Autism Spectrum Disorders• Autism• Characteristics• Strategies• Child in Crisis• Curriculum and Materials• Additional Resources and Information
What is autism?Criteria for diagnosis of autism? 1. qualitative impairment in social interaction • impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to- eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction • failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level • a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by lack of showing, brining, or pointing out objects of interest) • lack of social or emotional reciprocity 2. qualitative impairment in communication • delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (without trying to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
What is autism?• in individual with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others• lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level• stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language3. restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities• encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal in intensity or focus• apparently inflexible adherence to specific, non-functional routines or rituals• stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)• persistent preoccupation with parts of objects (American Psychiatric Association (2000), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4 th Edition, Text Revision)
AutismDifferences in the brain include:•Changes in the amaygdala – regulating emotional responses•Cerebellum – regulating movement, balance, coordination•Cerebral cortex(Autism 101: Through the Looking Glass)Facts:•Rate of autism is 1 in 150•4:1 ratio of autism in boys to girls(http://www.autismspeaks.org)
Characteristics of AutismLEARNING CHARACTERISTICS OF AUTISM• concrete- difficulty thinking abstract (autistic children typically can’t pretend orimagine something that isn’t real or couldn’t really happen)• over selectivity- cue in or attend to irrelevant detail miss the main point oftask/activity• lack of generalization- learn in one place, can’t do in another• same content/same context- learn skill in one environment/place change aspect ofplace, can’t do task• distractibility- easy to tune into something else• visual/spatial- learn by seeing and doing rather than hearing; difficulty processinglanguage• ritualistic- learn pattern one way, hard to change• motivation- Different from peers or what others would want
Classroom StrategiesTalking to a child with autism:•Attention: make sure you get the child’s attention before talking tothem.•Unnecessary Language: be short and to the point (For example,instead of saying, You need to come and sit in your seat like all theother children until it’s time to go outside,” point to the chair and say,“Sit please.”•Do vs. Don’t: Tell the child what you want him/her to do instead ofwhat not to do. Avoid using don’t because a child with autism may notunderstand or catch the reversed meaning of the statement beginningwith don’t.(Crissey, 2005, p. 3)
Classroom Strategies• Visual Schedules• Visuals• Social Stories• 5 point scale• Comic Strip Conversations/Cartooning• Power Cards
Visual ScheduleProviding a daily schedule in a visual format will make the daypredictable, ease transitions, and reduce stress.• full day, may break the day into sections, or display only a part ofthe day at a time.• may use photos, line drawings, picture symbols or words(Crissey, 2005, p. 3).
VisualsOther types of visual supports include:• reminders of what to do, such as posted rules• “to do” checklists,• charts displaying consequences for inappropriate actions.Visually displaying free time or other choices helps the child to understand theprocess of decision making.Presenting a card is often easier for the child than asking for help. Using simplecue cards for the child to give to an adult or to place in a certain location may behelpful.(Crissey, 2005, p. 4) I need help I need a break
5 Point Scale•visual scale•used to help students reduce abstract ideas such as emotions,feelings, or pain into simple numbers•can also be used to address behaviors such as vocal volume,disrespect, etc.•can be used to help student identify where they can use certainbehaviors. (e.g. vocal volume level 5 is reserved for outside orin an extreme emergency when there is no one near by that canhear you)
ExampleMichael is a 5th grader with autism. He is very soft spoken and oftendifficult to understand. He is frequently asked to repeat thingsbecause he is so difficult to understand. He is prompted constantly to“speak louder”, however, every time he is called on the teacher has toask him to speak up again.A 5 point scale was created for him to use to measure vocal volumeand since it is been in place the teacher no longer says “speak up”.Instead she uses phrases such as, “Say it at a 3!” or “Keep it at a 2!”In addition, she will use a visual and point the volume level she wantsMichael to use.
