose of the shop was to employ individuals with autism and other developmental disorders. Making people happy with irresistible chocolate and providing fun chocolate making classes, was just an outlet of achieving this goal. After the vast success of The Chocolate Spectrum, Valerie realized she had the opportunity to do more than employ individuals with developmental disorders, she could be an inspiration for future autism entrepreneurs. For this reason she started a blog to chronicle her journey as a business woman. She has vowed to post one blog each week as long as she has readers. You can view her blog here (https://thechocolatespectrumblog.com) and you can learn more about The Chocolate Spectrum/order chocolate here

Alto: The First Advantage Club For Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families

Nava Silton

There are many different special rewards cards for a variety of populations from students, to senior citizens to military veterans and now there is an advantage club for people with disabilities. Alto is America’s first advantage club for people with disabilities and their families. The company was inspired by Moshe Gaon’s nephew Erez who was born with a rare disease and complex cognitive and physical disabilities. Moshe started by creating a global disability community, yoocanfindme.com and after a year of amazing success realized that there was a great need for something more. This was when Alto was born. Becoming a member of Alto only cost $4.99 a month and provides community members with a variety of benefits, rewards and discounts from thousands of different companies spanning genres from entertainment to shopping to outdoor recreation to sports and fitness. Savings are personalized to the needs of the family. Check out the Alto website here: https://altolife.com

Mom make Illustrations to Define Words Necessary as a Parent with a Child with Autism

Nava Silton

As is often the case when a parent finds out that their child has autism they are thrown into a world they know nothing about and have little time to learn. This was the case for mom Lisa Smith. Smith’s youngest son Tate has autism. As a concerned and loving mother, Smith has spent much time researching and reading about autism. During her research she often had to stop to look up the definitions of words. These words have now become a part of her daily vocabulary. Smith writes a blog chronicling her parenting called Quirks and Chaos. She was going to post a blog post with the list of the words and their definitions that she has learned over the years. She decided to take what could have been a somewhat boring vocabulary list and make it entertaining as well as more visually appealing by adding illustrations. She defined words including scripting, IEP, echolalia, stim, transition, and elopement among many others. You can check out her “Autism 101” vocabulary illustrations here