Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

Catch the Wave: Developing Successful Transition Out...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Abstract:

The incidence of autism has increased ...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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In the mid-1990’s students with autism began ente...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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interaction and communication and a markedly rest...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1. Cumulative Growth of Numb...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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aide to keep her in her seat she made little to n...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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problems, and these likely also vary in the class...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking ...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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common thread in the transition process and form ...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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with the legal standards detailed in IDEA legisl...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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to share their programs and experience in helpin...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Figure 3.1
Education:
Vocational
Employment
Educ...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Many of the students with low-functioning autism...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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The goal of post high school transition is commu...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Another program using picture symbols for commun...
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planned teaching strategies. For people with aut...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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for students with autism that are currently bein...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Each step that is causing difficulty can be brok...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Proven Strategies:
There are few formal studies ...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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model of supported employment.” Overall, the sup...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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involved…After working on the chosen tasks, the ...
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interests and rewards so that the person with au...
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Department as a transition specialist. I was wor...
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Ms. Chaparro shares an example of one successful...
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unique perspective only those with autism can br...
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References:
Alberton, P. &. (2009). Applied Beha...
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Howlin, P. A. (2005). An 8 Year Follow-up of a S...
Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism

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Smith-Myles, B. T. (2004). The Hidden Curriculum...
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Developing successful transition outcomes for post high school students with autism

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Are schools prepared for the influx of transition age High School Students with Autism? This article explores ideas to use current resources to develop transition plans and develop skills for students with autism.

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Developing successful transition outcomes for post high school students with autism

  1. 1. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism Catch the Wave: Developing Successful Transition Outcomes for Post High School Students with Low-Functioning Autism Shuna Laura Flores Texas Tech University Master’s Comprehensive Paper March 5, 2011 1
  2. 2. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 2 Abstract: The incidence of autism has increased 2093% since 1990. This colossal increase caused our school systems great distress when students began entering our classrooms in waves never before experienced. Most classrooms were not equip to accommodate the special needs of students with this disorder and educators, administrators and the community struggled to put together effective programs. Today many school systems are confident in their ability to handle elementary students with autism. The same students who blazed the path for those now accommodated in elementary school are beginning to transition from High School to adult life. This paper will address the need for educators, administrators and parents to prepare themselves for the influx of students with autism coming into a new phase in the educational process. This study examines the laws regarding post high school transitions, the resources available, the special needs of students with autism, proven strategies, and programs that work. Preparation, planning and resourcefulness will be needed to make this new educational phase successful. This paper examines what we know about successful outcomes for students with autism and their application to post high school transitions.
