Category Archives: Parents

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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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

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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.

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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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Dogs For Better Lives-Autism Assistance Dogs

I went on a tour of Dogs For Better Lives which is located in Southern Oregon. We brought a bag of dog food as a donation.

We met a dog named Buzz who demonstrated a dog’s role and how they alert to sounds such as smoke detectors, door bells and knocks on the door for people who experience hearing loss.

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Buzz, a dogs for better lives dog who demonstrates for people who tour the facility

Dogs For Better Lives place dogs all over the country for people who experience hearing loss and now they train dogs to help children with autism.

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Creating (Functional) Micro-Routines For Kids With Autism At Home

Functional Routines: STAR autism strategies

Functional Routines are predictable events that involve a chain of behaviors. Routines are generally associated with a functional outcome for the child. Some common example routines that all children engage are: the restroom routine, arrival routine and snack routine. The functional outcome of a routine usually serves as the reinforcer for typically developing children. These routines provide meaningful contexts for using, generalizing, and maintaining receptive and expressive language, social interaction skills, and pre-academic concepts. The STAR Program provides the teacher with the needed programs to systematically teach children to independently participate in most common school and self-care routines. Guidance is provided for the creation of a structured learning environment for young children with autism. The STAR Program also provides the teacher with a system to integrate and thus generalize the use of skills taught in discrete trial and pivotal response training.

References for Teaching Functional Routines: Falco, R., Jansen, J., Arick, J. and M. Deboer (1990). J. B. Ganz (2007), R. Lovannone, G., Dunlap, H. Huber, and D. Kincaid (2003), B.T. Ogletree, T. Oren, & M.A. Fisher (2007), Brown, Evans, Weed, & Owen, (1987). Cooper, et. Al., (1987). McClannahan & Krantz, (2000). Olley, (1987). Arick, J., Young, H., Falco, R., Loos, L., Krug, D., Gense, M., and Johnson, S. (2003).

As a teacher, I have been asked often to help establish routines at home. It may feel out of the scope of our jobs, but the more our students are calm, organized and adapted at home, the more likely they are to come to school rested, and ready to learn.

What part of your day (at home) is most stressful with your child? Where are the most breakdowns, meltdowns and power struggles? The answer to that question is where the functional routines can be worked on to create structure and support.

Some common areas of struggle include: getting ready for school, homework time, meal times, bedtime. Sometimes the whole day is challenging and filled with struggle. We can’t fix the whole day at once. As parents, it can feel daunting when people tell us to create a daily routine…A long expansive day feels like a marathon to get through and routines end up breaking down when we try to set the whole day into a predictable, calm and well oiled routine machine. Our goal is to help kids with autism have a calm and organized home life which carries over to school.

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So let’s focus on creating micro-routines….

What is a micro routine? Start with one small routine during the day. Let’s pick a challenging one to start. You can establish more routines as your child becomes more comfortable with them.

Why? Routines are so important for kids with autism. Kids with autism thrive on predictability, structure and routine. Following and completing a routine can feel naturally reinforcing and organizing. Routines bring order to your day…

How to get started: Let’s pick dinner time as an example: Some children with autism have a hard time understanding what is expected of them at mealtimes. They may have become accustomed to grazing or snacking during the day but not sitting down and having a meal.

white ceramic mug on black dining table with four chair set

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Here is what a dinner time routine can look like:

  1. wash hands
  2. set the table. The child can help. They can do as much or as little as they can.
  3. light a dinner time candle or LED candle
  4. say a prayer or one thing we are grateful for
  5. sit down and eat a meal
  6. ask to be excused
  7. clear their plate
  8. tell mom thank you for dinner

Within any routine, each step can be broken down into a task analysis if needed. If a child needs more support, take a look at Task Analysis For Students With Autism

Over time our routine has improved and what was once a chaotic and un-enjoyable time of the night has become something to look forward to.

This micro-routine may only realistically last for a short amount of time but building predictable and clear routine will help carve this time out for you and your family.

Add visual supports for extra clarity and guidance:

Low Tech Options: Real pictures, line drawings or words can work as a way to support the micro-routine.

How to Teach: Model, practice, support and reinforce. Each step of the routine may start as a brief or fleeting moment but reinforce each step. If your child has never sat at the table for dinner, set a visual timer for a few minutes to encourage them to sit. Why I love My Time Timer for Visual Support. As time goes on, lengthen the time they are at the table.

You may think a daily routine will be impossible to implement so start with a micro-routine and stick with it. Every day is a chance to practice the routine. Stay positive and encourage growth even micro-growth because over time, the predictably will become part of your daily life.

 

 

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

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I learned about this prchool reading program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten from a friend who lived in another state. Her library had a program in place to track and provide incentives for children to read 1000 books before entering Kindergarten. Our local library had not yet started a program so my son (who was an infant at the time) and I logged the books we read with the phone app. The phone app. can be downloaded and used on your smart phone. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/1000-books-before-kindergarten/id779280401.

Program Mission for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten 

The 1000 Books Foundation is operated exclusively for charitable, literary, and educational purposes.

The objectives of this organization are:

  • to promote reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers
  • to encourage parent and child bonding through reading

Certificate:  After each milestone, 100, 200, 300 etc. books read, I printed from the website a certificate showing how many books had been read. The website provides certificates that can be printed out if you want to follow along at home. Click the link here to find the printable certificates https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/1000-books-before-kindergarten-program/

This program is perfect for homeschooled preschoolers, as a summer reading incentive program and preschools can adopt this program as well!

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Certificate

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Get Ready Bin-Providing Structure For The Morning Routine

Get ready bin: Home based intervention support (autism)

What is the get ready bin? A strategy to provide support for young children to get ready in the morning before school.

Who can benefit from the get ready bin?

Children with autism who respond well to visual supports and structure and neuro-typical children who struggle to get ready in the morning before school.

Children who live in two different homes due to separation or divorce.

Supplies needed:

  • A bin from the dollar store or a bin large enough to put your child’s full outfit for school.

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  • Dot Velcro (see link) and print out the words Today is…. and will pick me up…

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