Teaching Body Parts to Children with Autism | Body Parts Teaching Strategies

Teaching Body Parts to Children with Autism | Body Parts Teaching Strategies

Teaching children with autism to label and
touch their body parts is one of the most important skills to teach. Body parts are important no matter if your
child is very young and has no language or if your child is older and has some language. Over my many years working with hundreds of
children with autism, I’ve come up with three successful strategies to help you teach this
crucial skill. Hi, I’m Dr Mary Barbera, autism mom, board
certified behavior analyst, online course creator and bestselling author of the verbal
behavior approach. Each week I provide you with some of my ideas
about turning autism around. So if you haven’t subscribed to my youtube
channel you can do that now. Today, I’m sharing a small excerpt from a
Facebook live event I did recently, and I wanted to let you know why it’s important
to teach body parts to your child or clients and the best strategies I know to teach them. Back when Lucas was little before I knew he
had autism, um, when he was just getting evaluated by early intervention for speech and language
delays and then he wasn’t when he was evaluated for autism and diagnosed 1 day before he was
3, there were some questions about can he identify, touch his body parts? And I mistakenly said yes even though he couldn’t. So when they assessed him and asked him to
touch his belly or touch his eyes, um, Lucas didn’t do it. So they said to me, well you said he can um,
touch his body parts but he can’t, so can you show us how you have his touch his body
parts? So I’m like, oh sure. I have to sing the Barney song first we touch
our head and then our toes and then our belly and then our nose or whatever the rhyme was. That’s the only way Lucas knew how to touch
his body parts. So he was not comprehending touch eyes versus
nose or head. He had no idea. And I wasn’t trying to make him look better
than he was. I just was clueless about how to even assess
body parts. And so you might be thinking, well what’s
the big deal Mary? I have found over the years, cause I’ve worked
with hundreds of kids directly and trained thousands of people around the world, both
in person and online is that body parts should be one of the first skills we focus on for
a few reasons. One is that body parts tend to be 1 syllable
in length. I did a video blog on the importance of how
to get kids talking. And in that I talk about syllable length versus
word length. And so eyes, ears, nose, they’re all 1 syllable
and they tend to be easy for kids to say. The second big reason that I really stress
body parts is because the sign for eyes is actually touching your eyes. So, so it can be a very easy gesture even
if you don’t have vocal language yet to touch your eyes and get eyes. Uh, Mr. Potato heads eyes, which is one of
the ways, and I’m going to show you that in a second. So, um, you can touch your body parts. You can say it, there tend to be easier words
to say. And then the third major reason that I, I
want to teach children body parts is because if they have pain, I can, um, find out where
the pain is. And this is, I did a video blog on this, uh,
years ago, probably years ago. Um, because my son Lucas was having head pain
and headaches. And he was able to at that point tell me head
hurts. Now, he still, he’s, he’s almost 23 years
old now. He can still, um, he can still say head hurts,
but he can’t describe the pain. Like it’s stabbing pain. It comes here and it extends down here. He doesn’t have that much language that he
can elaborate. But if I didn’t know that he at least had
pain, I would think these problem behaviors were caused by something else. So those are the big 3 reasons why I really
am, uh, uh, have a big focus on trying to teach body parts. So now I do want to give you 3 ways that you
can start. You can start right away tonight trying to
teach body parts. If your child or clients, um, don’t have the
ability to touch your body parts, request body parts, or label body parts. So the first way is to use a magna doodle. And if you don’t have a magna doodle, you
can simply use a piece of paper in the same manner. Okay. So you use a magna doodle or a piece of paper
and then you can, you can just say circle, circle and you’re going to be doing the drawings. Eventually. Some of my kids really like to draw and they
end up drawing the body parts and talking at the same time. Then we would want to get them to indicate
that they want the eyes drawn. So I might even say eyes, eyes, and I might
have the child touch his eye and draw an eye I, okay, let’s do the other eye eye and I’m
just going to be, um, demonstrating here, nose I might touch my nose, nose. Um, this is a very, um, easy response. The child doesn’t have to do anything or say
anything. They can simply just sit there and watch,
especially in the beginning. Then mouth. And I like to do teeth too because teeth does
