April 2018 -

Hello Everyone,

MrsRiley.com is entering a new phase and focusing on existing users. Please login for further details.

To this end, we're sorry but new user signup is now closed.

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Ben Throop


Supporting Receptive Language Skills

While some students are predominantly auditory learners, many tend to be visual learners, meaning they understand or retain what they see more effectively than what they hear. Visual supports are often helpful since they provide extra processing time.
Receptive Language is the ability to understand what is said or written.
school routine
  • Make sure you have the student’s attention before you deliver an instruction or ask a question.
  • Consider the student’s processing challenges and timing (for example, begin an instruction with the student’s name - this increases the likelihood that he may be attending by the time you deliver the direction)
  • Avoid complex verbal directions, information and discussion. Keep instructions short or give information in chunks.
  • Give positive directions to allow for incomplete language processing.
  • Minimize the use of ‘don’t’ and ‘stop.’ (For example, ‘Please stay on the sidewalk’ can be much more effective than ‘Don’t walk on the grass’ for a student who might not hear the ‘don’t’—or for one who isn’t sure where the acceptable place to walk might be.) This lets the student know exactly what you want him to do.
  • Allow ‘wait time’ (be prepared to wait for a response, whether it is an action or answer). Avoid immediately repeating an instruction or inquiry. Sometimes it is helpful to think of a student with auditory processing challenges like a computer - when it is processing, hitting the command again does not make it go any faster, but rather sends it back to the beginning to start the process all over again!


Recent Downtime

Hi Everyone,

I want to take a few minutes to explain our recent stability issues and downtime.

On Saturday 8/30, we attempted to upgrade our server and bring some improvements to the site. As can happen in the wonderful world of technology, this didn't go as planned and the site became unstable. From Saturday afternoon onward, our credit card processing system no longer functioned and there were several usability issues with the site. For this I am VERY SORRY!

Many of you are returning to the site after the summer and needed to resubscribe in order to be able to get work done, so I temporarily opened up PageBuilder to all registered users. 

To finally fix the problems, we took the site down for maintenance last night from 10:30pm EST and work completed at 8:45am EST. As far as I can tell, everything is functioning as it was before Saturday. All data was preserved in this process. If you notice any problems, please send a note from the contact form.

Many of you are very invested customers that have been with the site for several years. I love you guys and what you've made with our tools! PageBuilder is vitally important to you especially as the new school year starts. As a small gesture for this downtime, please enjoy a free month Subscription. Here's how to get it:

Free 1-Month Subscription Instructions

  1. Write down this coupon code now: MrsRileyLovesYou2014
  2. Below is the link that will take you through a checkout process as if you are going to pay. The code will make the order free.
  3. When you get to the checkout page, in the "Discounts" box, enter that code: MrsRileyLovesYou2014
  4. Ok, now Visit this link and follow the instructions.

This will give you a free 1-month subscription or extend your current subscription by one month. The code will not work on 4 or 12 month subscriptions. If you have any questions just contact me. This code expires at the end of September and is good for one use per user.

Thank you for using MrsRiley.com! 



Teaching Colors - Clothespin Color Relay

I love clothespin activities!!!!  There's just something about all that wood and color and the satisfaction of opening and closing a clothespin and sticking it on something.  One activity Noah loves to engage in is Clothespin Color Relay.  This little beauty works on fine motor skills (clothespin grasp, gross motor (walking/running), following directions, picture card usage, color identification and matching.   It's easy to get the other little ones (and big ones) involved once they see what we're up to.  We thought we'd let you in on our little game.

One thing I've found to be very important is remembering that the goal we are reaching for while attempting these tasks is progress and for the child to feel successful.  More important than training our children to know their  colors, we are training them to be confident and enthusiastic learners.  So, no matter how much assistance you have to give, make sure to give your child all the credit for a job well done.  "Yes, you got it, you made a match, super,  yay!!!!!"

Materials needed:

  • 22 clothespins
  • permament markers
  • scissors
  • printout of mrsriley.com color circles here: http://mrsriley.com/app/#fileID=45741
  • a piece of string or yarn, at least 12-inches long, depending on how many cards you'll be using
  • bell and chair - (optional)


  1. Mount picture boards on cardstock or laminate.
  2. Cut out cards.
  3. Color a set of 2 clothespins for each color card you will be using.    (If you are having multiple children playing, you may want to have an extra clothespin or 2 per color.)
  4. Attach your string horizontally either from two pieces of furniture (in which case you will need a longer piece of string, or tacked to the wall.
  5. Sit with your child and talk about the cards and the clothespins. Use this as an opportunity to introduce and review vocabulary and talk about concepts like "open and closed," "colors," "matching," "same and different." Next, using very simple speech, "Put red on red," give him practice opening and closing the clothespins and attaching a color-coordinated clothespin to a card.

How to Play:  (Start off with just 2 or 3 colors and build up gradually.)

  1. Hang each color card with a coordinated clothespin from the string that you hung.
  2. Hold the remaining coordinating clothespins in your hand and place yourself about 2 yards from the hanging cards.
  3. Give your child one clothespin, tell him the color of the clothes pin, and tell him to clip it on the coordinating card.  ("Here's red.  Put red on red.)  Assist as needed. 
  4. Repeat with remaining clothespins.


