Archive for the ‘Communication Intervention’ Category

Our FREE journal club met on Monday night. We discussed Fallagant & Pence 2017. You may access the article here or here.

The introduction to the paper consisted of a nice review of some of the work done to date in this area. The authors discussed why the Preschool Life Skills are so essential. 

The authors also discussed using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model for teaching these skills. You can learn more about RTI here or here. Essentially, in Tier 1, skills would be taught to a larger group or entire class. In Tier 2, small group instruction would be provided to the students who didn’t acquire the skills in Tier 1. Then in Tier 3, 1:1 instruction would occur for the students who didn’t learn the skills in Tier 1 or Tier 2.

The research was scientifically sound in terms of demonstrating experimental control. The authors used a multiple baseline across behaviors and then replicated that over 6 students. Like most research, a few flaws existed. For example, by using a multiple baseline across behaviors, experimenters lose a little bit of experimental control when the student demonstrates response generalization to an untrained behavior.

The participants in the study may have come from a convenience sample which was most likely a university affiliated preschool program. Each of the special education teachers in the school held master’s degrees in special education. The assistant teachers all held bachelor degrees.

The data in the study consisted of measuring the life skills being taught: responding to name, requesting/manding adult attention, requesting/manding adult assistance, delay tolerance, denial tolerance, and independent versus prompted responses. The authors indicated they also collected data on challenging behaviors but those data were not presented in the paper. The authors also reported high IOA data as well as high fidelity data (which is not always reported).

The authors provided a great description of the modifications provided to students who did not acquire the skills in Tier 1, 2, or 3. For these students, this included the use of an AAC device (i.e., proloquo).

One of our big discussion points occured around the author’s use of least to most prompting during Tier 1. We discussed if the results would have been different had they used most to least prompting and decided this should be a point of focus in a future study!

Another area of discussion for us revolved around the authors’ use of only 8 trials per session. This hardly seemed like enough practice for a preschooler, let alone a pre-k student with disabilities (the children had autism, Down syndrome, or DD).

We discussed, and the authors mentioned, the use of AAC and whether the students would have acquired the skills in Tier 1 had the AAC been available during that phase of instruction.

We also discussed the lack of preference assessments and whether the authors’ use of social reinforcement may have been potent enough to reinforce skill acquisition.

And finally, we discussed the limited generalization observed to peers. Some of the kids generalized skills to the adults who are obviously more skilled than the peers. But we also discussed the fact that with such few learning trials (N=8), that the kids may not have developed fluency in the skills thereby limiting their ability to readily generalize the skills. And of course, the authors mentioned that they did not program for generalization so this may have impacted generalization as well.

Bottom line, these seem to be some essential skills that we could easily teach in classrooms to increase the social skills of students.

I have identified a few extra resources. First because of all the tolerance discussion, we should look at some of the original tolerance studies. The following studies utilized FCT combined with Tolerance training.

  1. Bird, F., Dores, A. P, Moniz, D., Robinson, J. (1989). Reducing severe aggressive and self-injurious behaviors with functional communication training. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 94, 37-48.
  2. Brown, K. A., Wacker, D. P., Derby, K. M., Peck, S. M., Richman, D. M., Sasso, G. M., Knutson, C. L., & Harding, J. W. (2000). Evaluating the effects of functional communication training on brief functional analyses of aberrant behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 53-71.
  3. Carr, E. G., & Carlson, J. I. (1993). Reduction of severe behavior problems in the community using a multicomponent treatment approach. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 157-172. 
  4. Day, M. H., Horner, R. H., O’Neil, R. E. (1994). Multiple functions of problem behaviors: Assessment and intervention. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 279-289.
  5. Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., Hagopian, L. P., Bowman, L. G., & Krug, A. (2000).  Facilitating toleraance of delayed reinforcement during functional communication training. Behavior Modification, 24(1), 3-29.
  6. Hagopian, L. P., Wilson, D., & Wilder, D. (2001). Assessment and treatment of problem behavior maintained by escape from attention and access to tangibles. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 229-232.
  7. Harding, J., Wacker, D. P., Berg, W. K., Barretto, A., & Ringdahl, J. (2005).  Evaluation of relations between specific antecedent stimuli and self-injury during functional analysis conditions.  American Journal on Mental Retardation, 110(3), 205-215.
  8. McConnachie, G., & Carr, E. G. (1997). The effects of child behavior problems on the maintenance of intervention fidelity. Behavior Modification, 21, 123-158.
  9. Symons, F. J., Fox, N. D., & Thompson, T. (1998). Functional communication training and naltrexone treatment of self-injurious behavior: An experimental case report. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 11, 273-292.

