The Education (K-12) Blogs and Special Ed Q & A are written and maintained weekly by Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners. Lisa received her M.A. in Special Education with an endorsement in the area of individuals with severe disabilities. Mrs. Rogers has also created products that have been used throughout the state of Texas for training purposes. Through the Association for Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], Ms. Rogers has produced an online course that targets the importance of visual strategies for student with autism spectrum disorders and just released her highly anticipated book titled: Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers.
Since the inception of this blog, we have explored a variety of specific strategies. I encourage all educators and parents to be creative, and mix and match to best meet the individual needs of your child and/or student. In a previous blog, we learned that mini-maps can help to prevent behavioral difficulties related to academic tasks.
Often, teachers note that a common antecedent or trigger to behavioral difficulties is the presentation of academic tasks.
The behaviors can range from a verbal protest to a meltdown when students feel overwhelmed by school work. The first question to ask, of course, is what is there about the work that makes the student feel so overwhelmed? Does the page look too busy? Is too much handwriting involved? Are there too many problems? Is it too difficult or too easy?
How to find the balance and productively use them at home and in class
“I have a son diagnosed with moderate to high-Functioning Autism who is currently enrolled in public Middle School. Though he is going through a natural teenage rebellion, I feel his autism is playing a huge role in the challenges he (and we, his parents) is currently facing. He struggles to communicate and he has poor receptive language, so even though he is very verbal- a lot of times he misunderstands. And then he misinterprets and he gets very angry.
He has been on meds since he was 5 to maintain mood. In the last few months he has become increasingly consumed with the computer, staying up late, wanting to sleep late, and only coming out for food. I know how to do all the schedules and what not, but he doesn’t care or want to comply. He is 6 ft tall and 250 pounds. He has an excellent teacher that provides structure in his Total Language Communication class.
Our son Trevor is addicted to technology. When we (his parents) as well as his teacher at school try and limit on-line play time he has become angry to the point to hitting the teacher and his father.
He ran away from home but the police brought him back that same day. I hate the computer! But he plays Minecraft online and has friends that he talks to. It is like his only source of socialization. So we are at a point where we may need professional support to help him get motivated to do something. I’m out of ideas. And I’m tired. please help!”
A: Dear Rebecca,
Thank you for your very specific question that I’m sure many will relate to very closely. This is one of the most frequent questions that I am asked from both parents and educators.
In an Interactive Autism Network (IAN) questionnaire of 250 adults with ASD, 84 percent reported having a special interest or topic. A majority of those said they enjoy activities or develop relationships based on their topic, or have a job or field of study related to it. Some, however, said their interest sometimes gets in the way of success at work, school and in relationships (45 percent), or has gotten them into trouble (23 percent). Common interests include animals, computers, music, science and science fiction.
Famously, Temple Grandin Ph.D., who has Autism, turned her special interest in animals into a notable career as an animal scientist and designer of livestock handling facilities.
Bullying and Autism is an issue that comes up often for parents of children on the spectrum throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remain highly vulnerable to bullying behavior. Parents, teachers, other students, and the community must be sensitive to the particular needs of these students and vigilant in bullying prevention and intervention.
This week’s blog will point families in the direction of multiple resources available.
This first resource is quite extensive and provides a comprehensive view of bullying:
“Eyes on Bullying . . . What Can You Do? A toolkit to prevent bullying in children’s lives”
The following are excerpts from this useful manual:
We now know that:
Bullying is NOT pre-wired, harmless, or inevitable
Bullying IS learned, harmful, and controllable
Bullying SPREADS if supported or left unchecked
Bullying INVOLVES everyone—bullies, victims, and bystanders
Bullying CAN BE effectively stopped or entirely prevented
Beginning in the preschool years, adults can teach children important bullying prevention skills and guide children as they practice using these skills. Social skills that form an important foundation for bullying prevention include:
Showing empathy toward others
Solving social problems
Bystanders also have the power to play a key role in preventing or stopping bullying.
Some bystanders… directly intervene, by discouraging the bully, defending the victim, or redirecting the situation away from bullying.
Other bystanders… get help, by rallying support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to adults. Look Around…Who Is Involved?
Bystanders’ actions make a critical difference. Children and adults should think ahead about what they will do when they witness or hear about bullying.
There is also an Information Sheet on Bully Prevention at the following website:
Topic cards are similar to scripts in that they can help students engage in a variety of topics, beyond their own interests. They are different in that they include just a few words that describe a topic that launch a student or group students in a particular direction.
