Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Autism’ Category

November 9, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Krystina Burke, M.S., CCC-SLP

Video Modeling – Keep it in the Family!

Video modeling is a powerful tool I use during my speech therapy sessions throughout the week. The children I work with enjoy video modeling activities and their parents love having the videos to use throughout the week!  Although there are many “premade” video modeling videos available, I have found that using the child and their family members as the “stars” of the video has been most effective in teaching a new skill or desired behavior. Parents can then use this strategy wherever they are because the family members are the actors, producers, and the audience!

For example, to target play skills and overall engagement, parents can film a sibling bringing a toy over to another sibling to engage in play. In addition, making and watching the videos as a family provides an excellent opportunity to build in communication and engagement with siblings and family members.

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November 9, 2017

Lights, Camera, Learning!

By: Krystina Burke, M.S., CCC-SLP
  • Video modeling is a visual teaching method.
  • Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn best through visual means.
  • A recent study found that students with ASD were able learn new behaviors by watching other people.
  • Video modeling can easily be put into practice!

Smart phones are pretty bright! They wake us up, keep up on schedule, allow us to email and browse the web from anywhere and everywhere, they take amazing photographs that we can share in an instant, and oh yeah.. we can actually use it as a phone to call someone.  One thing you might not know is that you have a powerful teaching tool right in your back pocket!

Video modeling is a visual teaching method. As the name suggests, video modeling provides children with the opportunity to learn a behavior or skill by watching a video of someone else, or themselves in a certain situation or performing a certain skill! Video modeling can be used to support all children, but has been especially affective when working with children with Autism. This intervention has been used support children in the areas of behavioral functioning, social-communication, and functional self-help skills.

Children with autism benefit from using visuals as a learning strategy. A study by Bellini and Akullian (2007) concluded that children preformed best when they were highly motivated and attentive because they enjoyed watching the videos. A study by MacDonald (2009) found that when children were given the opportunity to observe videos of their peers during social, play based, interactions these children were more likely to engage in reciprocal play interactions with typically developing peers.

So how can you put this into practice? First, identify an area of need for your child. What is most difficult for them? Is it engaging with peers during play or functionally playing with their toys at home? Is it getting on or off the bus? Once you know what you want to target, the next step is to find a video that models the behavior or skill you want your child to learn. There are many pre-made videos available to use here. Stay tuned for a trick of the trade on how to learn how to make your own!


Bellini, S., & Akullian, J. , Exceptional Children, 73, 261-284, 2007

MacDonald, R., Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 2009, Spring, 42 (1): 43-55.



August 15, 2016

Technology Tuesday-Sensory Friendly Films

Have you heard about the Sensory Friendly Films project that AMC hosts? This event occurs four times a month, on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday. AMC also offers family friendly movies at 10 am on Saturdays in select theaters. AMC has partnered with the Autism Society to offer fun and unique movie showings for children with varying disabilities. During these showings, AMC turns the sound low, the lights on, and allows for children and their families to get up and move around at any time.

For information about where you can find sensory friendly films in your area check out the website here!








August 8, 2016

Traveling with your Toddler

By: Krystina Burke, MS, CF-SLP
  • Family vacations are fun and exciting!
  • Some children may become overwhelmed by flying, meeting new people, and exploring new environments.
  • Preparing your child for what is ahead may make transitions easier for your child and traveling more enjoyable for your entire family.

child airplane ideasPreparing your child for vacation should start a week or two before the trip. Start by talking to your child about the adventures ahead. While doing this, it is important to use age- appropriate language and describe to your child what they will see, hear, smell, and taste on your trip. Photos or videos of where you are going or who you are visiting can be very helpful in preparing your little one for change! If you have an iPad or phone, try to save the pictures or videos to scroll through or print out to make your own “story book”. Getting in a routine of reviewing information about your trip once or twice a day about a week before is a great idea! Providing your child with this information ahead of time will help your child feel more comfortable transitioning from place to place and meeting new people.

If your journey involves airplane travel, try having your child help pack his own carry on bag. While you are thinking of what to bring with you on the plane, try to include both old and new toys to ensure that your child has plenty to do. Books, small toys, and plenty of snacks may also be helpful in keeping your child entertained and comfortable throughout the flight! It might also be helpful to try and reserve an aisle seat so that your child can walk around if they need a break from sitting.


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July 29, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP


The creators of this mobile application describe it as “A free augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app available for download in the iTunes store. This app includes pre-loaded communication boards, or you can create your own with up to 20-message locations.” This is one of the best free applications I use regularly in therapy. I often use it to take pictures of objects and quickly  make the following:

  • First/ then board
  • Visual schedules
  • Choice Board

Here is a tip on how to use this app for a receptive language activity:

Take pictures of people or objects such as toys, food items, or body parts and ask your child “Where is the apple?” “Where is mommy?” You can have them point to the item as a way to practice vocabulary. I love this app because the use of actual pictures creates a functional way to practice language in everyday life!

Click here to purchase the app!

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April 26, 2016

Tips for Transitioning To and From the Car with Your Toddler

By: Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L
  • Walking with your children to and from a car can be scary, especially if they tend to “run.”
  • Children with autism are more “at-risk” for wandering to/from car than other children.

Few things are scarier than seeing a child “high tail it” to the street once that car or front door opens. Many parents have reported challenges with the transition from inside the house (or grocery store, office, school, etc.) to the car and vice versa. The demands of everyday life make it nearly impossible to hold onto a child’s hand every moment you are outside. Here are a few strategies and tips to support your child to safely transition from one place to another when you are outside.

