Autism / ASD Friendly Classrooms


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This presentation focuses on Autism / Autistic Spectrum Disorder and strategies that can be used in school to support students who present with difficulties of this nature. For more info & resources:

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Autism / ASD Friendly Classrooms

  1. 1. © Matt Grant, 2012 The ASD-Friendly ClassroomWorking positively and productively with ‘The Awkward Squad’
  2. 2. © Matt Grant, 2012 is Autistic Spectrum Disorder?• ASD is an umbrella term for a number of related conditions.- it includes general Autism and specific forms such as Kanner’s Syndrome,Semantic Pragmatic Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome and Non-Specific PervasiveDevelopment Disorder.• It is rooted in biology.- it is a condition based primarily on ‘nature’ rather than ‘nurture’.- it cannot be ‘unlearnt’ or ‘cured’.• It can be described as a global difference.- it has a wide-ranging impact on how someone makes sense of and interactswith the world around them.• In particular, it impacts on the ability to socialise.- it particularly affects the way a person communicates with, and relates to,other people.
  3. 3. © Matt Grant, 2012 is ASD?It is part of a family of specific learning difficulties – with many crossover points. Dyspraxia Speech and Autistic Spectrum Language Disorder MLD / SLD ADD/ADHD Dyslexia Irlen Syndrome Dyscalculia
  4. 4. © Matt Grant, 2012 is ASD?• It is a spectrum condition which means that, while all people with ASD hare certain clustersof difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways and to different degrees.• Some people with ASD are able to live relatively independent lives but others may haveaccompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support.
  5. 5. © Matt Grant, 2012 is Autistic Spectrum Disorder?• Only a small percentage of people with ASD – approximately 2% – may havea standout special talent, for example, with numbers, in music or in art. MYTHS! “Autistic people always have exceptional talents…” “Autistic people are always good with numbers…” “Autistic people always have a keen eye for detail…” “Autistic people are always the quiet, geeky types…”
  6. 6. © Matt Grant, 2012 Triad of Impairment Social Skills• Three common difficulty areasbased around fundamentaldifferences in sense, perception andprocessing. Sense, Perception and Processing Communication Skills Thinking Skills
  7. 7. © Matt Grant, 2012 SkillsFour distinct types of social difficulty. Non- Passive Unaware Stilted Participating Participating Participating ParticipatingBehaving as if other The student accepts Students of this Common in ‘highpeople do not exist: social approaches group make active functioning’ autistic- Little or no eye but does not initiate: approaches to students. Thecontact made. - May meet the gaze others but interact in following- No response when of others. socially- characteristics tendspoken to. - May answer direct unacceptable ways, to be displayed:- Faces empty of closed questions. including: - Excessively politeexpression except - May become - Paying no attention and formal.with extreme joy, involved as a to the other party’s - Have a good levelanger or distress. passive part of a views or actions. of language.- No response to game, often a ‘bit - Making - Try very hard towarmth and part’. inappropriate stick to the rules ofaffection. comments. social interaction- Seem to be in a - Engaging in without reallyworld of their own. inappropriate understanding them. physical contact – ‘rough play’.
  8. 8. © Matt Grant, 2012 SkillsThis includes:• Using and understanding non-verbal language, such as gestures, facialexpressions and tone of voice.• Very literal understanding of language, thinking people always mean exactlywhat they say.• Limited ability to understand jokes, sarcasm, common phrases, sayings andmetaphors.• Delayed acquisition of speech and resultant limited speech.• Tendency to adopt an ‘eccentric’ accent or pattern of speech not in keepingwith those around them (American accent, monotone, overly-formal).• Reliance on writing, symbols and pictures to communicate.• Lack of understanding of two-way nature of communication, tendency toeither passively listen or talk at length at someone.
  9. 9. © Matt Grant, 2012 Skills•A lack of imagination.•Difficulty understanding abstract concepts,especially when out of context.• Limited empathy and ‘theory of mind’. Often unableto recognise there are different feelings and opinionsheld by others.• Black and white approach to fairness – no greyareas. Neuro-typical• Limited ability to react to sudden changes in routine.• Often very good at decoding and spelling words butlimited comprehension – reading between the lines,character empathy etc.•Often ‘think in sequences of pictures’ rather thanwords.•Limited ability to follow a sequence, remember asequence – likes routine but cannot independentlyestablish and maintain routine.•Unable to see the bigger picture, a tendency tofocus on details or a specific topic – ‘tunnel vision ASD?thinking’.
  10. 10. © Matt Grant, 2012 Sensory, Perception and Processing DifferencesPeople with ASD operate in an environment that can be seen as alien and hostile.• Background noise is often processed differently – simple sounds such as a fan can be asintrusive, and painful, as a drill would be to a neuro-typical people.• Space is perceived differently – corridors can feel like tight tunnels, large rooms can feellike endless spaces with unseen threats, ceilings can feel like they’re looming downoppressively.• Ordinary light can distract and dazzle – especially bright artificial lights and minor flickersin strip lights.• Social-norms can appear as random behaviour with no clear reason – negativeexperiences can reinforce this feeling of ‘randomness’ and cause anxiety of not being ableto predict responses and prepare for them.• Hugs, pats on the back , close proximity, crowded areas and eye contact can feelinvasive and threatening.• Minor detail, such as the movement of a coin or a pattern of numbers, can appearfascinating whereas an action film might feel long-winded and ‘make no sense’.
  11. 11. © Matt Grant, 2012
