Category Archives: Parents

My Special Interest Social Story

SIA= Special Interest Area

Definition: SIAs are often solitary pursuits or preoccupations that dominate the person’s time, attention, and conversation

Benefits of Special Interest Areas for students with Autism

  • Improves academic skills: high motivation in SIA
  • Supports communication:develop advanced vocabulary
  • Improves self-confidence:student becomes “expert” in this area
  • Helps reduce anxiety: more relaxed and fewer meltdowns
  • Intrinsic engagement: instrisic motivation and engagement
  • Increased social engagement: when SIA is included into treatment plans
  • Executive functioning:improved focus on SIA 

My Special Interest Social Social Story

Although there are many benefits to SIAs, sometimes kids need to take a break from them to focus on something else. The social story teaches how to re-focus then go back to the SIA when done learning something new.

I created a social story to help kids with autism understand their special interest area.

Here is a sneak peak at the story:

The first part of the story defines and shares the benefits of a SIA:

The book asks the reader what they like. The story then goes on to discuss the need to sometimes “pause” the SIA to learn something new.

A free first-then schedule is included in this social story! You can laminate or use a plastic page protector and use a wet erase marker to write on it.

Get the story here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/My-Special-Interest-Social-Story-5517826

With love and respect,

Sarah

sarahrazzano@yahoo.com

Countdown visual for help with homework

This countdown visual is an example of how a visual can show the learner exactly how many items or tasks needs to be completed. Countdown visual supports can be used for any multi-step task.

How to use

  • Print in full color on card stock. laminate and use velcro to help the numbers stay down when tasks are completed.
  • Start with all five numbers showing. You can modify this if you only have a couple of tasks that need to be completed.
  • Have the learners pre-determine what they want to work for.
  • As pages of the homework are complete, have the learner put numbers down to count down.
  • Eventually all of the numbers will be put down and the learner can earn their pre-determined reward.

Visual support for autism

Visual Support is one of the 27 Evidence Based Practices identified by the The National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder (NPCASD). https://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/national-professional-development-center-autism-spectrum-disorder

Please watch this video showing how to use this strategy to help complete homework…

He had five pages to complete so we started with all 5 tabs open.

Thank you for reading and following my blog and YouTube channel.

Sarah

Reference:

Parent input form for IEP meeting

Parent input form

Attending an IEP meeting as a parent can be overwhelming and intimidating. At every meeting, parents have a chance to give input. As a teacher, I have seen parents who on the spot, are not able to express their child’s strengths and challenges.

The graphic organizer I created helps parents plan ahead of time what they want to share. The document includes a section to write in strengths, concerns and remedies.

Teachers can give this form to parents to fill out before the IEP meeting to help them organize their thoughts.

What are some ways you have shared your concerns with the child’s IEP team meeting?

Please follow the link to the TPT store to find the free downloadable form

Dr. Temple Grandin-My biggest takeaways from her keynote speech

I got to meet Temple!!! 

Temple Grandin at the US Autism Association keynote address 

Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!

I ran into Dr. Grandin at the airport!!!

When I started working with children with autism back in 1997, her book “Thinking in Pictures” was one of my first introductions to autism.  

Dr. Grandin was one of the first individuals with autism who could articulate what life is like for people on the autism spectrum. Parents and professionals both clamored for her knowledge, expertise and valuable insight. 

Here is a link to the first book I read…

https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Pictures-Expanded-Life-Autism/dp/0307275655

Temple Grandin’s book 

I just had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak at the US Autism Association! 

Here are the major takeaways I had from her keynote speech: 

  • Limit screen time for children with autism to less than 1 hour per day. She noted that many of the children who could succeed in computer science are sucked in to video games and no longer can access their full potential due to their addiction
  • Parents need to “start letting go”-foster independence from a young age. She likened this to the adult cow who still wants to nurse from the mama cow. She said we need to “wean our children” so they are not dependent on us
  • “don’t over-protect”the child with autism
  • Allow children a multitude of hands on experiences because true learning takes place with hands on experiences not through screens
  • Teach young children how to “wait” and how to “take turns” and use board games as a way to teach these skills
  • Having real jobs are important for young adults with autism starting at age 13 (or so). 
  • Don’t get hung up on the label of autism
  • Focus on the strengths of the child not the deficits-build upon a child’s special interest which could end up leading to a valuable career one day. As an example, a child who is interested in pipes can become a plumber. 
  • Don’t make kids with autism do “baby math” if they excel in math. Allow the child to excel in the area they are gifted in
  • Encourage friendships through shared experiences such as cub scouts, school clubs etc. A shared interest will help build the friendship 
  • There is NO need to disclose autism diagnosis for milder cases due to some prejudice surrounding autism. Instead, tell what you need “those lights give me a headache”
  • Stretch students to grow and don’t overprotect them!
  • Allow for choices

If you were at the conference or have learned from Dr. Grandin yourself, please share what your biggest takeaways are in the comments! 