  3. 3. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 3 In the mid-1990’s students with autism began entering our school systems in waves some would equate to a tsunami. Most schools were not prepared for this rapid increase in demand for the special needs and demands of students with autism. Recent observation of the California coast brought about the following analogy: experienced suffers who paddled ahead of the wave were able to ride it with ease, enjoying the process. Those standing in the path of the wave were hit by all of its force and tumbled about in confusion and pain. The same can be said about the upcoming wave of students with autism entering the post High School transition phase of education. School systems can paddle ahead and prepare for the wave or be caught in the frustration and confusion a new era can bring. The object of this paper is to lay the foundation of what we know from statistics and experience, define what the law is regarding transition and outline ways to meet the specific needs of students with low-functioning autism. History and Statics: Since as early as the 1800’s people with autism have been challenging the way we think and react to people with special needs. The field of special education was inspired by a young child named Victor who displayed many of the characteristics we now consider to be the basis for diagnosing children with autism. Jean Itard attempted to restore Victor to normality in 1801 and wrote about his treatments (Scott, 2000). From that day forward society has been looking for causes and treatments for this strange disorder called autism. The puzzling effects of this disorder have forced us to think “outside of the box” and come up with solutions that are beneficial to all of us. Autism is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) “the presence of markedly abnormal or impaired development in social
  4. 4. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 4 interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interests” (Scott, 2000, p. 3). The characteristics of this disorder include: 1) Awkward social interaction – avoiding eye contact, odd body postures & gestures, trouble making friends, lack of reciprocity. 2) Inability to communicate – speech delay or inability, cannot carry a conversation, parrots words or phrases, does not play make-believe. 3) Repetitive behaviors – fixates on one topic of interest, nonfunctional rituals, toe walking, fixates on parts of objects, highly resistant to changes in routine. Prior to 1992 this disorder was considerably rare. One in 10 thousand people were diagnosed with autism. Most recent data from the Center of Disease Control (USA Today, 2007) states approximately 1 in 150 children have been diagnosed with autism. These statistics are based on persons being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which includes; Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS), Rett Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder. The sharp increase in occurrence of autism began in the early 1990’s. Researchers have been looking for reasons for the drastic increase, but have not found a solid cause. Some of the theories for the increase are the effects of mercury used in combining vaccines for babies to the nervous system, a wide spread virus attacking those with genetic sensitivities and the effects of hormones, pesticides and additives to our food supply. scientific cause or cure for autism. Currently there is no
  5. 5. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 5 Figure 1.1 Figure 1.1. Cumulative Growth of Number of Cases of Autism (U.S. School Years 1992-2008) by Idea Data and U.S. Center for Disease Control. Thoughtful House Center for Children. (2011, Feb. 23), Autism-Statistics, Incidence, Prevalence, Rates. Retrieved from Thoughtful Hose Center for Children Web Site: http://www.thoughtfulhouse.org/tech-labs/disabilities/autism.php Baker, J. (2005). Perparing for Life; The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for those with The drastic increase in autism began in 1992. School systems have been forced to Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Arlington, Texas: Future Horisons, Inc. developed (1996, Jan/Feb/Mar). Intervention for Adults with Autsim. Journal of Rehabilitation , 65Bourgondien, M. programs for students with autism over the past 2 decades. The students diagnosed 71. with autism in the early 1990’s are now entering the transition planning phase where they are Capo, L. (2000). Autism, Employment, and the Role of Occupational Therapy. Eastern Kentucky University, planning Ocupational Therapy. Richmond, KY: Eastern Kentucky University. Department of their exit high school and begin adult life in our communities. Dalrymple, N. (1989). Developingof Functional and Longitudinal Individual Plan. Bloomington, IN: Institute One mother tells a her experience with government organizations and school systems for the Study of Developmental Disabilities. with her daughter who is now entering transition age. Dalrymple, N. (1989). Learning to be Independent and Responsible. Bloomington, IN: Institute for the Study “My daughter Katie was diagnosed with autism when she was about 3. She had of Developmental Disabilities. Dalrymple, N. (1992). Some Social Communication Skill Objectives and Teaching Strategies for People with significant speech delay and displayed odd behaviors such as standing by a tree for extended Autism. Bloomington, IN: Institute for the Study of Developmental Disabilities. periods of time and categorizing things like food and toys instead of playing with them. At the Flores, S. L. (2011, February 23). My Daughter Katie. (S. Flores, Interviewer) age 2 ½ she stopped sleeping through the night and would frequently wander around and even Garcia-Villamisar, D. &. (2007). Supported Employment Improves Cognitive Performance in Adults with Autism. Journalhouse. This was the beginning of51 long struggle for all of us. There are several leave the of Intellectual Disability Research , a (part 2), 142-150. Hinton-Keel, J. M. (1997). TEACCH Supported Employment Program. Head Start and then the PPCD programs for young children with disabilities starting with Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders , 27 (1), 3-9. (Preschool Programs for Students with Disabilities) program when Katie turned 3 years old. Our Howlin, P. A. (2005). An 8 Year Follow-up of a Specialist Suppoted Employment Service for High-Ability Adults with Austim or Asperger Syndrome.school aged. She was main-streamed and although she had an trouble began when Katie became Autism , 9 (5), 533-549. Inge, K. (1992). Transition from School to Adulthood for Young People with Disabilities. Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at Virginia Commonwealth University (Summer), 1-9. Johnson, D. (2004). Key Provisions on Transition. University of Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: National Center on Secondary Education and Transition Institute on Community Intergration.