  12. 12. © Matt Grant, 2012 Approaches – Core PrinciplesThe SPELL framework was developed by The National Autistic Society’s schools and services tounderstand and respond to the needs of people with ASD. It recognises the individual needs of eachstudent and emphasises that all planning and intervention be organised on this basis. There is no ‘cutand dried’ approach to ASD but there are fundamental principles.SPELL stands for: Structure, Positivity, Empathy, Low arousal, Links.• Structure – Students with ASD need a very clear structure in terms of timetable, predictable lesson routines, clearly demarcated transitions during the day etc.• Positivity – Students with ASD will have often found themselves regularly in conflict with the culture and systems of the school environment – and are likely to have encountered much advice starting with “you can’t” , “you shouldn’t” etc. They need positive targets and language for behaviour and learning expectation.• Empathy – Staff working with students with ASD need to constantly place themselves in each student’s shoes because they see the world differently and therefore act differently. Staff need to regularly meet and ‘de-brief’ each other act as a way of reflecting and checking each other’s emotions.• Low Arousal - The approaches and environment need to be calm and ordered in such a way so as to reduce anxiety and aid concentration. Lighting, volume, background noise all need to be considered.• Links – A consistent approach between all staff and, as much as possible, with families is needed to provide security for the students.
  13. 13. © Matt Grant, 2012 Whole-Class Approaches - EnvironmentBased on the TEACCH model, a specific ASD classroom should be set-up as follows:• Dimmed / natural lighting – no flickering lights!• Pastel coloured display boards – no bright contrasts.• No ‘busy’ displays or posters around the whiteboard.• Minimal background noise.• Clearly defined working areas for each student.• A designated group table specifically for group work.• A visual / colour coded timetable - either on a wall or on each desk.• A daily schedule including times of transitions – either on a wall or on each desk. Include a digital clock on the wall to help students track time and prepare for changes.• A simple, positive rules / behaviour targets list - either on a wall or on each desk.• A ‘job list’ for each lesson, either for each student or for the entire group – put up at the beginning and tick as you go.• Secluded, quiet working area/s for ‘time out’ or ‘independent study’.• Clearly labelled areas for equipment, books, students to put their belongings.Elements of this approach can be adopted in mainstream classrooms to make themmore ‘ASD-friendly’
  14. 14. © Matt Grant, 2012 Whole-Class Approaches – Teaching & LearningEach student with ASD requires an individualised approach because their cluster of difficulties will be particular tothem. However, there are some ‘catch-all’ strategies that will benefit all students with ASD, and are likely tobenefit other students as well.Do Now Starters – Do Nows are short introductory activities. They usually last around five minutes. The mainrequirement is that they are fun and factual: quizzes, anagrams, labelling hangman and odd one out puzzles allset a positive tone for the lesson. Students should ideally begin this activity the moment the lesson begins toprovide immediate structure.Visuals – Language is a key problem for students with ASD so picture cues should be used as much as possible.Temple Grandin, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, explains in Thinking in Pictures (Vintage, 1996): ‘Words are like asecond language to me’. Supporting a text with colourful pictures and highlighting various phrases isstraightforward with the aid of PowerPoint and a data projector.Show, Don’t Tell - One of the ways that ASD difficulties manifest themselves is in a difficulty sequencing tasks. Inpractice this means that the instruction “Look at the article, highlight the important points and fill in both sectionsof the answer sheet” may as well be given in Chinese for the student with ASD. Before you reprimand the studentwho sits staring into space, humming to him or herself, ask yourself if they have understood your instructions.Instead of telling, show your pupil what to do and guide them through step-by-step.Rewards - Every student responds to positive feedback from the teacher, but any learner with ASD is especially inneed of some tangible and targeted measure of success.Try any of the following techniques: give out points for specified, pre-agreed behaviour and levels of workcompletion(not just “good” or “hard working”). Record points for each lesson, linked clearly to targets, in apersonal booklet or on a chart. When each student gains a level of points they get a small reward such as a creditslip or raffle ticket which contribute to bigger ‘take home’ prizes.
  15. 15. Are they lost in our world or are we lost in theirs?“Imagine a world where Autism was the norm, and non-autistics or neuro-typicals were the minority.Lets try it:Those who feel the need to constantly be with a variety of friendsare considered fickle. Those with no propensity for computers and science are called geeks. Those with no special interest are thought to beungrounded and lost.Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.”– Rudy Simone
  16. 16. For further resources or to contact the author, please visit: , Matt Grant, 2012All rights reserved. Permission to present this material and distribute freely for non-commercial purposes is granted,provided this copyright notice and those in the slides remain intact and is included in the distribution. If you modify thiswork, please note where you have modified it, as I want neither credit nor responsibility for your work.Modification for the purpose of taking credit for my work or otherwise circumventing the spirit of this license is notallowed, and will be considered a copyright violation.Any suggestions and corrections are appreciated and may be incorporated into future versions of this work, andcredited as appropriate.If you believe I have infringed copyright, please contact me via the above website and I will promptly credit , amend orremove the material in question.