You thought singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” was just fun, didn’t you? Maybe you thought it wasn’t fun and if you heard one more “E-I-E-I-O” you would go crazy…
What if you knew that these songs and chants did more than just give incidental language learning to children?
What if you could use it to grow language in children with limited verbal skills? Then you would be shouting those “E-I-E-I-O’s”!!
I have found that the use of songs and nursery rhymes with a modified backward chaining procedure has been helpful in creating new language forms, increasing MLU, and a general increase in language abilities for some students.
These books by Jane Cabrera have been my go-to; you don’t have to use them but the colorful paintings and familiar nursery rhymes are a sure hit. For example, Old McDonald had a Farm.
Using backward chaining, you encourage the student to fill in the “E-I-E-I-O.” Over time, you start to verbalize less and less until the student starts to say the animal names or animal sounds. Not only does this work to increase verbalizations without prompts like “use your words” but it can also foster engagement for students who like songs and chants.
When prompting children to fill in words, keep these ideas in mind;
- Avoid cues like “Use your words”- instead try “You do”- this might seem like a ridiculous change in words, but I have found more success with “You do” or “Tell me” as opposed to “Use your words”
- Keep eye contact
- Begin mouthing the words to fill-in
- Keep a lot of positive affect
- Go nuts when the child fills in the word(s)- the child needs to know that you are a part of the fun!
Although too much technology can be a perilous path for students with autism, these apps from Duck Duck Moose are another way to reinforce growth of language using backward chaining.
Share some other songs in comments, or contact me through any of these channels! Don’t hesitate to keep your finger down on that clap button!!