ExampleThe scale: What it looks like: Yelling (sirens, shouting, screaming, fire alarm) Loud (announcements over the intercom) Conversation (friends talking, easy to hear but not too loud) Whisper (have to be really close to hear, talk into ear) No sound (peaceful)
Example“Colton is in the 6th grade. He has problems getting along in school. He likes to be in control and gets upset if he perceives something iswrong. For example, if someone cuts in line he may feel compelledto punish that person by kicking or hitting them. Colton’s ability tocontrol his behavior varies from day to day. Colton enjoys schooldespite having challenges with others who do not follow his way ofthinking”(Buron & Curtis, 2003, p. 26).
Example Looks Feels I Can Like Like Try toKicking or hitting My head will Call my mom to go explode homeScreaming or hitting Nervous Go see Mr. PetersonQuiet, rude talk Bad mood, grumpy Stay away from kidsRegular kid Good Enjoy itPlaying A million bucks Stay that way
Social StoriesSocial Stories present appropriate social behavior in the formof a book and include:• relevant social cues that a child might miss if not directly taught• specific behaviors/actions the child is to expect in a given situation• details for the child to know what is expected of himSocial stories may be used to:• address many different behaviors from fear, aggression, obsession, etc• teach routines and changes in routines• help teach students to understand their behaviors and the behaviors ofothers• give step-by-step directions for completing a task• tell how to respond to a given situation
Writing a Social Story Social stories include the following information:1. who, what, and where2. Statement of desired responses3. Reaction and feelings of others involved• social stories need to be age and ability appropriate and use terms like “usually” or “sometimes” instead of “always”• Social stories are typically written in present tense to describe events as the take place, but may be written to describe events that will take place in the future.• Illustrations may be included depending on the need of the student.
Presenting Social Stories•Present the social story in a quiet place that is free from distractions•Reread social story just before targeted situation•Review social story frequently until behavior diminishes•Keep the social story accessible to the student so he/she can referback to it as needed.•Never refer to the social story or attempt using the social storywhen the child is in crisis/having a meltdown.
Example My Grown-Up VoiceWhen I need help, I will raise my hand and wait for Ms. McKenney and Mr.Jones to call on me.When Ms. McKenney calls on me, I will use my grown-up voice to ask forhelp. I will not whine or make noises.If I don’t understand something, I will use my grown-up voice and ask forhelp.I can say, “Excuse me Ms. McKenney, what did you say?”Then Ms. McKenney might say, “What nice manners you have Bill, andthank you for using your grown-up voice. I will be happy to repeat what Isaid.”When I make noises, my friends can not hear Ms. McKenney teaching. Mynoises hurt their ears.
When I was a baby, I would whine or make noises when I neededsomething, because I didn’t know how to talk. I am a big boy now and Iknow how to talk, so I can use my grown-up voice. I do not whine or makenoises to get attention.Ms. McKenney and Mr. Jones like it when I use my grown-up voice. Myvoice is so nice when I don’t whine. My teachers smile and say, “What anice voice you have, Bill. We are so happy to hear your nice voice.”When I whine or make noises it hurts others ears, but when I use mygrown-up voice, it sounds nice to others.Everyone is happy when I use my grown-up voice.I like using my grown-up voice.
