Autism TodayTV Explores Fitness and Autism

What’s good for the body is good for the brain.

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Some studies suggests that physical activity may help with students’ cognitive control and ability to pay attention which can lead to better school grades. That sounds like a no brainer.

Many of us think that exercise is something we do in the gym, tread mill, weight lifting and so on, however; to a kid, exercise means playing games like tag, green light red light and generally just being active. Many get exercise at school during gym period, recess or even riding their bikes.

To our kiddos on the spectrum, exercise may not come as easy for reasons like, socialization challenges, coordination challenges. While it may take extra effort to get a child with autism to be physically active, the benefits are well worth the effort.

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In addition to the aforementioned, physical activity plays an important part in fitness strength and flexibility, it decreases anxiety, depression, tension, fatigue and anger, and protects against disease and injury while promoting creativity, cognition, attention and communication.

The key is to make fitness a fun experience.

In this episode, we go to Sonoma State in California to explore two programs that are designed for students with special needs. It gives them the opportunity to participate in physical education while building social skills.

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iPad Technology for Non-Verbal Individuals with Autism

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VAST (Video Assisted Speech Technology)
“Brings true meaning to the educational power of apps for kids. Extraordinary work”
–apps4kids

Exciting New iPad Technology for Non-Verbal Individuals with Autism

According to recent statistics, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S. today. Autism affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. About 40% of children with autism do not talk at all. Another 25%-30% of children with autism have some words at 12-18 months of age and then lose them. Others may speak, but not until later in childhood. In 20 years there has been a 600% increase in the cases of autism. About a third to a half of those individuals will not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication needs.

Thanks to recent technology like the iPad/iPod Touch a groundbreaking and exciting therapeutic technique to teach non-verbal students to use spoken language has emerged. VAST Autism 1 – Core, VAST Pre-Speech and VAST Songs (apps available from iTunes) combines best practices, video modeling, music therapy and literacy with auditory cues to provide unprecedented support for the development of vocabulary, word combinations and communication. What this means is that students simply watch a video of a syllable, word, phrase, exercise, functional activity or a song being produced, see the visual representation and hear it auditorily. It’s like watching a close-up movie of someone talking, singing or performing oral motor activities with subtitles. The VAST technique is also extremely effective in providing specialized therapy to help individuals with motor planning disorders, non-fluent aphasia, apraxia, deaf and hard of hearing, speak for themselves.

App Screen shots

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Speech has always been a challenge for individuals on the spectrum. Therapies for non-verbal students may include teaching sing language, gestures, picture exchange and/or voice output devices. To teach verbalizations therapists attempt to have students repeat sounds or words from their model. The idea is that a student watches the therapist articulate the target word, sound and movements then attempts to reproduces those movements or sound(s). This technique does not usually work well due to the challenges students on the spectrum have with making eye contact or looking at a person’s face. It is difficult to see how the articulators move when the ability to look at the face is fleeting. Technology, iPad and iPod, along with the VAST technique, has made it possible to effectively demonstrate how sounds, words, movements and word combinations are produced without the challenges of face to face interactions. Students with autism will intently watch VAST videos on their devices free from the distraction of personal interaction.

When Jake first saw that mouth covering the iPad screen, he looked up and gave me a sweet and silly giggle, but then he instantly zeroed in on those lips and the words almost magically popped out. Now a month and a half later, he is still enjoying these apps. He has mastered the words and phrases and now he is working on the sentences and songs
–Moving Forward in the World of Apraxia Jake’s Journey to be a Little Man – – http://jakes-journey-apraxia.com/tag/vast-autism-1-core-app/

The VAST Autism 1 – Core– Videos are organized into a hierarchy of 5 categories beginning with syllables and ending with sentences. Each video gives a spoken target utterance that is preceded by the written word(s). Each word, phrase and sentence is concrete and has meaning that can be generalized and practiced throughout the day.

Providing the written word(s) will prevent a student from labeling a picture of a frog jumping as “go,” a person lying on a mat as “break time” or labeling a swing as “wee.”

Furthermore, there is significant research that suggests pairing picture symbols with words may actually increase confusion, especially when they represent abstract concepts, have multiple meanings, or serve more than one grammatical function. The ability to recognize the written target word(s) will increase functional communication and enhance acquisition of reading, writing and spoken language.

The progression of VAST-Autism Videos is as follows:

  1. Syllable Repetition
  2. Single Syllable Words
  3. Multi-Syllable Words
  4. Phrases
  5. Sentences
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“I absolutely love using this new app with my students with autism. It is without a doubt the most effective oral language app I have used to date with this particular group of students. They love the way the video focuses just on the speaker’s mouth, and they will get right up close to it as they attempt to say the words and phrases along with it. I am just thrilled with the impact it has already had on their speech development. It is clear that a lot of research went into this, because the effect it has on these students is just amazing.”

–Dina Derrick, Speech Pathologist on using VAST Autism – Core

VAST Pre-Speech– Children with apraxia of speech have difficulty planning speech movements of the tongue, lips, palate and jaw (articulators), hindering their development of verbal speech. Some children on the spectrum may have challenges with everyday activities such as blowing their nose, spitting out toothpaste or pocketing food.

