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Early Play Skills
A delay in toy play is one of the defining features of autism and other forms of developmental delays. When toy play is present, it is often stereotyped and unique to the point of appearing inappropriate. For example, an individual with developmental delays may turn a toy truck upside down and spin its wheels, carry a doll around and suck on its feet, or repeatedly bang a hammer on a toy xylophone.
Typical individuals seem to develop toy play spontaneously, with adult assistance limited to modelling and preventing damage to toys. Certain salient features of toy play among very young typical children may be worth noting. First, such toy play seems autonomous and requires little, if any, social reinforcement by adults to be maintained. In that sense, it has some of the properties of the high-level self-stimulatory behaviour outlined in Chapter 6. Second, toy play quite often has a social symbolic component, as when a child pretends to take care of a baby doll by feeding it, putting it to bed, and so forth. Similar symbolic components can be observed in children playing with toy cars, as when a child pretends there is an engine in a car or pretends the car smashes into a wall by making noises appropriate to these actions. Such pretend play has obvious origins in the child's social or interpersonal exposures from which a person with developmental delays may not have benefited. Given these prerequisites, it seems reasonable to predict a delay in pretend play demonstrated by individuals with autism and other developmental delays; however, one would be expected to observe the individual with developmental delays catch up on such toy play as she is taught to benefit from social interactions. One may infer from this that teaching a child to play with toys is facilitated by the child's learning about social behaviours through observation and interaction with adults and peers. Chapter 13 on nonverbal imitation introduces certain aspects of play as an extension of the student's progress in imitating adults and, subsequently, peers.
Toy play can make at least two important contributions to the student's development. First, an increase in toy play is critical to helping the student interact with typical peers because much of peer interaction, including conversational speech among peers, centres around play with toys. Second, an increase in appropriate toy play is accompanied by a decrease in socially inappropriate, self-stimulatory behaviour. This decrease in inappropriate behaviour makes it easier for the student to be integrated into a least restrictive environment and makes it more likely for the student to be accepted by peers and adults.
In this chapter, we introduce the following kinds of toy play: completing puzzles; using a shape sorter; and playing with cars, dolls, and balls. Also included in this chapter are examples of how to teach preschool games and action songs. The Early Play Skills Program contains teaching principles that may be used to construct many additional programs for forms of play the student needs. The Arts and Crafts Program (Chapter 20) also contains information helpful for developing play.
Once a play skill is taught, the question remains as to how it should be maintained. In the case of students with developmental delays, adults may have to reinforce appropriate play in order to maintain it. At other times, exposure to various kinds of play sensitizes students to particular reinforcers involved in certain types of play. Needless to say, if students are not exposed to such reinforcers, then the reinforcers cannot acquire value. Thus, given that individual students differ largely from one another, it pays to expose the student to several kinds of play in hopes that some forms of play are easily acquired by or reinforcing for the student. An example from everyday life illustrates this idea. Many individuals resist initial exposure to activities such as playing a musical instrument, engaging sports such as basketball and skiing, reading a novel, drawing a picture, or playing with other children. Nevertheless, these persons often learn to enjoy the same activities they first resisted. Without exposure to a particular activity, one does not know what one is missing.
Prior to teaching basic toy play, the student should have made some progress in the following programs: Matching and Sorting, Nonverbal Imitation, and Early Receptive Language (Chapters 12, 13, and 15, respectively). For example, the student should be able to match three-dimensional (3-D) objects, imitate simple actions with objects (e.g., putting a block in a bucket, holding a doll, moving a toy car), and follow basic instructions (e.g., 'Sit down'). Keep in mind the importance of using these programs as means toward facilitating and extending toy play, as in teaching the student to work with Lincoln Logs, build towers, draw letters or pictures, and otherwise engage in more constructive activities than socially inappropriate forms of self-stimulatory behaviour. The current program begins with the teaching of puzzles. However, some teachers may choose to start the toy play program by teaching the preschool games described toward the end of the chapter. For some students, preschool games are easier to teach and more enjoyable (reinforcing) than the other forms of play introduced in this chapter. In any case, we advise inter-mixing various kinds of play as the student progresses in learning appropriate play skills.
Playing with Puzzles
Although some students may already excel at completing puzzles, others need to be specifically taught to acquire this skill. For those who have not yet mastered puzzles, further exposure to matching stimuli (matching is inherent to completing puzzles) may help establish playing with puzzles as reinforcing in and of itself. To teach the student to complete puzzles, the adult needs two to three items from each of the following sets of materials: (a) inset puzzles with pegs on the pieces (i.e., each piece has a defined location on the board and has a plastic handle on top), (b) inset puzzles without pegs on the pieces, (c) no interlocking frame tray puzzles (i.e., there is a tray in which to assemble the puzzle and the pieces touch, but do not interlock), (d) interlocking frame tray puzzles (i.e., there is a tray in which to assemble the puzzle and the pieces interlock), and (e) jigsaw puzzles (i.e., puzzles with interlocking pieces and no tray in which to assemble the puzzle).
The First Puzzle
Begin by teaching the student to complete inset puzzles with pegs. This type of puzzle is generally the easiest to teach because each piece has a defined location on the board, none of the pieces touch or interlock, and the pegs on top of the pieces often make it easier for the student to manipulate the pieces. Although some students use the pegs to pick up the pieces without any prior teaching, other students need to be taught this strategy. If the student does not use the peg independently, he can be taught to do so through the use of nonverbal imitation. Before starting, select a simple four-piece peg puzzle. Start with a puzzle that (a) has pieces that are common shapes (e.g., circle, triangle, square, diamond) and (b) does not have pictures on the board or frame, as pictures may distract the student from the task of completing the puzzle. A shape puzzle is ideal to teach first because each piece in the puzzle has a small number of sides; thus the student will not have to spend a great deal of time trying to fit each piece into place.
