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.

Some Pig! Some Impact! Buttercup!

Some pig! I remember when my husband called me and asked, “are you sure you want this little guy? He looks a bit, well, ugly and uptight.” Taking a look at the picture myself I had no choice but to agree. You see, Buttercup was living in Texas, all we had to go on was his picture and the breeder’s reputation. We decided to go ahead and get him in spite of his homely appearance.

He came to use one April evening via the San Francisco airport; there were many people at the special baggage claim area collecting their dogs and cats. We were there, but not for a dog or cat. We were picking up our new family member, Buttercup.

Everyone there was happy to see their four legged friends, but they were also intrigued by the itty-bitty crate, and what was in it, “a guinea pig!” said a man “A pig!” replied his wife “That small?” wondered a group of people. I should have known then, Buttercup would make an impact wherever he went.

That was 4 years ago! Today, he’s an accomplished therapy animal, certified by the Delta Society. He’s on Facebook, where he has many friends and fans. He has been on KQED’s “Bay Area People” with Rosie Chu. You can see that video here. His latest appearance is in November’s edition of Reader’s Digest. No student has forgotten, or stopped talking about Buttercup. That’s impressive coming from a child who before Buttercup would not talk or socialize with anyone. There is no denying the fact; he makes a long lasting impact wherever he goes.

Despite his fame and busy schedule, he always makes time for his family. He sits with us to watch a movie, so long as we can scratch him and watch at the same time. He sometimes sits at my feet and keeps me company while I’m typing away on the computer. During the winter, he loves to sit with us in front of the fireplace.

Buttercup is our friend, our pet and our co-worker, but most important of all he’s a family member. Judging by the amount of time he spends with us, he digs us too, after all the choice of going outdoors or staying inside is totally his.

The human animal bond can be traced back thousands of years. This bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship.

Working together with your animal friend to make a difference in someone’s life can be a very rewarding experience.

If you would like to know more about Animal Assisted Therapy or explore if this is something you would like to do, consider taking my AAT course. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

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Halloween- Costumes, Pumpkins, Apps and Seeds

While many kids run around in costume during this always exciting holiday without a problem. Some of our kiddos need a little help and support to make this an enjoyable day for them as well.

In this episode of Autism TodayTV Lois and America talk about costumes and what to look for and more importantly what to avoid. Halloween wouldn’t be complete without some pumpkin fun; America and Lois demonstrate some no carving pumpkin fun everyone can do. Our beloved chef, Tom Dickinson is in the studio and will be giving us some tasty pumpkin seed recipes. Also, Lois sits and chats with Dr. Temple Grandin, from holidays to the disability mentality. Lastly, Lois explores some Halloween apps to complement this Halloween day.

Happy Halloween Everyone from Autism TodayTV

Autism TodayTV Highlights “GFCF Chef Tom Dickinson”

Individuals on the autism spectrum have shown minimum to dramatic improvements in communication, behavior and social interactions after they began gluten free casein free (GFCF) diet. The GFCF diet is based on the theory that individuals on the spectrum have sensitivity or allergy to gluten or caseins which form peptides. These peptides can then alter how an individual responds to their environment and exacerbate autistic symptoms.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, grains, vegetable proteins, starches and other flavorings & artificial colors. Casein is the protein found in milk and milk products such as cheese, ice cream and butter.

Some research studies have suggested that a GFCF diet can improve behavior and GI symptoms in some children on the autism spectrum. A recent study in 2010 published in Nutritional Neuroscience shows that a GFCF does have benefits for some kids with autism. “Our results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcome for some children diagnosed with ASD,” according to the study.

Changing a child’s eating habits can seem like a lot of work not to mention the added expense of “specialized food.” Fortunately we have Chef Tom Dickinson who is determined to make the GFCF diet affordable and accessible to all individuals on the spectrum. Chef Tom aims to redefine the public’s perception of a gluten and casein free diet from boring and bland to a cuisine that he calls GFCF-Fusion.

See chef Tom create wonderful meals for your family that are affordable in a minimal amount of time on Autism TodayTV. Chef Tom also has two cookbooks available “Where There’s A Meal, There’s A Way” & “Cooking With Class” with a third on the way “Affordable Eats.”

GFCF Salami and Basil Pizza

Chef Tom Dickinson on Autism Today TV

Here is a recipe from one of Chef Tom’s cookbooks. It was featured on Episode 2 of Autism TodayTV. Everything you need to make this wonderful pizza is listed here, and if you’d like, you can watch Chef Tom make it first and then give it a try yourself. I have personally tasted the pizza, the sauce is just fabulous. It’s a great tasting fast dish everyone will love.