Comic Strip Conversations/CartooningComic Strip Conversations (aka: Cartooning) are visual systems used toenhance the ability of children and youth with social-cognitive challenges tounderstand their environment, including the hidden curriculum.Steps for creating/using comic strip conversations:•Drawing: Begin by drawing the drawing the comic strip conversation. Thiscan be done by you or the student. Either way, artistic ability is not required;stick figures work fine.•Guide with questions: The adult guides the student’s drawing or whatneeds to be drawn by asking a series of questions: •Where are you? •Who else is there? •What did you do? •What did others do(Myles, Trautman, & Schelvan, 2004, p. 28-29)
•Insight: The adult shares his/her personal insights during the cartooningprocess when the natural opportunity occurs. (NOTE: student should haveas much control as possible during the cartooning session and adultsshould strive to “achieve a balance between gathering insights into thestudent’s perspective, while sharing accurate social information.”•Provide sequence or structure: Use comic strip boxes in which thestudent can draw the figures, particularly if the student has organizationalproblems. This way boxes can be numbered if the events are drawn out ofsequence.•Summarize the cartoon: This allows participants to discuss the comicstrip in chronological order. The student should verbalize independently, asmuch as possible, with the adult only clarifying as needed. Summarizationensures that both the child and the adult have the same understanding of agiven situation.•Identify new solutions: The adult and student work together, again withthe student performing as independently as possible, to identify newoutcomes of the pictured event. The adult and student jointly analyze eachitem, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each. The studentretains the list, which becomes a plan for future situations.(Myles, Trautman, & Schelvan, 2004, p. 28-29)
Social Stories/Comic Strip ConversationsSocial stories and Comic Strip Conversations are techniques that werecreated by Carol Gray. For more information about these techniques andtheir creator visit: www.thegraycenter.org.
Power CardsThe power card strategy is a visual aid that incorporates the child’sspecial interest in teaching appropriate social interactions including:• routines• behavior expectations• the meaning of language• the hidden curriculum.The Power Card Strategy consists of presenting on a single sheet or inbooklet form a short scenario, written in the first person, describing howthe child’s hero solves a problem and a small card, the POWER CARD,which recaps how the child can use the same strategy to solve a similarproblem himself.(Gagnon, 2001, p. 19)
Components:•A brief scenario using the student’s hero or special interest and thebehavior or situation that is difficult for the child. The scenario is writtenat the individual’s comprehension level.In the first paragraph, the hero or role model attempts a solution to theproblem and experiences success. The second paragraph encouragesthe student to try out the new behavior, which is broken down into threeto five manageable steps.•The POWER CARD is the size of a trading card, bookmark, orbusiness card. It contains a small picture of the special interest and thesolutions to the problem behavior or situation broken down into three tofive steps. The POWER CARD is provided to aid in generalization. Itcan be carried in a purse, wallet or pocket or it can be velcroed inside abook, notebook, or locker. It may also be placed on the corner of astudent’s desk.(Gagnon, 2001, p. 21)
Where Can the Power Card Strategy Be Used?Power Cards are appropriate for behaviors/situations in which the student:1. lacks understanding of what she/he is to do.2. does not understand that he has choices.3. has difficulty understanding that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between a specific behavior and its consequence.4. has difficulty remembering what to do without a prompt.5. does not understand the perspective of others.6. knows what to do when calm but cannot follow a give routine under stress.7. needs a visual reminder to recall the behavioral expectation for the situation.8. has difficulty generalizing.9. is difficult to motivate and may be motivated only by the special interest.10. has difficulty accepting directions from an adult(Gagnon, 2001, p. 21-22)
ExampleStudent Description:Aaron has been acting out in class and seeking attention from hispeers by saying or blurting out inappropriate comments in class. Helikes the attention he gets from his peers for doing this and he thinkshe’s being accepted when his peers laugh at him for doing this.Aaron’s special interest is Nascar and he especially likes Nascar driver,Jeff Gordon.Power Card Story: “Jeff Gordon and His Fans” Jeff Gordon loves being a race car driver, but sometimes it isdifficult for him to think before he speaks. At the end of a long daysometimes all he wants to do is make others laugh. Sometimes Jeffblurts things out when his boss is talking. But Jeff has learned to thinkbefore he speaks. Jeff has learned it is important not to talk when hisboss is talking and not to say things to try and make others laugh
when his boss is trying to talk to his pit crew and teach them the latestNASCAR rules and regulations. Jeff has learned to stop and thinkabout the comments he makes before speaking. Just like Jeff, it is important for Aaron to think before hespeaks. It would make Jeff proud to know that Aaron is like him andthat he thinks before he speaks and doesn’t interrupt his teachers inclass. It is important for Aaron to remember to do the following: 1. Think before he speaks. Say it in your head first before saying it out loud. If it’s not related to what the teacher is teaching then Aaron shouldn’t say out loud in class. 2. If Aaron can’t think of something to say about the teacher’s lesson, it’s better for him not to say anything at all. 3. Always follow the classroom rules and raise your hand before you speak.
