April is Autism awareness month! Parent Bloggeers Network is hosting two concurrent blog tours about edutainment DVDs for children with special needs, especially children with speech/language or autistic spectrum disorders. You can win a copy of the DVDs by commenting over at PBN.
Skill Building Buddies is a DVD by Mazzarella Media aimed at kids ages 5-12 with language or autistic spectrum disorders. If you have a child in either of these categories, you will definitely want to check it out, as it helps teach a positive way of working through transitions. Even if you have a child without any labels, but one who has trouble with transitions, you’ll want to read on to learn more about Skill Building Buddies!
The strategy for staying calm throughout transitions in Skill Building Buddies is “Look” “Listen” and “Stay Calm”, and the DVD comes with cards that can be used to remind kids of these three tips. There is a pattern of cartoon explanation, live-action demonstration, then cartoon. After two live-action segments, there’s a song break. This pattern can be comforting to children, especially when they are children who prefer patterns and dislike change!
In Skill Building Buddies children are presented with an expected or unexpected change/transition. The cartoon characters show hosts Mikey and Mandy introduce each live action character’s issue, and discuss how they handle it. The children’s changes include needing to watch TV in a different room & chair, not having your favorite snack, needing to move from clay to reading, having to stay inside for recess, and when your friends want to change games. Each live-action character’s change is a day-to-day issue, something that isn’t life-shattering, but children can relate to as a source of frustration/anger/sadness. The theme song sings “when things change, you’ll be ok”, a great message for everyone!
I really liked the message in Skill Building Buddies, and the way the DVD reinforced a coping strategy that could be used in a wide variety of situations. Look at the person, listen to what they are saying, and then stay calm and move on – that’s a great coping strategy for everyone. In the segments, the children asked questions a few times, showing their frustration, but they all went along with the change. I would have liked to see one segment where the child did not go along with the change, and instead threw a tantrum (as a what not to do), but I know that there would be children who mimicked the tantrum rather than the coping strategies.
My 4 year old really liked Skill Building Buddies, but my 7 year old thought there were too many singing breaks. That said, she was singing the song days after watching the DVD, and called it “catchy”. My oldest (almost 10) has some learning differences, and she was upset that the DVD didn’t pay attention to the different ways children responded to the change – some just accepted it, some asked questions, etc. I think she wanted reassurance that it was OK not to like the change, but you needed to cope with it anyhow. My oldest also pointed out that the majority of scenes took place in a school, and since we homeschool, she didn’t relate to them as much. Finally, she was upset that in a DVD about change they didn’t change up the format (segment, segment, song). She did admit that the coping strategy might be helpful, and she’s willing to try it to see if it’s useful for her.
If you have a child diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum, I strongly recommend picking up Skill Building Buddies. Watching the DVD multiple times will help reinforce a positive coping strategy for dealing with change. Changes and transitions are hard for all children, and we can all learn more ways of facilitating positive interactions despite our frustrations. We recommend Skill Building Buddies to anyone who needs help with transitions and change. We look forward to seeing additional titles from Mazzarella Media, and give Skill Building Buddies 4 out of 5 spotlights.
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