Incorporating Asperger Students’ Intense Interests in the Classroom

In a previous blog, we discussed the power of choice in increasing student academic success. In one of the examples, we discussed that students can be given several topics to choose from to complete an assignment. Another layer to add to the element of choice is the integration of a highly preferred interest within those choices.

class, students, interest

Use This Visual Strategy to Reinforce Good Behavior: The Flip Card

A flip card is a quick and easy visual strategy that highlights one behavior, and clarifies through graphics and words when certain behaviors are acceptable, and when they are not.

Place a visual that indicates that it is O.K. to engage in the target behavior on one side of the paper. Place a different visual that indicates it is not O.K. to engage in the specific behavior at this time.

Think of it as a version of an “Open” and “Closed” sign in a store window. The sign, or flip card, gets turned around to indicate when it is O.K. to enter and when it is not. Much the same, the flip card will tell the student when it is O.K. to do a particular behavior and when it is no longer appropriate. Of course, not every behavior lends itself to this strategy. It is only for behaviors that are acceptable some of the time.

Stop and Go sign in illustration

I had the pleasure of working with a young man at a Middle School campus as he attended a general education art class. The art teacher began each class with about 10 minutes of whole class lecture where she would explain the project and expectations for the day. It was this first part of the class that posed most problematic for Samuel. Samuel found great pleasure in singing and talking to himself . . . constantly.

Age Appropriate Interests for Children with Aspergers

I find myself addressing the same topic each new school year as we develop individualized visual strategies: What to do about interests that are not age appropriate

Child with a toy on the street

Due to this widespread question, I would like to devote this week’s blog to this topic through an excerpt from my book, “Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers”.

There are two different important perspectives to consider in regards to “age appropriateness.”

Why High Functioning Autism Is Not “Easy Autism”

By Ethan Hirschberg

A few weeks ago, someone who had just learned about my blog through my temple came up to start a conversation with me. She wanted to learn more about me and my advocacy work. After talking for a few minutes, she commented that “I have it easy.” I was confused and asked for clarification, in which the response was “you know…glamorous Autism.” I was taken aback. Multiple emotions rushed through my head: anger, confusion, but also determination. I felt angry because this person has no idea what I go through on a daily basis and still had the guts to tell me that I had it “easy.” I was confused because I could not understand how someone could say something like this to me. Finally, I felt determined to keep writing and advocating because although there is an increase in understanding in this world, there is still so much more work to be done. I researched this idea of “glamorous Autism” and, to my surprise, multiple articles came up. This newer myth that I am now aware of needs to be squashed!

The Journey Through Autism

The Autism spectrum is diverse. Some individuals with Autism are nonverbal while some are high functioning savants. Each level of functioning within the Autism spectrum has its own set of unique difficulties. The difference between low functioning and high functioning is enormous and I realize that others have it much harder than I do. However, this does not mean that High Functioning Autism is “easy” or “glamorous”. High Functioning Autism has its own challenges that affect me on a daily basis.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS BLOG POST, WHICH INCLUDES 5 REASONS WHY HFA ISN’T “EASY,” PLEASE CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE JOURNEY THROUGH AUTISM!!!

Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism: Auditory

Sensory Differences: Hearing

First, let’s have sensory processing disorder explained by someone with a personal experience with it. Watch this video of Amythest Schaber, a person living with an autism spectrum disorder.

Differences in auditory processing are one of the more commonly reported sensory processing impairments. In one chart review of developmental patterns in 200 cases with autism 100% of the participants demonstrated difficulties with auditory responding.

Book Review: Parents Have The Power To Make Special Education Work: An Insider Guide

By Ethan Hirschberg

This past April, when I presented at the Empower Autism Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, I was approached by a woman named Judith Canty Graves. She was one of the attendees of my breakout session. After giving me her compliments, she presented me with a book that she and her husband, Carson Graves, wrote called Parents Have The Power To Make Special Education Work: An Insider Guide.

Special Education Book

The authors have truly gone through the full special education process, as their son received special education services for fifteen years. Because of this, they know exactly what types of problems parents may face. Readers are able to better understand the special education process through the authors’ clear and valuable insights. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all parents involved with special education, no matter what age or what condition their child may have!

The book starts out with an introduction to special education, which includes important acronyms and definitions, the history, developing state and federal laws, funding, and the future of special education. This is a truly interesting preface to the content that follows.

If you would like to read the rest of this book review in order to learn why it is so amazing, insightful, and valuable, please click here to see it on my blog, The Journey Through Autism!

 

Children with Autism Face Higher Risk of Abuse

How Aspies can Heal and What Others Can Do to Advocate for Them

As a person with Autism and having suffered tremendous amounts of abuse as a child, I believe that it is vital for the Autism community to understand how to deal with these issues. Being diagnosed with many disabilities along with Autism, I lived a childhood of often being rejected and treated differently. Having Autism and being non-verbal, I never told anyone about the trauma I went through because I felt no one would believe me or it may increase the abuse.

