This is my 10th year working in Tn., but this was the first time I've gone to TRIAD. I thought it was the same workshop each time, and that it was going to be the same information on autism that I've heard over and over. In fact, I stopped attending autism workshops because I just wasn't getting any new information. That's why I resisted...until now. The teacher (who will be named PK-for pre-Kindergarten) told me a few weeks ago that she was going, and it was being held 2 hours away from us. The workshop was on social communication and preschoolers, so I thought maybe I could get some ideas for a couple of my students. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much, but it was an overnight trip so I thought I'd give it a try.
To say that the workshop exceeded my expectations is an understatement. I was the only SLP in the group, and one of the presenters was an SLP, so I felt like I got some individual attention. I pestered the SLP to death (or at least I felt like I did!), but I got a couple of great ideas from her, as well as some good resources.
So...what is TRIAD?
TRIAD is an acronym for "The Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders". Their website gives the following description:
"Triad is dedicated to improving assessment and treatment services for children with autism spectrum disorders and their families while advancing knowledge and training.
Our programs address community needs for cutting-edge information, high-quality support, and innovative interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders."
TRIAD is affiliated with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville. Through a grant, they provide free training for school personnel in Tn.
The workshop I attended was called "Early Childhood Social Communication and Play Focused Workshop". You know how sometimes (okay, most of the time) you sit in workshops and time just seems to drag? I didn't feel that way at all on either day. The presentations were very laid back, and they encouraged participation. If we had a question, we just popped out with it and they answered it.
One of the first activities we did was a competition. Apparently PK & I are equally competitive. 1 person from each group looked at a structure made with different color blocks, then went back to the group. We had to figure out how to make the structure by only asking yes/no questions. PK's mom (who is also a Developmental Pre-K Teacher) was in our group, too. Below is a picture of the final structure, along with our prizes for winning!
Visuals, visuals, visuals
As you might expect, visuals were a huge part of the workshop. Picture schedules for everything: from going to the potty, to the daily schedule, to how to play, all the way to commenting during interactions. The SLP showed us a small file folder with velcroed pictures which could be used for play routines (such as Mr. Potato Head). Obviously this particular one wasn't for activities, but it certainly could be.
We had a couple of "Make It, Take It" sessions. For the first one, we had a choice of different songs. I chose "Drive the Firetruck", and PK chose "Wheels on the Bus". You can see all of us with the finished product in the upper picture below.
The other "Make It, Take It" was a choice of activities: playing with playdough, playing with a baby doll, or playing with cars. I managed to wrangle an extra "MITI" ticket for answering or question (or providing a comment...I don't remember which!), so I got materials for the playdough and car activity. Prior to that activity, we had to draw our own schedule for a toy. You can see our finished product in the bottom right picture. (Thank goodness PK is such a talented artist! If it had been left up to me, we would have had stick figures!)
(Click on the picture to be taken to the Facebook page.)
(That's me in the bottom left picture...I'm the one on the left. PK is in the middle, and her mom is on the other side of her.)
One of the groups wanted to expand on their schedule with playdough. Here is their finished product:
Let me back up just a bit. At the beginning of the workshop, we were shown a video of a child with autism. There were 2 other children, and an adult was trying to facilitate play with a marble and some sort of windy track. We were asked to determine 1) if the child was actually playing, 2) what kind of play was he engaging in, and 3) if there was any communication going on. This video was shown several times during the workshop. Each time we watched, we saw a little more with the guidance of the presenters.
We discussed different ways to model, including video modeling. I don't know what it is about children with Autism, but give them a video to look at, and they're glued to the monitor/tv.
We also had some training on writing SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). I had already been trying to do this, but I didn't know there was an acronym for it. It's really just common sense. Some of you may already be doing this, but Tennessee is just getting in high gear with it. I shared Communication Station's "Treatment Plan Goals and Objectives for Non-Verbal PK Children". I printed this out, and use it as a guide for my objective writing.
While a lot of the workshop was a review, it re-energized me and reminded me of things that I could/should be doing with all of my students, not just the ones with autism. In fact, the day after I got back from the workshop, I was able to make the video modeling suggestion to a TA due to some undesirable behavior from the student she is assigned to.
Because we got to eat lunch out "like real people", we ate at this little hole in the wall kind of place our 2nd day:
My advice would be to check out the free training sessions in your state, and keep your fingers crossed they're as good as ours!
And, the sink in the bathroom (just because I'm a little weird!)
I know you're dying to know what we had to eat! They serve a "Rainbow Sandwich" that is out of this world: Chicken Salad, Cucumber Salad, and Pimento Cheese. (Of course I have a picture!)
For the finale: Who can go to this city without seeing at least 1 of these signs?
It was a little strange to see the Bradford Pears already in full bloom. Here, they haven't even started to bloom.