a good, um, tact and mand. We’re going to be working on brushing teeth
and, and all that stuff. So ears, we’re going to do ears. We’re going to do hat. Um, we can make glasses. Um, especially if the child wears glasses
or mommy wears glasses or therapists. Um, those are just some easy ways. Again, you can use a magna doodle, a piece
of paper, you can use different color markers, a whiteboard, whatever you have on hand. But I find that that is a great way to pair
up some body parts. The second thing, my absolute, I think favorite
toy in the world is Mr. Potato head. And even if you have a 12 year old or 14 year
old who is not labeling body parts, um, or touching body parts on command with touch
your nose and they touch their nose without you showing them, then you know, some people
say, well, potato head, that’s not age appropriate. You know what, if they had the age, the language
ability of a 2 year old or 3 year old, we’re going to have to use toys like just that we
can take apart. So we take all the parts. I and I just have a few of Mr potato heads
parts, but I’m going to have a bag full of these parts and I’m going to start, uh, labeling
them. And putting them in for the child. So shoes, shoes, shoes. I give them to the child, help the child,
put the shoes on Potato head. Same thing with eyes, eyes, eyes. I hold things up to my face and to my lips. Really I want, I don’t really care about eye
contact. I care about them looking at my face so that
they can model my language hopefully. So eyes, eyes, I help the child put the eyes
in you get the idea. So we’re going to want to do that. As you can see the eyes and the hat and the
nose. Everything then is worked on within potato
head. Worked on Magna doodle, worked on with piece
of paper. And so we are, and if you have a child that
is vocal to some degree, getting echoic control, getting the ability to request, um, body parts
is, is sometimes very, very easy. And the third way that I teach body parts
in addition to the magna doodle or a piece of paper and potato head is a lot of times
I’ll use video modeling and I will use songs, song songs such as head, shoulders, knees
and toes, knees and toes. I might do that just with me on a video. I’ll do that in person with the child, have
them be touching just like I got Lucas to do the Barney sing songy touch your body parts. If we’re doing them out of order with potato
head and with a piece of paper or a magna doodle, we can also do them in a sing songy
fashion with the head, shoulders, knees and toes and I had some success, a lot of success
with a client named Curt who had some pop out words and most of them were body parts. He would say about 10 words per session, per
2 hour session and a lot of them would be eyes and ears and nose and so I decided to
make 2 video models for him. One was me singing head, shoulders, knees
and toes. Another one was me just labeling body parts. So the camera’s just right on me eyes, nose,
mouth, teeth, glasses hi. And I did that. 2 weeks later I got back from a vacation. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks. I just walked in. I’m like, hi. And Curt said hi, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth,
glasses hi. And I literally had forgotten about the video
that I made that I was hoping mom would get on his iPad from that session on. Instead of getting 10 words in 2 sessions,
I got 100 words in 2 hour sessions. So it was a way for, for Curt and for other
kids to just really go up with their language. So in that respect, you know, the magna doodle,
the potato head, and then finally video modeling was just icing on the cake for kids like Curt
who, uh, really use that to springboard their language. And Curt is now in elementary school with
very little support. He’s conversational. And so, you know, some of these gains, we
just have to start somewhere. And I think body parts are a great way to
start teaching kids. If they have no language, no ability to touch
body parts, or even if they have body parts but they only say them on their own terms
and you want to really strengthen that skill. I would, I would highly recommend you check
out some of these resources and get your child or clients to speak in sentences. I hope you enjoyed this short snippet. Wherever you’re watching this, I’d love it
if you would leave me a comment, give me a thumbs up, share this video with others who
may benefit, and for more information, you can attend a free online workshop at marybarbera.com/workshop
and I’ll see you right here next week.

6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you! I'm one of moms who took your course and I did teach my daughter body parts withs Mr. Potatoe Head. In the beginning my daughter did no like him. Do not give up, being very animated and fun with this toy is crucial.

  2. Thank you! I have a Mr. Potato Head for my daughter, it’s working, it’s a slow process but it’s coming along. Patience is the key.

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