► Step 1
You and the student should sit directly across from each other at the table or at adjoining sides of the table. Place the puzzle on the table in front of the student and begin teaching by using a backward chaining procedure. That is, place all the pieces in the puzzle except one (e.g., the circle). Hand the student the missing piece (circle) and present the SD ('Do puzzle'). Prompt the response by physically placing your hand over the student's hand and moving his hand with the puzzle piece in it to the correct location. Reinforce the student's correct response. Repeat the trial and gradually fade the prompt over subsequent trials. If the student fails during prompt fading, go back to the least amount of prompt necessary to re-establish correct responding, and then resume fading the prompt. Once the manual prompt is completely faded (the student is able to insert the piece into the puzzle on his own), place the piece on the table rather than handing it to the student and prompt by immediately pointing to the puzzle piece after giving the SD. Be sure to reinforce the student as soon as he fits the piece into the proper location. Continue a trial using the same piece until the student picks it up and inserts it independently into the proper location in 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 trials.
► Step 2
Once the student learns to place the first piece in the appropriate location without assistance, remove from the puzzle the piece he just learned to insert and a new piece. Place the pieces on the table beside the puzzle and present the instruction, 'Do puzzle.' If the student stops after inserting only one piece, prompt him by pointing to, touching, or handing him the second piece. Use the prompt that is effective while being least intrusive. Reinforce the student only after he correctly inserts the two pieces. Repeat the trial and fade all prompts over subsequent trials. Place mastery at the same criterion used in Step 1.
► Step 3
Remove a third piece from the puzzle, present the SD ('Do puzzle'), and prompt the placement of all three pieces. Place mastery at the same criterion used in Steps 1 and 2.
► Step 4
Following the procedures described in the preceding steps, provide reinforcement contingent on the student's completing the placement of all the pieces of the puzzle. That is, withhold reinforcement until the student completes the entire puzzle. If the student pauses before inserting all the pieces, prompt if necessary to resume the chain (e.g., by pointing to the form on the board). The procedure of delivering reinforcement contingent on the completion of a gradually increasing number of connected responses is crucial to chaining individual responses into a single response.
► Step 5
Once the student completes the entire puzzle after you remove all the pieces and place them on the table, teach the student to take out the puzzle pieces on his own. Place the puzzle on the table, present the SD ('Empty'), and then physically prompt the student to turn the puzzle over and dump out the pieces. Repeat the trial and fade the prompt over the next few trials. After the student learns to empty the puzzle independently, teach him to reinsert the pieces. If needed, prompt the student by pointing to a piece or tapping the puzzle. Gradually fade this prompt so that the student can remove the pieces on his own and then replace them without assistance. Reinforce upon the student's emptying and then completing the entire puzzle.
Teaching puzzles may seem like a boring task both for the teacher and the student. Nevertheless, do not forget to be enthusiastic when delivering the reinforcer. Keep in mind the long-range goal that some day your student may learn to enjoy completing puzzles and use this skill to replace lower level forms of self-stimulation.
The Second Puzzle
Introduce a second inset puzzle with pegs that is at a slightly higher level of difficulty than the previous one. For example, the puzzle may now contain pieces that are animals, vehicles, fruit, and the like. Note that such puzzles require a skill similar to that taught in matching (Chapter 12). You will recognize that a puzzle is too difficult if the student verbally protests, shows a high rate of non-responsiveness, or tantrums. Remember, you want to keep the student successful so he enjoys engaging in the activity. Engagement in this activity will help to replace socially inappropriate forms of self-stimulatory behaviour. Therefore, choose your targets carefully and be very reinforcing.
The second puzzle should be taught by proceeding through the same sequence of steps used for teaching the first puzzle. Again, using a backward chaining procedure, remove one piece from the completed puzzle and then place it on the table in front of the student. If the student requires some initial assistance placing the piece into the correct location, use a pointing prompt to direct the student to the appropriate space on the puzzle. Continue removing one additional piece at a time and gradually deliver reinforcement contingent upon the student's completion of a larger portion of the puzzle. Finally, present the student with the puzzle and teach him to dump out the pieces and then complete the puzzle as was done with the first puzzle.
Before moving on to more difficult puzzles, give the student other inset puzzles with pegs to ensure that he can be successful with new targets. When you say, 'Do puzzle,' and present a new puzzle, the student should be able to first dump out the pieces and then complete the puzzle. Keep in mind that, as new puzzles are introduced with pieces that are more detailed than those that compose the initial puzzles, the student may require more time to fit the pieces into place. Therefore, be sure to allow sufficient time for the student to insert each piece. If necessary, provide some form of prompting to help the student complete the puzzle.
Additional Inset Puzzles
Additional inset puzzles should be taught by using the backward chaining procedure described earlier. Once the student masters approximately five inset puzzles with pegs, teach him to do inset puzzles without pegs. This type of puzzle is typically more difficult because it requires the student to manoeuvre each piece using more of his hand than just his fingers. The student may exhibit some initial difficulty because the pieces are harder to manipulate, but mastery should be reached more quickly in this and subsequent puzzles because the basic skills are the same. Make sure to provide adequate prompting so the student does not become frustrated.
Non-interlocking Frame Tray Puzzles
Once the student becomes proficient at completing inset puzzles (with and without pegs), introduce simple non-interlocking frame tray puzzles. In this type of puzzle, the edges of the pieces touch but do not interlock. These puzzles are assembled within a tray, but the pieces do not have an obvious location on the board (i.e., there is one large space in which to fit together all the pieces as opposed to an individual space for each piece). The student must learn to attend to the pictures on the pieces to successfully complete the puzzle.
