Many children with sensory processing disorder or related issues can have difficulties in the school setting. Problems can arise anywhere: in the classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, hallway, playground, and even the bus. Some of these issues can be as subtle as not eating lunch, or as difficult as destroying a classroom.
Knowing what causes these problems and how to prevent them is important for both the school and the child. This is where parents can be the best advocate for their child with Aspergers or HFA and sensory issues.
Preparing a child for school is important, but it is equally important to prepare the school for the child.
Sharing their sensory concerns with the teachers, para-professionals, principals, and others is imperative to limiting sensory difficulties in the classroom.
The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has risen significantly since first described in the 1940s. The Center for Disease Control estimates currently 1 in 68 children in the United States lives with an ASD diagnosis, and that 46% of those diagnosed have average to above average intelligence.
A large body of literature describes the significant, life-long difficulties faced by many individuals diagnosed with ASD. The support needed for college students diagnosed with more traditional disabilities are well documented. However, information is lacking in regard to effectively supporting the college instruction of students with Asperger’s Disorder and how to support their navigation of a campus society.
Individuals diagnosed with Aspergers or another autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be presented with many challenges throughout their lives—especially during the transitional periods.
As the individuals age and learn to use different skills in various environments, families, educators, medical professionals and the individuals themselves begin to anticipate the transition to adolescence and, eventually, to adulthood. Given the differences in abilities and behaviors that many individuals with Aspergers or HFA experience, it can often be overwhelming to plan for tomorrow much less several years later.
Each summer the West Virginia Autism Training Center, located at Marshall University, conducts a college experience for rising high school seniors interested in learning about the college lifestyle. Students take a typical class, live in dorms, participate in skills groups, and attend study halls.
And in between all that, they try to have some fun.
Significant to the experience is the building of “community” – in both the physical and social sense of the word – in which students can feel safe and connected to others. The college support program strives to create an experience where students can recognize and realize their potential. A large part of realizing one’s potential for higher education is feeling grounded and confident on campus.
Stimming is one of the “stereotypical” autistic behaviors. Many people think of people with autism as folks who constantly flap their hand or rock back and forth. Those behaviors are called “stimming”, which is a motion that interacts with the senses to help calm an autistic person down (self calming) if they feel overwhelmed by the environment.
Stimming is harmless, and isn’t just hand flapping or rocking. It can manifest in many different ways, but again, is all harmless.
A key feature to this, and almost any other strategy, is to teach and review it when the individual is calm and there is no problem at the moment. These conditions help to ensure that the brain is at its best, most rational thinking, and that the strategy is not associated with a negative or difficult situation.
After looking at student data, it was determined for a particular student that 4 chill passes would be sufficient for the morning and 4 more for the afternoon. If she did not use her morning chill passes, then she could add them to the afternoon allotment, especially since afternoons were her most difficult time. Her 4 chill passes included one for 2 minutes, one for 3 minutes, one for 5 minutes and another for 10 minutes.
She learned the concept of how to use the chill passes quickly and would evaluate the situation carefully before deciding which amount of time she would need in the chill zone. For this student, the teacher also added the feature of combining her chill passes so that she could choose a maximum amount of time of 20 minutes in the chill zone at one time if the situation called for such measures.
Nikki J. is a comic artist that uses comedy to depict her personal experiences living with Autism. You can read more of Nikki’s posts on Aspergers101 here and find the rest of Nikki’s comics on her webpage here.
Besides, this, there was another time I made friends with someone 10 years younger than me. It was fun to just forget about the adult world and have fun wrestling on their trampoline or skating the local streets.
While kids can be very judgmental, I often found that the younger crowd didn’t care or question the fact that I was older than them, or see a problem with it. I never saw a problem with it, either. Friends were friends no matter what age they were.
It was also less social pressure hanging out with my younger friends.
by Nikki J
Once a child is becomes more competent in his or her ability to think multi-causally, the next focus of higher level social-emotional thinking is the capacity to understand the gray areas of life. Adolescents and young adults with Aspergers or HFA are especially prone to hitting an emotional rut when speaking in terms of “never” and “always”—hallmark terms associated with “black and white” thinking.
“He never calls on me during class” or “She always gets to play the game first” are common phrases that parents or peers hear when the speaker’s ability to think and feel in more varied degrees is constricted. Not only is this harder to negotiate socially for the partner, but it’s not a very fun state for the black and white thinker either. Such polarized patterns of thinking can lead to social isolation brought on by the extremity of the speaker’s emotional response.