  6. 6. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 6 aide to keep her in her seat she made little to no academic progress, especially at one school with very poor staff. The school did not have pre-set programs for students with autism and Katie’s elementary years were spent being babysat in a regular education classroom. I don’t think the school knew what to do with her and felt a lot of resentment to have to make accommodations for her. I advocated as much as I could for services for her, but the school denied most of them because of cost. When Katie entered Middle School she was placed in a life skills class where she got specific instruction for her educational level. This situation was better for her, but her residential placement was so poor that she was not able to make the kind of progress I would have liked her to. She experienced abuse and neglect in the facility she lived in. She is now in a life skills class with an excellent teacher and support team, her home life is excellent and she is beginning to make real progress (Flores, 2011)”. Until recently autism was a rare disorder. Many people had not heard about this condition and School systems were not prepared for the high numbers of children with autism entering the school systems. Students with autism respond to intensive, specialized training. In order to make progress, “Young autistic children need at least 25 hours of structured 1:1 time in order to learn social skills and life tasks (Byrnes, Issue 18)”. These services were not readily available to students until recently. Teachers were not trained to engage students with autism and were expected to teach these children without knowing how to handle their special needs. Without support and training teachers could easily become frustrated and not know how to build the vital relationship with their students with autism making inclusion a difficult situation for everyone. Each student with autism presents a specific set of needs and behaviors. Without specialized training, teachers might inadvertently alienate the child. “Children with autism vary with respect to behavioral
  7. 7. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 7 problems, and these likely also vary in the classroom. Thus we expect that included children with autism with more behavioral problems in class will also have poorer quality relationships with their teacher (Robertson, 2003)”. The study conducted by Robertson in 2003 showed that students who do not have a supportive relationship with their teachers do not function well in the classroom. They are seen to have low social status wich causes alienation and high dropout rates. The Law and Assessment Process: In 1997 new legislation called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) changed the law regarding transition planning for students with disabilities. This law mandates that schools create a transition plan for post high school students so they can move successfully to adult life. These plans should include things like college, vocational training, employment, independent living, and participation in the community. In 2004 this law was reformed to include the following: “The IDEA 2004 Transition Regulations defines transition services as: “The term “transition services” means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that: Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment); continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
  8. 8. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 8 Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. [34 CFR 300.43 (a)] [20 U.S.C. 1401(34)] (Education, 2007) The State of Texas Education Code and the Texas Administrative Code both support and expand on the need for Transition planning. Both codes support educators in developing programs designed to successfully transition students with disabilities into post high school adult live and help them become contributing members of society (Region 18 Education Service Center, 2007). Many of the laws initially intended to protect the rights of those who have various disabilities end up being beneficial to society in general. It is now common for School Districts to offer transition services to all students beginning in middle school. Students are given aptitude tests and encouraged to make post high schools career goals. Teachers expose students to different courses of study to begin the process of transition to successful adult life. Transition programs not only look at academic and career goals, but other areas of life as well. The Division on Career Development and Transition of the Council for Exceptional Children has endorsed the following definition of transition assessment: “Transition assessment is the ongoing process of collecting data on the individual’s needs, preferences, and interests as they relate to the demands of current and future working, educational, living, and personal and social environments. Assessment data serve as the
  9. 9. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 9 common thread in the transition process and form the basis for defining goals and services to be included in the Individual Education Plan (Miller, 2007, p. 5)”. Students with disabilities often need assistance in planning for success in adulthood. A balanced life includes all of the aspects of the above statement. Miller created a transition planning pyramid to show the stages involved in transition planning and assessment. Figure 2.1 Vocational Assessment Interests, Abilities & Aptitudes Tech-prep/school -to-work Community based assessment General & Specific occupational skills Assessment of Academic & Behavioral Skills Assessment of Life Skills Criterian-Reference Testing Daily Living Skills Norm-Reference Testing Social Skills Learning Style Assessment Assessment of Future Plans Assessment of Self-Determination Goals, Needs, Aspirations Home living, Community Participation & Recreation and Leisure & Self-Advocacy Academic Jobs & Job