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.
Priming helps to:
Q: Dear Lisa,
My son has High functioning Autism and is in general education classes in public school. He will be going to Middle School next year and I was wondering how should I prepare the teachers for him, and him for the teachers? This will be different as he no longer has just one teacher but will have many. We have had our ARD and I know the school does so much but I’m nervous and wanted to know what I can do as his parent.
-Sharon Kaiser/Plano, TX
A: Dear Sharon,
I’m so glad to have this question. Too often, April or May rolls around and then we begin to have a conversation about transitioning to a new school in the following Fall Semester. By planning ahead, parents and teachers can alleviate the anxiety associated with such a big change and increase success from Day 1 of school. Of course, each person on the spectrum responds to and deals with change in their own way. By including your son in the process, you can make decisions that are tailored to his needs.
Possible activities to consider include the following:
- Determine the point of contact[s] at the new school
- Plan a visit to the new campus; coordinate with a small group of friends if possible
- Set up a Circle of Friends or buddy/social coach
- Provide a map of the new campus
- Build a schedule that includes student interests
- Build a schedule that will meet sensory needs
- Write a social story about the new campus and new staff. You can find a sample social story in video format at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk0Nag4zvJk
- Consider beginning to switch several classrooms at the elementary campus to practice this new aspect of Middle School life in a safe environment
- Ensure the new staff have training in autism to build common understanding
- Ensure that visual supports are in place to prevent stress. Signs on the first week of school can help navigate a new environment [e.g. schedule, scripts, narratives, etc.]
- Discuss whether or not the student will benefit from a “Home Base”. A “Home Base” is a predetermined location for the student to regain composure or work through a problem.
- Develop a plan for communication between home and school
In addition, I strongly recommend creating a portfolio of your child’s strengths, needs and interests.
Q: “I’ve heard that if my son (who is on the autism spectrum) is having a problem staying on task while in school that he should use the “keychain rules”. Would you please explain this term to me?” – Curious in Nashville, Tenn
A: Keychain rules are short statements or phrases of desired expectations that capitalize on the tendency toward rules and structure.
They serve as reminders in a quick and easy format that prevent much discussion about them. Rather than say, “stay in your seat” over and over without much impact, the teacher can now say, “Please check keychain rule number 4”. Again, if the rules are attached to a heightened interest, their effectiveness is enhanced.
This student’s interest in Greek mythology was incorporated to his keychain rules as much as possible through the addition of pictures.
Keychain Rule #1: Use appropriate words and voice
- Say nice things to others
- Speak in a respectful tone [level 1, 2, or 3]
Keychain Rule #2: Follow directions from teachers
- Teachers and Mom are trying to help me, so be sure to say “O.K. I’ll try”
- Give my teachers and Mom a smile or a “thumbs up”
Keychain Rule #3: I will be in control of my body
- Stay in my assigned seat
- Keep hands and feet to myself
Work avoidance seems to be an ongoing issue across different settings and grade levels. In a previous blog, we discussed the use of a checklist with a strategic “sandwiching” of a less preferred activity in between two highly preferred activities. This strategy is often very effective in building success on academic activities that the student would prefer to avoid. However, not one thing works for every student, as you have probably discovered for yourself.
So this week, we will explore a similar strategy that is in a different format: a BINGO card!
This strategy was created in a staff meeting with a general education teacher and campus administrators trying to help a student complete work well within his grasp. By analyzing the data and student strengths, it was determined that he was capable of completing the work. In spite of the cognitive strengths, the student would cover his head up and not complete the academic tasks. So, with no work completed, the team was ready to try almost anything to get something.
The student liked dinosaurs and everything having to do with them. The student also liked games and so the team decided to create a 3 X 3 BINGO card decorated with dinosaurs as a starting point.
Then, the specific activities selected to go in each grid were selected based on student interest.
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:
- Graphic Organizers
- Steps of the Process
- Visual Guides
- Models of Correct Work
- Video Modeling
- Incorporate Interests
- Pneumonic Devices
- Preview Learning
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.
Example: Word Problems Using Systems of Equations
Although we have addressed the topic of meltdowns previously, it is a topic that needs to be revisited often, given the intense nature of the meltdown. “People with autism, new research suggests, may have an unusually large and overactive amygdala. This may be one reason why people with autism are easily overstimulated and have a hard time understanding and managing emotions.” – University of Washington
This is one of many neurological findings that helps to explain how meltdowns are very different from tantrums. They originate from a neurological place of sensory differences: an over-abundance of neuronal pathways. The brain, whether through too much sensory input, cascading thoughts, chemical overload or some cumulative effect of all of these, gets overwhelmed!
I know individuals with autism can help understand the horror of the meltdown better than any observer. So I would like to refer to Carly Fleischmann for her unique perspective. The following is an excerpt from her website:
In a previous blog we discussed the need to support students in identifying and expressing their feelings through the use of a feelings chart. The feelings chart may be on a scale of “one to three” or “one to five” with level one indicating that the student is most calm. If possible, you can increase the effectiveness of this strategy by decorating the different levels with pictures/clip art that reflect a student’s interest. I have created feelings charts with different expressive pictures of Mario Bros, dinosaurs and even The Dukes of Hazzard characters!
Once the student understands what each level means, then it is most critical to identify calming activities for each level. Each of us responds differently to different experiences and this should be highly personalized in order to actually help the student calm down when needed.
As an example:
I find shopping to be very enjoyable and calming. However, my best friend finds the very same experience to be frustrating and adds to her stress level. Most people respond positively to either gross motor [large muscle] activities or simple, repetitive tasks as a calming mechanism. The key is to find what specific activities within these two broad categories might work for an individual.
Some examples of gross motor [large muscle] activities include, but are not limited to:
Continuing with instructional supports, this week’s blog will focus on a simple, yet powerful strategy: graphic organizers.
“Graphic organizers are tools that help your brain think.”
– Kylene Beers
Most teachers use graphic organizers but might not be fully aware of the comprehensive benefits of this visual support. Graphic organizers can accomplish the following key elements toward instructional success:
- understand important data with very little reading involved
- think logically
- identify main concepts
- assign specific labels to concepts
- sort relevant and non-relevant details
- make predictions
- identify cause and effect
- identify and understand consequences
- organize and sequence data
- understand time lines
- visualize and understand abstract content
Researchers found that when content is illustrated with diagrams, the information can be maintained by students over a longer period of time.
Graphic organizers portray knowledge in a meaningful way which helps bring clarity to ideas as connections are made.