► Step 1
As in earlier programs, start with a puzzle that has relatively few pieces (e.g., four to five pieces). Using the backward chaining procedure, remove one to two pieces and then present the SD ('Do puzzle'). Gradually increase the number of pieces removed, one to two at a time, until the student is able to insert all of the pieces on his own. Proceed through this sequence until the student is capable of completing the puzzle independently by first emptying out all the pieces and then replacing them one at a time.
► Step 2
Once the student is successful at completing one non-interlocking puzzle, introduce a second non-interlocking puzzle and then a third. When choosing new puzzles, select puzzles that are slightly more difficult than previous ones (i.e., select puzzles with more pieces or more complex pieces). Proceed through the same sequence of steps presented previously until the student can take out the pieces and complete the entire puzzle on his own.
Interlocking Frame Tray Puzzles
After the student masters inset and non-interlocking puzzles, introduce simple interlocking puzzles. Like non-interlocking puzzles, interlocking frame tray puzzles contain a tray in which to assemble the puzzle. However, unlike non-interlocking puzzles, interlocking puzzles have pieces that fit into one another. These puzzles closely resemble jigsaw puzzles in that each piece connects with others and has several sides and indentations. The pieces of interlocking puzzles, however, are larger than jigsaw puzzles and interlocking puzzles are assembled within a framed tray.
Begin with a puzzle that has three or four pieces. As previously recommended, start by removing one piece and then present the SD ('Do puzzle'). If the student has difficulty inserting the piece (e.g., he attempts to fit the piece upside down or backward), prompt the response and then fade the prompt over subsequent trials. Continue removing one to two pieces at a time until the student is able to finish the puzzle without help. Next, teach the student to empty out the pieces on his own as was done with earlier puzzles. Introduce several more interlocking frame tray puzzles, gradually increasing their complexity.
Jigsaw puzzles are the most challenging puzzles, in part because there is no tray in which to assemble the puzzle. The student must make his own border using the outer pieces of the puzzle. As done before, begin with a puzzle that has a relatively few number of pieces (e.g., 4 to 6) and, as the student becomes more proficient, gradually introduce puzzles that contain a greater number of pieces (e.g., 7 to 20). Teach jigsaw puzzles by using the backward chaining procedure presented earlier.
As the puzzles become more difficult, you may want to provide the student with a visual aid such as the picture on the cover of the puzzle's box. This will enable the student to use the picture as a reference for assembling the puzzle and see what the completed picture should look like. When doing jigsaw puzzles, the student needs to use some of the matching skills learned in Chapter 12; that is, to finish the puzzle, the student must fit the pieces together (i.e., match) according to their color and shape.
Areas of Difficulty
Some students are distracted by the puzzle pieces themselves and become preoccupied by playing with them instead of assembling the puzzle. To proceed with teaching puzzles, you must block or otherwise reduce these behaviours and reinforce correct behaviours.
Playing with Shape Sorters
The student should have already gained some exposure to shape matching through the Matching and Sorting Program (Chapter 12) and may enjoy this kind of play because of the intrinsically reinforcing properties of matching. Also, in learning nonverbal imitation involving objects (refer to Chapter 13), the student may have learned to pick up a block and insert it into a shape sorter after the action is modelled by the teacher. The goal of this section is to teach the student to complete the shape sorter independently.
The First Shape Sorter
Select a shape sorter that has three or four shapes (e.g., sphere, cube, and pyramid). The first sorter should have holes to insert the shapes only on its top surface so that the student is not required to manoeuvre the sorter to find the appropriate locations. A sphere is the best shape to teach the student to insert first. This shape is easiest because it should fit into the sorter with less manipulation than, for instance, a pyramid or a star.
► Step 1
The student should sit at the table beside or across from the teacher. Remove all the blocks from the shape sorter and hand the student the sphere as you present the verbal request (e.g., 'Do sorter'). If the student responds correctly by placing the sphere in its appropriate location in 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted trials, move on to Step 3. If the student does not respond correctly or fails to respond, go to Step 2.
► Step 2
Repeat the SD and immediately prompt the student by pointing to the correct location on the shape sorter. If this prompt does not lead to the correct placement of the shape, use a more intrusive physical prompt in the next trial by placing your hand over the student's hand and guiding it to the correct location on the sorter.
Reinforce and gradually fade the physical prompt to a pointing prompt, then fade the prompt completely. Place mastery at the same criterion used in Step 1.
► Step 3
Once the student masters inserting the sphere into the sorter without assistance, place the sphere beside the shape sorter rather than handing it to the student. Present the instruction ('Play') and physically prompt the correct response. Fade the prompt to a pointing prompt on subsequent trials. Continue to fade the prompt until the student picks up the sphere and places it into the shape sorter unassisted. Again, place mastery at 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted correct responses.
► Step 4
Remove the first shape from the table before starting Step 4. Now that the student has learned to pick up the sphere and insert it into the sorter after hearing your instruction, introduce a second shape. To maximize the student's success, choose a shape that looks different from the first shape. For example, if the first shape was a sphere, a good next target would be a cube. Present the SD ('Play') and immediately provide the student with a prompt by pointing to the correct location (i.e., square hole) on the shape sorter. This prompt should prevent the student from trying to insert the cube into the hole where the sphere fits. Allow the student some extra time to fit the cube through the hole since this may be her first exposure to these stimuli. Physically prompt the placement of the cube into the sorter if necessary.
