Building Communication and Imagination Learning Activities

In the article Developing Individual Learning Programme for Autistic Children, we have established the mode of communication with the child and now we will grow up on that mode to gradually enhance the communication and promote learning as per curriculum requirements

Special needs curriculum objective

Pupils combine two key ideas or concepts. They combine single words, signs or symbols to communicate meaning to a range of listeners, for example, ‘Mummy gone’ or ‘more drink’. They make attempts to repair misunderstandings without changing the words used, for example, by repeating a word with a different intonation or facial expression. Pupils use a vocabulary of over 50 words

Adapted curriculum objective

Pupil uses combination of PECS, speech, pointing or any other mode of communication to communicate the concept to an adult. Encourage pupil to maybe use a picture and a word to communicate at least two words for a concept. E.g. speak 'car' and show picture of 'shop' implies that pupil wants to go to the shop in the car.


August , 2010

In order to meet the above objective, it was clear that my son would have to use two pictures or a picture and action or a picture and speech. I can build some of these combinations from the daily routine. I thought what if I can use the books, and create interactive activities adapted to his learning characterstics. This approach would unlock this mind beyond the daily routine, introduce him with books, different words, and may help him to develop his imagination. If this worked, it will open the whole world of opportunites to make him learn and communicate, using books; like we do for the mainstream children.

So I went our and bought some books from local art and craft store, which are more like 'Look & Find Picture Dictonary' on a single topic e.g. Sea Animals, Wild Animals, All Sort Of Pets. I took each scene from the book and created laminated activity sheets. The example is shown below in Activity 1.

Word recognistion, Communication and Imagination Activities

Activity 1: Icy Seas- To recognise sea animals by matching pictures, symbols and color. The activity encourages word recognistion, enables pupil to show the understanding of word to the picture, and also enables them to communicate using pictures. This type of activity enforces and re-enforces the mechanism in the child to use pictures to point to the object, a beginning to Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).



How to perform this activity

  • Place the picture words on the table.

  • Place the Icy Sea sheet next to them. Ask the question and prompt (use loud and clear voice) – Can you find the orange fish? The child points or picks up the orange fish picture word. (This will not happen so easily. So pick up the picture word, bring it close to your face; gain attention of the child and speak loud and clear and make sure child sees in your eyes and notices lip movement.) Ask or Prompt – Can you find the orange fish on the activity sheet? Show the child how to match and paste the orange fish on the activity sheet.

  • Repeat with other picture words.

  • Repeat again, if the child does not throw tantrums and still focused; otherwise remove the activity and bring is a bit later.


My son was able to place the correct picture word to the activity sheet after a few trials, but all in one session. The session planned each day after the school for1.5 hours. He started with the orange fish and then the penguins. The pattern I saw was coming from the two films he has been watching – Nemo and Happy Feet. He did have trouble with the Walrus and suddenly was looking to find the whale. He thought it would be

some small fish somewhere; however within no time and prompting, he found the big whale in the picture and matched it with the picture words. I was able to prove that he has imagination, retention from memory, very fast to work with pictures, colors and also had understanding of ‘size’ i.e. small and big.

Activity 2: Counting Numbers

Integrate the above activity with counting objectives of the numeracy curriculum . e.g. How many penguins can you count? (Counting Numbers)

I strongly believe that integrating the learning objectives into a single activity is the best way to bring any child to the application of the knowledge at the same time as opposed to lets learn maths, and now we learn language…why not lets learn it all together. This is why I created the numeracy activity out of along with word recognition. Activity 2 is designed to teach numeracy. The child now has to count the object and place the correct number from 1 to 5.I kept the numbers not in sequence for purpose, such that my son does not remember what goes where, rather than actually understand the numbers. Of course, I have tried the activity with all numbers in sequence before this activity. The key here is either keep the pictures in sequence or numbers in sequence, but not both in sequence on the same sheet. This activity gave him alot of stress and he threw tantrums.My objective was to shake his brain cells such that he feels stressed and put some attention into the activity. It was hard. But within few days, we had suceeded in him to at least tolerate the activity. Now he is counting…..see the video on this website. The video is shot in Nov 2010 and this activity was used in September 2010.


  • The objective is to enforce the mechanism for picture communication.

  • Enhance the vocabulary beyond daily routine by using primary books and craft them into activities.

  • Teach multiple learning objective in a single activity.

  • Remember an autistic child’s voice is pictures, so use this strength not only to communicate but learn through books.

  • Brain is capable of learning anything, do not wait and say its too early for him; as you do not know what stage the autistic brain is. It may be seeking for the new words or stories, while you think lets teach abc for 8 years old autistic.


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