The Incredible Years® Blog

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Building Blocks for Reading with Extra-CARE for Young Children on the Autism Spectrum and with Language Delays

by Carolyn Webster-Stratton

Reading with children is a powerful way to build their language skills.  We have new handouts for parents and teachers with children on the Autism spectrum and with language delays, to help them learn to tailor their reading to children’s interest and developmental level.

Extra-Care reading involves parents and teachers providing children on the Autism spectrum and with language delays with added opportunities for language development, joint attention and social interaction. To start, take extra care to choose a book with a topic the child is emotionally interested in, perhaps something from the child’s “like list”. For example, if the child likes planes, trains, cooking, or a particular animal, pick a book on this topic. This will help you to enter the child’s interest spotlight. Choose books with pictures, very few words and sensory activities, if possible, with flaps and hidden objects that allow the child to open and close flaps, to touch different textures and provide different smells.

Comment strategically according to the child’s language level.
The amount of commenting you do will depend on the extra-care you take in first understanding the child’s receptive and expression language ability. Children will lose interest if your verbal language is too advanced or hurried. Remember this is all about encouraging joint attention and showing you are attentive to the child’s interests and are keeping the communication interaction going.

Avoid open-ended questions, pace your commenting, and repeat often.
For children with receptive and expressive language delays, asking questions when reading can be intimidating and cause withdrawal, anxiety and confusion because the child doesn’t understand and may think you don’t understand them. Instead strategically decide what words you want to encourage, allow time for the child’s response (verbally or nonverbally) and then imitate their response. This will show you are interested in them. If the child repeats your sound effects, or gesture, or word, imitate that again so the child sees how their response is affecting your response. Be sure to smile and have eye contact when you do this.

Respond and listen with interest. Wait and pause before talking again so the child has time to respond.
When the child responds with a smile, or gesture, or sound effect, or words, enthusiastically respond to these responses verbally and nonverbally whether or not your child seems to be making sense. Always act as if you understand what the child is saying! Imitate the child’s gestures, sounds and words. The goal here is to not only encourage the child’s interest in books and to get into his or her spotlight, but also to engage in joint attention and positive interactions.

Expand on what the child says.
For a child with no language you can use hand signals to model the action, or use the actual object as you name it, or use one of your child’s likes (song, touch or favorite object) to add more excitement to the joint reading interaction. For children with some words use the one-up rule and add an additional word. To combine social interactions with reading, read to two children at the same time and prompt language in both children. Occasionally surprise children by doing something unexpected such a variation on the story such as a different and humorous word, or naming the object or feeling incorrectly, and then correct yourself. “Ooops my mistake!” Make games out of a book by covering up a picture with sticky notes and guessing what is under there, or what comes on the next page. Sing a song using the word you are encouraging. End the reading with the routine of an “all done” and hand signal.

• Keeping the reading fun and simple using the “one up” principle to decide how much language to use when reading.
• Showing kindness and avoiding commands and criticism when children are reading.
• Allowing children to reread stories as often as they wish. This is a pre-reading skill and leads to mastery and confidence. Once the child has learned the story you can add partial prompts to see if they will fill in the blank.
• Slowing down and building repetition with an enthusiastic tone.
• Reading so children can see your face and expressions.
• Singing at times during reading.
• Using hand signals, gestures, sound effects, and objects to enhance reading understanding
• Making sure there is a back and forth quality to the reading and you are not simply reading without requiring some response or connection with the child before continuing to read.

Download Reading With Extra-CARE with Children with Autism & Language Delays (for Parents)

Download Reading With Extra-CARE with Children on the Autism Spectrum (for Teachers)

Join IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton for Autism Parent Group Leader Online Tele-Session Training
Dates: June 8th, 10th, 15th, 17st, & 22rd, 2021, 8:00am – 11:15am PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD
Cost: $775 per person

June 2021 Autism Parent Training Brochure & Registration Info

New! Incredible Years videos for Autism Programs now available online!

Video Streaming subscriptions may be purchased for the Autism Parenting Training Program or the Teacher Autism Program – Helping Preschool Children with Autism as a Training Program Package. This program package option has everything a new Group Leader needs – one-year video streaming subscription, group leader manual, books, and accessory materials.

Autism Parenting Program Video Streaming

If your agency has previously purchased the full program package with accessory materials, you may purchase Videos Only – a one-year subscription to access the videos online with no additional accessory items.

Teacher Autism Program: Helping Preschool Children with Autism Video Streaming

Learn more about program video streaming on our website!

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Using the editable “How I Am Incredible!” handout to help tailor to children’s developmental levels

The How I am Incredible! handout is used to help parents share information about their child’s developmental level including language and play level, temperament, and likes and dislikes. In addition, parents share their family support network and goals for their children.

This editable form can be emailed to families individually, can be completed when doing your first individual interview with families, or can be started in the first IY group session or home coaching visit. This process is valuable because it helps group leaders and other parents have more detailed knowledge of each child’s unique development and their similarities and differences in regard to their language, play level, and academic readiness and goals.  At subsequent meetings, parents can continue to add to the editable form more details about the child’s developmental goals and motivating antecedents. They will add notes of any new discoveries they make as they engage in social and emotional coaching during child-directed play. Parents will note which strategies are especially helpful for supporting their child’s goals.

Throughout the program, when group leaders are showing vignettes, they can refer to completed How I Am Incredible forms for information about each of the children, and can set up tailored role-play practices based on the children’s developmental language & play levels and parent goals. For example, a practice may be set up with a child who has very limited language focusing on modeling language in a paced way with gestures, objects, pictures, fun sound effects and frequent repetition and imitation. After this role play is completed and debriefed, the group leader will select a another child from a group parent to practice how this language will look for a child with typical language focused on pre-academic skills such as naming numbers, colors, shapes, positions and letters. Group leaders can set up several large group practices unpacking the differences in approach for 2-3 target children to demonstrate the developmental differences before breaking up parents in to dyads for practice.  Dyads will be selected to match parent participants who have target children at similar developmental levels. After the dyadic practices, parents will share their learning so that everyone learns principles of tailoring based on the individual needs of children.

We have developed editable versions of the How I Am Incredible handout for parents of children aged 3-6 (for the Preschool Basic program), for parents of children aged 6-12 (for the School Age Basic program), and for parents & teachers of children on the Autism spectrum or with language delays.

Download How I Am Incredible for the Preschool Basic program (English, editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the Preschool Basic program (Spanish, editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the School Age Basic program (editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the Autism Parenting program (editable)

Download How I Am Incredible for the Teacher Autism program (editable)

Join IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton for her Webinar: Implementing Online the Incredible Years Way

Group Leaders will learn to tailor IY groups for online delivery!
Date: Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 9:00am – 11:00am  PST
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Led by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD
Cost: $200 per person

April 2021 Online Webinar Brochure And Registration Info