Once the student masters inserting the second shape, teach her to insert a third and then a fourth shape, one at a time, following the same procedures used to teach the first two shapes. Before teaching each new shape, clear the table of all other stimuli, putting aside previously taught shapes. Proceed to teach the student to correctly insert each shape into the sorter one at a time, making sure that she learns to independently pick up the shape from the table and insert it before moving to the next stage.
► Step 5
Position two shapes on the table beside the shape sorter (e.g., cube and sphere) and teach the student to place the two shapes into the shape sorter, one after the other. If the student inserts one of the shapes and then stops, prompt her response by pointing to the remaining shape. Gradually increase the number of shapes presented on the table (e.g., place three shapes on the table, then four, etc.) and provide reinforcement contingent upon the student inserting an increasing number of shapes in each trial; that is, instead of reinforcing the student after she inserts one shape, delay reinforcement contingent on her inserting two shapes, then three shapes, and so on. Mastery is achieved when all of the shapes are presented at once and the student inserts each shape without assistance after given the SD ('Play').
The Second Shape Sorter
The second shape sorter should be taught by proceeding through the same sequence of steps used to teach the first shape sorter. This sorter should have a few more shapes than the first sorter, or the shapes may have more sides (e.g., hexagons, stars, and crosses as opposed to spheres, cubes, and pyramids). In addition, the second shape sorter should have holes on more than one side of it. The student must now learn to turn the cube to find the holes that correspond to the shapes.
Although it is likely that you will need to teach the student to turn the sorter to search for the correct holes, let the student independently try to insert one of the new shapes instead of immediately prompting her response. If prompting is necessary to teach manipulation of the sorter, first prompt by pointing to different sides of the sorter. If this level of prompt is not sufficient, use a more intrusive prompt by physically guiding the student's hands, helping her turn the sorter to reveal the other sides. As you prompt the student, provide a verbal instruction such as 'Turn it.' By doing this, the student may learn to associate your verbal instruction with the physical action of turning the cube. Gradually fade out the amount of physical prompt provided while continuing to give the instruction and ample reinforcement for completing the response.
Teach the student to insert the shapes one shape at a time as done previously. Withhold reinforcement in gradual steps until the student can insert all of the shapes into the shape sorter. If necessary, continue to verbally prompt the student to turn the sorter. Remember, however, that all prompts must eventually be faded.
Areas of Difficulty
Some students are easily distracted by the shapes and become preoccupied by playing with them instead of inserting them into the cube; the shapes may 'invite' self-stimulatory behaviour (e.g., gazing at the shapes, placing them in mouth, or spinning them). The student, however, needs to be attentive to your instructions and not engage in self-stimulation if she is to learn to play appropriately with a shape sorter. You may reduce self-stimulatory behaviours by using the techniques described in this section.
Assume you have just presented the SD ('Play') and, instead of inserting a shape into the cube, the student spins it on the table or twirls it in front of her eyes. Consequate this behavior by giving an informational 'No' and removing the shape from the student's hand. Present the SD again and hand the shape to the student. If the student spins the shape again, provide another informational 'No' and take away the shape. Because the upcoming third trial was immediately preceded by two incorrect responses, you should prompt the student's response. Present the SD, hand the student the block, and simultaneously prompt by tapping the shape sorter or physically guiding the student's hand to the sorter. It is important that you prompt the student immediately after the SD so that she does not have time to self-stimulate with the shape. As soon as the student inserts the shape into the sorter, reinforce her. Perform mass trials of inserting one shape into the shape sorter, prompting the desired response, and gradually fading the prompt over the next few trials.
Remember, the correct response for this task is the student's picking up a shape and then inserting it into the shape sorter. If the student picks up a shape and attempts to twirl it before inserting it, this is an incorrect response and should therefore receive an informational 'No' while you withhold the reinforcer. Make sure that the consequence (i.e., 'No') occurs as soon as the student begins engaging in the self-stimulatory behaviour and not as she inserts the shape into the sorter.
If the student continues to have difficulty, it may be necessary to prompt the correct response by modelling it. To perform a model prompt for this task, two identical shape sorters need to be present on the table. Place one shape sorter in front of you and the other in front of the student. Present the instruction ('Do this') and simultaneously pick up a shape and drop it into the sorter. The student should imitate your action by picking up a shape and inserting it into the sorter. Continue to model the correct response but change the instruction to 'Play.' Once the student responds correctly (i.e., the student does not play with the shape before inserting it), gradually fade the modelling prompt.
You may also stop the student from engaging in self-stimulatory behaviour by providing the student with SD that is incompatible with the self-stimulatory action. That is, SD may be presented that require the student to stop engaging in the self-stimulatory behaviour in order to make the correct response to the SD. For example, if the student twirls the shapes in front of her eyes, present an SD that requires the student to use her hands (e.g., 'Clap' or 'Touch toes'). Such SD allow you to reinforce the student for appropriate behaviours, getting her back on track.
Be sure that the SD presented do interfere with the self-stimulatory behaviours and are well mastered by the student; they should be instructions with which the student is familiar and to which she has learned the appropriate responses. A variety of SD may be used from the Early Receptive Language Program (e.g., 'Clap,' 'Wave,' 'Touch ears') or the Nonverbal Imitation Program (e.g., 'Do this' as you clap hands). Keep in mind that you may need to present several mastered SD in a row; that is, it may be necessary to give a series of receptive instructions or nonverbal imitation tasks in order to get the student back on track. These tasks can be referred to informally as wake-up tasks. As the student correctly responds to these SD, reinforce her quickly and then immediately reintroduce the target SD ('Play').
