Review of the Mobile Therapy Room in Winter

So far, this winter hasn’t brought any major extremes of weather (except excessive rain!!) but we have had a couple of cold snaps that have let me evaluate the performance of the mobile therapy room in winter conditions. Overall, I have been pleased with it and have found working inside to be comfortable and easy.

The cuddly slug draft excluder in actionI have certainly appreciated all the efforts we put in to insulation! The Celotex insulation board and bales of wool that are stuffed into all available spaces behind the panels mean that the van heats up quickly and stays warm with the odd top-up from the heater. The one problem I did find was that there is a tiny air gap between the back doors where the back step which was creating quite a nasty cold draft. That was easily solved with the addition of a cuddly slug-shaped draft excluder and the cunning use of a household sponge to well and truly plug the gap!

The Eberspacher heater that is fitted in the mobile therapy room has done a great job of keeping us all cosy on even the coldest days. I went for the D4 model which is quite a big heater. The reason I went for the D4 was that I wanted to be able to heat the workspace in the mobile therapy room quickly. On the coldest day I have had so far, the thermostat in the therapy area was reading a chilly -9C when I switched the heater on. Thankfully, within 15 minutes, it was up to a very pleasant +18C. Mission accomplished!

The mobile therapy room with the LED lights on in the dark.Lighting is a big consideration when you are working in Scotland through the depths of winter. Through December, it gets dark as early as 3-3.30pm on the dreichest (that’s grey and miserable for the non-Scots out there!) days. The mobile therapy room is fitted with 9 soft LED ceiling lights and I have found that these provide a gentle but bright light for working when it is dark outside. Because they are LEDs they don’t flicker or hum like fluorescent strip lights which was a key reason why I chose them. I’ve also found it handy to have LED strip lighting round the step recesses as that makes it easier to see where the step is in the dark.

In terms of winter safety features, my high visibility vests have proven a big hit. I think getting them on for heading out to the van just adds to the whole adventure! I have an adult sized one plus two paediatric sizes so that no-one is left out. So far, I haven’t needed to use my Snow Socks but it gives me great peace of mind to know they are there. Snow Socks are canvas wheel covers that are easier to put on than snow chains and give you extra grip when you need it in snowy conditions. I’ve used them on my car before and they’re remarkably effective.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had over the winter has been keeping the mobile therapy room clean inside and out when the weather is wet and grotty. The way forward so far has been to remove shoes if necessary when we go in and to make sure I give it a clean each week which I do anyway.

So all in all, I can conclusively say that the mobile therapy room has consistently given me and my clients a safe, warm and comfortable working environment through the worst of the Scottish winter! Mission accomplished :-)


The Minefield of Autism on the Internet!

When your child is diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, there is a very high risk of information overload. There is a vast amount of information of varying quality out there on the internet and, in my experience, one of the biggest challenges families of children with a new diagnosis of autism face is sifting through it all! I hope that this post will help to guide you to some trustworthy and helpful starting points in your quest for information. Don’t forget that you are welcome to email me if you have a specific question! Here are the websites that I generally recommend as reliable starting points:

The National Autistic Society – is a UK charity serving the needs of the population affected by autism spectrum conditions. It really should be your first port of call as it is a reliable source of information and you will be able to find out about a variety of support networks, new research and awareness raising campaigns.

Lothian Autistic Society – For those of you living in Edinburgh and Lothian, this is our local autism support organisation. There are other similar local organisations across the UK and you will find their contact details in the National Autistic Society’s Autism Services Directory.

Scottish Autism – this is Scotland’s equivalent of the National Autistic Society and provides similar support and information.

Research Autism – Research Autism is a charity run website which is collecting and evaluating the evidence to support (or not!!) treatments and therapies for autism spectrum conditions. There is a ratings page which lists most of the interventions currently in use around the UK and gives you an ‘at a glance’ view of what is well evidenced, what is not and what can be harmful. It is well worth a look on here as there is a scarily large number of interventions out there for autism spectrum conditions that do not have a strong evidence base! Please check before you fork out lots of money for an intervention!

The specific information, support services and interventions you will need will vary depending on your or your child’s needs but these websites should be able to point you in the right direction to get you started. And, as I said before, don’t forget that you can email me to ask any specific questions you might have!

Always remember that your child is an individual. There are many websites and approaches out there professing to be better than all the rest. In my experience one size never, ever fits all. The most important thing you can do is look at your child and his/her needs as objectively as you can. You may find that one approach fits your child’s pattern of needs particularly well – that’s great! Equally, you may find that you need to use bits and bobs of a variety of approaches to support your child best. There is no right or wrong here, just be prepared to give things a good and fair try, use what works and bin what doesn’t!



