Category Archives: Parents

Why kids act out…exploring distal setting events

Article Review: Here is the full article I reference in my YouTube channel.

What are distal setting events?

Distal setting events are sometimes called slow triggers or setting events. They are setting events that can trigger challenging behavior but don’t happen immediately before the behavior occurs. These are things such as:

  • Lack of food (hungry)
  • Got in a fight before school
  • Lack of sleep
  • Being sick
  • Conflict at home
  • Missed medication or medication issue

We can help a student’s behavior when we know the distal setting events

Imagine this scenario: How do you feel if you have not eaten and you have to do a strenuous task? On top of that imagine that, you got bullied in the hallway going to class and you only got three hours of sleep last night. All of these factors add up to distal setting events that can set a child up for failure.

Teachers respond to challenging behaviors all day long. We often forget about the distal setting events that can lead to behavioral challenges. The focus is usually on what happens immediatly before behavior happens. A functional behavior assessment can take into account these distal setting events to help us get a full picture. This assessment will give us a better idea of “why” or the function behind the problem behavior.

Keep lines of communication open

Open lines of communication between home and school are vital for us to pinpoint the distal setting events. Having a morning check in around wellness can also help us get a “pulse” on how the child is feeling and their general wellness. A community circle is a great way to do a group check in if you don’t have time to do individual check-ins.

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Here is another great article written about setting events if you would like to read more!

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319973271_Understanding_Setting_Events_What_They_Are_and_How_to_Identify_Them

source: Robertson, Rachel & Coy, Justin. (2019). Your Student is Hungry, Angry, Tired–Now What? Addressing Distal Setting Events in the Classroom.

What distal setting events have you seen have the most impact on your students’ behavior?

Thank you for reading and for my support on this blog and my YouTube Channel . Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgQ8h0a1a59gTbXetGlEGGA?view_as=subscriber

With Gratitude,

Sarah Razzano

Book Review Parents guide to High Functioning ASD

Title of the book:

A Parent’s Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive

https://www.amazon.com/Parents-High-Functioning-Autism-Spectrum-Disorder/dp/B01K0QDVTU/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=A+Parent’s+Guide+to+High-Functioning+Autism+Spectrum+Disorder%2C+Second&qid=1556511707&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Authors:

Sally Ozonoff, PhD, Geraldine Dawson, PhD, and James C. McPartland, PhD.

A brief synopsis:

This book is a wonderful resource for parents who have children on the Autism Spectrum and is specifically focused on resourcing parents who’s children are high-functioning.

Parents and educators can both benefit from learning about the supports, guidance and information presented in this book.

The book is broken down into two parts:

Part 1: Understand high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

This part of the book helps readers understand high functioning autism spectrum disorder.

This part includes chapters on:

  • What is high functioning autism spectrum disorder?
  • The diagnostic process
  • Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Treatments for high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

This section gives a great foundational understanding of ASD and what it takes to get diagnosed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was updated in 2013 and this book was written in 2015 so it gives the most current and up-to date information about diagnosis.

Treatment options are clearly stated and both evidence based and emerging practices are briefly reviewed. This book gives a good overview of many of the most commonly used and researched based intervention strategies. Teachers who are new to the field or want to learn more about interventions could benefit form reading this section.


Part 2: Living with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

This second part of the book discusses living with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder.

This part includes chapters on:

  • Channeling your child’s strengths
  • High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder at home
  • High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder at school
  • Looking ahead: high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder in late adolescence and adulthood

The section I enjoyed reading the most was how to channel your child’s strengths. Many children with ASD have special interest and unique talents. The book gives great examples of how parents and teachers can see these traits as assets and skills.

Why would I recommend this book?

I recommend this book because it represents current and best practices for children with high-functioning autism. If a parent is facing a new diagnosis or entering a new chapter in their lives such as adulthood, this book serves as a helpful guide .

The book also has many “real world” examples and vivid stories that are helpful to contextualize high functioning autism. The information is engaging because each section starts with a small vinette to illustrate ways to help kids with ASD relate more comfortably to peers, learn the rules of appropriate behavior and become more successful in school.