“My firm belief is that every child on the Autism spectrum should not have to be deprived of the simple pleasures in life like being able to have a slice of pizza like any normal kid, so what I did is created this wonderful recipe and the key to this pizza isn’t the toppings or the sauce, but the technique and the use of a cast iron pizza pan to make this pizza from good, to awesome. Hope you enjoy.” -chef Tom

For The Sauce

  • 3 Roma or San Marzano tomatoes
  • ¼ cup of sundried tomatoes
  • Half of a red onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • One tablespoon of agave nectar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For The Crust

  • 2 cups of pre mixed gluten free all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon of guar gum
  • 1 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tablespoon of aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of water

For The Toppings

  • 1 package of daiya mozzarella cheese
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 1 package of Applegate farms uncured salami
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Using some oil that is safe for your child and your own preference, drizzle some oil onto your cast iron pizza pan and place in the oven to get it nice and hot.
  2. For the sauce, place all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and puree on high speed. The sauce should be a little bit chunky, but that’s okay.
  3. For the pizza dough, place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk together so everything is incorporated. Add the one cup of water and begin to mix together with a rubber spatula. IF the dough is too dry, add water to it one tablespoon at a time. Mix well until the dough is moist but not sticky.
  4. One a floured cutting board, floured with gf flour of course, roll out your pizza dough with a rolling pin to desired shape and width. Now it’s time for toppings.
  5. Place the sauce on your pizza, followed by half the daiya cheese, then the salami, and the rest of the cheese on top.
  6. Take your basil leaves, stack them on top of each other, and then roll them into a roll. Using your knife, cut the basil into fine ribbons, this is called chiffonading the basil, a classic cutting technique.
  7. Place the ribbons of basil on top of your pizza and slide the pizza of the cutting board onto your cast iron pizza pan. Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and the crust is fully cooked. About twenty minutes.

Makes 4-5 servings
*See Chef Tom Create Delicious, Mouthwatering and Affordable Dishes on each Episode of Autism TodayTV

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Apps for Autism Highlights “Rainbow Sentences”

Rainbow Sentences        By: Mobile Education Tools

www.mobile-educationstore.com

$7.99

From the Developer

Rainbow Sentences is designed to help students improve their ability to construct grammatically correct sentences by using color coded visual cues. The who, what, where, and why parts of sentences are color coded to help students recognize and understand how combinations of these parts create basic sentence structure.

From the Customer

Teaching students on the spectrum about sentence structure and syntax can be a daunting task. The Mobile Education Store has come up with a fantastic solution to support the acquisition of grammar and sentence structure via color coding.

Word(s) are color coded with lines to match their corresponding place in a sentence giving students important visual supports in building grammatically correct sentences. Color coding can be faded when students become proficient at constructing sentences. Rainbow Sentences offers many other customizable features including three levels of complexity. The first level focuses on who and what, the second level adds the where and the third level incorporates the why of the sentence.

After the students have completed their sentences, they can then record that sentence for self-monitoring and auditory feedback. This recording can be saved in the archive and/or emailed to both parents and educators. Rainbow Sentences also tracks your performance with sentences correct on first attempt. Stats can also be emailed to parents and educators.

Rainbow Sentences has been particularly effective for students that are echolalic or have ritualized speech. It provides a concrete visual and auditory model to generate grammatically correct language.

Pictures used in Rainbow Sentences are cartoon depicting fictional situations. Students who have difficulty distinguishing between fact and fiction may have challenges understanding the figurative nature of the pictures.

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iPad Apps Can Support Evidence-Based Practice

The American Speech-Language, Hearing Association (ASHA) uses a well-known definition put forth by David Sackett and colleagues to define evidence based practices.

“Evidence-based medicine is the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values.” (Sackett D et al. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM, 2nd edition. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 2000, p.1)

EBP & Autism Spectrum Disorders

According to The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) many interventions for autism exist, only some have been shown to be effective through scientific research. Interventions that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices. Currently, the Center has identified 24 evidence-based practices. Follow the link to The National Professional Development center to read the details.

The National Autism Center (NAC) has identified 11 established treatments. Established Treatments are those for which several well-controlled studies have shown the intervention to produce beneficial effects. See The National Autism Center (NAC)
National Standards Report

Below is a list of iPad apps that support evidence based practice for both speech language pathology and autism spectrum disorders. There are hundreds of thousands of apps on the market today and hundreds more every week. The apps represented in the table are only a few examples of what is available. Every student will have individual needs, preferences and characteristics. It is up to the educator/therapist to choose the best “fit” for each student. The table is meant for informational purposes only to illustrate how apps support evidence based practice and to use as you determine appropriate.

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Autism TodayTV Wins an Ursula Award

The Ursula Awards, this was the first annual film festival, a showcase for independent filmmakers and community access television producers hosted by Vallejo Community Access Television, VCAT. It presents an engaging and entertaining mix of filmmaking styles and talents from around the world, while offering an opportunity for local producers to showcase the diverse mix of community access productions.

Autism TodayTV was nominated as a finalist in the community service and education category by a group of judges. To know that our show was in fact reaching many families and making a difference in the community, gave us a great sense of gratification.

Director Gary B. Producer Lois Brady & Producer America Gonzalez at the Ursula Awards Ceremony 2012

To win the Ursula in recognition for excellence in community service and education made all the hard work and hours of trial and error well worth it. We are super excited about Autism Today TV and the support from the community both local and global.

It is our sincerest hope that we have educated, supported and entertained you, and we look forward to many more wonderful, exciting episodes to come.

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