This app utilizes the highly effective concept of video modeling and auditory cues to promote awareness of oral structures, coordination, strength, tone, chewing, the swallowing of food, saliva and speech clarity; eventually working towards students gaining the ability to speak for themselves. In clinical trials, the VAST videos have been highly effective in increasing a child’s ability to attend to a communication partner’s mouth in the natural environment.

The VAST Videos are organized into 4 categories:

  1. Pre-Exercises
  2. Oral Motor
  3. Exercises
  4. Making Sounds
  5. Functional
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We absolutely LOVE this app!! We practice a little everyday some days more then others. My nephews face lights up seeing the other kids doing the variety of activities. This is a great app to help realize sensory and actions. I have been trying to get him to blow kisses for a year now having no prior interest in it he shocked me by blowing me a surprise kiss out if the blue!!!
I am so happy I discovered you. There are no words to describe my gratitude for what you are doing and offering people like us!!

–By mammakbare

VAST Songs– Singing has been used as an accepted treatment technique in speech therapy for many years. It’s also well known that music stimulates several different areas of the brain. Multiple research studies have shown that stimulating different areas of the brain results in improved speech production. Singing in unison with a visual model has also been demonstrated to have a positive effect on speech production when using familiar songs.

VAST-Songs supplements the accepted use of singing in speech therapy by providing extra cueing, simultaneously hearing the song while following the oral movements. The application was designed to accommodate and then challenge individuals with speech production or fluency problems.

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All VAST Videos can be played in full-length or separated playlists this allows the therapist to choose the individual target(s) that best fit their student’s needs. We are in the process of expanding upon this offering through future applications and via the SpeakinMotion web-based platform.

Ongoing clinical trials indicate that students are highly interested in VAST videos, and will almost immediately attempt lip movements or touch their lips in response to the models. After a few short weeks, many students who were essentially non-verbal began word approximations and word attempts more readily. Perhaps, the best and most unexpected therapeutic improvements have bee I the student’s ability to generalize skills. Students actually begin attending to the speaker’s oral motor movements during daily communication and continue learning speech in a more traditional, naturalistic manner.

“The VAST-Autism app is more than AWESOME. My students showed immediate results. To my surprise, after the FIRST trail, they started to vocalize some sounds. You will see amazing results, especially with students who do not respond to traditional speech therapy.”

–Harumi Kato, MS, CCC-SLP

VAST Autism has been extraordinarily effective with older (18-22) non-verbal students with autism. In two individual cases students were attempting word approximations and speaking several one syllable words after one session of watching the VAST videos. One of those students was diagnosed with severe sensory neural hearing loss and autism. He was able to produce four words by the end of his first session.

A word about video modeling-

A significant amount of research has shown video modeling to be rapid and highly effective not only in teaching new behaviors, but also in generalizing and maintaining these behaviors as well. Video Modeling involves the individual or child observing a videotape of a model engaging in a target behavior and subsequently imitating that behavior (see resources).

I love to use the VAST applications with every child that I work with. It has great use for children who are disabled and non-disabled. I recently have been using the app with two children who are considered non-verbal or are limitedly verbal. One of these children suffers from speech apraxia. After using the first lesson I was amazed at how engaged each child was to the app. After using the first lesson three times with the child who has speech apraxia, he was moving his lips as best he could mirroring what words were said on the lesson on my iPad. He has now able to say mama, pa, da, moo, boo and more. The results were incredible and he loved to keep watching the first video over and over again, trying so hard to make the sounds. Just from the first video. He is trying very hard with making the other sounds such as weee, la, oooo and pop. It is easy to see that he is so proud of his progress. He is happy and smiling and utilizing the lessons are not work but are more like a fun game.

–One By One Review

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Resources-

  1. Johnson, C.P. (2004). Early Clinical Characteristics of Children with Autism. Gupta, V.B.ed: Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Children. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.,85-123.
  2. Noens I, van Berchelaer-Onnes I, Verpoorten R, van Duijin G (2006). an instrument for the indication of augmentative communication in people with autism and intellectual disability. J Intellect Disabil Res. 50(9):621-32
  3. Hatch, P. (2009). The effects of daily reading opportunities and teacher experience on adolescents with moderate to severe intellectual disability. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. Downing, J.E. (2005). Teaching literacy to students with significant disabilities. Baltimore: Brookes.
  5. Erickson, K, Clendon, S., Abraham, L., Roy, V., & Van de Carr, H. (2005). Toward positive literacy outcomes for students with significant developmental disabilities. Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, 2(1), 45-54.
  6. Pufpaff, L.A., Bilschak, D.M. & Lloyd, L.L. (2000). Effects of modified orthography on the identification of printed words. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 105(1), 14-24.
  7. Mass, E., et al. (2008). Principles of Motor Learning in Treatment of Motor Speech Disorders, American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Volume 17, 277-289.
  8. Blythe A. Corbett, Ph.D., Video Modeling: A Window into the World of Autism, The Behavior Analyst Today, Volume4, No. 3.