Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Your Child’s Favourite Teacher May Soon be a Robot

Joint attention is a crucial social skill that children along the autism spectrum often have difficulty mastering. Joint attention is the ability for a child to share the same focus as another person.  This shared focus includes looking at the same item, and sharing the same intentions as the other person. The ability to master this skill has strong implications for language development, bonding and empathy for the autistic child.

In the past, learning this skill often meant hours of intense specialised and individualised instruction with the child and their teachers, parents and other caregivers.  Now, there is a new tool to help children along the autism spectrum to master this critically important skill – interactive robots.  Researchers at Vanderbilt University in the United States have developed a humanoid robot that can be programmed to instruct and adapt with children as they learn about and practice this skill.  In fact, research shows that children along the autism spectrum may be able to learn and practice this skill better with the robot than with a human counterpart.

This unique and exciting breakthrough was recently discussed in an article in the March edition of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.  Building upon the success that researchers have made with using the robot to teach joint attention skill, the researchers plan to modify the robot’s programming to teach children additional skills such as role playing, sharing, and imitation learning. The researchers will then conduct studies to see if the robot is as successful at helping children to learn and practice these additional skills as it was in teaching joint attention.

While the researchers stress that the robot will never be able to take the place of human assessment and interaction with children, this robot does seem to be a promising tool that can help children acquire the skills that they need in a fun and stimulating way.

What do you think of the idea?  Will it work? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Animal Quoits

What a great way to learn about distance and co-ordination all while having loads of fun. These animal quoits are really cute with their big, bright eyes and sweet faces. The set consists of 3 animal stands – a frog, bee and ladybug, and six rope rings.

To play the game your child throws the rings towards the stand with the aim of landing the ring right over the animals head. The child who lands most rings on the stand is the winner.

We don’t worry about who wins and who loses. We play just to see how many we can land around the stands. We start with the stands reasonably close and then gradually extend the distance. You can choose the distance to suit your child’s age and game experience.

While the weather is cool, this is a fun game to play indoors. As the weather warms you can take the game outdoors and enjoy the sun while you play. It’s a game that suits the whole family and is suitable for children aged 3 and up. The stands are 15cm high and the rope rings have an 11cm diameter.

The pack is presented in a wooden box which is perfect for storage and travel and which would make a fabulous gift.

Get your throwing hand ready!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Free Online Video On Early Autism Recognition

Autism researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in the USA have announced the release of a free online video tutorial on early autism recognition.
The goal of the tutorial is to “improve recognition of the early signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in one-year-olds among pediatricians, parents and early intervention providers.”

The video is available on YouTube so that any parent can access the information but it is designed to educate doctors, too.  The signs of autism can be very difficult to spot, even for professionals, until the child is around two years old.  This clip shows what to look for – the warning signs – in children as young as one.

Remember that every child is different and just because your child shows one of these behaviours it does not mean that he or she is on the autism spectrum.

 “The nine-minute tutorial consists of six video clips comparing toddlers who show no signs of ASD to toddlers who show early signs of ASD.  Each video is presented with a voice-over explaining how the specific behaviors exhibited by the child, as they occur on screen, are either suggestive of ASD or typical child development.”

Here is the video clip.  I hope it’s helpful for you.  I’d love you to leave me a comment telling me what your thoughts are.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fun With Cellophane

I freely admit that this activity is as much for my amusement as yours because I love the colour and the feel of cellophane.  However playing with cellophane is also a fun sensory activity.

Cellophane is a wonderful, textural thing that feels smooth to the touch but changes as the paper is scrunched and rolled.  It has a great crackly sound as you squish it and it takes on a vivid colour when you hold it to the light. 

Here are some fun activities your child might enjoy and each involves cellophane.

Take a look at these colourful kites.  These are made with coloured tissue papers but can you imagine how vivid the colours would be if they used cellophane instead?  Follow the same technique and just add the cellophane and then stick them onto the windows where the light will shine through.

Make suncatchers.  The ones in this example created heart shapes but you can make whatever shape your child wants.  All it takes is some clear contact and some cut up squares of colourful cellophane.

If your child does not have a vision sensitivity, he or she might enjoy making some really cool and colourful sunglasses.  The frames can be cut out of cardstock and into any shape you can think of.  Some stickers and some cellophane and you are an instant rock star.

Finally, this activity is a little more complicated than the others but the results are fun and fabulous.  This uses blue cellophane, paper plates and some little craft items to create a porthole with an underwater view.  I love this one and I think your kids will, too.

These ideas might just keep your kids busy over the holidays and spark their creative brains as well. 
Welcome to The Toy Bug Blog!

Here you will find all sorts of useful information about The Toy Bug including sneak peeks at new products coming into the store, profiles on toys and information and stories about our Autism Journey.

We hope you'll check back often to see whats new :-)
Cheers Jo xo