A Sentence Can be a Labor of Love

One of the most exciting moments for me as well as a family I work with recently was a journal that included a picture and a sentence. What may you ask is so special about a sentence a first grade child wrote? Because this sentence, my friends, was composed completely independently and written quickly and fluently, with requests to spell a word when needed by a child who has written very few independent thoughts/sentences. So, this was a day we rejoiced!

12321435_10209636213048517_4031656481302855458_n

“The whale is whooshing.”

The Prism Project

For Autism Awareness Month I’d like to highlight an exciting arts program that I learned about last summer at the Mississippi Summer Arts Institute. For the past three years, Madison Avenue Elementary K-2 has participated in an arts grant created to bring arts integrated instruction to children in special education classes in Mississippi schools. Through my involvement in this program, I learned about a project called the Prism Project, led by Ryan Hourigan and Amy Hourigan. Ryan and Amy are husband and wife professors of music at Ball State University in Indiana. They have two personal children on the autism spectrum. Prism Project is a dramatic arts program offered on Saturdays and as summer day camp to children with disabilities who live in the Ball State area. University students interested in the arts and/or special education assist children as needed with their participation in the arts. Recently, the Prism Project has expanded to New Orleans. Please follow the Prism Project link to read about this exciting and innovative program. There’s something for children of all ability levels, including children who are non-verbal and/or need assistance with mobility or attention to task. I especially enjoyed reading about the impact of arts participation on social competence for this population of children.

Check out the videos of student performances for a parent audience. Two of my personal favorites are The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Snowy Day. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have a program like this in the Jackson area?!

*This post has been written by a guest author, Lisa Gerard. Lisa Gerard has been a special education teacher at Madison Avenue Elementary in Madison, MS for the past nine years. During this time she has been awarded Madison Avenue Teacher of the Year (2011), Jackson Metro Area Teacher of the Year (2015) and the Arts Advocacy Award from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education (2015) for her efforts at integrating the arts into the special education curriculum at Madison Avenue. Lisa is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Special Education with a focus in Autism. She has done contract work in the past for Jackson Autism Center.

Success with a Speech Generating Device

On April 1 and 2, 2016, LAMP Words for Life will be half off…that is, $150 instead of $300. What can a speech generating device mean to an individual with autism? I want to share a story of a student a friend of mine works with who used a speech generating device…until he didn’t need it anymore! He became so verbal that he passed it along.

This is not to say that verbal speech is always the result of using a speech generating device (SGD), but it can be a possibility! Research has not shown that kids who utilize speech generating devices are any less likely to become verbal than any other children. SGDs can only help speech development, not hinder it.

“Party” Says a Teenager using His Speech Generating Device

One of the most joyous moments recently was with a teenager I have been working with for 2 years. We have been using LAMP Words for Life for over a year now and he will request where he wants to go eat and tell me step by step what to draw, including what color to use, but no completely spontaneous language beyond that. He reads using WFL and loves to spell.

Recently, he was hanging out before our session started and I was getting another student to tell about his birthday party and how old he was, what he ate, etc. My teenager was standing still or pacing during this conversation.

When we started our session, he kept going to different things on Words for Life, but not settling on saying anything. I could tell there was something he wanted to say and continued to wait and encourage him. After a few minutes, he said “party.” He wanted to talk about the other little boy’s party or perhaps have one of his own. He didn’t give anymore details. This was so exciting for him to take what we talked about as a group, when he seemed to possibly not be paying attention and want to talk about it again with me. This was a huge moment for us!

LAMP Words for Life celebrates April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day and puts WFL, which is only available through Apple, half off for April 1 and 2, 2016 only. This makes such an impact for so many families who are waiting and watching for their child to ask for “popcorn” or “tickles”…or “party.” Party on, Wayne!