Training Post Secondary Education Figure 2.1. Transition Assessment Model. Categories are based on legislation stated in IDEA 1990 by R. Miller, R. Lombard & S. Corbet, 2007, Transition Assessment; Planning Transition and IEP Development for Youth with Mild to Moderate Disabilities, p. 21. Copyright Pearson Education, Inc. 2007 During the transition process it is important to look at all areas of adult functioning to ensure the student becomes as successful and independent as possible. Many adults with autism become 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc. not have an option for non-institutional employment. “The ght institutionalized and do efforts are limited by lack of both appropriate financial support and empirical validation” (Garcia-Villamisar, 2007). As more persons with autism enter the transition phase of the public education school systems will need to insure that their transition programs are in compliance
  10. 10. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 10 with the legal standards detailed in IDEA legislation to meet the needs of their students with autism. Designing a transitional program for low-functioning autistic students can seem like a daunting task, but if educators, parents and community members work together the outcome can be positive for all those involved. Many transition programs currently available in school systems are designed for students with high incidence disabilities and are designed for those with academic functioning levels. Students with low-incidence disabilities such as autism lack transition programs that meet their needs. According to recent statistics “Youth with low-incidence disabilities show the lowest rates of engagement in school, work, or preparation for work shortly after high school of all disability categories” (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Students with autism require frequent interaction and practice of new skills in order to obtain mastery of needed skills to become successful in new environments. Most students who are diagnosed with low-functioning autism are not trained for the workplace and their work options are limited to structured work environments called “Sheltered Workshops”. These environments can be productive and helpful for some persons with disabilities because they provide structure, meaning and purpose. Persons with low-functioning autism may not fit into these environments because of behavior problems, attention span or lack of interest. Because there are not many options available those who do not fit into the “Structured Workshop” environment many are left to unstructured activities such as watching TV, etc. Developing successful post high school transitions for persons with lowfunctioning autism requires the same about of attention to individualism that school systems have established for these students when they began to enter our school systems 15 years ago. At the Texas Transition Conference on February 15-17, 2010 six school districts came together
  11. 11. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 11 to share their programs and experience in helping students with disabilities make successful transitions to post high school life. Tom Laign, Transition Services Coordinator for Socorro ISD made a presentation entitled “Transition: It’s About Results”. IDEA 2004 introduced the Measurable Post-Secondary Goal. “Transition services are defined to be a coordinated set of activities within a results-oriented process”. Writing and executing post-secondary goals is “…first a tool to visualize a future result and when properly executed, becomes a process to actualize the result”. Mr. Laign explained that an ISD’s reputation in the community has an impact on the student’s success in the workplace. All things being equal, an employer will hire a student from a reputable ISD over one coming from an ISD without a good reputation because they will assume support and training from the more reputable district. Laign urges school districts to go beyond the “one-size-fits-all” scenario and create experiences that help each student to acquire skills to help them in their adult lives. One example Mr. Laign gave was the shopping field trips transition programs use to take students to the grocery store, buy food and prepare a meal for the class. Laign challenges teachers to develop this skill so that their students can learn to shop for themselves and purchase and prepare items for their personal meals. Personalizing this activity helps the student acquire a skill that will have an impact on the student’s adult life creating measurable results in the student’s life (Laign, 2010). IDEA 2004 calls for schools to prepare students for post high-school life in the following domains:
  12. 12. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 12 Figure 3.1 Education: Vocational Employment Education Adult Living: Hygeine Community Involvement: Medical care Leisure Finances Transportaion Meals and living arrangements Socailization Related Services: Excercise Communication Social Skills Figure 3.1. Created by S. Flores from statutes in IDEA law [34 CFR 300.43 (a)] [20 U.S.C. 1401(34)] Education, U. S. (2007, February 1). Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004. Retrieved February 26, 2011, from Topic: Secondary Transition: http://idea.ed.gov/ Creating Programs that Work: It is not necessary for school systems to create a new program for transition for lowfunctioning students with autism. Current systems can be modified and resources pooled to create workable individualized programs at low cost to the school. Texas law states: “Paraprofessional personnel must be certified and may be assigned to work with eligible students, general and special education teachers, and related service personnel. Aides may also be assigned to assist students with special education transportation, serve as a job coach, or serve in support of community-based instruction…” (Texas Administration Code, 2007).
