Tag Archives: intervention

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…

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 7.31.28 PM

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
  • IMG_2605

    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?

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

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

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.