Tag Archives: autism

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

What teachers need to know about autism sensory issues

  • Behavioral issues may be caused by a student’s unique sensory needs.
  • 85% of students with autism have sensory processing disorders.

Did you know that there are actually 8 sensory systems in your body, not just 4?

Our bodies take information in through the following sensory systems:

The The functional four:

  • sight
  • taste
  • smell
  •  hearing

and then we have the foundational four: “body based”:

  • tactile (touch)
  • vestibular (movement)
  • proprioception (input from muscles and joints)
  • interoception-A lesser known sense:  (internal sensors indicating physiological conditions)

Sensory Processing: A person’s way of noticing and responding to sensory events that occur during life. These patters of responding affect how people respond in situations. (Dunn, 1997)

Occupational Therapist (OT): An OT is the experts on sensory processing. They will work with the family and the IEP team to conduct screenings and assessments to determine the needs of the student within the context of the school environment. The goal of looking at sensory processing is to improve participation, NOT to change the sensory processing patters. To learn what an IEP is please read What is an IEP?

The DSM-5 includes langauge about sensory processing and autism as part of the diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)…

 Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

To learn more about the DSM-V and autism please read Changes In The DSM-V For Autism

Neurological Thresholds: Describe the level at which the brain will respond to sensory stimulation. When a student has a low threshold they respond to everything around them and often have sensory profiles that are “sensitive” or “avoiding.” Students who have a high threshold can appear be passive and don’t respond often to sensory stimulation. They may have sensory profiles that are “low registration” or “seeking”

Unique Sensory Profiles:

Low Registration: Indicate a high threshold and a student is slow to respond to stimuli in the environment.

Seeking: indicate high thresholds and this student will often add movement, touch, sound and visual stimuli to the school day.

Sensitivity: Indicate low thresholds and children detect more details than others and may be more hyperactive, distracted and easily upset because they notice more things in the environment than their peers.

Avoiding: Indicate low thresholds and children may avoid work to reduce input. They may seem resistant and unwilling to participate in activities, particularly in unfamiliar ones.

Check out this “model of sensory processing” chart and watch the linked Youtube video for more detail on how to interpret this chart…

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References:

Learners on the Autism Spectrum 2nd edition by Kari Buron and Pamela Wolfberg

Dunn, W. (1991a). The impact of sensory processing abilities on the daily lives of young children and their families: A conceptual model. Infants and Young Children, 9(4), 23-25.

What is a “social story” for students with Autism?

Social Stories are another great visual support and intervention for students who experience Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Visual supports are valuable in helping students structure and understand communication and social interactions.

  • Social Stories were developed by Carol Gray in 1995 as a way to teach children with ASD how to read the intricacies of the social environment and to teach new skills.
  •  These techniques use a brief narrative that describes a situation, relevant social cues, and responses.
  • They can teach multi-step situations. Similar to “Task Analysis” a skill is broken down into smaller steps for a student to learn and understand.
  • There are a variety of social skills training programs available, but Social Stories can be created by anyone including teachers, parents, speech language pathologists, and they can be used with all ages of students.
  • Read and review the social story when the student is calm to teach the behavior or social skill. Review the social story often and reinforce positive student behavior related to skills in the social story
  • Social Stories are simple narratives, written in positive language that support a student’s communication in a way that makes the new skill or social environment more personal and concrete
  • For more specifics on Carol Gray’s system of creating social stories please check out Carol Gray’s Social Stories

 

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?

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

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.