Playing with Cars
In the Nonverbal Imitation Program, the student may have learned to imitate pushing a car back and forth on the table. The student may also have learned to perform this behaviour upon your request in the Early Receptive Language Program. In this section, the student learns to expand his play with cars through the introduction of additional items such as people, a garage, and road tracks.
To teach car play, the following materials are needed: two identical toy cars with places for toy people, two little toy people that fit in the cars, one toy car garage with a ramp, and a set of plastic pieces that connect into a 2- to 6-foot long track. In selecting appropriate stimuli for this program, begin by choosing cars and people that are limited in detail so that distractions are minimized. For example, do not begin by using cars that have doors that open or people with movable arms and legs.
Before beginning this component of the Early Play Skills Program, the student should have learned to imitate single and chained actions with and without objects and he should have made some progress in the Early Receptive Language Program (Chapter 15).
Playing with a Car and a Garage
► Step 1
Seat the student across the table from you or at an adjacent side. Place one car in front of you and another in front of the student. Place a toy person next to each car. Present the SD ('Do this') as you pick up your person, place it in the car, and then push the car back and forth on the table. If the student imitates your actions, immediately reinforce. If he fails to respond correctly, prompt by physically guiding the student to put the person into the car and push the car back and forth on the table. Gradually fade this prompt by providing less assistance on each trial.
If the student is verbal, you can teach him to imitate sounds as he pushes the car (e.g., 'Beep-beep' or 'Vroom'). Make sure the sounds you choose are ones the student can successfully imitate in the Verbal Imitation Program (Chapter 22). If the student has difficulty combining the physical actions and the verbalizations, these behaviours should be taught separately by first teaching the student to place the toy figures in the car, then to push the car, and then to push the car while vocalizing appropriately (the vocalizations should be brought to mastery in verbal imitation before they are added to the physical action). Finally, these behaviours should be chained into the sequence of actions described previously. Have the student practice the complete response until criterion is achieved (5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted correct responses).
► Step 2
Set up the materials in the same format used in Step 1. For this step, add a toy garage to the stimuli and place it on the table either between you and the student or off to the side of the table. Then proceed to teach the student to imitate a chain of three actions. Present the SD ('Do this') as you place the person in the car and push the car back and forth on the table. Immediately after the student imitates these actions, quickly reinforce him and then present the SD ('Do this') again, placing your car at the top of the garage ramp and rolling it down. If the student imitates these actions, reinforce him. If the student does not imitate your actions, assist him with a prompt on the next trial. Begin with the least intrusive prompt possible by first pointing to the top of the ramp. If this does not occasion the desired response, use a physical prompt by gently guiding the student's hand to the top of the ramp as he holds the car and then help him to roll the car down. Gradually fade this prompt and place mastery at the same criterion used in Step 1.
► Step 3
Continue to present mass trials of the action sequence described in Step 2 (i.e., place the person in the car, push the car back and forth, and then roll the car down the garage ramp). This time, however, instead of giving the SD twice, present it once at the beginning of the sequence (i.e., as you put the person in the car). Gradually withhold reinforcement until the student imitates all the actions in the sequence. Thus, instead of reinforcing the student after he picks up the person and places it in the car, wait until he has completed the response by rolling the car down the ramp of the garage. After the student responds to criterion, proceed to the next step.
► Step 4
In this step, teach the student to engage in the chain presented above after being verbally instructed to do so. Position the materials in the same manner as done before. Present the SD ('Do this') and simultaneously model the response. After the student has completed one successful trial, change the SD from 'Do this' to 'Play with garage' and model the sequence again (i.e., put the person in the car and then roll the car down the ramp of the garage). Gradually fade the modelling sequence as a prompt so that the student learns to play with the car and garage when you say to the student, 'Play with garage,' without first showing him what to do.
Connecting Road Tracks
Connecting road tracks is an activity that is similar to assembling puzzles, described earlier. It is important to begin with road tracks that are relatively easy to assemble. Tracks that require the student to hold them at a certain angle to fit them together or that require precise placement before they connect is likely to frustrate the student. Therefore, select large tracks the student can connect with relative ease. Also, ensure that the toy cars used with the tracks are sized so they fit easily on the tracks. Initially avoid tracks that have grooves designated for wheels.
► Step 1
You and the student should sit at the table across from one another. Place two pieces of track in front of you and two pieces in front of the student. Present the SD ('Do this') and connect your two pieces of track. If the student imitates your actions and connects his tracks, reinforce him. If the student responds incorrectly or fails to respond, prompt on the next trial by placing your hands over his, physically guiding the student to connect the tracks. Gradually fade the amount of assistance provided on subsequent trials. After approximately two consecutive successful trials, change the SD from 'Do this' to 'Play with tracks' and continue to model the correct response. Gradually start to fade the modelling sequence as a prompt. The goal is to have the SD ('Play with tracks') occasion the appropriate response independent of prompting. Be ready, however, to assist the student by saying, 'Do this,' and modelling the response. Once the student is able to connect the tracks without prompting when presented with the instruction 'Play with tracks,' proceed to the next step.
► Step 2
One at a time, increase the number of tracks placed on the table. Begin by placing three tracks in front of the student and presenting the SD ('Play with tracks'). If the student successfully connects the tracks, continue to introduce one additional piece of track at a time, up to approximately five or six pieces. For a few trials, moderately reinforce the student each time he connects a piece of track and save the big rein-forcer for the end of the chain. Gradually begin to withhold all reinforcement until the student successfully connects all of the tracks as a single response.
If the student has difficulty connecting additional pieces of track or stops after connecting the first two pieces, prompt him to continue by tapping the remaining pieces of track while saying, 'Keep going' or 'Finish.' By repeatedly pairing the verbal prompt with the nonverbal cue (in this case, the tap), the student may eventually learn to follow the instruction when presented without the visual component.
