Tag Archives: autism

Warning signs of ASD in early childhood

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As a new mother, we become hyper aware of the need to track our child’s development. Our pediatricians may provide quality screeners at well child check ups which screen for  developmental delay so more in-dept assessments can take place if needed. One example of an early childhood developmental screening tool is the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

I want to take a moment to honor and encourage you to follow your gut instincts as well. Mothers know their babies and know when something feels “off” about their social, communication or behavioral skills. I want to explore what research has shown to be the warning signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in early childhood.

Why early detection is so important?:

“There is overwhelming evidence that earlier is better, both in terms of autism, diagnosis and intervention”(National Research Council NRC, 2001)

The first step in the providing quality intervention is first learning the warning sings or “Red Flags” of Autism so we can identify children as young as possible.

Here are the warning sings:

Social: 

Has poor eye contact

Lacks sharing interest and enjoyment with others

Fails to Respond to his or her name

Appears disinterested in or unaware of others

Communication:

Lacks gestures-pointing, reaching, waving showing

Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions

Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice or with an odd rhythm

May repeat words or phrases exactly as heard but doesn’t understand how to use them

Behavior: 

Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again

Develops specific  routines and rituals and becomes upset at the slightest change

Is preoccupied with a narrow topic of interest.

Additional Resource: Check out the website First Signs for more information. Here is a link to the website:  First Signs Website

“First Signs is dedicated to educating parents and professionals about autism and related disorders.”

To whom should a child be referred?

If you are seeing some of these warning signs, reach out to your child’s pediatrician. Some pediatricians will then refer families to a psychologist, developmental pediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist for a full evaluation to determine if a child has ASD.

Reference: “Learners on the autism spectrum” edited by Kari Dunn Buron and Pamela Wolfberg

Additional Resource:

Autism awareness and acceptance in early childhood education. U.S. Dept. of health and Human Services

 

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.

food healthy red summer

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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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5 Ways To Support Students With Autism During Transitions

Transitions are when a student moves from one activity to another in the classroom. Going from small group work time to large group work, lining up for lunch, going home and going to P.E. are all examples of transitions. 

Transitions are commonly a time when children who experience autism struggle. Wait time, uncertainty, and needing to go from preferred to non-preferred activities all contribute to this breakdown. Staying one step ahead of the curve and supporting the student with autism will help the school day go smoothly. Here are some tips for creating success with transitions during the school day.

Give ample warning for transitions: Use a visual timer and gently alert the child verbally about the upcoming transition. Why I love My Time Timer for Visual Support

Time Timer

Time Timer for visual support

Minimize wait time during transitions Hurry up and wait should not be the motto for your transitions. Waiting in line for example can exacerbate anxiety, frustration and uncertainty for students with autism. Continue reading

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.

IMG_0962

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

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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.

boy child childhood happiness

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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.

 

 

5 Ways To Support Students With Autism In The Mainstream Classroom

All students who experience autism are unique and have their own strengths and needs. Here are 5 common supports for students with autism in the mainstream classroom:

1. Read, understand and implement the student’s accommodations page of their IEP. 

  • As a classroom teacher you will be given a copy of the accommodations page of the IEP. To review what an IEP is please read What is an IEP?. You are responsible for knowing and implementing any and all accommodations on this page in your classroom. Written directions, an outline of the schedule, and short breaks are examples of accommodations. If for some reason you were not given the accommodations page, make sure to reach out to the student’s case manager (special education teacher) to get a copy of this before school starts.

2. Work closely with specialists to provide support for the student

  • Something I love about working in special education is that you always have a team of people working to support the student. You are never alone! Reach out to any and all of the specialists who are on your student’s team. The student’s IEP will outline which specialist he or she has on their IEP team. Examples of specialist include Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT) and Physical Therapists (PT).

3. Collaborate with parents Continue reading

The Importance Of Classroom Jobs-Community Building

I wanted to share some examples of classroom job charts I have seen out in the field. If you have a great job chart, take a picture and post in the comments. Having examples will help you for when you set up your classroom in the fall. Take pictures of everything now so you will the examples later 5 Things To-Do Before Student Teaching Is Done

Room 51 staff

This is a 6th grade classroom job board which include the following jobs: Lunch Manager, Custodial, Desk Doctor, Pet Patrol, Materials Manager, Teacher Assistant and Secretary.

What are the benefits of having classroom jobs?

  • Provides structure for students who benefit from knowing what their role is in class
  • Creates a sense of community where all learners are committed to the good of the classroom
  • Encourages students to give back and become helpers

    Job Chart 2nd grade

    This job chart is from a second grade classroom. Jobs include paper passer, line leader, door holder, flag salute, lunch tub monitor, chair monitor, librarian

 

How many jobs should a classroom have?

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