And here are some extra resources on Preschool Life Skills

  1. Hanley et al 2007
  2. Luczynksi & Hanly (2013)
  3. Luczynski, Hanley, & Rodriguez (2014)
  4. Beaulieu, Hanley, & Roberson 2012
  5. Beaulieu, Hanley, & Roberson 2013
  6. Hanley, Fahmie, & Heal 2014 (in headstart)
  7. Francisco & Hanley (2012)
  8. Robison, Mann, & Ingvarsson (in press)
  9. Dogan et al 2017 (training parents)
  10. Halfdanardottier, Sveinbjornsdottir & Ingvarsson (in process but looking at life skills in older students)
  11. Ala’i-Rosales et al 2018
  12. Fahmie & Luczynski 2018 (review of studies)

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Today starts Autism Awareness Month! Many apps related to autism are free today!

 Reading and Reading Readiness

  • Endless Reader
  • Endless ABCs
  • Letterland Quick Dash
  • Letterland ABC
  • Letterland Far Beyond ABC
  • Letterland Stories
  • Letterland Word Builder
  • Fix It Phonics Review
  • ABC Alphabet Phonics
  • Phonics Awareness
  • Phonics Island
  • Hooked on Phonics
  • Smiley Sight Words
  • Teach Me Toddler
  • Teach Me Kindergarten
  • Teach Me 1st Grade
  • Super Why
  • ABC Match Ups
  • Intro to Letters (by Montessorium)
  • Bob Books
  • Elmo’s ABCs
  • See Touch Learn
  • Zoo Train
  • Feed Me
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
  • Dora ABCs
  • DTT Words
  • ABC Matchups

Spelling Apps

These apps go beyond letter recognition and actually teach the child to spell words.

  • Montessori Cross Words
  • Word Magic
  • Wordball
  • PCS Word Scramble
  • A+ Spelling Test
  • Spelling City
  • Spell Mania
  • Bitsboard Spelling Bee

Vocabulary and Language Builders

  • Kindergarten dot com Flash Cards (there are many! actions, alphabet, zoo, fruits, toys, instruments)
  • Speech with Milo (sequencing, verbs, prepositions, adjectives)
  • First Words Deluxe
  • Preschool Animals
  • Story builder
  • Sentence builder
  • Language Builder
  • Question Builder
  • Zombie Grammar Force
  • Grammar App
  • SAT Grammar
  • Little Match Ups
  • PCS Language Flash Cards
  • PCS Vocabulary Flash Cards
  • See Touch Learn by Brain Parade
  • Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Word Builder

Speech and Articulation

  • Phono Pix Full
  • Artic Pix
  • Articulation Flip Book
  • Articulation Flash Cards (PCS)

Writing and Story Writing

  • My Story Book Maker
  • Pictello
  • iMovie
  • Rainbow Writing
  • Writing Challenge for Kids
  • Writing Prompts for Kids
  • Silly Story Starters
  • Picturebook: School Edition

AAC and Visual Planners

  • First Then Scheduler
  • Proloquo2go
  • iPrompts
  • Going Placesipad_proloquo_20110425
  • Timer
  • Alarmed
  • Tap to Talk
  • Vu Meter
  • My Choice Board
  • PCS Sign Language Flash Cards

