I have been using Rosemary Well’s newest book, “Hands Off, Harry!” for language lessons all week with kids who are on the autism spectrum or have language learning disabilities. What a terrific teaching tool!

Since summer is a time for vacations and families take off and might miss speech, I decided to make up a language lesson plan for a few moms of kids I work with that are on the autism spectrum so they can use books in my absence to build their child’s language. Here is what I shared with the parents:

Ways to Elicit and Expand Language Using “Hands Off, Harry” by Rosemary Wells, and other books:

  • Point out and talk about the title, who is the author, illustrator? What are their jobs?
  • From the cover picture, what do you think the book is about? What will happen? You may have to start your child with some ideas of your own such as, “What is Harry doing? Do you think he will keep doing that? What will happen?”  Praise any predictions and give a few of your own, showing that there is no right answer.
  • Review all the “characters” on the inside cover, using that term. Define characters (people, animals or other creatures in the story). Talk about the setting.
  • Start reading the story page by page (you may have to cover the print if he gets distracted by the letters, or prompt him saying, “Look at the picture, not the letters.” “We will write letters later.”
  • Have fun with the story. We read that Harry ran into school and said Good Morning backwards so we read and said it backwards too.
  • Expand his descriptions from “Harry ran backwards,” to “Harry ran backwards all the way down the hall and into his classroom,” prompting connecting words like those bolded above. Also, you can give a visual prompt of expanding his sentences as if you are pulling taffy with your hands and get farther apart as he gives more words, saying, “I want more language!”
  • After reading that Harry knocked kids out of Friendly Circle, ask, “What happened? Model novel words like, “Harry crashed into his friends.” How did the kids feel? Why didn’t the kids laugh?
  • Harry is sent to the Thinking Chair. “What does Harry do?” “What is personal space?” I had the kids make a circle in front of them with their arms and then practice putting their hands in and out of each other’s personal space. (invisible bubble around us where we feel safe, and if someone gets too close we are uncomfortable) What should Harry be thinking about?
  • Discuss each situation where Harry disrupts his classmate–MIracle making a snowflake, Benjamin painting, Nigel doing yoga–What did Harry do? Why are they mad? What should the class do?
  • Act out sections of the story to give kids multi-sensory reinforcement. Poke or surprise a friend, show the reaction, make the appropriate face and talk about the emotion, practice saying “I’m sorry” in the right and wrong voice. Why do we need to use the right voice? (so the person believes we are sorry)
  • What does it mean to have “ants in your pants?”
  • Why does Harry get a bumper tube? This is an abstract question and involves a lot of pulling concepts together so you may have to prompt him along in his answer: “Harry has the tube so______________ “or “When Harry wears the tube he can’t____________.”
  • Relate the book to your child’s experience. What do you like to take to show and tell, like Harry? Do you know a boy or girl like Harry?
  • Description: use a great page of illustrations to take turns describing something, expanding your child’s description with prompts. The playground page is perfect for this.
  • What did Harry do as playground monitor? Why was he good at it?
  • Discuss and show what it means to use your hands to shake, hold or lend a hand.