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What is a first/then schedule for children with autism?

Please check out my youtube video where I share a first/then picture schedule.

In a previous post, I shared about picture schedules for children with autism Visual Support : Picture Schedule For Students With Autism.

Picture schedules provide supports for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which are part of the environmental supports many students with ASD respond well to. Some students with autism may need a schedule that is paired down a bit and a first/then schedule is ideal for them.

Picture schedules help students with ASD understand what is happening during the school day and is a tool to help them navigate successfully through their day.

Some things to think about when using a first/then schedule:

  • materials needed-file folder, laminator, velcro, picture icons
  • this low tech first/then board can be created with a file folder. Laminate the file folder so it can be wiped clean if it gets dirty. Set velcro strips on the outside and long strips inside to store the images
  • create images that reflect all parts of their daily school schedule
  • create images to reflect referred activities and reinforcers
  • real photo icons may be needed first for younger students or students with ASD who are level 3. Ideally all icons should contain a picture and a word so students will get exposure to written language. Pairing a picture with a word will help a student eventually transition to only using words for their schedules.
  • focus on a work task or non-prefered task for the first item on the schedule and a preferred task or reinforcer for the “then” item on the schedule
  • complete “reinforcer assessments” often to insure students with autism are motivated to complete the work task or assignment
  • first/then boards are portable and you can keep all picture items you need inside the schedule
  • this schedule is portable and should be taken with the student as he or she navigates around the school
  • higher tech options are available through apps if a student uses a tablet
  • if you put the first/then on the white board or smart board for all students, then it can become a universal support and many students can benefit from it
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    First/Then schedule on the board 

     

  • this visual support may be part of a student’s IEP What is an IEP? but it is OK to try this strategy to provide more structure doing any student’s day
  • communicate and collaborate with the student’s IEP or 504 team to let them know you have started this visual support
  • encourage and support parents to use a first/then picture schedule at home if they are needing more structure in the home environment

Have first/then picture schedules been helpful to your students in the past?

What To Wear As A Teacher

Professional Attire for Pre-Service Teachers

Talking about professional dress and attire can be a tricky issue. A principal I had one school year, spoke at a staff meeting and asked all of the teachers not to wear short mini skirts to work but only because one teacher routinely wore them. I think having a one-on-one conversation with the teacher who wore the mini skirts was too much for him so he addressed the whole teaching team. He was turning red in the face as he was talking about this issue in the staff meeting. We want our time together as teachers to be about collaboration and learning and not about what we are wearing.

The bottom line was a parent called him and said “I don’t think the skirt my son’s teacher is wearing is appropriate because it is too short.” As an instructor who guides new practicum and pre-service teachers, I want to advise you NOW so you don’t run into someone telling you that your attire is not appropriate.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am taking away their sense of personality, gender identity or sense of style.  I simply suggest taking what you currently have going on and elevating that look to be professional, well-groomed and put together for the classroom.

One year job interview: We often tell our student teachers that this school year is essentially a one year job interview. We want you to not only represent the university in a positive light but most importantly yourself. You are your own personal “brand” and the way you present yourself will reflect upon your “brand.” Even if a veteran teacher wears casual clothing, they have a contract and you at this point may not. It is important to dress professionally even if those around you are not.

Outfit Ideas: Here are a few ideas for outfits that are professional for teachers to wear.

  •  button down shirts with collars
  • slacks
  • khakis
  • black trousers
  • (modest) length skirt or a dress
  • long skirt
  • tie

What about Jeans? Check with your specific school to see if it is ok to wear jeans. I know this might sound odd to most people who live in jeans, but some principals do not want teachers to wear jeans.

Check the handbook: Most of the employee handbooks for schools will detail what appropriate dress will look like and if anything is off-limits.

Well groomed: One workshop I went to in Texas urged teachers to look in the mirror before leaving the house. This may sound obvious but this last check will make sure the buttons are straight on your shirt, that food stains aren’t on your shirt and that your general look is professional. I would recommend not using scents such as perfume and cologne because some students are very sensitive to scents.

Dress for the grade: If you are volunteering in a preschool don’t show up in high heels or a tight skirt. You will need to sit on the floor, move freely on the playground and keep up with busy kids. As a guide, look at your supervising teacher and see what he or she is wearing.

Go online for inspiration: Pinterest is one platform I know of that has great outfit ideas for teachers. No need to break the bank to create a new wardrobe as thrift stores such as the goodwill will often have everything you need to pull together a few good looks. Take a friend along to help you sort through the racks.

Here is one of my wonderful student teachers Becca in a nice casual yet professional teacher outfit. Her school is ok if teachers wear jeans and she has a great polished look.

Brainstorm some outfits in your wardrobe that are professional enough for you to wear to the classroom you are volunteering in.

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

Who Loves you? –Emotional Support For Bullying and ACES

Building resilience for children who are experiencing bullying or have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): When students are being bullied, they are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and anxiety. Signs of these include increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. Check out the link for more information at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/bullyingtipsheet.pdf

Creating Resilience– Focusing on gratitude Cultivate Gratitude For Students With ACES for what you have in your life has been proven to support students with ACES. Educators and parents can help young children focus on the support they already have in their lives. Here are two ideas to promote resilience in the home and in the classroom:

At home support: Heart Garland of Love and Support:

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Hang a heart garland showing the names of people who care about the child where they can see it every day. We created it together and I allowed him to brainstorm the people in his life who care about him. He came up with 4 close family members and one teacher from his school. Every day when we wakes up and before he goes to bed, the garland acts as a visual reminder to focus on the people who have his back and care about him.

Alternative Ideas: For children who can’t read yet, you can put small pictures of the people. Gratitude: Each heart can contain one word signifying what the child is grateful for or positive core qualities the person possesses.

In School Support: Lace Up Your Best Personal Qualities Art Activity

five things you notice-2

One of my students at SOU created this fun classroom art activity for students to identify 5 things they notice about their peers that are great or positive. Each student in class has a shoe and the “laces” have a word or something positive about each student in class. Some examples of positive words include “reliable, kind, outgoing and good friend”

What are some ways you provide emotional support for students who are bullied or have ACES?

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.

atlas ball shaped business compass

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Continue reading

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.

boy child childhood happiness

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

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.