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Category: ASD and Bilingualism

DIY Board game around magical creatures

Over the last week, we have been dedicated to making our very own board game! At the moment it won’t win any design prizes but we are super proud of it. As our little winter flower has discovered the world of Glimmies, along with her already established liking for board games, we decided to make our own to combine the two.

We had the main idea that four fairies had been invited to a birthday party at the magical castle and the needed to make their way through four ‘zones’ – we chose four terrains because these are the usual suspects of where magical creatures would live. They would be picking up a birthday present, something to eat or drink, and their invitation along the way.

We then thought about what in the board-game community refers to as ‘mechanics’ – this is means in which a board game progresses, or what challenges present to the players throughout the game. These can range from very simple risk-reward decisions for little ones, all the way through to profile and character-building akin to dungeons and dragons, for those in your household who are a little more…let’s say advanced!

As our game is intended for little ones, our mechanics are relatively simple. Our first ‘zone’ is through the fairies’ forest – a simple 6-step path to the top where they collect one of the aforementioned three things along the way. The easiest of game mechanics here – roll the dice and move the amount of steps!

Next is the Ice land which has a risk-reward mechanic. The players need to navigate to the other side of an iceberg, they can either take the safer but longer route around the iceberg or attempt the shorter but riskier route over it. We went with the classic Ludo-opening – you need to roll a 6 on a dice to move onto the iceberg. You can make this mechanic as severe as you like but it needs to balance well with the other option. There’s no point making the shorter route too easy to achieve because no-one will ever take the longer route, and you want it to be a tricky decision to make.

After this we had the underwater ‘level’ – we had a simple 12-step path to the end but, as we were underwater, we set up 3 points along the path where the players must stop to breath – we represented this in the form of fish that would give the fairies a lift to the surface for some air. The mechanic is very simple – you must stop periodically in order to progress. Again, you can make this more severe if you wish but we decided just a requirement to stop was enough. You could add the earlier mechanic for the iceberg, that you need to roll a certain number to set off again, if you wish.

Lastly, we have the mountain area and we used the mechanic in Snakes and Ladders here. This, along with all of the others, is a luck-based mechanic – you can’t choose to not roll a 5 and therefore end on the snake. We thematically decided the ‘snakes’ would be rivers and the ‘ladders’ are caverns through the mountain.

And there we have it – a very simple, 4-staged board game for little ones. You can make this a competitive game if you wish, in this case, a race – first one to the castle wins! Or a co-operative game where there is no race element and the aim is all about getting to the end together. As your children progress and get older the mechanics of the game can be evolved to be more interactive and decision-based. Perhaps you can introduce an enemy-based system where you have weapons or certain values and enemies will generate at certain points for you to battle. You could also increase the competitive element of the game and allow either bind-draw cards or character abilities to hinder your rivals for example.

Board games come in a wide range of themes but mechanics tend to transfer between them relatively regularly, more commonly than you might expect – but it’s the story, the theme, the skin of the game which keeps us interested and going again for one more game.

Fairy tale topic box

fairy tale topic box

This week was fairy tale week. Fairy tales are important for a child’s development. They learn to identify good and bad, it teaches them morals and gives them ideas to develop their own fantasy world, and in turn, helps them to understand the world around them. Fairy tales also teach culture background and gives children a common language as lots of fairy tales are translated.

Contents of story box

  • Fairytale books
  • Frog
  • Animals which are common in fairy tales
  • Fairy
  • Witch board game
  • Torch-projector with fairy tale stories

Wolf sense-box

Little Red Riding Hood is our favourite fairytale at the moment. The bad wolf uses all 5 senses to explain to Little Red Riding Hood why he doesn’t look like her grandmother.

wolf - senses - box

Materials

  • Box
  • Coloured paper
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape or glue
  • Other craft materials

We read each sentence and then decorated our wolf-senses-box

1. The long arms (so he can grab Red Riding Hood better) - touch

2. Bg eyes (so the wolf can see her better) – sight

3. Big ears (to hear her better) – hearing

4. Big nose (to smell her better) – smell

5. Big mouth (to taste her better) – taste

On the back of the box we cut a hole so we can feel items inside the box or put little pots inside to guess what smell it is.

Senses walk

On our daily walks we try to use all our senses to see how often we use them. What can we see, smell, hear? How does the grass or the stone feel? How do the berries taste?

