Teaching The Concept Of Money
One area that could positively make use of labels was in the teaching of the concept of money. Once the concept of “symbols” representing something had been learned, this concept could be applied to teaching many things to an autistic child.
Teaching money was definitely one of those occasions to show Zachary how the "parts" made up the whole and how “things” often represented “something else”.
It had taken me about $10.00 in change to make the prop I needed to teach money. I hoped to make both the "time" and "money" tools I created available as posters for parents to use.
The idea behind this was simply to give Zachary an exact visual of how money "fit together" in terms of a "concept"... that 100 pennies = $1.00 , 10 pennies = 1 dime, 2 nickels = 1 dime, 1 nickel = 5 pennies, 2 nickels = 1 dime = 10 pennies = 1 dime = 1 nickel + 5 pennies = 1 dime = 2 nickels... and so on. Note that I did provide some repetition here because I found that as I went through the "board", Zachary had great enthusiasm if he could "answer" something previously learned in terms of "what equaled what" (i.e, 2 nickels = 1 dime) and that helped keep him interested in the task... anticipating knowing yet another answer as we moved along!
I found Zachary's interest to be absolutely overwhelming the first time we did this task - as I helped him "decode something", but to go to "almost no interest" by the second try. As such, with almost everything, I always had to "put things away for a while" and take them out again later. Having gone through the “initial trials” of teaching money to Zachary, I was now convinced that the best approach would be to take my “poster” and to break it down into unit equivalents that could be provided as flashcards. For example, one flashcard would show: 1 dime = 10 pennies = 1 nickel + 5 pennies = 1 dime. I planned on doing this for all units of money, showing as many “equivalents” as possible on one card.
The board below represented a final view of what to use to teach Zachary the concept of money. Since interest needed to be maintained, just showing this entire board at once would not be the way I would start if I had to do this all over again. I would take "each section" or unit of money and actually work on that section or unit with "real money" or flashcards and use the board as another tool to reinforce the concept once I had taught "each part" with actual money. This was one of those issues I was still working and, unfortunately, I could only share my experience to date in terms of how I did things, what worked and what did not work in terms of traps I fell into.
In working with Zachary I found that just verbally giving him the equations also worked well. For example, I would say: "10 pennies = 1 dime " and later, I would say: "10 pennies = " and I would wait for him to provide the answer. As with phonics, that seemed to work quite well. The poster provided a good visual "final concept", but, I really believed a verbal "calling out" of equations and the use of actual money was the best way to start teaching the concept of money. Of course, since money could be a chocking hazard, when I did use it, I was always careful to make sure I was there with Zachary and that "all the coins were returned" when we were done. Using "exact amounts" at first was critical. I could then "add" more money and show Zachary how money could be "added" or subtracted... just like anything else that had to do with numbers.
In my opinion, as with the need to teach language in building blocks, the "correct progression" was important when it came to teaching money. As I had created my “poster” I first took 10 pennies and showed that 10 pennies = 1 dime, then I took 2 nickels and showed 2 nickels = 1 dime. I started with a definition of each basic unit of money first... 1 penny was shown as 1 penny (as I showed him an actual penny), 1 nickel was shown to be "this silver thing" and also said to "equal 5 pennies"... and so on! I worked with one unit at a time to show the various combinations that could "make that equivalent"... for example working with a dime and showing that 1 dime "was this little silver thing", but 1 dime also was equal to 2 nickels, or 1 nickel and 5 pennies or 10 pennies. I did this for the nickel, the quarter, and the dollar as well... working my way up, from the smallest unit up... starting with the penny, to just show 1 penny... then the nickel... to show 5 pennies = 1 nickel, then the dime... to show 10 pennies = 1 dime or 1 nickel and 5 pennies = 1 dime and so on. I started with pennies, showed how each "related to all other units" (nickel, dime, quarter, dollar - counting out up to 100 pennies to show the dollar relationship, etc.). Then, I tackled the next unit.. and its "combinations".
I spent a long time putting together this "final board"- actually using glue to put each coin into its perfect place, etc... but, again I found that Zachary lost interest the second day... so, I decided to try just one small unit each day... and work up to the whole as shown below... and to use the "final board" as a summary or reinforcement when the basic units were learned. :o)
Autistic children were very intelligent and, at least with Zachary, I found that although he wanted to "take it all in at once", doing that often worked to my disadvantage in that it was then much harder to maintain interest the next day and the tool had to be put away for a while and be retrieved later to continue the lesson. A slow buildup over time would be more helpful than providing the entire concept "as on this board" all at once... the final board was good, but only once the basics had been learned as small, individual increments. Many things, unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way, but I hope that my experiences with Zachary would help many parents from falling into the same traps I personally encountered.
My New Money Poster Is This One!
This same concept of "building up slowly" should be applied to just about any lesson... for example, in teaching geography... teach the parts to the whole... starting with one country, then one continent, etc., and putting it all together... like a puzzle!