Bridges4Kids Review: Max & Friends Volume 1

 

Reviewed By: Jackie Igafo-Te'o
Review Date: June 16, 2005

Publisher: Launch Into Learning, 2004

Description: Max and Friends is a multimedia educational program for children. Max and Friends is a fun, easy to use program that will help your child develop the critical skills that are the foundation for all learning. The program is arranged in a series of seven volumes, aligned with a curriculum that has proven effective in helping children with special needs. Though the program is primarily designed for children with autism and related developmental disabilities, all children can benefit from its interactive, entertaining exercises. Max and Friends® is recommended for children under 6, but can be used for children and adults with developmental delays at any age. Volume 1 covers the most fundamental skills, so children of all skill levels – from children who require significant educational intervention to their non disabled peers – can benefit from and enjoy its use. Max and Friends® combines classic children’s television principles with the rigor of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) – a proven methodology that has helped numerous children with autism to master the basic skills that are the cornerstone for early learning. One component of the ABA learning process is discrete trial instruction. Discrete trial instruction (DTT) involves breaking down basic linguistic, cognitive and social skills into small, separate tasks and teaching these tasks in structured sequences using systematic reinforcement. You'll facilitate your child's progress by giving him more and more opportunities for practice. Max and Friends distills DTT exercises that your child would practice in ABA therapy into a simple, entertaining program that you can use at home. The program was designed with built in reinforcements to encourage your child. The more opportunities your child has to practice these skills, the greater his or her chances of improvement. The program is intended to complement not replace therapy and is best used as part of a comprehensive program of activities, supervised by a licensed therapist or practitioner.

 
Jackie's Review: Max & Friends uses the child's environment to teach lessons which are vital to early development. While created with children who have developmental disabilities (such as Autism) in mind, this program has also been effective in teaching children who are typically developing. The program uses a component of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) called "Discrete Trial Instruction" which involves breaking tasks down into smaller, individual components taught using structured sequences. This method, used throughout this program, involves demonstrating the desired task for the child, asking the child to perform the task with you, then allowing the child the chance to master the task until they're able to do it on their own. Positive reinforcement throughout the program is essential. I watched the program once alone and then again with my son, Michael, who has Autism. Michael soon became an active participant in the sequences contained on the DVDs. It was delightful to watch him interact with Max & Friends. Volume 1 of the Max & Friends series includes 3 DVDs, 3 books, an accompanying parent guide complete with data tracking sheets, and a music cd. At first glance, I was impressed at the sturdiness and physical quality of the series. After further review, I found the entire series to be superbly crafted - to the point of perfection. The DVDs are expertly done and are of the highest quality. Characters stand out from the background in the videos and are not lost amidst an overwhelming set. This ensures that the child's focus remains on the intended task without wandering to the left or the right of the screen to see what may be detracting from the lesson. Max the Meerkat is a lovable character who is sure to encourage your child to learn with Launch Into Learning. Join Max and his friends, Annie, Casey and Harry, for hours of fun and learning. Your child will increase their ability to follow auditory cues, improve auditory memory and processing skills, improve receptive language skills, sharpen gross motor skills, and increase fine motor skills.

 
Module #1: Imitation
A broad mix of language, communication and motor skills are used. Repetition of all video activities give the child ample opportunity to "catch on" to the sequence shown. This DVD consists of a variety of short, simple sequences that are easy to follow. The activity sequences are not over-done or repeated to the point of boredom; each activity is carefully timed in order to keep the child's attention. Each section ensures a smooth transition into the next activity, with the option to repeat or move on. Activities such as bubble blowing and bunny hopping, along with songs including Where is Thumbkin? and The Incy-Wincy Spider will captivate nearly any child's interest. Songs are a little slower in tempo allowing the child extra time to learn, master, then transition into the next movement.

 
Module #2: Commands
This module demonstrates how to follow simple commands without always being shown or always watching/imitating someone else. The child is shown the movement and is instructed to perform the movement while the character stands still. Children then repeat the action or sequence. The activity sequences are not over-done or repeated to the point of boredom; each activity is carefully timed in order to keep the child's attention. Each section ensures a smooth transition into the next activity, with the option to repeat or move on.

 
Module #3: Matching
This module teaches children how to match colors, identify and match letters,  and how to match photos-to-objects (2D/3D), all while noticing and pointing out differences. Sections are a little longer in this module. Max makes many errors while trying to match but is not reprimanded or shamed. Instead, he is simply told what he has identified and is given an opportunity to try again. Praise is given when he chooses correctly. Each section ensures a smooth transition into the next activity, with the option to repeat or move on.

 
For More Information: For more information or to order, visit www.launchintolearning.com. Additional volumes in this series are under development.  These additional units will give children the opportunity to learn new skills and build upon previously acquired skills. For more information on these planned volumes, visit http://www.launchintolearning.org/plannedvolumes.htm.