Teaching Children with Autism Expressive Language Skills Through Classic Kids’ Songs

October 19, 2012, TBH Blog
TBH Blog

If your child needs help building communication skills, a fun way for you to work together is through signing. Trumpet Behavioral Health offers a great suggested skills-building activity to help parents teach expressive language through a children’s classic: “The Wheels on the Bus” (see video below if you are rusty on the words or actions)

Many children with autism and other developmental delays struggle with communication. When helping your child build his or her language, it is important to work on different types of communication.

This week’s skills activity allows you to teach your child one of the first steps of verbal behavior known as “Intraverbals.”

Intraverbal behavior forms the basis for social interaction, conversations, and academic behavior. It’s an important skill. Teaching intraverbals will help children build their language so they can start and carry on conversations as they get older.

You may find this turns out to be a preferred activity because many children love music. It can be easily repeated and modified each time you do this. You can use songs such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Old McDonald,” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Objective: Repeats a word during a familiar song, finger play, or storybook
Developmental Area: Expressive Language
Method: Developmental
Curriculum Level: Intermediate
Setting: Adult-Child

Materials: None

Activity Directions:

  1. Sit across from your child on the floor.
  2. Begin singing the “The Wheels on the Bus” song. Use the accompanying gestures as you sing. (again, see the video below if you need a refresher)
  3. Sing the first verse once through, and then immediately repeat it.
  4. Slow the pace of your singing, adding pauses in between some of the words.
  5. After the second time you sing ’round and round,’ expectantly pause before singing ’round’ again.
  6. If your child repeats the word ’round,’ reinforce him/her. Use social reinforcement (such as high fives or making funny faces) that will not disrupt your singing.
  7. If your child does not repeat the word, prompt him/her to repeat it. Gently touch your child to indicate it’s his/her turn and provide the initial sound of the word. The accompanying gesture will also help cue your child.
  8. Your child may need you to repeat the word a number of times before he/she spontaneously repeats it during the song.
  9. You don’t need to wait for your child to successfully repeat the word from the first verse before singing the other verses of the song. Your child may be more motivated to repeat a word that comes later or earlier in the song so encourage any attempts to repeat your words during the play.
  10. Sing the song often. Provide your child with the level of support necessary for him/her to successfully repeat the word within the song.
  11. Have fun!!!

The Wheels on the Bus Video

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One Response to “Teaching Children with Autism Expressive Language Skills Through Classic Kids’ Songs”

#648 | December 11th, 2012 | Lorinda Grauel

Intraverbals are AWESOME!!!! They work well for all ages, even in the elderly who are battling Alzheimer’s! Even if your child is non-verbal, they can make approximations of the sound or word you are seeking. Any attempt needs to be immediately celebrated. It gets easier. My son is non-verbal, but he loves singing and signing songs with me. He fills in more words every year with approximations and even can say MaMa now. He is 20….never give up!

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