  13. 13. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 13 Many of the students with low-functioning autism are assigned one-on-one paraprofessionals. These paraprofessionals could be trained and used in the post high school transition process. Community resources such as Public Transportation including transportation designed for disabled persons could be used to transport students to job-sites. Collaboration and creativity are key elements in creating transitions that work. Computer technology is one of the biggest assets we have readily available in many classrooms. The programs and devices available are ever increasing and are essential tools for persons with autism. “…persons with disabilities will increasing have computers at their disposal as natural tools to help them solve problems in their daily lives. Teaching computer literacy from a young age can lead to future employment as well, and thus should be included in longitudinal, functional programs for persons with autism” (Porco, 1989). Currently many language building and work simulation programs are available for students with autism. These programs can aid students with autism build vocabulary and have successful communication with the general public, thus opening more doors to greater and greater opportunities for them. One of the nation’s leaders in Transitional Programs is Leander ISD in Texas. John and Martie Jensen are co-coordinators of L.I.V.E. Services (Leander Independent Vocational Education). They stress the importance of collaboration in this way: “LISD transportation has partnered with vocational services in a collaborative effort to create a positive environment for students that is cost effective, yet still provides for the needs of those students who require special considerations. This partnership effort has provided more varied job site opportunities and a greater ratio of paid employment” (Jensen, 2010).
  14. 14. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 14 The goal of post high school transition is community involvement and active employment allowing the student to become as independent and productive as possible. Transition planning must keep this goal in mind when designing and writing curriculum for students with lowfunction autism. Communication: Lack of communication and socialization skills is the biggest barriers for students with autism to obtain and maintain employment, function in social situations, and maneuver in the community. Finding ways to help students in this area is fundamental in the success of any program designed for students with autism. “Employment options are limited because of impaired verbal or non-verbal communication, limited social skills, abnormal response to sensory stimulation, difficulty handling changes and challenging behaviors associated with autism” (Capo, 2000). The same limitations for employment make it difficult for students with autism to function in our communities and in social situations. Facilitated communication plays a key role in making it possible for non-verbal students with autism to communicate with those around them. There are several options for non-verbal students with autism. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a pictorial system that was developed for people with social-communication deficits. The system uses basic behavioral principles and techniques such as shaping, differential reinforcement and, transfer of stimulus control via delay to teach children functional communication using pictures as the communicative referent (Charlop-Christy, 2002).
  15. 15. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 15 Another program using picture symbols for communication is called Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children (TEACCH). The TEACCH program is a comprehensive structured teaching approach designed for individuals with communication disabilities. The principles of TEACCH include structuring the physical environment in a way that will assist students with autism to understand meaning, visual supports to make the sequence of daily activities predicable and understandable, and to use visual supports to make individual tasks understandable (Mesibov, 2005). Computer programs and technology applications are being created daily that will aid nonverbal persons with autism in communicating. Many students are beginning to use these systems in conjunction with hand held devices like the iPod and iPad. This new technology has allowed for easy and unobtrusive access to non-verbal communication techniques that will prove themselves invaluable for future generations. Social Skills: Virtually every piece of literature regarding persons with autism mentions the need for training for deficits in social skills. Autism has been nicknamed “the wrong planet syndrome”. Just as a second language learner or person from a different culture needs to be taught cultural norms and social appropriateness, students with autism need the same types of lessons. The lack of ability to assimilate social appropriateness is one of the most devastating effects of autism. It inhibits communication and relationships so that the person with autism becomes isolated from society. Nancy Dalrymple explains the following; “Remember that social communication is very complex for all individuals; but for people with autism it is impossible to be successful without