Gingerbread house

Hansel and Gretel are so hungry that they eat the gingerbread house they find in the woods. As we did not have the patience to bake a gingerbread house and to decorate one, we printed one from twinkl.com. We practise cutting and talked about the different shaped sweets on the house and how they would taste

DIY Dove

The doves are an important messenger in Cinderella as they help the prince to find the right princess.

To use some of our toilet rolls we decided to make our own Marionette-dove. (looks more like a swan but we finished it – which is a win anyway!)

Materials

  • 2 toilet paper rolls
  • Wool or string
  • Googly eyes or a pen
  • Red/orange paper for the beak

Toilet paper rolls projector

We chose The Princess and The Frog as the fairy tale for our fairy tale cinema

Materials

  • Cling film
  • Permanent marker
  • Sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Fairy tale book

Put the cling film on the book and trace with the permanent marker around your chosen pictures - make sure it is not bigger than the diameter of the toilet paper roll. Cut the cling film and put it over the toilet roll and fix it with sticky tape.

Put a torch in the open end and project the picture on the wall. Tell the real fairytale or make up a new story.

Body/ Germs topic box

The body, and how it works, and germs are always a big topic to talk about in our house. As we learn as best we can via interest-learning, we go with the flow. With the current situation around us we made a germ/body box to talk about it when we want or need to. For example, to answer questions like “Why do we have to eat? Or “Why are there good and bad germs in our body and around us?”

Books, puzzles, experiments, crafts and pretend-play helps our little ones to understand the world and how it works. For this topic we used a lot of lift-the-flap books because they are a firm favourite and allow us to explore a certain topic in a bit more detail.

Contents of the box

  • Book - 'In meinem Koerper ist was los' - Dr. Med. Sybille Mottle-Link, Frederic Bertrand
  • Book - 'Was ziehe ich heute an?' - Was ist das? Ullmann Medien GmbH
  • Book - 'Vor dem Essen Haende waschen' - Usbourne
  • Book - 'What is Poo?' - Usbourne
  • 1 good germ ( DIY)
  • Doll's bath
  • Body puzzle
  • Baby doll
  • Towel for baby
  • Soap
  • Pepper or other herbs
  • Doll's potty
  • Doll's clothes

I put some options together as, with our ASD daughter, nothing works for definite, so for us it is always a trial and error as to what works and what she enjoys. It depends on the mood she is in but also how messy the activities are and any potential smells which can put her off easily. In this case we use a mixture of German and English books to make it more incorporating for the whole family.

Craft activities

Good craft activities are DIY soap dough – makes washing hands a lot more fun.

You need the following for the DIY soap dough

  • 100g cornflour
  • 50 - 60ml shower gel or liquid soap
  • A few drops of food colouring (only if you have clear shower gel or liquid soap)
  • Cookie cutter

If you want to colour your liquid soap or shower gel, mix it first with some drops of food colouring then add the cornflower and mix it well. Put some cornflour on the work surface and roll out the dough. Then use the cookie cutter to cut out different shapes.

DIY bath crayons

  • 1 bar of soap
  • Food colouring
  • Cheese grater
  • Cookie cutter or silicon shapes
  • Water

Use the fine edges of a cheese grater to powder the soap. Add some drops of food colouring and water and mix it well with a fork. We used silicon shapes and pressed some of the mixture in. Smoothe it out as much as possible and put it in the freezer for about an hour.

Make your own sock-germ

  • Sock
  • Cotton wool
  • Googly eyes
  • Permanent marker

Fill the sock with cotton wool until it has the shape you want. Use your creativity to decorate to your heart's content. To avoid the disappointment that it doesn’t look as it should, we used a sock with a funny face already on it.

Know your body

Outline your child’s body (if they can lie down for 5 minutes!) and colour body parts in or decorate with body organs. We did a simple picture about how the food goes through our body, in the hope our food battle will be easier 😉

Experiment “germ vs soap”

  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Herbs / spices
  • Liquid soap

Take a bowl and fill it with water, add some herbs and let the children dip their fingers in. Watch and talk about what happened - the 'germs' (herbs) stuck to their fingers, didn't it?! Now try dipping another finger in soap first before the 'germs' bowl.

What cleans a coin the best?

  • Coins, preferably dirty.
  • Different liquids (water, soapy water, vinegar, or whatever the children want to test)
  • Clear jars or glasses

Fill some clear containers with different liquids and put a coin in each glass. See what happens, check regularly if the coins have changed.

