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Speaking Topics for the 2022-2023 School Year
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Mental state verbs (MSV) describe processes of cognition and thereby aren’t visible. While we can see someone “running”, we can’t see the internal process of “hoping”. However, understanding and use of MSV is a critical reflection of cognitive development and is important for discourse development, academic success, social understanding, and conversational competence.  

We will begin by exploring the term, drawing from the fields of theory of mind, cognition, linguistics, and attachment. The research exploring how students with language and social challenges differ in their understanding and use of mental state

verbs will be reviewed. Then we will explore how to develop MSV in the students with whom we work, covering in-session activities as well as suggestions for teachers and families. Participants will leave with a clear understanding of the critical role that MSV play, as well as activities to incorporate into their therapy sessions and consultations with teachers and families.

Learning objectives:

  • explain what mental state verbs are and why they are so important.

  • demonstrate how to use an animated video to teach mental state verbs.

  • explain how to use mental state verbs to build inference abilities.

  • present an activity that incorporates MSV into work on conversation with a student in their caseload.

  • discuss how to write a goal based on a rubric framework for the development of MSV.

Research over the past decade tell us that students on the Autism Spectrum (and probably students with ADHD or emotional issues such as anxiety also) struggle to process the intention behind social movement, so it really makes sense to use materials that move. We will review 3 pathways using YouTube videos as social learning material:

  • Pathway 1: Building Greater Emotional Understanding, specifically: identifying feelings, thoughts and perspectives, expanding beyond “happy”, “sad”, “mad”, challenges and benefits of uncomfortable emotions

  • Pathway 2: Cooperation for Social Success, specifically: the role of flexibility and regulation, roadblocks to cooperation

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  • Pathway 3: Resilience for Life’s Challenges, specifically: building tolerance for discomfort, visual supports and strategies addressing inner voice, facilitating the growth of resilience.

Participants will leave with a list of great videos, activities to pair with them, suggested ways to move students to the “practice” phase, and sample rubrics to use in tracking progress.


Learning Objectives:

  • explain the theoretical underpinnings supporting using media for social learning work.

  • discuss variables to consider when selecting animated videos for students and groups. 

  • list 3 variables that affect resilience

  • show 2 activities that can be used with their students to build social understanding.

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Often, students with social learning challenges struggle with flexibility. Their tendencies toward rigidity affect their academic success, friendships, and even conversational skills. After exploring student profiles that tend toward inflexibility, numerous activities to build flexibility will be discussed and practiced, some using animated videos, some using games and activities, and others using semi-structured conversation frameworks. Participants will leave with a selection of activities and recommended video animations that target developing flexibility, applicable to group and individual sessions via both in-person as well as virtual therapy platforms.

Learning Objectives:

  • explain why student sketching provides important insights into our students.

  • demonstrate how to work on cognitive flexibility using an animated video with a student with whom they work.

  • list 3 building blocks of conversation and show how to use a conversation path with a student in their caseload.

Inference underlies academic, social and even conversational success, and depends on the ability to identify and process relevant details and apply our knowledge of the world to the current situation we are trying to understand. Jump cuts – the actions and events that we may miss or that aren’t shown us – makes inference significantly more challenging for students with language and social cognitive differences.

Many students we see in our sessions struggle with inference, a skill that underlies academic, social, and even conversational success. We will review the skill set behind inferential skills, and review a number of strategies that can be helpful in building an

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understanding of intention, behavior, and effect. Using the term “Double Think”, we will explore how to support students in going beyond their initial thoughts to attend to what they see and know, review their world knowledge, and figure out the “why” behind the “what.” We’ll use a range of material, including storybooks, textbooks, animated videos, and a semi-structured conversation curriculum, as we review a range of activities for engaging intervention. 


Learning objectives:

  • define jump cuts and explain their effect on inference.

  • discuss the role of clinician silence in supporting student inference.

  • demonstrate how to add information to transform jump cuts into helpful visual supports.

  • explain how to use mental state verbs to build inference abilities.

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The complex nature of conversation often challenges students with language and/or social cognition differences. Conversational competence encompasses the ability to participate in conversations effectively, and involves keeping up with the pace and path of conversation, monitoring and adjusting our tone and prosody, incorporating nonverbal communication, maintaining attention, staying regulated, paying attention to the emotional information communicated to us by our partner, and many other components of cognition, pragmatics and discourse.

This seminar will focus on an activity developed specifically to

support conversation practice - Conversation in Real Time (CRT), in which students partner together to provide conversational voice-over for animated videos without accompanying dialogue. Given the language formulation, spontaneity and flexibility required to keep up with the pace of action between characters (and thus the conversation,) we will discuss how to select appropriate animated videos based on a number of variables. Finally, we will discuss how we can use rubrics to write goals and keep data on performance. Participants will leave with a list of suggested animated videos and activity sequences for using the CRT framework in their sessions.


Learning objectives:

  • cite research that supports using animated videos as engaging learning material for students with social learning challenges.

  • explain the steps involved in Conversation in Real Time.

  • identify an appropriate animated video and breakdown how it could be used with a student or group of students in your caseload.

  • discuss the aspects of conversation that are practiced using CRT.

  • list 3 variables to consider when selecting an appropriate animated video for a particular student or group.

By late elementary school and onwards, many students who have had years of therapy believe they have seen (and learned and already “do”) all of our programs and materials. Re-engage them by bringing Kyungmin Woo’s wonderful characters of Maca and Roni into your sessions. Whether you are working on language processing, vocabulary, narrative discourse, conversation, and/or social understanding, this series of animated videos will provide you and your students with hours of terrific materials that will deepen their learning and simplify your planning. We will look at a diverse set of activities, ranging from the foundational and simple to the sophisticated and abstract. We will finish with a discussion of rubrics for goal writing and progress tracking.​

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Learning objectives:

  • list the range of skills that can be addressed via animated videos.

  • explain why complex language is required to discuss social events.

  • give an example of how to use a Maca and Roni animation to work on narrative.

  • demonstrate how to use an animated video to work on conversation.

  • explain the structure of a rubric.

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Conversations are how we share ideas, learn, and establish relationships. Students with language and/or social cognitive differences struggle with many aspects of conversation, in part, because true conversation is organic and spontaneous, with very few rules. This workshop will focus on building conversational competence with a semi-structured program of Conversation Paths. Including social learning concepts that underlie conversation, we’ll also review practice activities, the challenges of assessment, the importance of considering neurodiverse perspectives, and the use of rubrics to measure progress. 

Learning objectives:

  • explain what Conversation Paths are and how to use them

  • list at least 4 Evidence-Based Practices that are components of CPPEV.

  • demonstrate how to apply a rubric when writing goals for improved conversation.

  • discuss the challenges of evaluating conversation.

Finding materials that easily and effectively translate into teletherapy sessions can be challenging. We will review research supporting the use of animated videos as engaging materials, and review a diverse set of specific activities to work in inference, narrative discourse and greater social understanding. Multiple examples of using readily available annotations as visual supports will be given. While specifically applicable to teletherapy, all the materials and activities discussed can also be used for in-person sessions. We will consider the all-important topic of goal writing and documentation of progress via rubrics. Participants will leave with updated lists of great videos and activities to pair with them.​

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Learning objectives:

  • explain why using materials that contain social movement makes sense when working with students on the Autism Spectrum.

  • demonstrate how to use annotations as visual supports when working via teletherapy.

  • construct visual support that simplifies perspective taking using screenshots.

  • create a plan showing how to work on inference using an animated video with a student in your caseload.

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