  16. 16. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 16 planned teaching strategies. For people with autism, learning functional social skills and behaviors may be the most important things they learn” (Dalrymple, 1992). Many of our social rules are unstated and assumed. When students with autism break everyday social rules they make those around them uncomfortable and people without a clear understanding of the characteristics of autism can become confused and may avoid the person with autism altogether. Teaching social appropriateness is referred to as the “Hidden Curriculum”. It is an ever-changing, complex set of unstated social norms that neurotypical people pick up unconsciously. “Breaking a hidden curriculum rule can make a person a social outcast or certainly a social misfit. Failure to follow the hidden curriculum can cause a child to be shunned by peers, be viewed as gullible, or considered a troublemaker” (Smith-Myles, 2004). Some of the best ways to teach social appropriateness are through social stories, video modeling, scripts and a program called SOLVE. SOLVE stands for; 1) Seek to understand all aspects of the hidden curriculum, 2) Observe what people are doing and NOT doing, 3) Listen to what people saying and NOT saying, 4) Vocalize…ask questions, check for understanding, and 5) Educate…teach and learn. Remember: knowledge is power (Smith-Myles, 2004). Preparing students with autism for adult life takes sensitivity to the student’s needs for social training by finding ways to teach them what they need to know to function in society to the greatest extent possible. Intense Training and Repetition: A common characteristic for students with autism is the need for intense training and frequent repetition for skill acquisition. There are several techniques that have been developed
  17. 17. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 17 for students with autism that are currently being successfully used in elementary schools. These include Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). Discrete Trail Training was initially developed by Lovass in 1981for speech acquisition (Scott, 2000). It has progressed to be used as a foundation for many behavior based training programs. “In DTT, tasks are broken down into short, simple trials. At the start of a program, interactions may only be a few seconds in length. As the child's attention span increases, the length of the interactions increases accordingly. DTT attempts to build this motivation by rewarding performance of desired behaviors and completion of tasks with tangible or external reinforcement (food, toys, time to play, etc.). A discrete trial is a single cycle of a behaviorally-based instruction routine. A particular trial may be repeated several times in succession, several times a day, over several days (or even longer) until the skill is mastered. There are four parts, and an optional fifth, to a discrete trial. the discriminative stimulus (SD)-- the instruction or environmental cue to which the teacher would like the child to respond the prompting stimulus (SP)-- a prompt or cue from the teacher to help the child respond correctly (optional) the response (R)-- the skill or behavior that is the target of the instruction, or a portion thereof the reinforcing stimulus (SR)-- a reward designed to motivate the child to respond and respond correctly the inter-trial interval (ITI)-- a brief pause between consecutive trials” (Wallin, 20012004). The most important aspect of DTT is breaking a large task down into smaller steps.
  18. 18. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 18 Each step that is causing difficulty can be broken down into even smaller steps until the whole task can be completed. Virtually any task can be acquired as long as it is in the scope of the physical capabilities of the student and time allows for proper training. Another form of intense behavioral training is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The principles of this field are the basis for many of the programs considered successful when treating and instructing students with autism. The process of ABA includes the following steps (Alberton, 2009): 1. Pinpointing target behaviors 2. Analyzing the purpose, antecedent stimuli and environmental elements that may be affecting the behavior. 3. Recording the duration, latency, rate, frequency and topography of the behavior 4. Graphing the base line of the target behavior and keeping records of behaviors when variables are introduced. 5. Introducing independent variables into the scenario as interventions to the behavior. 6. Providing reinforcement for desired behaviors. 7. Evaluating the effectiveness of the behavioral interventions and modifying the interventions as necessary. “Interventions that evolved from applied behavior analysis research have done much to improve the lives of persons with autism” (Scott, 2000, p. 169). ABA procedures and research can be a complicated and intensive but if used effectively it can have a big payoff in terms of improving the lives of our students and opening up possibilities for their adult lives.