Social Skills

  • Social Skills Play
  • Give Me 5!
  • Social Skills Pro
  • Social Skills Working with Goldstein
  • QuickCues
  • Stories2Learn
  • What are They Thinking?
  • HiddenCurriculum Kids
  • Stories2Learn
  • Conversation Builder
  • iTopics

Interactive Food Games (Thank you Maverick Software)

  • More Grillin
  • More Cookies
  • More Buffet
  • Cupcakes
  • More Pizza
  • More Salad
  • Little Match Ups Fruits

Interactive Echo Games

  • Talking Gugi
  • Talking Tom
  • Talking Babies
  • Talking Gina
  • Talking John
  • Talking Roby
  • Talking Larry
  • Talking Ben
  • Talking Pierre
  • Talking Ginger
  • Talking Tom and Ben

Interactive Books

  • Misty Island (Thomas the Train complete with puzzles, coloring, and dot to dot)
  • 5 Little Monkeys
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • Me and Mom Go to the City
  • Toy Story (with reading and painting)
  • On The Farm
  • Ronki
  • Speech with Milo
  • Mickey Mouse Puzzle Book
  • Monster at the End of the Book
  • Another Monster at the End of the Book (with Elmo)


  • Read me Stories (a library with one free book each day)
  • Mee Genius (a library)
  • Reading Bug
  • Food Fight
  • Christmas Tale
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • Three Pigs
  • Sesame Books
  • Elmo’s Birthday

General Knowledge

  • Brain Pop
  • Weet Woo
  • See Touch Learn by Brain Parade


  • Splash Math
  • Endless Numbers
  • Bert’s Bag
  • Intro to Math (by Montessorium)
  • Free Multiplication Tables
  • Grasshopper
  • Ace Math Flash Cards
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Analogies for Kids
  • Analogies Practice
  • Tally Tots
  • Counting Coins
  • Every Day Mathematics
  • Fish School
  • K12 money
  • Math Cards
  • Patterning
  • Sail Through Math
  • Sequencing


  • Children’s Wooden Puzzles
  • Wooden Puzzles (these are not all good but the good ones are great. Sadly, the developers did not advertise on their app so we can’t tell you the exact name or developer)

Strategy and Problem Solving

  • Zentonimo
  • Cogs
  • Scrabble
  • Numulus
  • Logigrid
  • Conquist2
  • TicTacToe
  • Memory Game
  • Checkers Plus
  • Sudoku
  • Dots Free
  • Spider Free
  • Understanding inferences


  • Pictureka
  • Waldo
  • I Spy

Adaptive Skills

  • I Love Potty
  • Everyday Skills
  • Potty Time with Elmo

Motor Skills

  • Dexteria (developed by an OT and teaches fine motor skills)

Interactive Games

  • Bowling
  • Mini Cooper Liquid Assets
  • Monkey Flight (by Donut Games)
  • Sunday Lawn (by Donut Games)
  • Skee Ball
  • Flashlight
  • Spin the Coke Bottle
  • Spinning Plates
  • More Cowbell
  • Angry Birds
  • Doodle Jump
  • Cut the Rope
  • Where’s My Water
  • Rat on a Skateboard
  • Trucks (by Duck Duck Moose)
  • Sponge Bob Super Bouncy
  • Sponge Bob Diner Dash

Interactive Songs and Music

  • Wheels on the Bus (Duck Duck Moose developers)
  • Old MacDonald (Duck Duck Moose)
  • Wheels on the Bus (Duck Duck Moose)
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider (Duck Duck Moose)
  • Kid’s Songs
  • Virtuosa Piano
  • Piano Free
  • Music Sparkles

Art Tools

  • Drawing Pad
  • Draw Free
  • Kid Paint
  • Whiteboard
  • Doodle cast
  • Doodle cast for kids

