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.
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?
Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
What does “drama” look like in your home at mealtime?
Some parents have shared: food refusals, crying, acting out, meltdowns, throwing food etc.
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.