A teacher had created a special lunch group to help a student at the middle school level engage in appropriate teen conversations. She had one main interest and it would dominate every conversation. Her interest was in princesses and everything having to do with them. For most young teen girls, princesses were not much of an interesting topic for them.
Depending on the grade level of your student or child, a math word problem may involve simple addition to complex rate problems, and everything in between. This week’s blog will explore as many different resources as possible to support word problems in a comprehensive way.
We will begin with several instructional strategies that are relevant for any content area:
Steps of the Process
Models of Correct Work
The first website that I offer is http://www.brightstorm.com/math/. This site has video demonstrations of just about every type of math problem in algebra, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry, precalculus and calculus. You can also enter your own problem and get a solution. For $4.99 a month, you can get an interactive online tool that will show you the steps to solving any math problem you enter.
There is nothing amusing about “the meltdown”. It is reflective of a complete loss of control of the person with an autism spectrum disorder. It is often loud, risky at times, frustrating, and exhausting.
Here is a video that explains meltdowns from the perspective of someone living with autism. Feel free to share with others, as it is available through youtube.
Ask an Autistic: What is a meltdown?
One might say that the loss of control overtakes the child. They need their teacher or parent to recognize this and help them to regain control, as they are unable to do so on their own. A child with autism in the middle of the meltdown desperately needs help to regain composure.
Moreover, it becomes critical to learn to recognize when the meltdown is imminent.
In this way, you can both work to prevent a meltdown. The individual with an autism spectrum disorder needs to learn how to recognize the feelings of escalation and then actualize strategies to de-escalate before the crisis ensues.
That is why a “feelings chart” or “emotion rating scale” can be such an important strategy.
Notice the left column of this particular feelings chart. It should be reviewed when calm to help identify the internal and external indicators that emotions are changing. The right hand column is just as, if not more important, in that it helps to identify calming strategies for that particular individual.
It is best to intervene early in the escalation process to increase the likelihood of a successful solution to the situation.
We are not “giving in to” or “reinforcing” negative behavior when providing one of these calming strategies, but rather throwing a lifeline to someone that is unraveling neurologically for many possible reasons.
How do we decrease neurological stress? The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs. A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health (2006) found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks, providing evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in autism. Although grammatically incorrect, the following statement is about neurological processing. Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t. As you say this, make goggles and cover your eyes with your hands. Then, cup your hands and make ear muffs over your ears. This will help your brain to remember an essential understanding that is the foundation for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress. To process information auditorily means to capture transient information, the spoken word, interpret its meaning and find the most appropriate response within the vast catalog of possibilities in the brain. That requires a great deal of work for any brain, but often becomes a daunting task for individuals with ASDs. If someone gave you a list of 20 grocery items to buy verbally, you would probably be able to remember the first six or seven and forget the others. To decrease your stress about keeping all 20 items in your brain and increase the likelihood that you will successfully purchase the entire list, you would probably want to write them down. Furthermore, you feel a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item.
The topics discussed in this blog are often inspired by questions from readers. This week’s topic of developing social skills is in response to such a question from a parent.
As you develop social skills, it would be helpful to identify the specific skill[s] that you and your child feels would be most beneficial. For instance, do they struggle in initiating conversations?
If so, then two strategies might be helpful that you can work on at home.
First, conversation starters or scripts might provide the support necessary to engage in this difficult social skill. More information can be found in a publication title: Life Journey Through Autism: An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome which is available as a free download at the following website: http://researchautism.org/
A companion strategy is video modeling.
Depending on the specific skills that you want to develop, you can either make, find or purchase videos that teach how to do that specific skill. I have found some quality videos on YouTube or TeacherTube. Another resource for purchase is available through Model Me Kids at http://www.modelmekids.com/.
In trying to provide information about programs that are evidence-based, I would like to share the following from the attached article titled:
Evidence-Based Social Skills Training for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The UCLA PEERS Program
Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.
One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.
The following is an example of such a narrative:
Passing Period at High School
My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.
In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.
When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.
Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.
That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.
I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.
Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.
I can do this!
Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.
The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.
In a previous post, we reviewed strategies for solving math word problems. One of the comprehensive strategies noted was priming. This week, we will take a closer look at this strategies in order to apply it across subject areas and grade levels.
Priming is a method of preparing a student with ASD for an activity that he or she will be expected to complete by allowing the student to preview the activity before it is presented for completion.