There are ways that the Autism community and supporters can be aware of possible abuses to advocate for those that cannot speak for themselves. Educators, family members, friends, and medical professionals should be keenly aware of the signs of abuse in those with Autism. There are also many ways that those who have suffered abuses can learn to heal and protect themselves. In this blog I outline the signs and results of abuses, as well as ways that those who have experienced abuse can rehabilitate.

How Big Is My Problem?

By Ethan Hirschberg

Ethan Hirschberg is a teenager with High Functioning Autism. In March 2017, he started a blog called The Journey Through Autism, where he shares his personal experiences, insights, and advice to individuals on the spectrum, parents, caregivers, educators, and providers. Ethan's goal is to educate, advocate, and inspire. Please check out his blog as well as his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

In everyday life, there are thousands of things happening. Some of these are big deals while some are little deals. Many people on the spectrum have a difficult time trying to differentiate “big deals” and “little deals.”; in other words, what TO make a big deal out of and what NOT TO. This whole “choosing your battles” is something that I still have a hard time comprehending.

A few months ago, I was in my third period chemistry class. My teacher was handing back a quiz that the whole class previously took. When I got my quiz back, I saw that I was marked off three points. I was confused because I checked my work multiple times and still got the same answer. Then, when my teacher recited all of the answers out loud, I proved my suspicions. I saw that my answers were correct but points were still deducted from them. Later that class period I went up to my teacher and respectfully asked him why I got points marked off. He looked at my answers and said, “Because they are wrong!”. I wrote down these three answers: “49.00, 52.00, 53.00.” He said that the correct answers were “49, 52, and 53.” I did not understand why he was marking me down points since my answers and his answers were equal. Before I go any further, the numbers were numbers of atoms, and atoms cannot be divided according to Dalton’s Atomic Theory. He told me that because I added the decimal and two zeros, I indirectly inferred that atoms could technically be divided. I was extremely upset but didn’t show it. I sat back down at my desk.

The next day, I had a meeting with my school case manager. I told her about what happened. With math and science being her strong suit, she understood my teacher’s decision. However, she also completely understood mine as well. I was so upset that I wanted to submit a district grade dispute! I would have usually gone through the department chair, but since my teacher is the department chair, that was not an option! I was so ready to file that paperwork and get my three points back! But then my case manager asked me “Is this a big deal or a little deal?”. After talking for a while, we decided that this was a little deal because it was only worth three points and, even if I got them back, I would still have to be in class for many months to come with a teacher that would dislike me because of the dispute.

These types of situations have come up in my life ever since I was a toddler and my parents and special education team have helped me come up with some things to do in order to determine if a scenario is a big deal or little deal, along with how to act on it.

I created an infographic that you may be able to use in order to demonstrate what problems are big and which problems are little. Check it out below!

On a more personal level, I force myself to reflect. This is usually hard for me to do since all I want to do is act immediately, but fortunately, I (through mistakes of acting too quickly) have learned how to stop myself. I ask myself if this particular problem is a big problem worth getting worked up over, or if it’s a smaller deal that I should just let pass over. I sometimes even get advice from my parents or special education team if my emotions are running too high at the moment and I am not able to think clearly and reflect. If I am really angry about something that I know is a smaller problem, I sometimes think about bigger problems that my peers are facing and realize how lucky I am to only be having this little problem.

If you are on the Autism spectrum: reflect, reflect, reflect! It really does pay off to slow down and calm down! I rarely make good decisions when my emotions are too high. I am learning to take the time to calm down and think things through before I decide how I should act.

If you are a parent: help your child come up with his/her own chart to help decide if something is a big or little deal.

If you are an educator: take the time to talk with your student if you notice that he or she is about to turn something little into something big when it doesn’t have to be. Help him/her to calm down and then talk through the issue. Don’t blow them off because you don’t see it as a big deal. Your student hasn’t come to that same conclusion yet!

Using Narratives to Develop Social Skills

Narrative Strategies for Navigating Social Situations

Although there are neurological differences that contribute to gaps in social connectedness, narratives can help to teach how to interact more appropriately and even how to self-regulate. Narratives usually offer key pieces of understanding that help the individual see a situation more fully, and have some strategies with which to navigate that situation more successfully. By including their own feelings about the situation, the individual can also feel “heard” or validated about their perspective.

People holding hands under cloud with social media communication

There have been several pioneers in this type of intervention, most notably Carol Gray of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding , who is the author of Social Stories™. There are several books and many internet resources available on this specific strategy.

A narrative is a brief story or vignette that describes a specific situation with clarifying information. Depending on the challenges presented by the individual, the story or vignette may give insight into why this is important to others, and what they might do differently in order to achieve success in this situation.

There are a variety of presentation styles and options that can be used to meet the needs of diverse learners through narratives.

5 Focuses For Creating a Learning Environment in the Home

Continued learning experiences after school

When it comes to setting the stage for learning, individuals on the Autism Spectrum need to continue their learning experiences even after school. This requires responsibility from therapists, caregivers, and parents. Each must work together to help create a learning environment in the home that continues to provide opportunity to expand the vital skills a child is working on. This includes setting up a home environment, understanding your child’s classroom setup or making suggestions at their after school program.

Child playing at home

Here are five goals to focus on when evaluating a school-related learning environment in the home for children with Aspergers or HFA.