Monday, 11 March 2013

E Learning or is it E(asy) Learning !

This blog is mainly about finding science-based therapies for autism and the focus is actually on the pill-popping variety.  If you ended up on this blog looking for general tips to help for your recently diagnosed child with ASD, this is a post just for you.

Before getting to the easy part, let’s keep in mind the foundations on which it should be built.
Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA)

If you know nothing factual about ABA (and there are lots of bizarre stories on the web and spread by followers of other faiths), you will be interested in a great new free resource on YouTube.  A company called Butterfly Effects published a superb series of free training videos.  I wish they had been around 5 years ago.  Here is one halfway through the course when the child is already partially verbal.
There are currently 66 videos in their channel, scroll down a bit to get to the nitty gritty.  They also do on-line training courses.

The other link is a web-based retailer in the US that ships worldwide all the books and accessories you could possible need for your home-based ABA programme.  They used to do a starter pack with what you need to get going.

Those two links should be enough to get a motivated parent into action.  If it does not, then ABA probably will not work wonders for you.  With ABA, you have to put in a great deal to get a little back, then slowly, investing a great deal starts to give you a lot back.

Now for the E(asy) Part

E  Learning

Going back to the not so distant past, when there was no internet and you did not have a computer at home, let alone in your jacket pocket, I learned some new acronyms:-  CAD (computer aided design) and CAM (computer aided manufacturing).  Nowadays most of us have a pretty good idea of what this is all about.  At the time I thought CAD-CAM was pretty cool.  That makes me an early adopter.  So no surprise then that I looked to see how computers could help with learning in autism.  Five years ago, there were no Ipads, but you could easily buy a touch screen monitor for your home PC. There are now lots of Apps written for kids with ASD and the good news is they are cheap.

I spent a small fortune on computer-based training (CBT) and its techy cousin Web-based training (WBT).  It was money well spent.  In reality the adult generally needs to sit by the PC, so it is better described as computer assisted learning (CAL).  Whatever you call it, it is great.

Toddlers learning to communicate

From about age 2 and up I would strongly recommend Laureate Learning

They have a special website for families, as opposed to schools and therapists, with lower pricing, but it is still seriously expensive.  The software logs the child's performance and only when one area is mastered can he move forward.  There are specific programmes for each topic, for example nouns, verbs, prepositions etc.

I spent many hours using the entry level programs with my son, before he was verbal.  They were really helpful and allowed him to show that he really did have a wide receptive vocabulary and understanding, even though he could not talk.  At that point (under 4 years old) we used a touch screen, rather than a mouse and it worked a treat.  He could very happily spend 20- 30 minutes per session.

If your budget cannot stretch to Laureate Learning, there is much cheaper alternative to see if your child is going to like computers. It is called LDA software, from Sherston.   It is not as sophisticated, but I still spent many hours prompting my son to use it.  LDA make a wide range of flash cards that form the initial basis of a home ABA programme, Sherston just made a computer programme out of the cards.

The software is a bit old (2005)  but still works.  Buy direct from the publisher because some places sell it for a much higher price.
Verbal child learning to read

Once your child is verbal, you will start to wonder how he is ever going to learn to read.  Here again science can help you.

There is a truly wonderful programme that used to be called HeadSprout and is now called MimioSprout.  The developer got taken over and the new owner changed the name.  It is a product for the mass market, but under the cover lurks a great deal of ABA.  It has great sound and graphics.  I found it fun.  My son loved it.
The programme allows you to repeat lessons.  Typical kids rarely need to do this and will speed to the end of the course.  Kids with ASD need lots of repetition and I was repeating lessons on average about 5 times.

A computer probably cannot teach an autistic child to read, but it can certainly help a great deal.


Having learned to talk and then read, the next big hurdle is to learn some maths.  For a typical kid you do not even have to think about this. Maybe you get called in to help with long division, but not with 1 + 1.

Again, a great mass-market web-based programme is here to help.  It is called Whizz.  It has lots of fun graphics and goes from the very basics up to the end of primary school.  It includes the full curriculum, so things like weights and measures, telling the time, interpreting graphs and charts are all included.  It is much more than just numeracy.  As with Headsprout, the key is to repeat the excercises before moving on.

If your typical child used Whizz, I think they would hardly need to go to maths class at school. In the US Whizz seems to be used a lot for home schooling. I first came across Whizz on a US home schooling website.

Again, this continues to be money very well spent.



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