  19. 19. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 19 Proven Strategies: There are few formal studies done for low-functioning adults with autism in the workplace. The following studies show how researchers used proven strategies to aid workers with low-functioning autism to have successful outcomes in the workplace. Facilitative Communication: In 1997 a study was conducted using the TEACCH – Supported Employment program. This program, because if its success, has been the focus of several follow-up studies and used as a model for employment for adults with low-functioning autism. “Historically, persons with autism have had the same difficulties accessing appropriate supported employment services in their communities as other services because most of the programs are designed to serve persons with mental retardation but not autism” (Hinton-Keel, 1997). The first step in successful job placement is utilizing individual strengths and interests to identify the appropriate job for each participant. “The individual placement model involves a job coach who works with an individual with autism to locate a job in the community, provides intensive training on the job, and then fades out of the job setting…however they continue to need and receive extensive long-term support services” (Hinton-Keel, 1997). The participants in this study were part of a cleaning crew. Using facilitated communication through the TEACCH program they were given a schedule of clearly defined work tasks with few distractions. The studies showed that task completion was enhanced when persons with autism knew what to expect and were given choices of various duties in their job placement. In order for students with autism to be successful they need long-term support to help them continue to experience success in the work environment. “It is vital that TEACCH support staff be alert to factors in the whole life of the individual with autism. This is true regardless of a client’s level of independence or
  20. 20. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 20 model of supported employment.” Overall, the supported employment program has an 89% retention rate according to Hinton-Keel. Applied Behavior Analysis: Another study conducted for supported workers with autism focused on simulated job training for the task completion process before going to the workplace. In the simulated environment researchers used Applied Behavior Analysis to refocus workers’ good job performance. “Each supported worker had been diagnosed with autism and severe or profound retardation…All workers also had histories of challenging behavior such as aggression, property destruction and self injury…” (Latimore, 2002). Workers received job simulation training. When tasks were not completed properly the job coach would aid the workers in completing the task. Applied Behavior Analysis was used to analyze behaviors and interventions were created to so workers completed tasks appropriately. “Expanding application of technologies developed through behavior-analytic research seems to represent one means of incorporating procedures with empirically substantiated effectiveness within the overall support process” (Lattimore, 2006). By analyzing and modifying the participants’ behaviors, the adults with autism were more successful in completing job tasks and retaining jobs. Motivation through Task Preference: The participants in this study were 3 adult males with autism and severe or profound mental retardation. The purpose of this study was to determine preferred activities of the workers to increase motivation and satisfactory job completion. The researchers used “paired-presentation method that involves presenting workers with repeated choices between pairs of materials representing two work tasks, and then determining which task is chosen more frequently across multiple pairings…Participants worked on chosen tasks following each choice to ensure that they associated choices with the work
  21. 21. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 21 involved…After working on the chosen tasks, the paired-presentation process was repeated until all six combinations of tasks had been presented” (Latimore, 2002). The results from this study showed that when pairing a preferred activity with a non-preferred activity the workers performance and willingness to perform non-preferred tasks increased. The worker’s performance increased when the participants were given control over the order they completed the tasks. Behavior Modification: A study conducted by the Department of Occupational Therapy at Eastern Kentucky set out to explore supported employment for persons with autism, determine the role of the occupational therapist, and determine best practice contributions of several innovative supported employment models. “For all populations, occupational therapy seeks to promote optimal levels of work performance using prevention, evaluation, restoration, remediation and compensation techniques designed to increase functional work activities…Behavior modification techniques such as response-cost, report cards, behavioral praise and differential reinforcement were implemented with three adults with autism” (Capo, 2000). One participant displayed frequent temper tantrums at work. He was instructed to ask for help when needed and provided with a response-cost procedure. This young man loved to have comic strips read to him. He was given 5 strips per day and one was taken away for each tantrum he had throughout his work day. Prior to training the participant averaged 13 tantrums per month. “After three months of training, the total number of tantrums was reduced to one per month and after one year; Joseph displayed only one tantrum every three months” (Capo, 2000). In many cases persons with autism are not motivated by money as a reward. It is important to find motivators by discovering individual interests of each worker and capitalizing on those
  22. 22. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 22 interests and rewards so that the person with autism feels the same “pay off” as neurotypical workers feel when they receive a paycheck. Improvement in Cognitive Performance: This study examined the effect of supported employment on executive functions for adults with autism. The duration of the study lasted an average of 30 months per person. The mission of supported employment programs is to create a stable, predicable work environment so that persons with autism can work as independently as possible. “These contributions allow people with autism to increase their sense of self-worth, and at the same time, help it increase public awareness and understanding of autism” (GarciaVillamisar, 2007). The participants of the supported work programs were given repeated assessments. Measures of ANOVA showed that “…people with autism enrolled in the supported employment programme achieved significantly higher performances than the non-supported employment group…Therefore, the supported employment programmes have a positive effect in the cognitive rehabilitation of people with autism” (Garcia-Villamisar, 2007). Results: Putting it all together: Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too, can become great”. One post high school transition specialist shares her thoughts and inspirations about her role in the transition process. She has inspired many to become great and contribute to the community. “There are moments in life that reveal a truth you never thought about. One of these moments happened when I was working at the Texas school for the Deaf in the Special Needs
  23. 23. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 23 Department as a transition specialist. I was working with several students in the 18+ program and graduation was quickly approaching. Where would they live? Where would they work? Would they visit friends? What would become of them? Some had jobs and a place to live but then it hit me...how much more life there is after formal education - they are with us for 22 years but after graduation there is a lifetime left and are they prepared??? It was my job to prepare them” (Chaparro, 2011). Some may assume that there is no place for low-functioning students with autism in the workplace. Temple Grandin, a person with autism, has become an advocate for others who have this disorder. She gives suggestions for types of jobs for Nonverbal People with Autism: reshelving library books, factory assembly work, running copy machines, janitor jobs, stocking shelves, sorting items, warehouse jobs, lawn and garden work, plant care, etc. (Baker, 2005). There are many possibilities for the special students if educators use creativity and imagination to put together programs that work for everyone. Temple Grandin has made a career out of her love for animals. It began with a love for horses. Temple realized that she had a special connection with animals and could see things the way they see them. “Animals saved me…I spent every waking minute that I didn’t have to be studying or going to school with those horses…People and animals are suppose to be together…Animals have special talents normal people don’t, the same way autistic people have special talents normal people don’t…” (Grandin, 2005). Later Ms. Grandin became a cattle expert creating slaughter houses for livestock that eased the process for both man and beast. It is important that the special talents and interests of persons with autism be discovered and nurtured so that they, like Ms. Grandin, can contribute their special talents to society.
  24. 24. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 24 Ms. Chaparro shares an example of one successful placement for one of her students. “The search for a job begins with the student's interests and preferences. Determining those can be a challenge for special needs students. So you try a variety of approaches: visual interviews with photos and videos, job shadowing field trips, and parents’ input. It was during an employment class that a young man in my class keeps pulling off the Pizza Hut picture from my places in the community poster. It was pretty clear that he wanted to work at Pizza Hut. Hmmm now to determine what job. Being that he is in a wheelchair and having limited cognitive skills, it was going to take some resourceful thinking a community willingness to give this young man a chance. Well, we had both. The manager of the Pizza Hut was already familiar with programs like ours and he offered the student a job assembling pizza boxes. That was at least eight years ago and he is still there today” (Chaparro, 2011). Some would have given up on the boy who loves Pizza Hut. There are many like him who sit in day habilitation sights for hours on end watching TV and having little stimulation. Ms. Charparro’s dedication to finding a placement for her student and the reputation of the school district allowed this young man to find a job placement that has given him long-term stability, income and meaning. Creating successful post high school transition programs for students with lowfunctioning autism is not a simple task. It takes planning, collaboration, creativity, organization and community support. It is essential that parents, educators, administrators and community members work together to create a system that works. This is just the beginning of an ever increasing stream of students with autism entering the phase of their education where they learn to become independent functioning members of society. If comprehensive programs can be established everybody wins. Competent workers will be able to enter the workforce with the
  25. 25. Flores: Master’s Comprehensive –Post High School Transitions, Autism 25 unique perspective only those with autism can bring. Society will learn acceptance, employers will have assistance with tasks others may find distasteful and those with autism will have meaning and structure in their lives. Statistics show that the wave of need for transition programs designed for this special population is coming. School systems can sit and wait risking being tossed in confusion or swim ahead like surfers and ride the wave with pleasure and ease.
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