Tag Archives: visual routines

Providing Sameness and Routine While Living In Unfamiliar Surroundings

Many children with special needs thrive in an environment with a high degree of predictability, sameness and routine. In the aftermath of a natural disaster life is anything but what our kids need to succeed. Often entire families, neighborhoods or communities are in the flux of confusion, chaos and change and will be for quite some time to come. Putting sameness and routine back into your child’s life as quickly as possible will be helpful. How can you do that when you have no idea what life will hold for you and your family in the days ahead? Here is one simple strategy that can be used in many different ways:

Visually mark what belongs to your child. You can do this with masking tape, stickers or a washable marker. When everything is new and living spaces are suddenly shared it becomes difficult for children to understand boundaries. I wore a roll of masking tape around my wrist for several days while in a shelter. I used it in a variety of ways. The more I used it, the more my children came to understand that when they saw the tape it meant “this belongs to me” or “this is where I can be.”

Visually Define Space:

  • Put tape on the floor to define boundaries of your family’s sleeping space, your child’s play space, etc.
  • Put a blanket or sheet on the floor to visually define a play or homework space, knowing that while the actual place to play or do homework may change, the sheet or blanket can be a constant.
  • I put tape on the chair where my kids could sit for meals – the chair was always a different chair and in a different spot, but putting a piece of tape on it right before my child sat on it visually defined the space and provided a sameness and routine of sorts.
  • One child was so disorganized as to need a piece of tape on his plate and cup in order to eat and drink.
  • If using unfamiliar bathrooms are problematic get and use a potty chair. Put tape on the potty chair if needed. Great if the potty chair can be used in the bathroom, but in reality it is more important that your child use the potty chair than where the potty chair is located.

Visually Mark Belongings:

  • Staying hydrated is more important than eating solid food in the short term. If bottled water is provided try to get a half dozen of the same bottles to keep. Each day the kind of bottled water available may change. If you are using tape, stickers or markers put them on these bottles of water. When the bottles are empty you can refill them from differently labeled bottle water if necessary in order for your child to accept it as something that belongs to him and increase the likelihood he will stay well hydrated.
  • Children may, out of necessity, need to get used to a whole new wardrobe all at once. