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Learning numbers

The general notion about people with AUTISM is that they have extraordinary skills in art, music and especially they are super skilled in Math. But so far Aakash doesn't show such interest with numbers. I don't know how things will take further turns in this regard.

I take ADL(Activities for Daily Living) based goals for Aakash in all aspects.  From that perspective I felt Aakash should know the time and money concepts. When these two were taken as goal and I worked on it with Aakash, he found it difficult to understand without a strong foundation on the concept of numbers. So I switched to a goal of making him strong in numbers and basic math.

Today after many perumtation and combinations, I have learnt that the child should first know the identification of numbers, followed by quantity that each number indicates, which comes from counting. After this only comes addition and subtraction, followed by multiplication. There could be many more stages. But in this post I will introduce how I worked on the very first step of identifying numbers and quantity corresponding to it. 

As Aakash liked Alphabets, he picked up writing skills with words fast.  But our journey  with numbers compared to learning Alphabets was like a roller coaster ride only. He took a longer time to recognize numbers and also its quantity.

Aakash is a rote and a visual learner. And his strength is matching. Whatever he learns at home he learns by matching. If I take a goal at home, my first job is to make matching activities for the taken goals.

When recognition of numbers was taken as goal. I prepared some matching activities similar to Fig (1) and Fig(2).
                                   Fig (1)                                                             Fig(2)
So here is how Aakash started to learn numbers. In a material say like in Fig (1) I made him to match. As matching is his strength he matched numbers with no difficulty. While every match I said the number to him. For example if "1" is matched I said One. After all the matches I read numbers from 1 to 5.

As a rote learner he soon learnt to recite numbers from 1 to 5. But when a specific number card was shown, he was not able to say the number or to select a particular number when when two or three numbers cards were shown.

Even after lots of practice also he found it difficult to identify a number. I discussed this issue with one of his therapist. On seeing his ability to identify nouns, verbs and also his interest in Alphabets, She suggested me to add corresponding number in word for each number. That is along with "2" in the flashcard I added the word "Two" . Once I started to practice with the material like in Fig(3) below he was able to identify the numbers from 1 to 5. But he was unable to identify the numbers when shown without the accompanying words to him.


To encourage him to identify the number, I did activities like shown in the fig(4) and fig(5). 

                                             Fig (4)                                                   Fig(5)
After practiced the matching activities that is number with the corresponding word, he slowly got the idea of numbers and started to identify the numbers even without the cue in words.I slowly faded the cue with words except when he was not able to identify the number. That is, in the cases where he struggled, I flashed the corresponding words to help him identify the numbers. After a point of time he identified numbers from 1 to 5 without trouble. Then I introduced numbers from 6 to 10 for identification.

While practicing for identification of numbers, I try to introduction the quantity of the numbers with the material shown in Fig(6). To my surprise when I taught him to count and he learnt it quickly and matching the numbers which was given in words.

This gave me a lot of confidence to start teach him the quantity of number by counting. Below are the some of the materials used by Aakash to learn the concept of counting and hence the quantity of the number.

I had made lots of material for counting simply to avoid boredom with same material while doing activities with him. And also as he was a mischievous boy, I was not able to use physical objects for him to teach the concept. This kind of material helped me to focus on teach the concept rather than managing his behavior and  the distraction caused by the behavior.

Above all the material was used when Aakash was in the process of learn to write. He was prompt dependent to write. This is my blog link http://autism-contacts-in-india.blogspot.in/2015/07/how-my-son-learnt-to-write.html of how Aakash learnt to write and became independent to write.

Once he learnt to write, I started to make him to write numbers in the paper and also he started to practice counting exercises using paper and pencil.

This is the demo video of Aakash as to how he uses the above materials to learn the concept number and its quantity(This video was taken recently to summarise all the lessons. So he may look like doing some initial lessons too easily, but that was not the case when we actually started on these activities many years back).

This video ends(also this article) with Aakash keeping dots corresponding to numbers. The next post is about how he learnt to keep dots for a number and how I developed the concept into addition.

How I prepared the materials shown in this article :

1. All the materials are created using Microsoft word Document. I have used some downloaded from online too.
2. Take print outs.
3. If it a matching Activity,  I took two copies.
4. Laminated the print out.
5. Cut the laminated copies based on the requirements.
6. Put Velcros as needed.

Above materials are prepared based on Aakash's need, interest, understanding level and his strengths.

As a parent I always feel if we work based on our kids's strengths and interest the yield will be better. 

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Teaching Alphabets

I realized Aakash liked Alphabets, even before he could be speak and was formally diagnosed with Autism. He would stare at the alphabets curiously in the name boards outside shops, advertisement banners, posters and neon lights.

Also in learning anything, he easily learnt it when Matching was used. So when I prepare materials for teaching, I always ensure there is a matching kind of activity. And also my son learnt things by rote and using his visual strength. I keep that in mind when preparing materials for him.
This article is about how I taught him alphabets using his strength of matching.

The fig.1 shows  pictures of alphabets on the left side and a set of matching alphabet cards on the right side.  when we started this activity, he was a non verbal child. So when he matched the alphabets, I used to give him the sound for each alphabet.

After a lot of practice, he got the habit of calling out the alphabets while matching. If he struggled to say a alphabet, I used to prompt him to say. And also if he finds it difficult to find a alphabet, I used to physically prompt him to match.

Because my son was a rote learner and he may recognize and recite alphabets only in an order, I did another activity(in figure 2) and made him to match alphabets in random order.

Also for figure 1 and figure 2, I did variations with lower case letters as well.

Fig. 3

 The above wooden puzzle in figure 3 is one of several variations I give him for alphabets.

                                                    Fig 4                                            Fig 5
The  Fig 4 and Fig fig 5 are the screenshots of two ipad Apps. These two are paid Apps. The My  First Puzzles : Alphabet is Rs.120 and the First Letters and Phonics App is Rs.60 when I checked and it is worth the money. The second App is very nice app which has the option of matching the Upper case letter with the Lower case Letter.

The Apps can be downloaded from the following links

                  Fig (6)                                                                                                     Fig (7)
I believe by giving lots of variation in teaching a concept keeps the child engaged in stress free way. The exercise mentioned in Fig (6) and (7) gave him a good break.

As a Visual leaner Aakash likes book too, so I gave him lots of books to dive into Alphabets. Because of books the below activity became easy for him.


Below is a short video clipping of how Aakash uses all the above materials to learn Alphabets.


How I have prepared the Materials in this article:
        * All were prepared in Microsoft Word.
        * I take two copies of the prepared documents.
        * Laminate both the copies.
        * Cut one of the copies into pieces for the matching card.
        * Depending on the number of pages some time I spiral bind it too.        

Hope my experience helps in framing activities for your kids based on their strengths and needs.

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