Halloween Applications

  • Carve a Pumpkin (to make the cute Jack-O-Lantern)
  • Pumpkin Lite
  • PumpknXplod
  • Pumpkin Plus
  • Skeleton (interactive and imitative)
  • Halloween Coloring Book
  • Carve It
  • Halloween Heat

Data Collection and Other Tools

  • DT Data
  • ABC Logbook
  • ABC Data Pro
  • Touch Trainer
  • Smart White Board
  • Sticky Notes for iPad
  • Timer
  • Meditation Timer

 Parent Tools

  • IEP Checklist
  • Autism Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Autism Track


Websites with Application Reviews

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Ten or so months ago when we started this blog, we never dreamed that our words would have such a profound impact on others. We are extremely grateful to you, our readers, whether you are a devoted follower, new fan, or just a random visitor.


When we started blogging, our purpose was to extend our company mission to improve quality of life through effective intervention. We improve the quality of life in a number of ways:

  • designing effective interventions for individuals with disabilities and children with various behavioral challenges
  • training practitioners to provide better services
  • assisting families by providing consultation, program reviews, and parent training
  • providing professional resources to assist parents and practitioners

Professional Resource

Our blog is one of those professional resources. We offer advice, we review research, we provide examples of clinical success. This is a professional blog, not a personal one. We are not trying to become popular by being controversial or writing about controversial topics. There are plenty of other blogs available for that. With that said, we recognize that we will have readers who disagree with our philosophy and practice. In case you are new here (or in case you forgot), we will review our philosophy.


  1. First and foremost, we are behavior analysts. We assess environmental influences on behaviors and we modify those environmental variables to increase desirable behaviors and to decrease challenging behaviors.
  2. We are family members. We both love and care for individuals who are or who have been affected by a disability.
  3. We assess before we intervene. We rule out underlying medical conditions, we rule out physical limitations, and we assess environmental influences including antecedents and consequences.
  4. We always use reinforcement and other positive strategies and we use these approaches before we recommend punishment strategies.
  5. We teach communication when an individual lacks the ability to communicate effectively.
  6. We stress the importance of communicating clearly to individuals who may not understand or process spoken language in the same way.

Different Opinions

We welcome comments from people who disagree with our philosophy. However, we also know that some readers who post comments can be mean. Because of this, we choose to moderate comments. Comments we welcome:

  1. Praise (we need reinforcement too)
  2. Resources (if you have a resource that relates, please share)
  3. Suggestions (we tried this, it may work for you)

We will not be mean to you so please do not be mean to us. If you disagree, please do so in a respectful way without name calling, insinuations, and other unnecessary behavior.


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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about their child’s behavior. Today’s question comes from Katie who is living and working in Dubai where even the Burj Khalifa will “light it up blue” for autism awareness. Katie asks,

“A colleague mentioned that some iPad apps will be reduced in price for the month of April and you are the person to ask about which ones! Perhaps you could do a blog post on it?! I am hoping that some of the scheduling apps will be reduced as they look amazing but a lot are super expensive. Almost all of my young kids have the duck duck moose nursery rhyme apps now and they love it! Thank you for introducing me to those!”

Thanks for writing Katie. I had to do some research on this but yes, some apps are free this month and others are reduced. I’m providing a list below and I hope that readers will share others. I will keep updating this post all month to make sure we have the most accurate list for readers.

Kindergarten dot com offers a number of apps on receptive language development, vocabulary development, etc. Their apps were free in April last year, and it appears they are free now.

Hearty Spin is also offering 50% discount on its Picture AAC app on World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April. Hearty SPIN will also be offering free copies of Picture AAC app to non-profit organizations (schools/therapy centers/hospitals)worldwide that support people with speech impairment/delay during the month of April.

Gary Brown author of DTT apps is offering DTT Words and Autism Dx for free this month.

