Mini-maps can be highly effective in dealing with work avoidance behaviors at school and at home. Let’s now take this same strategy and apply it in community settings. Remember, a mini-map takes an event or task and breaks it down into smaller, more doable steps.For a family that has difficulty with seemingly simple shopping trips, a mini-map might be a good tool for the Aspergers family member. Mini-maps help to stay focused on the task at hand while preventing intense preoccupation with specific aspects.
If a student can express their inner feelings, then adults could help them prevent further escalation. This can be done by engaging the student in conversation about the problem, or beginning a calming activity. Often however, the student has difficulty expressing those feelings until it is too late. A feelings chart may be an effective visual support to help students express how they are feeling with or without using any words.
In order for the feelings chart to be an effective strategy, students must understand the meaning of different feelings represented at each level. What does it mean to feel great versus having a problem? Connecting meaning for each feeling may require direct instruction. Lessons to build this understanding can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of props or pictures of self or others.
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.
Research indicates that incorporating specific motivations such as offering choices increases the rate of performance on academic tasks and decreases disruptive behaviors. Choice can take on many forms as related to academic tasks.
As one example, students can be given several topics to choose from to complete an assignment. Students may also be given a list of several activities, of which they are to complete two. By giving them a choice, students are more likely to begin the assignment and even more likely to complete it.
Remember that a mini-map is a visual strategy that takes a chunk of time and breaks it down even further. This seemingly simple strategy can be highly effective to address “rough spots” in different environments. We have seen how this can prevent work avoidance behaviors at school and now we will shift the focus to an overlapping struggle that is common at home: homework!
Many students with Asperger’s struggle to navigate the waters of school life only to come home and face more academic work. It is probably safe to say that most students, with and without Asperger’s, would rather not deal with homework in the evenings. However, the difference is that the student with Asperger’s has worked harder all day long to deal with not only academic stress, but also the added challenges of social interaction and sensory overload, creating a cumulative effect with different possible results.
Now that we have established the core strategy of a class schedule or agenda as an essential starting point, let’s extend our focus to a companion strategy. A schedule within a schedule has many names. For our purposes, we will call this sub strategy “mini-maps”.
A mini-map takes a piece of the schedule and breaks it down even further. The schedule guides you from one major activity to another, while the mini-map clarifies the smaller steps within that activity. This can be especially helpful to decrease frustration associated with academic tasks, but can be useful for any chunk of time that presents a challenge.
Perhaps most relevant to a student in the classroom: when you are stressed you are less likely to embrace difficult tasks. On your most stressful day, you will probably put the complex tax form in the “to do” box and leave it for a better day.
For our students, neurological stress can be the major underlying factor contributing to difficulties in communication, socialization, and academic performance.
It is our essential job, as parents and educators, to respect the neurological differences and decrease that stress in creative and varied ways.
From breathing techniques to visual strategies and beyond, we will strive to decrease neurological stress so that our students and children can present their best self each and every day.
For some students, a simple checklist is all they need to get them started and keep them moving through academic activities. The following is an example of such a checklist:
The checklist corresponds to the numbered folders. The student knows to complete the work in the four folders. After checking each number off, the student then has a few minutes to engage in a highly reinforcing activity.
Recovery may involve time to do nothing at all. For some students the recovery phase involves a process that takes him or her from a semi-agitated state to a fully calm state.
Consider the following steps:
- Allow the student to engage in the highly preferred/calming activity without setting the timer until he/she appears to have recovered as fully as possible.
- Once he/she is calm, then set the timer for 5-6 minutes. If he/she remains calm and is able to transition to the next activity, then do so and watch for early signs of repeated escalation.
- If he/she requests more time [by giving the timer to the adult], then honor the request and set the timer for 3 or 4 more minutes. Continue until he/she no longer requests more time or staff feel she is ready for a positive transition to the next activity.
Once the person is fully recovered, then it might be possible to debrief and make a plan to prevent future escalation. Pictures and words can help to paint a clear picture and develop a workable plan.
By Lisa Rogers