There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly: Adapted

Storytime with a child with autism and/or ADHD is really, really hard!  Some children truly have a hard time being still.  Some children really do not like this time because 1) they aren’t sure what to do, 2) they don’t know how to sit still, 3) they can’t anticipate what is next or when this will end.

Here are some tips and tricks for reading with/to children who are typically developing and those who may have an underlying reason that causes them to wiggle!


How can we add visuals to help support children?  ALL children benefit from visuals.  We use them everyday as adults.  Kids can use them too!  Even if a child is verbal, he/she can benefit from a visual.  This 1) provides expectations of what they are doing, 2) eases anxiety about what is next/when this will end, 3) serves as a reminder of what to do, 4) works to connect visual learners and learners who "think in pictures". 

Here are some ideas for visuals you can use:

1) First....Then Schedule

For those of you parents stuck at home.....check out this freebie from Panda Speech (she has an amazing library of resources on Teachers Pay Teachers that I use as my go-to for just about everything): Free Home Learning Visual Schedule

Some learners may only be able to handle "First".  Some may try to eat, bend, or throw the pictures at first.  Be patient, it can take a full month for things like this to work...or it may work right away.  Don't give up!  Make sure to put something the child really likes in the "then" when you are introducing this.  If they can't handle both pictures, put something they really like in the "first" section and teach them that pictures can bring us what we need/want by rewarding them with a favorite thing/activity.

2) Now, Next, Later
We typically use this at our house as needed, during more structured times of day.  You can make this with the free set listed above or you could purchase one here
I added the "check your schedule" visuals.  For some learners, you could simply hand them this and they would know to check their schedule to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing. 

3) For more fluid learners, you can add more tasks. These types of learners can also handle moving the pictures from "plan" to "complete" rather than removing the pictures from sight.  I often use these with young children or with children with more fluid learning ability in my speech therapy sessions. You can find this at Panda Speech for purchase...or you could make your own.  

4) For your most fluid learners or your readers, you could consider a written list (like a "to do list").  Lucas does best with #1, 2, 4.  He can read and loves a white he can handle that.  He can also do first...then and the 3 part schedule.  He does not do as well with #3 because the pictures stay on the page.  For whatever reason, some children with autism need the pictures to "disappear" or the task to be fully marked off when finished. 


Some children spend so much time/energy/brainpower trying to figure out how to sit still that they miss everything else around them.  They may not be as successful in traditional seating.  Here are some things you can try:
1) Let them stand up.  Who says we can't work/learn standing up?
2) Try a yoga mat.  I have had success in introducing this to some young children who were anxious and did not understand who I was, what we were doing, or where to be.  This was one was especially helpful because it has 2 different it showed that one side was side was theirs.  I call it the "Speech Mat" and I introduce it as where we do speech. Then, if needed...we can move the speech mat...out of the classroom for quiet instruction (for tasks that need to be taught free from distractions). 
3) A bumpy cushion.  For some, this becomes a projectile (i.e. frisbee...what fun!)...for others, it helps them to remain seated where they are supposed to be. 
You can find one on amazon
4) A Peanut Ball. This is like an exercise ball, but it dips down in the middle.  The child could sit in the middle and bounce while engaged in whatever you're doing with them.  Use this with caution and at your own discretion. I don't leave ours unattended at home because it could cause a fall.  In a session with a young or very wiggly child, I might make sure my feet are beside theirs and my hands ready to make sure they don't fall. I might also hold their hands while they bounce or do side-to-side motion. A good occupational therapist can provide you with professional guidance on how to give good sensory input with a peanut ball.  Since that is out of my scope of practice, I'll simply list it as an option...with safety and careful discretion in mind.  These are also found on amazon.

Now for storytime videos!  You'll see there is quite a difference in presentation of stories between a neurotypical child and a child with autism and/or adhd....or just a busy, wiggly little kid!  You don't have to read every word on every page.  You absolutely can add other materials to make it more fun...and just know, if it doesn't work at all...try again later.  Think about what went wrong....try something else...and don't give up.  Hang in there.  This is hard!  We've utilized some of our above seating and visuals in our videos here....and I will provide this link to where you can find printable resources to supplement these books.  

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Clover by Lucille Collandro.  Story time by Mrs Elizabeth (and Emma!)  

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly by Lucille Collandro.  Very wiggly, adapted Story time by Mrs Elizabeth (and Lucas!)

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