A Feelings Chart and Calming Activities for Children with ASD

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.

Happy group of kids

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!

Preventing Meltdowns

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

meltdown

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:

Using Graphic Organizers to Improve Your Child’s Academic Success

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

Child, Graphic Organizer

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:

Using Scripts to Develop Conversational Skills for Students with ASD

Actors use scripts to help them memorize dialogue as part of their performance. Once they have memorized the script, then they can recite the words from memory adding meaning through inflection, tone and pauses. One of the common strengths of students with an autism spectrum disorder is that of rote memorization.

script, social skills, asd

Therefore, a script may be an excellent tool to build conversational skills. Scripts are written sentences or paragraphs that individuals can memorize and use as supports in social situations. From greetings to asking for help to engaging in a conversation, a script can be a simple and discrete visual support.

Q&A With Lisa: How do I get my child qualified for special ed?

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Q:

Dear Lisa,

“I suspect my child has autism or some related disability. He is in the early elementary years. How do I get my child qualified for Special Education services in public school and what do they offer?”

-Confused and Concerned in Texas

A:

Dear Confused and Concerned in Texas,

Thank you for asking this question that many others surely have as well. I will do my best to clarify the referral process from a parent’s perspective and possible services. However, you are always welcome to contact the campus Principal and/or the special education department of your current campus/district and present your question to them directly. Their response will give you an overview of the process which I will outline in this article through multiple resources and a flowchart.

Since you have mentioned that you suspect autism or some related disability, I have also included a resource that might help you to clarify your concerns in those terms if/when you do make the phone call to the local special education office.

Developing Social Skills

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.

social skills

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.

Resources for Parents About Bullying and Autism in School

Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remain highly vulnerable to bullying behavior. Parents, teachers, other students, and the community must be sensitive to the particular needs of these students and vigilant in bullying prevention and intervention.

This week’s blog will point families in the direction of multiple resources available.

Sensory Processing Issues: Smell with ASD

Remember in our previous blog on taste differences that smell makes up a large part of our sense of taste. Therefore, an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder might have an extremely fine sense of smell, which can be enough to make them avoid certain foods or even lose their appetite. So, there might be overlap in this very complicated topic of sensory differences as they co-exist in each person.

“Our sense of smell is so deeply ingrained in our psychology that many times we don’t even realize how scents are affecting what we do and how we think. Smell, more so than any other sense, is also intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion and associative learning. Meaning that our sense of smell influences our feelings and perceptions neurologically. Our brains are hardwired to perceive certain smells and have an emotional reaction to those smells.”

Excerpt from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/smell.htm

Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism: Taste and the Picky Eater

Many parents experience the “picky eater” from time to time. As with most differences on the autism spectrum, the difference in describing the picky eater with autism can be found in the intensity or degree.  Because of this relative understanding, one might be critical of the parent with a child with autism and tell them they just need to make their child eat food that is more nutritionally sound. But the “picky eater” is really just someone with sensory processing issues in regards to taste.

taste, picky eater, Sensory Processing Disorder, Aspergers

I was in a meeting where the educators and the parents were discussing the narrow food choices of the daughter as being a nutritional and even behavioral concern. At one point, one of the educators told the parents that she, herself, had a picky eater, and that she just had to lay down the rules and “force” the issue. The teacher proceeded to tell the parents that they should do the same thing. The mother became upset very quickly and in a raised voice told the educator, “Don’t you think I’ve tried everything to make her eat healthy?! I’ve had food spit out at me more times than I can count, and I’ve had the kitchen torn apart after a food-related meltdown . . . I’ve done it ALL!!!” 

I am trying to make the point that we are talking about a matter that goes beyond “picky eating”.

Supports for Sensory Processing Disorder and Issues with Touch

As with the senses of sight and hearing, sometimes one or more of the senses are either over- or under-reactive to stimulation. This is also true for the sense of touch. For some persons with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, certain textures feel uncomfortable or even painful. For these individuals, the idea of a hug or even accidentally brushing up against something may be highly stressful. In order to prevent this negative tactile experience, much energy and focus is spent avoiding situations that increase the likelihood of such events.

Painted hands for a border

Imagine lining up where there are others in front of you and behind you. The chances of being accidentally touched by either person may cause the simple act of lining up to be highly stressful and anxiety provoking. For individuals that do not like the feel of certain textures or things, parents and teachers may consider the following types of supports: