Picture Cards, Howard the Fish, Lion Pose, and More Adventures in Programming for Autistic Kids

This week has been busy, busy, busy! I had two different class visits at the library this week- and both classes had children with varying degrees of autism. I’ve been doing regular storytimes with one group of children for a few months and have been using picture cards to great effect.

One class, consisting of three children between the ages of 9 and 11, are very high functioning. I can usually get them to copy my hand motions for fingerplays or songs, and they will sit through picture book stories. This week, I tried a new book sent to me by Julie at Juka Books- Howard the Fish.  The story was written specifically with autistic kids in mind.  It tells the story of Howard, a fish who is quite content to be by himself, swimming back and forth in his glass bowl.  One day, he is startled to discover a strange face smiling at him.  Over time, Howard discovers that he likes the smiling face and his little glass world becomes slightly bigger and more interesting.  The children seemed to enjoy the story and soft illustrations.  And we had fun making “O” fishy faces with our mouths, too. 

My next class consisted of two students, ages 13, with low functioning autism.  For this storytime, I first introduced the activities with picture cards.  Their teacher was surprised by my use of the picture cards and asked if I could make her photocopies so she could use them in class.  I did so and also directed her to Do2Learn.  We did some simple hello songs and I read Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.  The kids were wandering and appeared to be looking at the ceiling or floor most of the time- but when I asked them to point to the animal or make the animal noise, they did so without hesitation. 

My favorite moment came when I read the part about a lion.  One of the children saw the picture and immediately got on his hands and knees, opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue!  His teacher explained that they often do Yoga poses in their classroom and that “Lion’s Pose” is his favorite.  Hearing this, I had to put down the book for a moment and join in the fun! 

I was also excited to find that the children use some basic signs to communicate- such as SIT, and OKAY.  I showed them HAPPY and GOOD throughout the program.  Their teacher also left the library with a book on sign language. 

After the story program, the children got a chance to play at the computers.  We explored PBSkids and TumbleBooks

Their teacher is planning on returning with another class this summer and again when fall classes resume.  I’m looking forward to it.


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