Paint your hands and see if cold or warm water or soap or no soap clean the hands the best.

Pretend play / Sensory play

Pretend play / sensory play is always a good way to practice what we learned and use our Imagination. A bowl or a doll’s bath and some toys (plastic animals or cars) or a doll and a bit of soap will keep the little ones entertained for a while.  We use a cheap shower curtain to protect the floor from water spills and rough play.

Daring Adventurer – Raising a bilingual ASD child

To honour April as the Autism Awareness month I want to share my thoughts about raising a bilingual child who is on the autism spectrum.

First of all, I do not regret raising my daughter bilingual. I do not think she struggles with two languages or she can not cope to switch between two languages.

We started our bilingual journey before she was diagnosed. We have to think outside of the box to cater for her interests sometimes, but this would be necessary for monolingual or bilingual upbringing anyway.

She taught me to communicate more clearly, give more precise instructions and think about how we use our languages in general – but is that really bad?

She sees the world in a unique, quirky way and sometimes I wish I would understand her world better. I keep trying and that is really all she is asking for.

The memory my daughter has is amazing and frightening at the same times. This makes communication sometimes difficult as I have no idea what she is talking about half the time because I forgot long ago that we talked about certain things or we owned specific items (e.g. goodies out of a magazine).

To be honest I was dreading the shutdown, but it surprised me how well my daughter is coping. She is much calmer, has fewer meltdowns and in generally happier. She loves nursery but all the stress which comes with it (getting dressed, doing her hair, getting out of the house when she is not quite ready) makes the afternoons difficult and not pleasant for her.

I enjoy the calmer atmosphere at the moment and happy to see her growing confident in both languages.

Every parent will admit that raising children is not easy sometimes and we all have days where we quite happily would take a day’s holiday from this parenting lark, or the mummy/daddy guilt. Special-needs parents, I dare say, experience it even more so, but I would not change it for anything.

This is the 13th awareness/acceptance day/month and I wish people would stop judging too quickly and stop picturing an “autism child”. Every child is different – on the spectrum or not. It is a hidden disability, so there is no particular look. Those children are amazing in their very own way – if we give them a chance to show us. So please can we stop being too judgmental and make parenting a bit easier.

Positive links between ASD and language learning

We speak to many parents that have concerns about their ASD child learning a second language. We understand how a parent must feel, their child may be struggling with coins and money in maths or gentle brush strokes in art – and now there are plans for them to learn a new language too!??!

However there is no research out there showing that language learning and ASD is a bad thing. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Recent research shows that children with ASD may actually benefit from learning a new language or from being bilingual.

Study Introduction

In Canada a first study of its kind was completed, and the results of which were very interesting. It found that learning a new language or being bilingual could help ASD children improve their cognitive flexibility. This improvement from learning a new language was seen in multiple areas, including attention control, inhibiting behaviour and working memory.

It is expected that this improvement in the ASD child’s cognitive flexibility is due to switching in the mind. When you learn or speak a different language you are shifting between your own language and the new language in your head. Over time this mental switch happens more smoothly and quicker. This switching of linguistic systems helps to limber up overall cognitive performance.

ASD children will often find it harder to switch from one thing to another and need a narrower focus, a set schedule and for things to remain unchanged. However, learning a new language helps to smooth this mental switch and this skill will transfer into making everyday ‘switches’ easier.

The study was based on a very small amount of children, but the results still speak for themselves. There were 40 children selected for the study. 10 of the children were typically developing monolingual children. Another 10 were typically developing bilingual children. 10 of the children were diagnosed with ASD and were monolinguals. The final 10 children were diagnosed with ASD and were bilinguals.

Study Demographics

Each child in the study completed a computer based task which involved sorting objects. They were shown a selection of objects and had to sort them by colour. After a while the children were then asked to sort the objects by shape.

It is ‘task switching’ of this sort that can often be challenging for ASD children. However, it was found that bilingual children that were on the spectrum found the cognitive switching easier than ASD children that were monolingual.

Study Result

There are other studies that show an ASD child that learns a new language will do better than ASD children with only one language in some social and communication skills as well as flexible thinking. This may be because ASD children learning a new language have the ability to use more gestures to communicate.

Teaching an ASD child a new language is a really good way of explaining that people are from all different backgrounds, with different beliefs, different rules and different languages.

If you’d like to know more about the positive links between ASD and language learning then please feel free to contact us directly. We would be happy to talk to you about your child and your concerns.

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