Here is a link to a youtube video of her (not from the conference I went to). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWePrOuSeSY

Set Up An Independent Work System At Home For Your Child With Autism

Benefits of independent work systems:  

Independent work systems are evidence-based practice for students with autism, but they are very helpful for any child who needs some structure to be able to work on his or her own.

Most children benefit from structure in their environment

My son who started Kindergarten, now has homework so I set up a structured work system so he has somewhere in the house dedicated to completing his homework.

Special education classrooms use a variation of these work systems and supports to help teach independence and provide structure.

♥ I want to share this technique and show how easy this independent work system is to create and use at home. Even if you don’t work with an autism specialist or have in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist, this is something you can create with a quick trip to the dollar store and moving around some furniture.

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Changes In The DSM-V For Autism

What is the DSM-V? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition) which was just revised in 2013 and written by the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been modified based on the research literature and clinical experience in the 19 years since the DSM-IV was published in 1994. It is important for teachers to know this because the DSM-5 is used in part, to determine ASD diagnosis and eligibility.

Here is a quote from the DSM-5 to further describe what the DSM-5 is:

“The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders….

DSM is intended to serve as a practical, functional, and flexible guide for organizing information that can aid in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. It is a tool for clinicians, an essential educational resource for students and practitioners, and a reference for researchers in the field.”

A full pdf link can be found here DSM-5.

Here are the major changes from DSM 4 to DSM 5 in the area of autism:

  • The APA has gotten rid of the sub-categories Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Rett’s Syndrome and Childhood disintegrative disorder and replaced it with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  • Another huge difference is that Asperger’s Syndrome has been removed from the DSM-5. It has been replaced with the term ASD level 1 without language or intellectual impairment. Most professionals are still referring to Asperger’s Syndrome in describing the disability because the term is widely used and understood in the general public.
  • The new diagnostic criteria for ASD have been rearranged into two areas: 1) social communication/interaction, and 2) restricted and repetitive behaviors. The diagnosis will be based on symptoms, currently or by history, in these two areas.

  • DSM-5 has also added a category under restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest or activities called hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment.

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Symptoms must be present in early childhood but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed capacities. Symptoms need to be functionally impairing and not better described by another DSM-5 diagnosis.

Symptom severity for each of the two areas of diagnostic criteria is now defined. It is based on the level of support required for those symptoms and reflects the impact of co-occurring specifier such as intellectual disabilities, language impairment, medical diagnoses and other behavioral health diagnoses.

The DSM-5 includes a new diagnostic category of Social Communication Disorder that describes children with social difficulty and pragmatic language differences that impact comprehension, production and awareness in conversation that is not caused by delayed cognition or other language delays. This diagnosis looks a lot like Asperger’s Syndrome to most professionals.

Hopefully this brief overview of the changes was helpful for teachers and parents who are on the diagnois journey.

Mealtime Without Drama- 5 tips for kids with autism

I went to a great local training where Dr. Ashley Brimager, a clinical psychologist shared some tips for creating success at dinner time. She referenced support strategies from Dr. Marsha Linehan who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Check out more about DBT here: DBT therapy Information . 

Long Term Goal:

The goal is for children to learn to internalize healthy eating habits and develop a healthy relationship with food.

food healthy red summer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What does “drama” look like in your home at mealtime?

Some parents have shared: food refusals, crying, acting out, meltdowns, throwing food etc.

Be Proactive:

Be mindful of the “setting events” before, during and after dinner. Make sure your child is not too hungry or too full when you attempt dinner routine. Do the best you can and every meal is a chance to work on creating harmonious mealtimes where kids work towards the long-term goal.

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Visual Support : Picture Schedule For Students With Autism

 

Pic Schedule

An example of a picture schedule for a Kindergarten student 

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An example of a visual schedule for a 5th grade student 

What is a picture schedule? A picture schedule is a visual representation of what the student will encounter through the day or within a specific task. Continue reading