Introduction to Fundamental Skills

Otterman on Fundamental Skills Pt 1

As a first grade teacher, I often see students lacking basic skills necessary for the "day-to-day" at school. I spend the first week or so letting my students know my expectations amid those of my school. I also believe in putting in the hard work at the beginning to ensure a smooth peaceful year, as much as possible!

Some students, after all the discussions, examples, posters, and practice, still struggle to follow classroom procedures. These students may have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or may have other needs for alternative formats that promote learning important fundamental skills; those basic life skills we all need and use in our everyday lives.

I have found Speech Kingdom's Fundamental Skills to be the answer.

Fundamental Skills help us stay out of danger and safely navigate our daily lives. For many neurotypical kids, these skills come naturally through everyday experiences. Others must be taught these skills, in a much more purposeful manner. Students with limited Theory of Mind, such as many children with ASD, have difficulty learning fundamental skills and direct teaching of these skills is necessary.

Negative Behaviors

Negative behaviors can be directly tied to a lack of success with basic fundamental skills. Children who don't have the skills to navigate through their day become easily frustrated and display negative behaviors. These behaviors can result from a student's lack of ability to properly communicate their frustration.

As success with fundamental skills increases, parents, teachers and other professionals tend to see marked increases in positive behaviors.

Speech Kingdom Fundamental Skills

Speech Kingdom's Fundamental Skills are brief vignettes, comprised of three scenes that collectively focus on teaching basic everyday skills. These skills are broken down into four major categories,

  • Executive Functioning and Life Skills
  • People and Friendship Skills
  • Safety at Home, at School and in the Community
  • Self-Regulation - Emotional and Physical

Each category has a library of skills from which to choose. Here are just a few:

  • Asking for Help
  • How to Line Up
  • Wandering Away When Distracted
  • Keeping My Hands to Myself

Each of these skills has a defined procedural approach to help the student to be successful and to make good choices. For example, a student can choose to keep their hands to themself instead of touching and bothering those around them.

Fundamental Skills and Social Stories

Rarely are the two separated so distinctly as in Speech Kingdom. However, both use the student and parent (responsible adult) avatar embedded within the story. Fundamental Skills are limited to three scenes, while proficient level social stories can have as many as 17 scenes. Having just three scenes helps encrypt the images into a student's picture memory. Through repetitive experiences with the story, a student can easily remember the three images. Speech Kingdom strongly suggests that Fundamental Skills are brief and designed for repetition with adult assistance.

Fundamental Skills teach specific skills and demonstrate appropriate behaviors. Social Stories are used for language communication, social skills, improved behaviors, and perspective-taking.

Who Can Benefit from Fundamental Skills?

Fundamental Skills were designed with students on the autism spectrum in mind. However, they are also very effective when it comes to teaching all students.

I have had great success using Fundamental Skills to teach skill-specific vocabulary to English Language Learners (ELL).

For those familiar with the nationwide Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) used throughout our public schools, fundamental skills focus on the same skills.

  • Following Instructions
  • Listening
  • Disagreeing Appropriately
  • Getting the Teacher's Attention

In a very specific skill-driven format, as a teacher, I can easily find and teach a targeted skill and collect data on the frequency of use. This data is great for ongoing monitoring of student progress. When used school-wide, Speech Kingdom promotes a uniformed approach to implementing a positive school culture. Parents using Speech Kingdom at home see similar results on a more local level.