This book is formatted and written in a way that is easy to read. It is laid out in an easily digestible format where a parent can jump to a section of the book that is relevant to their needs.

The chapter on high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder at school also covers important special education laws pertaining to school supports, accommodations and modifications. Taking the time to read this section will support parents as they face complex rules surrounding special education law and supports.

I hope you get the chance to put this in your professional or parent library!

P.S. I am not an affiliate or get anything from promoting this book. I just wanted to share a great resource with you!

The difference between an IEP and a 504 plan

Section 504 plan: 

The Law: A 504 plan is governed by a civil rights law 

Students with 504 plans: Qualify under the section 504 Rehabilitation Act 1973 (PL 93-112)

“No otherwise qualified handicapped individual…shall, solely by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”

To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:

(1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. 

  • A 504 plan is a plan to ensure accessibility but does not include specialized instruction and services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy etc. 
  • the child’s disability must be negatively impacting his learning in the general education classroom
  • If your child has a disability and it is impacting their educational experience, and accommodations are all that are needed, a 504 plan is ideal.
  • An example is a quiet place to take a test.  
  • A 504 plan can stay with a person for a lifetime 
  • A written plan is created 
  • Periodic “evaluation” is required but no annual review is required 
  • There are no goals or progress monitoring 

The student’s 504 team will determine what these accommodations will be and it is the responsibility of the classroom teacher (and other members of the team) to follow through on the plan in class.

IEP-Individual Education Plan 

The Law: The IEP is governed by special education law 

Students with IEPs qualify under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Public Law No. 94-142 (last amended 2004)

  • A student must have one of 13 “disabling” conditions to qualify for an IEP. 
  • The disability must negatively impact the students access to the curriculum 
  • The IEP includes specialized instruction 
  • An IEP is used in public schools for students between the ages of 3-21 
  • A written plan is created 
  • Initial assessment is based on standardized assessment tools and a student must be re-evaluated every 3 years. Every year the team must meet for the “annual” IEP meeting. 
  • Goals are written and reviewed at least every year 

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Person First Language Vs. Condition First Language

 

Words are important! They hold meaning! Words have the ability to lift people up to promote and celebrate them and also have the potential to alienate and marginalize people. We must choose our words carefully so we don’t unintentionally get into a deficit mindsets with our students.

Condition First Language: This is when you put the condition first when speaking about people who have disabilities. An example of this is: A blind child

Person First Language: Put the child/person first before the condition. An example of this is: A child who is visually impaired (blind). Think of children with disabilities as children first.

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Children with disabilities have a wide variety of skills. Some children with disabilities may be gifted in some areas. It is not helpful to think of any group of disabilities as a homogenous group.

Focus on what students can do to create a strength based approach. Before an IEP meeting, create a list of the child’s strengths to start the meeting with. What is an IEP?

Exceptions: The Deaf population typically refers to themselves as Deaf because they have a stand alone language (American Sign Language). They use the capital D in the word Deaf as well. Recently people with autism have been sharing their desire to be called autistic because they acknowledge that although they are not neuro-typical. They are proud of who they are and want to acknowledge their autism.

Check with the individual: It is always best practice to check with the individual to see what langauge they prefer. When you are in a school, defer to using person first langauge unless told otherwise.

 

 

The Difference Between an Accommodation and a Modification

Students with autism or other special needs, who have an Individual Education Plan (I.E.P) or 504 plan, will have a section in the plan detailing accommodations and/or modifications. The student’s IEP or 504 team will determine what these accommodation or modifications will be and it is the responsibility of the classroom teacher (and other members of the team) to follow through on the plan in class. To learn more about an IEP check out my link What is an IEP?

The Law:

Students with IEPs qualify under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Public Law No. 94-142

  • Laws require that students who have special needs have equal access to educational opportunities.
  • Equal access to general education curriculum
  • Schools are required to make reasonable accommodations for students identified as having a disability

Continue reading

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.