National Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Students on the Autism Spectrum
April 1, 2013
By Autism Society
Remember that each student is different, and specific tips may not apply to all. Tips are courtesy of Indiana’s Autism Leadership Network.
- Reduce verbal interactions and use non-verbal communication (e.g., gestures) when you can. For example, point to the location where you wish the child to be, or put your finger to your lips to remind them to stop talking. Avoid getting into verbal arguments with students.
- Use literal, succinct, and direct instructions. “First, put your coat in the closet, and then come to class.” Avoid idiomatic phrases or sarcasm that the student may not understand. If student does not perform a task correctly, revisit how it was phrased. The individual may simply not have understood.
- Use a calm tone of voice; even in the midst of a behavioral outburst. Excited adults yield excited students. Practice your poker face. The ultimate goal is to de-escalate behavior.
- Visual supports are beneficial even after the child no longer seems to “need” them. Many of us need and use them as well. Do not discontinue their use without a case conference discussion. In times of stress, these visual supports may be a great support throughout their lifetime.
- Children on the spectrum often have poor social skills. It is part of the diagnosis. Insert naturally occurring lessons into the day as situations arise. For example, prior to the event, coach a child to say happy birthday to a peer, raise their hand to answer a question, etc.
- When assessing behavior, be sure to determine those conditions, situations, events and people with whom the student is most successful. Replicating those factors is an important part of a behavior support plan.
- Reinforcement is a powerful tool. Individuals need to be reinforced for specific positive behaviors. Instead of saying “nice job”, say “nice job of sitting.”
- If there is a given schedule, follow it. Prepare for any upcoming variations. Prepare in a manner not to enhance anxiety in anticipation of the change. Visual schedules can help students prepare for the day and understand expectations. Designate a “change” card to signal when things in their schedule are changing.
- Information processing is diminished and sensory issues are heightened when the child is stressed. For those with sensory challenges, build in sensory strategies across the day to diminish negative impact of difficult situations and to help the individual cope.
- Know the signs of anxiety or stress for your students: pacing, hand-wringing, cussing, flushed face, laughing, stating certain phrases over and over, etc. Know what causes anxiety or stress for each student. Adjust your language and demands when anxiety is heightened.
- Spend time with a student before making programming judgments. Listen to, and observe, the student with input from family members, teachers/therapists or other involved staff before commenting. There is not a single approach that works with all students.
- When trying to extinguish unacceptable behavior, always identify an alternative skill or replacement behavior. And when you are targeting a behavior, be sure to choose your battles carefully. Sometimes focusing too much attention on a behavior may actually intensify that behavior.
- Remember that the best time to address behavior is when behavior is not happening. Teach the individual alternative ways of responding when they are calm and not in the heat of the moment.
- Educate students using their knowledge, interests, strengths, and fixations. Build lessons around these special interest topics so that others see them as experts in something. This will help build self-esteem.
- Stay in close contact with family members and physicians about what is working and what is not, especially when students are on medications.
- For students who need it, build in small breaks, even in secondary school. Identify a safe area or safe person for the student to access when they are stressed. Rehearse the strategy with the student when they are calm.
- When you are feeling overwhelmed by a situation, surround yourself with a team of people with whom you can brainstorm. Using the resources and wisdom of all helps us to be more creative and problem-solve more effectively. NONE of us have all the answers.
- The ultimate goal for any student is to have a successful adult life. No matter the age of the individual, teaching specific procedures and skills and then fading support, is essential for this to happen.
- And, realize that the transition process begins at the moment of diagnosis. We are continually transitioning people across grade levels and settings, and ultimately into adulthood. Be sure to plan for all transitions. Consider the skills and behaviors individuals will need as adults, and begin teaching at an early age.
- And finally, enjoy working with these students. They have many gifts and talents. Building a strong and positive rapport may be your most effective tool.
Organized by Dr. Cathy Pratt BCBA-D, Director, Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. Visit our website at http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca or visit us on Facebook.
April 10, 2013
The Autism Society, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots autism organization, has chosen Pittsburgh as the host city of its 44th annual conference on autism spectrum disorders.
April 5, 2013
Individuals with autism can attend the Autism Society National Conference and Exposition (in Pittsburgh) for FREE this year! Learn more: www.autism-society.org/conference.
April 3, 2013
Monarch Teaching Technologies, the makers of VizZle®, web-based educational software for visual learners with autism, will give one-year of free VizZle to every new (or renewing) Champion Member during April.
April 2, 2013
Read the Autism Society’s digital magazine about autism spectrum disorders!
April 2, 2013
Today, throughout the world, individuals will come together highlighting the needs and dreams of people living with autism.