► Step 3
Place several pieces of track on the table along with a car, and present the SD ('Play with tracks'). After the student assembles the track, present the SD ('Do this') and model pushing the car along the tracks. If the student responds correctly and pushes the car along the tracks, reinforce him. If the student responds incorrectly or fails to respond, provide a physical prompt on the next trial by gently placing your hand over his hand, helping him to push the car along the tracks. Remember to gradually fade this prompt and any additional prompts so that the student learns to connect the tracks and then push the car along them when he hears the SD ('Play with tracks') student new actions such as flying an airplane and then landing on a runway.
When teaching the student new activities or play with novel toys, remember to proceed in a manner similar to the steps described previously. That is, begin by breaking down each new task into separate components and then gradually build up to the entire sequence. If the goal is to teach the student to assemble train tracks, put people in a train, and then push the train along the track, remember to first teach each of these tasks individually.
Areas of Difficulty
The student may engage in self-stimulatory behaviour with the cars instead of playing with them appropriately. For example, the student may prefer to turn the car upside down and spin its wheels instead of pushing it along the table. Similarly, the student may self-stimulate by lowering his head until the car is at eye level, and watching the wheels turn as he pushes the car back and forth.
Each new response the student is to learn should be taught in small steps to help replace self-stimulatory behaviour. For example, if the student self-stimulates by spinning the car's wheels, teach him to push the car back and forth along the table without self-stimulating before you teach him to roll it down the ramp of the garage. Then, once the self-stimulatory behaviour has been successfully reduced, move on to teaching additional actions.
As with other toys and activities, the student may not initially enjoy playing with cars. However, it is important to provide the student with an adequate amount of prompting and reinforcement to appropriately test whether he finds this kind of play reinforcing. If, despite your best teaching efforts, the student shows no interest in playing with cars, switch to another form of toy play. The student may acquire an interest in car play at a later time.
Extending Car Play
You can teach the student a variety of additional car play skills through the use of nonverbal imitation. This extension may progress in several different directions. First, the student can be taught new actions using the toys with which he has already mastered actions. For example, the student may be taught to put 'gas' in the car, park the car in the garage, or push the car around on the floor. Second, the student can be taught to perform actions similar to those already mastered but use different toys to perform these actions. For example, the student may learn to push a train (instead of a car) along a new set of tracks. Third, different toys, such as airplanes, can be used to teach the
Playing with Dolls
The following materials are needed to teach doll play: two baby dolls, two baby bottles, a crib, and a small blanket. Prior to beginning this component of the Early Play Skills Program, the student should have learned to imitate actions involving objects and two-action chains. The student should also have gained some exposure to receptive instructions.
As with many other play programs, doll play is initially taught through imitation; you model playing with a doll and teach the student to imitate the actions. As the student becomes proficient at imitating different actions with dolls, the student is taught to engage in these actions in response to a receptive request (e.g., 'Rock baby'). It is important to emphasize the facilitating effect of real-life interactions with their symbolic counterparts (e.g., toys). For example, toy play with dolls may transfer to congruent actions with babies and small children. Because a common language unites the two counterparts, learning the language associated with certain actions will help to mediate the transfer of skills from the symbolic to the actual. Early play skills that are established at this time will be intermixed, extended, and elaborated as the student grows older and learns more about parallel events in her everyday environment. It is then that the student's play becomes more consequential.
Patting a Doll
► Step 1
You and the student should sit facing one another in front of the table. Place both dolls on the table, one next to yourself and one next to the student. Present the SD ('Do this') as you pick up the doll, hold it up to your chest, and pat it on the back. If the student responds correctly and imitates your actions, reinforce. If the student fails to respond or responds incorrectly, simplify the task by teaching only the first behaviour in the sequence (i.e., picking up the doll) and physically prompting the response. Fade the prompt and gradually add additional behaviours and reinforce contingent on the longer chain (sequence of behaviours). Place mastery at imitation of the entire chain (i.e., picking up the doll, holding it against the chest, and patting its back) in 5 out 5 or 9 out 10 unprompted trials.
► Step 2
Change the SD from 'Do this' and the model to the instruction 'Pat baby' by gradually fading out the model prompt. Set mastery at the same criterion used in Step 1.
Rocking a Doll
► Step 1
Maintain the physical arrangement above. Present the SD ('Do this') as you pick up the baby and then rock it back and forth in your arms. If the student responds correctly and imitates your actions, reinforce. If the student fails to respond or responds incorrectly, prompt her as you did previously and then fade this prompt over time. Once the student is able to imitate rocking the doll in 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted trials, proceed to the next step.
► Step 2
Repeat Step 1. However, this time change the SD from 'Do this' to 'Rock baby.' Gradually fade the model prompt so that the student learns to respond to the receptive instruction 'Rock baby' without prompting.
Additional Doll Play Skills
A variety of doll play skills may be taught through imitation. For instance, the student may be taught to place a doll in a crib and then pretend to feed it with a bottle and cover it with a blanket. These actions should first be taught through imitation. Then, once the student masters the actions with a model, the student may be taught to play when given instructions appropriate to the behaviour (e.g., 'Feed baby' or 'Dress baby').
As with car play, the student may eventually be taught to perform a series of interrelated behaviours when given a general instruction such as 'Play with dolls.' However, anticipate that it will take a great deal of prompting and reinforcement to build a chain of behaviours that create complex forms of doll play. Remember to first teach each behaviour separately and then proceed to chain more elaborate sequences by providing reinforcement contingent on an increasingly longer series of behaviours.