1. Think before he speaks. Say it in yourhead first before saying it out loud. If it’snot related to what the teacher is teachingthen Aaron shouldn’t say out loud in class.2. If Aaron can’t think of something to sayabout the teacher’s lesson, it’s better forhim not to say anything at all.3. Always follow the classroom rules andraise your hand before you speak.
Calm in Crisis/ How to Handle a MeltdownDon’t:•Loud voices•Negative statements/threats (e.g. “You had your chance”, “You made your choice,now you need to leave class”)•Taking away preferred or comforting materials or activities•Physical redirection•Angry tone or body language•Punishments (e.g., “You just lost your sticker on your behavior chart)Do:One of the most important skills a teacher can have is the ability to be clam andcomforting in a crisis or “meltdown” situation. A comforting teacher may:•talk softly and share encouraging words•repeat a calming phrase•or simply keep one’s own body relaxed(Kluth)“The more you try to control the situation, the less control you will have!”
Things to Consider:It’s important to consider the following things:•Fight or Flight•Ask previous teachers and/or parents what typically occurs when the child has ameltdown (does he/she throw things, hit, kick, etc.)•Find out if there are triggers or warning signs that a meltdown might occur and if sowhat are those triggers or warning signs•Talk with teachers, parents, administrators, etc and discuss the best way todeescalate the situation•Determine when you should call for additional support
Have a PlanPlan for what the other students should do (Drill and Practice): Examples: Develop a code word for clearing the room. Discuss this with your class when the student is out of the room. Develop a place they should go when they leave the room (e.g. classroom across the hall, library, etc). Designate a student who will go to the office, get another teacher, etc. to notify someone Make sure that everyone involved with the student is aware of the plan
Curriculum and Materials• Super Skills: A Social Skills Group Program for Children with Aspergers Syndrome, High Functioning Autism and Related Challenges By: Judith Coucouvanis (ISBN#: 1-931282-67-6)• Navigating the Social World: A Curriculum for Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, High Functioning Autism and Related Disorders By: Jeanette McAfee, M.D. (ISNB#: 1-885477-82-1)• Power Cards: Using Special Interests to Motivate Children and Youth with Asperger Syndrome and Autism By: Elisa Gagnon (ISBN#:1- 931282-01-3)• The Incredible 5-Point Scale: Assisting students with autism spectrum disorders in understanding social interactions and controlling their emotional responses By Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis (ISBN#:1- 931282-52-8)• The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations By: Brenda Smith Myles, Melissa L. Trautman, and Ronda L. Schelvan (ISBN#: 1-931282-60-9)• Practical Solutions to Everyday Challenges for Children with Asperger Syndrome By: Haley Morgan Myles (ISBN#:1-931282-15-3)
References:Gagnon, E. (2001). Power Cards: Using Special Interests to Motivate Children and Youth with AspergerSyndrome and Autism. Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Co. pp. 19-22.Buron, K.D. & Curtis, M. (2003). The Incredible 5-Point Scale. Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.Crissey, P. (2005). I Have Autism: A Child’s First Look at Autism. Super Duper PublicationsMyles, B.S., Trautman, M.L. & Schelvan, R.L. (2004). The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions forUnderstanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations. Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.Paula Kluth: Calm in Crisis. 6 October 2008. http://www.paulakluth.com/articles/calmincrisis.htmlAutism Speaks: Be Informed. 24 October 2008.http://www.autismspeaks.org/whatisit/index.php?WT.svl=Top_Nav
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