Communication Games 6 – Slinky

A slinky is is a really engaging sensory toy which works well with a wide range of children. There are many different sorts of slinky on the market nowadays, from rainbow coloured plastic ones to traditional metal ones to miniature ones. Keep your eyes peeled in toy shops and gift shops!

Various rainbow and metal slinkies

Most often, I use my slinkies for:

  1. Reinforcement – I find lots of children who are learning to use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) enjoy a slinky and it motivates them to exchange their picture for a go with it.
  2. Eye contact – As well as waiting for eye contact as a request for a turn with the slinky, you can have some fun looking down it at the child you are working with. It looks pretty inside, especially if it’s a rainbow slinky, and you get eye to eye contact. if you would like to learn more about basic, fundamental communication skills like eye contact, please have a look at my post titled The Fundamentals of Communication.
  3. Parallel Play - This is the stage in play development where a young person is happy to play alongside but not actually with someone else. Slinkies are good for developing this stage as it is easy to have one each and for the adult to begin engaging with the child by copying what they do with their slinky.
  4. Concepts – because you can stretch the slinky out to make it long & let it spring back to make it short, it is very useful for working on these concepts. I do this a lot if I am teaching the concepts of long & short in preparation for phonology work with children who ‘stop’ fricative sounds like ‘s’ or ‘f’ and say plosives like ‘d’ or ‘b’ instead.
  5. Verbs – Finally, slinkies are great for developing understanding and use of action words like ‘stretch’, ‘bounce’, ‘see’, ‘pull’, ‘wobble’, ‘wiggle’.

Communication Games 5 – Jumpy Frogs

Jumpy Frogs are a really simple toy but children really love them! You can buy several variations on the theme but the basic principle is the same. To my mind, the best way to use them is to have the child make the frog jump into a pot that you are holding. That way you can ‘help’ by catching the frog thereby avoiding being there all day!

Two of the sets of jumping frogs available on the market

Here are the things I use jumpy frogs for most often:

  1. Choosing a picture - Lay your pictures out face down on the table. Put a frog in the middle and make him jump. Name or talk about the picture he landed on.
  2. Discriminating between 2 or more options – Lay out the pictures showing the speech sounds or words you’re using then ask your child to make the frog jump onto the one he/she heard you say.
  3. Colours – most sets of frogs come in a variety of colours so you can use them to work on colour vocabulary – eg ‘Make a red one jump’.
  4. Prepositions – if you are working on position words like in/on/under, you can ask your child to make the frog jump in these different locations.
  5. Treasure hunt for pictures – hide your pictures round the room, each one with a frog. Your child can then go and find them one by one, name or talk about the picture then make the frog jump into your container.



Communication Games 4 – Click Clack Track

A Click Clack Track or Car Run as they’re sometimes called is great for preschoolers and young people whose communication is at an early stage of development. It’s a really simple toy which is great for practising a variety of fundamental communication skills and you can get them in almost all toy shops. You can also use Marble Runs in the same way although they sometimes need building up first which is a bit of a pain if you just want to get going! If you want to learn more about fundamental early developing communication skills, please read my post called The Fundamentals of Communication.

A click clack track and a marble run

  1. Anticipation – anticipation in familiar routines is an essential part of communication development. The car run is a motivating activity for doing just that! Hold the car at the top of the track and say ‘ready, steady…’ then pause before ‘go’. You’ll know that the child is anticipating what comes next if you get eye contact, smiles, vocalisation and/or obvious signs of excitement. You will find more information about this and other building blocks of communication in my post titled ‘The Fundamentals of Communication’.
  2. Choosing – Most car runs come with at least 2 cars so here is an ideal opportunity to give your child a chance to make a choice. Simply ask them which car they would like, you may need to support this by giving a ‘this one or that one’ forced choice like ‘do you want the blue car or the yellow car?’.
  3. Early expressive vocabulary – Using signs, symbols or words repeatedly in a familiar routine is a great way to encourage a child to use them themselves. The car run is really goo for encouraging vocabulary like ‘more’, ‘again’, ‘car’, ‘ready/steady/go’, ‘down’, ‘stop’.
  4. 2 word phrases – Building on your early vocabulary, the familiar verbal routine around the click clack track supports the development of varied 2 word phrases like ‘blue car’, ‘more car’, ‘faster car’.
  5. Joint attention – As you will know if you have read my previous posts in this series, joint attention is absolutely essential for communication and more wider learning. With the car run, you can work on this by pointing at the car as it runs down the track and celebrating together when it drops off the end.
  6. Turn-taking – Your child may want to make the car go him/herself and here you have a good opportunity to work on ‘my turn’ versus ‘your turn’.

A simple toy can go a long way!