Areas of Difficulty
As with other toy play activities, the student may self-stimulate with the dolls instead of playing appropriately. To help remedy this problem, become familiar with the guidelines presented under the 'Areas of Difficulty' section of 'Playing with Cars.' It is also possible that the student may not find doll play reinforcing and cease playing with dolls when not extrinsically reinforced. However, it is important to remember that peers may eventually be able to provide the extra reinforcement necessary for maintenance of this skill. If, despite your best teaching efforts, the student continues to show no interest in playing with dolls or finds this type of play aversive, switch to another form of toy play. The student may acquire an interest in doll play at a later time when gaining behaviours relevant to real-life events.
Playing with Balls
To teach the student basic ball play skills, such as rolling, throwing, and catching, you need a large, soft, inflatable ball (e.g., a beach ball). Using a soft ball will prevent the student from getting hurt, which in turn will help prevent him from fearing and cowering from the ball when it is thrown to him. Also, a large ball will aid in the student's acquisition of catching because large balls are generally easier to catch than small balls. In the future, however, balls of varying size and weight should be introduced for the purpose of generalization.
Rolling a Ball
► Step 1
Two teachers are needed for this program. One teacher and the student should sit on the floor facing each other, approximately 4 to 5 feet apart, with their legs open in a V position. A second teacher should sit directly behind the student to prompt the correct sitting position and appropriate responses to the first teacher's SD. Once both adults and the student are positioned, the first teacher presents the SD ('Catch') while rolling the ball to the student. The adult seated behind the student physically prompts the student to catch the ball by holding the student's arms out in front of him and clasping his hands around the ball. Both adults immediately reinforce the student for catching the ball. Continue to roll the ball to the student and gradually fade the amount of assistance provided. For example, fade the full physical prompt by lessening the intrusiveness of the prompt until just a tap on the student's elbows occasions the correct response. Once this level of prompting is reached, fade the prompt completely until the student catches the ball independently in 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 trials. After this criterion is met, go on to Step 2.
► Step 2
Assume the same positions taken in Step 1. The first teacher presents the SD ('Catch') while rolling the ball to the student. Immediately after the student catches the ball, reinforce him. Next teach the student to reciprocate the action by prompting the student to roll the ball back to the teacher. The first teacher presents the SD ('Roll') and the second teacher (seated behind the student) prompts the response by helping the student push the ball toward the teacher. Reinforce the response. Continue taking turns rolling the ball back and forth, gradually fading the amount of prompting provided on each trial. Place mastery at 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted correct responses.
Continue rolling the ball back and forth. However, in this step, instead of providing an SD for each trial (i.e., 'Catch' and 'Roll'), state a more general SD at the beginning of the trial (e.g., 'Let's play ball') and begin chaining the two behaviours (catch and roll). Fade the SD 'Catch' and 'Roll' by providing these SD on every second trial, then every third trial, and so on until only the more general SD ('Let's play ball') is provided. If the student fails to respond appropriately (e.g., he does not roll the ball back to the teacher), reintroduce the least intrusive prompt that is effective at producing the correct response. Fade this prompt as quickly as possible. Once the skill is mastered (5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted correct trials), slowly fade out the adult's assistance from behind the student. This may be done by having the adult move from sitting directly behind the student to sitting 1 to 2 feet back, then kneeling behind the student, then standing, and so on. The first teacher should continue to provide SD while the distance between the student and the second adult is gradually increased until the second adult is completely removed.
Deliver reinforcement contingent on the student's rolling and catching the ball as one response. Also, gradually increase the distance between the teacher and the student approximately 1 to 2 feet at a time. Set mastery at 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 unprompted correct responses.
Catching and Throwing a Ball
► Step 1
The teacher and student should stand facing one another at a distance of approximately 2 to 3 feet. A second adult should stand behind the student and provide prompting. Once the student and both adults are positioned, give the SD ('Catch') and lightly toss the ball into the student's outstretched arms (held in place by the second teacher). Over trials, gradually fade the amount of physical prompting and increase the distance from 3 to 5 feet. Reinforce the student once he independently catches the ball in 5 out of 5 or 9 out of 10 trials.
► Step 2
Now that the student can catch the ball, teach him to throw the ball back to the teacher. One adult should stand directly behind the student and the other adult should face the student and stand approximately 2 to 3 feet away. Once the adults and student are positioned, present the SD ('Throw'). If necessary, prompt the response by physically helping the student throw the ball underhand back to the teacher. Reinforce the response. Fade the prompt by providing less assistance on each successive trial.
► Step 3
Continue to throw the ball back and forth as done in Step 2, but now start to shape the behaviour so that the student throws the ball back to the teacher immediately after catching it (i.e., chain the behaviours). Gradually fade the individual SD ('Catch' and 'Throw'), as done previously in Step 3 for rolling a ball. Shift the reinforcement until it becomes contingent on completing both behaviours (catch-ing and throwing). Finally, once the student is able to catch and throw the ball with little or no assistance, increase the distance between the teacher and the student and gradually remove the adult from behind the student.
As the student becomes more proficient at throwing and catching, begin introducing different balls. Each time a ball is introduced, it should be only slightly heavier and smaller in size than the one that directly preceded it.
Areas of Difficulty
Some students are unable to hold onto the ball once it is thrown to them and try to compensate by catching the ball using their arms instead of their hands. Pre-training exercises may be used to remedy this problem. Begin by having one adult hold the ball while a second adult prompts the student to pull the ball out of the other adult's hands (SD is 'Get ball' or 'Pull'). By doing this, the student learns to use his hands to grasp the ball. After the student practices pulling the ball out of the teacher's hands, reintroduce catching and use a full physical prompt. As the student becomes more adept at catching the ball with his hands, fade the prompt and increase the distance between the teacher and the student.