  1. children street holding handsUse visuals – Humans are visual creatures and as much as we want our children to “hear” us, we often need to use visual supports to help children understand boundaries. Some ideas include: 1) using a handprint on the inside or outside of the vehicle. That way, as children head to the car they know that they need to put their hand on their handprint; 2) use “stop” and “go” signs. Practice stopping and going with a real stop sign or green light. There are many places to practice “stop” and “go” like your home, the park, and grocery store.
  2. Give the child a “job”- Is there something the child can take into the car or house? Is the child old enough to carry groceries or help mom with a chore?
  3. You can use the child’s imagination to avoid other types of behaviors – For example, “pretend you’re an airplane and fly to the car” or “let’s be bunnies and hop to the front door”.
  4. Work with a provider – Ask a teacher, speech therapist, or occupational therapist to help develop specific strategies for your child and family.


AWAARE, The National Autism Association.

Autism Speaks, Wandering Resources;

Photo credit


March 15, 2016

Technology Tuesday – Hearbuilder Auditory Memory

auditorySuper Duper Publications has finally created an iPad app based off of their award-winning, research and evidence-based software program, Hearbuilder Auditory Memory!  This app engages kids in building a toys in a toy factory while focusing on following increasingly difficult directions.  This includes learning various language concepts, such as sequence (first, then), time (before, after), spatial (in front, behind), and conditional (if, then) and more!  The app is able to track your child’s progress each time he/she plays, and the parents are able to change the game to meet the difficulty level that is appropriate.  The options are endless to fit your child!  You can download the app for your iPad HERE, and let the fun begin!

January 26, 2016


By: Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have difficulty engaging with peers and learning appropriate social skills
  • Dramatic play is used during therapy to help role play various social interactions and increase exposure to different situations
  • A recent study found that children with ASD who were involved in a theater program were found to have improved social abilities

The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published an article about a Vanderbilt University study of a theater program. Therapy for children with ASD often includes goals focusing on expressing emotions, listening, and recognizing different social cues. This theater program incorporated all of these goals into a fun, motivating experience for children ages 8-14. For the research study, children were divided into two different groups. One group of children enrolled in the theater program and the other did not. Children with ASD often benefit from peer models, therefore this theater program included neurotypical peers to model appropriate social interactions. After 10 weeks of the program, children showed improved group play skills outside of the study and an increase in overall social communication and ability to interact.

While working with children who have ASD, I always include pretend and dramatic play into our therapy sessions. This is a great way for children to role-play and become comfortable with social interactions without the pressure of peers. Although this theater program focused more on children between the ages 8-14, pretend play starts around 2 years old. At home, you can foster pretend play and role-playing by modeling for your child different scenarios such as going to the doctor or cooking in a pretend kitchen. For older children, it may be fun to act out their favorite movies and practice this theater program within your home environment.

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December 22, 2015

Technology Tuesday – PocketSLP

speech pairs synapse appsPocketSLP is a company that provides multiple high-rated apps that are parent and therapist friendly to focus on many goals that skills that all kids need to continue to develop.  Their articulation apps include, “The R app, The Articulation Screener, Pocket Artic, and Speech Pairs.”  All of these games provide play-based fun to work on consistent productions, and the parent/therapist is able to choose one or many sounds to focus on for the session.  PocketSLP also has apps that focus on language learning and listening.  These apps include working on: following directions, understanding categories, retelling stories, and more!  Check out all the app options from PocketSLP HERE!  They are available on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

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December 15, 2015

What is Theory of Mind?

By: Lauren Foster, MS, OTD, OTR/L
  • Theory of Mind is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, plans, perceptions and feelings.
  • People with autism often struggle with understanding what another person is thinking.
  • When people struggle with Theory of Mind they may have challenges understanding social nuances, situations, and relating to others.

Autism is on a spectrum with a wide range of characteristics that vary from person to person. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), autism is characterized by deficits in social communication, restricted/repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities.

Some children with autism may also struggle with what’s called, “Theory of Mind,” or the ability to take another person’s perspective. Researchers suggest that Theory of Mind develops within the first five years of life. From a very early age, children learn to think about what others are feeling by watching facial expressions, engaging in back and forth play, and listening to the words they hear.

People with autism can learn to understand what others are thinking if they are provided with enriching and focused activities to work on this skills.  One specific intervention is “social stories.”  Social Stories (developed by Carol Gray) help children with autism understand their social world. Social stories are stories that describe social situations using visuals and words. The stories aim to describe a specific situation and provide clear directions to children, so they can understand what is expected of them.

Parents can also use strategies in their daily activities to foster Theory of Mind development for their children.  Strategies include: 1) talking about what you are feeling, 2) talking about what others may be thinking and 3) providing “rich” environments to foster pretend play.

Other activities for young children include:

  1. Playing “hiding” games (hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo)
  2. Sing songs that include imitation and copying
  3. When creating Social Stories or Social Narratives, make “thought bubbles” that show what the people are doing and thinking.
  4. Play games that require turn-taking
  5. Read books and tell stories – talk about how the characters in the story are feeling
  6. Use language such as, “I have a thought; You have a thought; I feel; etc.”

For specific suggestions for different age levels, check out a great resource HERE.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Association, A. P. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Astington, J.W. & Edward, J. (2010). The development of theory of mind in young children. Retrieved from:

Autism Speaks (2015). Executive Function and Theory of Mind. Retrieved from: