Category Archives: Pre-Service Teachers

I think my student has autism.

What can I do now to support them?

I have general education teachers ask me for ideas and suggestions to help students who may be on the spectrum. It is encouraging to see teachers who are willing and interested in helping their students be successful in the general education classroom. 

This is not an exhaustive list of supports and suggestions but it is a place to start. Please check out this youtube video slide show.

Thanks for following this blog, and my YouTube channel. This blog is intended for my college students but I love that the ideas and suggestions I give them is accessible to people around the world.

You can get a free PDF file of this resource here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/I-think-my-child-has-autism-what-can-I-start-doing-right-now-to-support-them-4902846

Please reach out to me if you have an suggestions or leave a comment here…

spedadvisor@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading!

10 tips for student teachers

Now that the school year has started, I am so excited to see all of the student teachers embarking on their new careers as teachers!

Being a student teacher can feel nerve wracking and kind of intimidating at first.

I created this short video on my 10 tips for student teachers!

If you have been a student teacher, what tips do you have?

Book Review: The Reason I jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

Title of the book: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. By Naoki Higashida

Summary of the story/book content:

This is a fascinating book written by a 13-year old boy from Japan who experiences autism. His autism impacts him to the point where he is non-verbal. Unlike some of the other books on the market about autism written by parents, or professionals, this first-person account gives insight into what life is like for individuals with autism. As stated in the forward by David Mitchell, “The book goes much further than providing information, however: it offers up proof that locked inside the helpless-seeming autistic body is a mind as curious, subtle and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s” 

Even though the author, Naoki is nonverbal, he was able to write the book with the use of an alphabet board. This relatively low tech augmentative communication device is how he communicates in his daily life and he has written some poems as well. My initial reaction when I heard this was concern that they used facilitated communication which is not an evidence based practice. Naoki does not however receive any type of physical assistance or facilitation while using the alphabet board. The book was translated from Japanese to English and is now a best seller around the world. 

Parents and caregivers are now able to hear directly from someone who experiences autism which can give hope, and a deeper understanding of what is needed to support their child on the spectrum. In the past, we have had limited access the first-person accounts on autism besides that of Dr. Temple Grandin. She, as an adult, has become a voice for those who are not able to share their reality. This book is interesting and easy to read as it is from the point of view of a child. What struck me was the absolute profound and deep way this child was able to articulate his experience. Many neuro-typical children with autism are not as adept at sharing with others how they feel as well as Naoki has done. 

Reflections on the ways the individual described in the book demonstrate the characteristics of a person with Autism, as well as his strengths and needs: 

This book is written in a question-answer format and many of the most common questions that many of us have about living with autism are asked and answered. The answers are fairly brief and easy to read and digest. I will share a few of my biggest takeaways from the questions and answers he provided.

Question #13: “Do you prefer to be on your own?” 

Naoki dispels a commonly misunderstood trait of individuals with autism when he describes “No, for people with autism, what we’re anxious about is that were causing trouble for the rest of you, or even getting on your nerves. This is why it’s hard for us to stay around other people. This is why we often end up being left on our own.” He goes on to describe how he likes being around people, but because things don’t go well with people he has gotten used to being alone. He said that when he hears people say that he would prefer to be alone, it makes him feel desperately alone. When I read this, it was such an eye-opening thing to learn. Although he does not speak for all individuals with autism, I have always made the assumption that children with autism want to be left alone. Now that I have learned about the desire to be with others, I will be more cognizant of their deep desire to be around others. I may be more attuned to creating situations for students with autism that go well so they can experience success. 

Question #30 “Why are you too sensitive or insensitive to pain?”

In this answer, Naoki describes how some children with autism will cry out in “pain” when their nails are clipped or have their hair cut while others who have a serious injury will stay calm and not react. He does not believe this has all to do with nerve endings but is more about “inner pain” expressing itself via the body. This again is a very deep answer that I did not expect. He notes that bad memories of these events may come back as flashbacks and become expressed in a way that looks like a negative reaction. The memories of students with autism are not stored in a clear and chronological manner he writes so many of the reactions are based on these fragmented memories coming back to the child. Now that I know this “inner pain” idea I will be more careful in approaching a situation that may “hurt” a child or trigger a bad memory. 

Question #31 “Why are you so picky about what you eat?”

This is a question I have often wanted to know more about for children with autism because I have worked with many children with very restrictive diets. In the book, Naoki states that he does not have issues with having a narrow diet and he acknowledges that trying new foods isn’t just about nutrition but is also about enjoying life. The routine of liking the same food and not giving other foods a chance is the main reason for the picky eating. The child may think all other foods don’t have any taste and discount them as tasteless. Beyond the thought that their sense of taste is messed up, he encouraged us to give children with autism more time to try the foods and to continue to encourage them to eat a variety of foods. 

Question # 33 “Is it difficult for you to choose appropriate clothing?”

I have worked with many children with autism who insist on wearing the same clothing regardless of the weather. If the weather is hot, they still wear the same hoody sweatshirt and have to be encouraged to take it off to cool down their body temperature. Naoki confirms that its very common for children with autism to “forget” to take off or put on layers of clothing based on the weather. For children with autism, he said clothing can be seen as an extension of their bodies almost like an outer shell and they may find it reassuring to stick to the same outfit day in and day out. Protecting themselves from uncertainty and wearing comfy clothing is one way of doing that. Knowing this is so interesting and I never thought of clothing as being reassuring for the child with autism. This information is valuable and can help parents and teachers support the child with autism while being sensitive their unique needs about clothing. 

Final Thoughts:

This book provides so many gems of wisdom and insight for teachers and parents of children who experience autism. Many of the children we work with are unable to express their needs and wants. It is reassuring to learn that even the most seemingly unaware and “in their own world” child is still aware and attending to the life around them. This book gave me greater sensitivity to the deep and unique way children with autism experience and view the world around them. I highly recommend anyone who works with children with autism pick this up for your library as a valuable resource. 

Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/Reason-Jump-Inner-Thirteen-Year-Old-Autism/dp/081298515X/ref=asc_df_081298515X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312154663427&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=13651881292818639831&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033107&hvtargid=pla-432564544453&psc=1

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

A mother of a child with autism wrote an article called Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. In 2005 it become a book. The latest revision was in 2018. Even though this is not a new book, I wanted to take a moment to share it and encourage both parents and professionals to put this in their library!

Here is a copy of the original article written by Ellen Notbohm

Please watch my Youtube video where I share my thoughts on this book…

Here is what is inside the book…

Here are the chapters. Each chapter gives tangible examples and straightforward advice on how to handle each topic. It is easy to read and digest for people who are just learning about special education. When a topic as complex as autism can be boiled down to easy to understand terms it really helps the community understand this topic.

1. I am first and foremost a child. I have autism. I am not primarily “autistic.”

2. My sensory perceptions are disordered. 

3. Please remember to distinguish between won’t (I choose not to) and can’t (I am not able to).

4. I am a concrete thinker. This means I interpret language very literally.

5. Please be patient with my limited vocabulary. (updated: listen to all the ways I’m trying to communicate

6. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. (Updated: picture this! I’m visually oriented)

7. Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.

8. Please help me with social interactions.

9. Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns.

10. If you are a family member, please love me unconditionally.

Here is a link to the most recent edition on amazon.

p.s. I am not an affiliate for this or any products. I just want to share my knowledge and passion for autism supports .

If you have read this book please leave a comment and tell us what you think…

Myths of autism

The other day I had someone ask me if people with autism die young and I realized there are still a lot of unknowns and myths out there about autism.

I decided to create a YouTube post all about dispelling the myths. If you have any other questions please contact me. I would love to discuss this further.

I used this book as a guide to share some common myths about autism:

Thank you for reading and following my blog and my youtube channel. I feel so lucky to be able to share my knowledge and passion on autism with the world.

Thank you for reading, following and sharing my blog.

Sarah

P.S. I am not an affiliate for this book or anything on my blog. I just want to share great resources with my network.

Provide Choices-Antecedent Based Intervention

What are Antecedent Based Interventions?

As teachers we benefit from learning about Evidence Based Interventions (EBI) for students with autism. All teachers want to learn how to decrease the likelihood of challenging behaviors in the classroom. The only parts of the behavior chain we can influence or change are the antecedent and the consequence. Providing choices is a great Antecedent Based Intervention that teachers can use to prevent challenging behaviors.

 Layman’s definition:  Antecedent Based Intervention

 When we focus on helping students with ASD in schools, we know that changing the classroom environment and how we present information has a big impact on their behavior. Changing the environment, and modifying things before behavior happens can improve behavior in students.

ABI as a preventative interventions to set the student up for success.

  • Providing choices is an example of an Antecedent Based Intervention (ABI).
Children hard working in school were given a choice on what they wanted to do during literacy.

Choices may be more effective than using preferred reinforcers

(Dunlap, et al. 1994)

Where can we provide choices in the school environment?

  • Activities to be completed (math or reading)
  • Materials to complete the task (pencil vs marker)
  • location (table vs desk)
  • Person to help them (teacher or a seat partner)
  • A combination of them all

Forced choice:

One way of providing choices is to give what’s called a “forced choice” by allowing students to have a small number of options that you as the teacher are ok with. Too many choices can become overwhelming for students with ASD. Providing two choices may be appropriate to start with.

Youtube video about ABI and providing choices:

Vision Boarding for Teachers

This is the vision board I made during class. I now have it in my office.

I started creating and using vision boards back in 2008. At a bookstore, I stumbled upon a book about how to create vision boards and thought “I have nothing to lose by trying this out.”

Here is the link to the book I bought https://smile.amazon.com/Vision-Board-Secret-Extraordinary-Life/dp/0061579084/ref=sr_1_12?keywords=the+vision+board&qid=1555118702&s=gateway&sr=8-12

Now I get to teach vision boarding to pre-service teachers

One of the favorite parts of my job as a college instructor is to help future teachers reach and realize their goals. I have the privilege of influencing a group of amazing people who want to do one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs on the planet. I enjoy doing what I can to help them get everything out of life they want. 

For those of us who are visual learners and respond to images, it helps us to “see” our goals and intentions!

How vision boards have helped me reach a goal:

There was a period of time when I was substitute teaching while getting my license in another state. My dream was to work for a school district that was one of the best in the state. Everyone told me it was impossible to get a job in this district but I set this as my goal. I went on the district website and printed out a picture of the district logo, cut it out and pasted it on my vision board. I put my board somewhere I could see it daily. After a while, a job I was qualified for was posted on the website. I applied for it and got it over 150 applicants!

A few things to keep in mind about vision boards:

*Vision boards are a visual representation of your goals, and what you want to achieve

*Keep the board somewhere where you can see it every day 

*Take a picture of your board and keep it as your cell phone lock screen wallpaper of your computer or ipad 

*Vision boards help you stay focused on what is important to you including how you want to feel, what you want to achieve and what you want to experience 

*As you achieve your goals or if your goals change you can update your board 

*Creating a vision board is fun because you can let your creativity flow 

*Vision boards are great for student teachers who are starting their career

*If you like Pinterest you will like vision boards because it is a low-tech. version of Pinterest

*You can have multiple boards or fill different topics on one board

Vision board tutorial:

Materials needed: 

*Big butcher paper boards, foam board, cardboard, or other large surface such as a stretched canvas

*Glue sticks

*Magazines, pictures, visuals printed from a website, words or quotes 

First take some time to brainstorm the following: 

  1. What I want to achieve
  2. How I want to feel
  3. What I want to experience 
  4. Words/images to look for 
My students creating vision boards

Get to a place where you feel relaxed, put some music on and start looking for images you can use to represent your goals and intentions. Have fun with the creative process. You don’t have to create a board in one day but getting started will create some momentum for you to continue. 

I love creating and teaching vision boards. Have you ever used vision boards to reach your dreams? If so share in the comments…

Behavior Boot Camp: Penny Token Boards

Why use penny token boards?

Penny token boards are one of my favorite individual behavior support strategies! It takes some planning and managing on behalf of the teacher but can pay off big time!

Which students benefit the most?

A penny token board can help students with autism or other special needs stay engaged, learn and be successful in class. The board helps promote inclusion and ensures all students are successful. The penny token board is a great individual reward system for a student who does not respond to the classroom-wide behavior supports. This system is a visual representation of how the student is doing and when he or she will earn the reward.

A penny token board is one example of an individual token economy. The principals of this technique are grounded in applied behavior analysis. http://applied behavior analysis

I got the penny token board I share in the video at:https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Penny-Token-Board-Set-3039344

Target Behaviors

Pick a target behavior you would like to increase. One example of a target behavior is for a student to raise his hand with a quiet mouth. To increase the likelihood that this target behavior continues, you can reinforce it with the use of the penny token board.

How to use the penny token board?

The pennies are considered the “consequence” for performing a desired behavior. Start the board when the student has gotten away from a 1:1 reinforcement schedule. Each penny then represents about 4-5 times of the student performs the target behavior. Teach this board by starting out with 4 pennies on the board so students will quickly “buy into” this system. When the student earns the penny, provide positive and constructive feedback. This feedback informs the student about what behavior earned the penny. To learn more about positive and constructive feedback please read:https://spedadvisor.com/2019/02/09/provide-positive-constructive-feedback/

Make sure students have “strong” reinforcers

The penny token board are only successful if students are motivated so use highly motivating rewards. Make sure reinforcers stay “strong” by conducting a “reinforcer assessment”. This assessment helps you stay on top of what is most reinforcing for the student.

Offer a few choices on a choice board that you know are highly reinforcing.

Only offer reinforcer choices that are doable for you and your classroom. Earning candy or other primary reinforcers may not be appropriate but a quick 5 minute break in the peace corner may be more reasonable.

Never take away pennies

Once earned, the pennies cannot be removed. If the student doesn’t earn more tokens then they just don’t earn their reward…The penny token board should never become a punitive or reactive system. Using the board as a positive reward system will create the long term change in behavior that we all want!

I hope this is helpful and fun to start using with your students. If you have experience and success using penny token boards please share in the comments…