Kathy Sills, a speech pathologist at Tampa Palms Elementary had a great idea for making weekly group therapy sessions for students with autism more fun and active. Following the Ready S.E.T. Go! program developed by Jenny Clark Brack, OTR/L, Kathy adapted sensory-based activities by incorporating opportunities to address the language and communication needs of her students with autism and multiple abilities.
Each week, Kathy and special education teachers in the classes for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders meet to choose a theme for the next week’s sensory-based language/speech sessions. In these collaborative meetings, they plan specific activities, identify necessary materials and share resources. Kathy admits, “It’s built a solid collaborative team of teachers and staff – it’s truly a team effort”. Students participate in these sensory language speech sessions once a week. Here’s how they are organized:
(To see a video example (.MPG) of each activity, click on the works highlighted in blue)
Warm up time cues the students that the activities are about to begin and also introduces them to the weekly theme. From one week to the next, warm up activities might include stories, finger plays, singing or costumes.
The warm up session is then followed by proprioceptive activities that involve joint compression and deep pressure to large muscles. These activities might involve pushing, pulling or lifting toys or other heave objects related to the theme of the session.
Next is an activity that requires students to use their gross motor skills and sense of balance, often including the use of a balance beam or board in language based games related to the theme of the session.
Fine Motor activities provide an additional opportunity to embed language and communication skills into a fun creative learning experience related to the weekly theme. Fine motor activities often include art projects involving cutting, pasting or gluing to making a snack.
Transition activities bring closure to this weekly session and prepare students to move back to the standard classroom routine. The sequence of these language-based activities is familiar to the students and sets the stage for the next part of the day’s routine.
Benefits for Students and Families
Over time, Kathy can identify several benefits to students and the school as a community. Most importantly, Kathy feels the students have made great gains in their communication abilities, as well as these social interaction skills. “The level of interaction with each other during our sessions isn’t usually seen in traditional therapy or classroom settings”, Kathy said. Now that students know the routine of the weekly activities, they anticipate the sessions and look for her ahead of time. She also reports that parents have become more involved, offering to send materials and assist during their child’s session.
Benefits to the School Community
Lastly, the activities have created a greater awareness around school and in community –other teachers and students see the activities going on and the children having fun. She feels the activities have promoted a strong, positive awareness of autism around the school as a community.
The program Kathy based these sessions on is Ready S.E.T Go! , developed by Jenny Clark Brack. Additional information can also be found in her book, Learn to Move, Move to Learn, or at http://www.jennyclarkbrack.com.