Using Stickers to Work on Language

January 11, 2019

 

Making a sticker picture can be a fun way for your child to work on language skills. What I like to do is buy a pack of stickers that relate to a child's interest, and give the child opportunities for the child to ask for stickers. In ABA, we refer to this as "manding," which (in a simplified definition) means requesting. This is a great way to work on language, as the child is motivated to ask you for something he or she wants. For this to work, your child must be interested in the stickers and want to make the picture.

 

 

In this example, you can work on different ways for your child to request the stickers: 

 

1. Names of animals or items (asking for a specific sticker). In the photo above, the stickers are different ocean animals and ocean items (such as sea shells). I like to ask the child which one he or she wants (or give a choice of two stickers). If the child points to the one he or she wants (or tries to take it), I'll prompt him or her to say the name of the animal or item, and then give the sticker. I'll share more about what I say and how to prompt at the end of this post.

 

If I say, "Which one do you want, the turtle or the fish?" (pointing to each one as I say it), and the child answers, "turtle"  with no prompting, I would give him or her that sticker. The next time, I work on prompting the child to use a phrase (such as "purple fish" or "big starfish"). Examples of this are below.

 

2. Size words (asking for "big" or "little"). You can have your child practice size words (such as "big" and "small") by asking if they want a "big bubble" or "little bubble" or a "big shell" or a "little shell." You can show them the two bubbles or two shells while you label each one as "big" or "little" and prompt them to say the name of the one they want. It helps if your child has a basic familiarity with these words. 

 

3. Color words (asking for a specific color animal or shell). These stickers had different colors of fish, so you can have your child say the color of the fish he or she wants. You can point to each fish and say "green fish," "red fish," "yellow fish," etc. When you can tell which one your child wants, prompt him or her to say "green fish" (or whatever color). 

 

4. Amounts (asking for a certain number of fish). If we're working on counting or numbers, I sometimes ask my student "How many fish do you want?" If they need additional prompting, I might add, "Do you want one fish or two fish?" (or any number that I want to work on).

 

5. Expanding from words/phrases to sentences. If your child already does well with asking for things as a single word (such as "fish") or phrases (such as "green fish"), you can work on expanding this to a sentence or longer phrase. You can prompt your child to say something like, "I want green fish" or "Can I have green fish?"

 

 

How to Prompt

 

We can use prompts to help a child do something they don't already know how to do. With a prompt, we're basically either giving them the correct response or a "hint" for the correct response. 

 

In this case, since the child is making a verbal response (saying something they want), a common way we can teach this is by using a verbal prompt. For a verbal prompt, we'll tell the child the correct answer (just say exactly what you want the child to repeat). Here's an example for our sticker activity:

 

Parent/Teacher: "Which sticker do you want?" (while holding up a sheet of stickers where the child can see it).

 

Child: [points to a starfish sticker, touches a starfish sticker, tries to take a starfish sticker, or some other indication of which one he or she wants].

 

Parent/Teacher: "Starfish" (wait for the child to repeat the word and then give one starfish sticker...it is okay to say the word again if the child doesn't repeat it the first time). I also usually get really excited when they say the word and say something like, "Starfish! Okay, great asking! Here's the starfish" while I'm giving the child the sticker.

 

This is called a full verbal prompt, as I'm telling the child exactly what to say, and he or she repeats it.

 

However, we eventually want the child to be saying the word on his or her own, without being prompted. So, we do something called fading the prompt. We want to do this as quickly as possible, so the child doesn't become dependent on the prompt.

 

For example, once you've practiced "starfish" a few times with the full verbal prompt, we can use a partial verbal prompt. With a partial verbal prompt, we just say part of the answer. In our "starfish" example, we might just say something like, "star..." or "st..." (as a "hint") and wait for the child to say the entire word. Here's the example written out:

 

Parent/Teacher: "Which sticker do you want?" (while holding up a sheet of stickers where the child can see it).

 

Child: [points to a starfish sticker, touches a starfish sticker, tries to take a starfish sticker, or some other indication of which one he or she wants].

 

Parent/Teacher: "Star..." (wait for the child to say the entire word and then give one starfish sticker). I also usually get really excited when they say the word and say something like, "Starfish! Okay, great asking! Here's the starfish" while I'm giving the child the sticker.

 

This is an example with a child working on one-word requests, but you can use the same basic process to expand language to multiple-word phrases or sentences.

 

As a note: if your child is just learning single words, and doesn't say the whole word correctly (maybe he or she just says, "star" instead of "starfish"), but is really trying, I would go ahead and reward that by giving him or her the sticker (at first). Just make sure to say the entire word while you're giving him or her the starfish sticker, just so they hear the entire word correctly again.

 

We want to make sure that we're acknowledging the child's efforts at communication to encourage him or her to keep trying. You can work on getting more of the word later, and I would absolutely recommend seeking some outside information and expertise to help with this if you're not familiar with using ABA principles to teach (as the process can be a bit complex). Here's some more information about that.

 

Learn More About Teaching with Prompts

 

Prompting and prompt fading is a very specific process, and I would encourage you to seek some additional training on using it, if you're not familiar with using ABA principles to teach. Your best option would be to work with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to be trained on how to use it. There are also a few blog posts that I would recommend about how to use prompts and prompt fading. I would encourage you to read them before working on this process with your child.

 

A Complete Guide For Using Prompts To Teach Individuals With Special Needs: http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/04/22/a-complete-guide-for-using-prompts-to-teach-individuals-with-special-needs/

 

Procedures for Prompt Fading: http://theautismhelper.com/procedures-prompt-fading/

 

I would also recommend these books to learn more about the teaching strategies I've outlined here. Each of them is an amazing resource and I absolutely love the teaching approach! I don't particularly like the title "Overcoming Autism," as I believe that autism can be a beautiful part of who a child is and something that we can embrace with love, but the teaching strategies in the book are fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Dr. Caldwell 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi! I'm Dr. Nicole Caldwell and I've been working with students on the autism spectrum for about 12 years. My background is in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Montessori. I have a Master's degree and PhD in special education with an emphasis in autism, and I love what I do! I currently work with children with autism in their homes on social, communication, and academic skills. I specialize in:

 

•Teaching math to students with math difficulties or math anxiety,

•Teaching science and coding to children with autism, and

•Working on language and communication by embedding learning opportunities into your child’s favorite activities. I think of this as “play to learn.”

 

If you’re in the Dallas/Rockwall, Texas area and would like to learn more about working with me, please send me a message and we’ll set up a free initial consultation.

 

If you're outside of the Dallas/Rockwall area, I offer online instruction in middle and high school math, coding, and 3D modeling via video conferencing. Send me a message if you'd like more information or to set-up a free initial consultation (via video conferencing). Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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