A step up (Pick and Choose):

1.  Play the game as described, but using a timer, encourage your child to see how fast he can attach all the clothespins to the cards.

2.  Encourage your child to ask you for the color he wants using either sign language, picture cards or speech.

3.  Set a bell on a chair near the hanging cards.  Instruct your child to ring the bell every time he makes a match.  This is an exercise in following directions with an extra step.

4.  If you have more than one child playing, use small boxes or baskets to hold the clothespins and make it into a race.  If one child finishes first, you may choose to have him help the other child to win too by helping him attach the remaining clothespins.

How do you use this game for your child or clients?  What modifications helped it be a success for you?   Can't wait to hear.




A Little About Me and Why I'm Here

Welcome to my journey through mrsriley.com.  The special needs community is discovering more and more every day about the incredible visual skills children with autism and Down syndrome have.  There is also much to be gained by making learning visual for everyone.  I have seven students in my family homeschool, and I'm all about finding every opportunity to use picture cards to get things organized, functional and fun around here.

As an added bonus, my 5-year-old has Down syndrome and an additional diagnosis of apraxia of speech.  Apraxia is a motor planning disorder that basically means Noah has the muscle strength and coordination needed for speech production and he knows what he wants to say, but the connection between his brain and his mouth is short-circuiting.

The good news is that Noah has an American Sign Language vocabulary of about 150 signs.  Using Total Communication (sign language plus -NOT INSTEAD OF- speech) has helped Noah to be a great communicator.  Language is about so much more than the ability to verbalize orally.  Remember that - it's going to be very important.  Never give up on speech.  The use of picture cards and signs lay a very important foundation for communication, sentence structure, and vocabulary.  Used long term, they can be an anchor and a prompt for speech.  There was a time I hoped that Noah would outgrown signing and picture cards, but in being exposed to adults with disabilities, I realize that what we are doing by teaching sign and picture card usage is we are equipping our special ones for life.  When Noah starts a job, mows the lawn, does the dishes or goes shopping for the first time, mrsriley.com picture cards will be a tool he can use to achieve success and independence.  When he gets confused or forgets what to do next, he can use his picture boards much the way we use directions.  He won't have to be at the mercy of my attention or anyone else's.  Like a hammer for a carpenter, a map for a traveller, picture cards will be a tool, a means to a very productive end, no matter how "high-functioning" or "low functioning" he is.     

Noah is also very bright.  As his teacher, I want to make sure that his speech dealy does not interfere with his acquisition of skills that he may otherwise be ready for.  He has been diligently learning preschool concepts despite the fact he is just beginning to speak.  His speech therapist has been using picture cards consistently with him, and after watching her for six months and wandering around mrsriley.com, I'm finally getting the hang of it.

In the next few weeks, I will start posting articles and hopefully links (if I can figure that out) to my boards that are instrumental in Noah's acquisition of pre-school skills such as matching, color identification, following directions, opposites, part to whole, counting, action words and categorizing.  We'll also be talking about using picture cards to teach not-yet-verbal children to read, YES-TO READ!!!!!!  And, of course, we'll explore using picture cards more generally to offer choices, learn routines and sequence events.  As mrsriley.com members,  you will have access to all the files I'll be sharing.  All you have to do is print them and use them.

From time to time I'll be posting "Noah News"  which will be updates on Noah's progress in the areas we're using picture cards.  I'm excited about that because it will be a written record of how far we've come since going visual.  I'd love for you to use this space to share how you are customizing these ideas and files to fit your own needs.  Let us know how you're using your picture cards.  Just hit the comment button at the bottom of the blog and type away.  Gotta love how we're all in this together.  Go mrsriley.com!!!

Talk to you soon.



On Tangibility

 One of the really difficult things about having a kid with Asperger's and also asthma/allergies is that not only does he get sick a lot, but it is very very hard for him to understand that, yes, he will get better. 

Once again, and it always seems to happen at the end of a season (summer camp is almost over) he has some kind of bronchial infection. Today was rough. He was moody, irritable and feeling miserable. The bossiness levels spiked, as did the annoying levels. 

Now here is the thing that I struggle with. It seems to be a very, very Aspergian (is that a word?) trait to only be able to see the moment in front of you. So when P. gets sick, he is convinced he will "be sick forever". When a friend plays with someone else "he is no longer my friend". When something is lost "we will never have it again".

I am thinking this is connected to the struggle so many on the spectrum have with symbolic thinking. "Tomorrow" is not a tangible thing. "Right now it is raining", is. P. often asks "is it tomorrow yet?" "No", I will say, "that is a long time off. When you wake up it will be tomorrow, but then you will call it 'today'." I kind of get the feeling that he hopes if he wakes up at just the right moment, in the middle of the night, he will be able to "catch" tomorrow and prove it once and for all as being a tangible, after all. 

So we are going to the doctor "tomorrow", instead of his going on a day camp field trip. If he can feel a little better, he may not even mind that much. But I do hope I can strive to find ways to explain to him, in a way he will understand, that even though he is sick now, it won't last forever. If I can someday help him picture that, I will be a very grateful mom. 




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Mrs. Riley was created so professionals, teachers, and parents could collaboratively make educational materials, starting with picture cards. If you've ever made a picture card with a custom image yourself, you know that it can be tedious. We understand and after going through it ourselves for so long, we decided to wrap the entire process into a single online application.

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