Interests can increase focus, attention and motivation. For individuals with Asperger’s, the interests they have may even help the stressors of the day feel less stressful. Almost any interest that a person has can be incorporated within a specific behavioral strategy. By doing so, the likelihood that the behavior strategy will work when it is needed is increased.
One way to incorporate an interest is to simply decorate a strategy with a picture of the interest. You can put a picture of a bird, or Batman or even a street sign in the corner of a breathing chart and the student may be more likely to use and follow that strategy when it is time to calm down. I have seen a small decoration of an interest help a student use their schedule more successfully. By sprinkling interests across different visual strategies, the student does not have to wait for a specific time to experience that interest. This can help with the intense preoccupation with that interest and the ability to transition away from this preferred time to less preferred activities.
As an example, a student with multiple strategies had a great love for dinosaurs. The teacher was very creative in all the ways that she incorporated dinosaurs throughout these strategies in addition to specific dinosaur time . . . 5 minutes at the end of each subject area with a box of miniature dinosaurs. The teacher set a timer for five minutes to indicate how long he could play with the dinosaurs. He also had a picture of a dinosaur on his transition marker, on his surprise card and on his “chill pass”. She added dinosaur books to the library and allowed him to write about dinosaurs in his journal every day as part of the writing activities. Before sprinkling interests throughout the strategies, the student was very resistant to following directions or completing any assignments. Once his day was dinosaur friendly, he was successful in all academic areas. An added and unplanned result was that he started to ask for less “dinosaur time” at the end of each subject area. Perhaps the more that dinosaurs were sprinkled throughout his day, the less he felt a need to hold on so tightly.
Give it a try….those interests realized should then provide time and attention for other assignments.
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