Expressive, a communication app appears to be reduced from $35 down to $25.99.

First Then, normally $9.99 is $4.99

iCommunicate is normally $49.99 is reduced to $29.99

See Touch Learn is free.

Grace, a communication picture exchange app is reduced from $37.99 to 27.99.

Scene Speak, normally $14.99 is reduced to $4.99.

Zanny Born to Run is normally $2.99 is reduced to $1.99.

Augie, another communication application appears to be reduced from $149.99 to $79.99.

AutismTrack – it is regularly priced at 49.99 and it is free for April 2nd only.

VAST, a communication app is reduced from $4.99 to $2.99. It is a “Medical app that helps parents and caregivers of those with autism track interventions, behaviors and symptoms…”

Grasshopper apps is offering a few free or reduced price apps through Sunday April 8, 2012. This includes First Numbers, First Grade Reading, Sight Words.

Smurks is free for the first week of April only.

For a complete list of recommended apps, be sure to check out our previous post of updated applications. Also, Apps for Children with Special Needs is a good resource.

Please be sure to let us know of any other free or reduced apps for this month so we can update our post.

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior.

It’s the start of winter break for many families in New England. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tradition, many families in the north-east plan trips to much warmer locations. This means that the stress level for many families is high right now due to packing, planning, and other cortisol-raising activities. All of this is exacerbated for families who have children with disabilities. Traveling with children is difficult but traveling with children with disabilities is even more so.

One question we receive often is “How can we travel with our child with disabilities? What can we do to make travel easier for him/her? What strategies do you recommend to help?”

One of our first recommendations is to help prepare your child for the trip using visual schedules. We have written about visual schedules previously (and we just recently learned it continues to be our most visited post).

So, we have created a sample schedule that may be used to support your child if you are traveling by plane.

Even if your child does not have a disability, preparing them for safe travel by reviewing the steps involved will help alleviate some of the stress associated with travel.

Safe travels to our New England Readers. To those of you in warmer locations, some of us are headed your way!

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from parents who are having difficulty with their child’s behavior. Today’s question comes from no one in particular but from many parents. Every time we show a parent how effective the iPad is for their child with autism, they instantly want to know how to get one for their child.

While some of our readers may not understand why a family cannot just run out and buy one (we know some families with 3 and 4 iPads!), many of the families with whom we work are struggling financially. So, if you have the finances, then definitely purchase an iPad for your child (and make a donation to the Holly Rod Foundation so more children can have iPads). If you do not have the finances, please read on.

There are several ways to get your device funded so I will carefully review each.

School Funding

First, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), every child with a communication impairment has the right to an assistive technology (AT) evaluation. Only children with an IEP are eligible for this benefit. If the AT assessment result shows that the child would benefit from services, then the child should receive the device and services at no cost to the family. Training for family members, teachers, and all school staff who interact with your child is also included.

When purchased this way, the device belongs to the school district. Thus, when your child graduates or leaves the school district, the device does not necessarily remain with your child. The IEP team decides TOGETHER if the device should go home with the child each day. Obviously, if a child needs a device at school to communicate, he most likely needs it at home too. However, in some instances, the team may decide against this, especially if your child is prone to throw his device out the school bus window or if you frequently “forget” to send the device back to school.

Your child’s school district is also responsible for the care, maintenance, and repairs of your child’s device. Because the device belongs to the school, they are also ultimately responsible for any apps that are purchased and placed on the device. This means that your child’s app selection may be somewhat limited.

If you already had your IEP meeting, do not fret. Simply write a note to your child’s teacher requesting an additional IEP meeting to discuss AT (and any other thing you would like to talk about). The district must schedule the IEP meeting within a reasonable amount of time. You may have as many IEP meetings each year that are necessary to meet your child’s needs.