If the student continues to have difficulty catching the ball, try using a large balloon instead of an inflatable ball. A balloon should be easier for the student to catch because it stays airborne longer than a ball. Thus, the student will have a longer period of time in which to prepare to catch the balloon.
Given that students vary greatly in their gross motor abilities, the acquisition of ball play skills will be more difficult for some students than others. Similarly, whereas some students demonstrate an immediate interest in ball play, others react indifferently. However, by providing ample reinforcement and adequate prompting, most students learn to enjoy ball play.
Prior to being taught to play basic preschool games, the student should have mastered a variety of behaviors in ; nonverbal imitation (e.g., stand up, pat legs, touch head, clap, jump) and simple receptive instructions (e.g., 'Stand up,' 'Clap'). It is important that the student has previously mastered instructions and imitative actions that require moving around the room in addition to those performed while seated in a chair. Because the majority of preschool games require a circle-time format, the student must be able to sit on the floor with a group of people for at least 1 minute. It is helpful but not necessary for the student to have some verbal ability (e.g., verbal imitation, expressive labeling of objects). If the student is not verbal, she will still be able to participate by performing actions.
The student may be taught any of numerous preschool games (e.g., Hot Potato, Duck Duck Goose, Musical Chairs, and Tag) and action songs (e.g., Ring around the Rosie, Itsy Bitsy Spider). Keep in mind that, as with other play skills, some students may not initially find these games and songs to be reinforcing; however, others may enjoy the self-stimulatory properties of songs such as Itsy Bitsy Spider. It is important that everyone in the group enthusiastically reinforces the student for playing or singing, making the experience as much fun as possible.
We use the game Hot Potato as an illustration because this game is relatively easy to teach and the skills involved are basic and relatively easy to prompt. If the student has limited verbal ability or is unable to imitate words or sounds, this section can be taught by eliminating the verbal component.
Before proceeding, an object that can serve as the hot potato must be found. It is not necessary to use a real potato, and it is actually preferable to use an object that is softer and lighter than a potato (e.g., a beanbag or small ball). A lighter object may be easier for the student to pass and no one in the game will be injured if the object is accidentally thrown too vigorously.
At least three people (the student, a teacher, and another person) are needed to begin teaching the game; however, a group size of approximately four to six is ideal. In the future, siblings or other individuals may be included in the group, but only adults who have experience teaching the student should participate initially.
► Step 1
The student and other participants should sit on the floor in a circle. One person should be designated as the teacher and lead the game. The student should sit immediately to the teacher's right, being the last person to have a turn in the circle. The person on the other side of the student (i.e., the person immediately to the student's right) functions as the prompter.
► Step 2
The teacher presents the SD ('Hot potato!') and passes the item representing the potato in a clockwise direction. Upon receiving the potato, the second person says, 'Hot potato!' and passes the object to the next person in the circle, and so on. When it is the student's turn to be given the potato, the prompter may need to assist the student to respond correctly. If necessary, the prompter should provide the SD ('Hot potato!') and physically prompt the student to catch the 'potato' and pass it to the teacher. If the student fails to respond correctly, present an SD with which she is familiar (e.g., 'Catch') and physically prompt her to respond correctly. Gradually fade all prompts
► Step 3
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until the student is able to pass the potato without any assistance. Gradually increase the speed with which the potato is passed until the student learns to toss the potato quickly after receiving it. Also, vary the student's location within the circle so she does not always receive the potato last.
Additional preschool games can be taught by following steps similar to those described above. Simplify various components of the game as much as necessary to keep the student successful. As elementary games are mastered, more difficult games should be introduced.
Singing Action Songs
Most students enjoy singing songs, which is helpful when preparing them for preschool. As with games, the student does not have to be verbal to participate in action songs. If the student is unable to sing along with the group, she can participate by performing the appropriate actions. Action songs may be taught in a one-on-one setting (i.e., with the teacher and student) or in a circle-time format. All participants should sing the songs and perform the behaviours that correspond to the lyrics.
To keep the student successful, some of the actions may need to be simplified or the song's pace slowed down. If at any time the student does not imitate your behaviours or stops singing, provide her with a receptive instruction (e.g., 'Clap' or 'Sing') or prompt her to imitate your actions (i.e., say, 'Do this,' as you model an action). As you may know, the words of the songs should cue various behaviours. Sets of words to three of the more popular action songs follow. Note the self-stimulatory properties of rhymes such as 'stout,' 'spout,' 'shout,' 'trout,' 'out,' or repetitions as in 'round,' 'round,' and 'round.' 'Edited echolalia' may be a fitting description for such socially acceptable and self-reinforcing behaviours.
I'm a Little Teapot
I'm a little teapot short and stout, Here is my handle and here is my spout. When I get all steamed up, hear me shout. Tip me over and pour me out.
Wheels on the Bus
The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and
Round, round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town.
The people on the bus go up and down, up and down, up
And down. The people on the bus go up and down, all through the
Town. The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish. Swish, swish,
Swish. Swish, swish, swish. The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish, all through
The town. The babies on the bus go waa, waa, waa. Waa, waa, waa.
Waa, waa, waa. The babies on the bus go waa, waa, waa, all through the
Town. The driver on the bus says, 'Move on back,' 'Move on
Back,' 'Move on back. The driver on the bus says, 'Move on back,' all through the
If you’re Happy and You Know It
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, and you really want to
Show it, if you're happy and you know it, clap your
If you're mad and you know it, stomp your feet. If you're mad and you know it, stomp your feet. If you're mad and you know it, and you really want to show
it, if you're mad and you know it stomp your feet.
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