If you received an AT assessment and the results suggested that AT was not appropriate for your child, then you need to disagree with the assessment report and ask for an Individualized Educational AT Evaluation. This is known as an IEE and your child may have one IEE at no cost to you if you disagree with the evaluation that was completed by the school team. When your IEE is approved, carefully select an evaluator that will consider the use of an iPad for your child. If a second evaluator decides that an AT device is not necessary then your child will not be eligible for a device from the school district.

Insurance Funding

Your child’s insurance may cover the cost of a device. Coverage for devices varies based on your state of residence, your child’s insurance type, and other factors. Some insurance companies (e.g., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois) have gone so far as to state that devices like the iPad are not augmentative and alternative communication devices. If this happens to you, connect with your state health care advocate and file an appeal.

If you are lucky enough to have the right type of insurance, you will have to work closely with your child’s speech and language pathologist as well as your child’s primary care physician in order to get a device approved. The process will be time-consuming but when you use this option, the device belongs to your child. You will be responsible for its care, maintenance, and repairs. You will be responsible for purchasing any new applications.

When the device is purchased with insurance funds, the device is serving as a mode of communication. It should not be used as a toy.


There are many non-profits and foundations out there that are focused on helping provide iPads to children with autism and other disabilities. My favorite is the Holly Rod Foundation. My brother was a recipient of one of their iPads and he uses it to Skype our Dad and to Face Time me. One of my clients also received an iPad from the Holly Rod Foundation. We cannot thank the Foundation enough. Get on their mailing list so you will know when the next round of iPads will be given away.

If you live in Texas, the state has a program called STAP grants that are available to individuals who need to be able to communicate with others. Your child’s speech and language pathologist must complete the application on your behalf. Similar to insurance funding, the device must be used for communication purposes and not for games. This device will belong to your child and you will be responsible for its care and maintenance.

We have recently been made aware of other groups that are giving away iPads. We have not had any experience with these groups so use caution before providing them with information such as your social security number.

Babies with iPads is hoping to give away 4 iPads per year. Their website is here: http://babieswithipads.blogspot.com/

Snapps4kids is also giving away iPads. They recently merged with Easter Seals. Their website is here: http://www.snapps4kids.com/funding-sources-directory/

Have you had success getting a device for your child? Please share so that we may celebrate with you.

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We try to review a research article each week. Because so many of you saw the 60 Minutes episode this week on iPad applications (such as Proloquo2go) for children with autism, we thought we would spring board off that wildly popular topic. In case you missed it, you can follow the link above to see the entire clip.

As was asked at the end of the interview, many people wonder if children will ever go on to talk after using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies such as the iPad. In light of this, we are going to review an article to answer the question. Ralf Schlosser and Oliver Wendt authored the article. The American Journal of Speech and Language Pathology published it in 2008.

The authors set out to review “the effects of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) intervention on speech production in children with autism or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified” (PDD-NOS). The authors reviewed 9 studies that were published between 1975 and 2007. The authors extracted data for each child who participated in the studies. This resulted in a total of 27 participants (3 of which participated in one of my own studies! Please forgive me for the shameless self-promotion).

The authors noted that most studies taught children to make requests for items and activities. Additionally, the authors noted that researchers used a variety of communication intervention strategies. These included the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and some version of milieu teaching (e.g., Enhanced Milieu Teaching or Prelinguistic Milieu Teaching).

The results of the analysis “indicated that AAC interventions do not impede speech production. In fact, most studies reported an increase in speech production.” Additionally, the authors went on to note that, “pretreatment speech imitation skills are a very strong predictor of subsequent speech production, regardless of the treatment conditions.”

In summary, if your child is non-verbal and you are considering the use of an AAC strategy, it is unlikely that the device will impede your child’s later language production. Instead, use an AAC device while simultaneously ensuring that your child develops speech. Remember, speech imitation (also known as vocal imitation) occurs after the child learns to do motor imitation so start with basic motor imitation and move on to vocal imitation.

We wish you the best in helping your non-verbal child develop language.

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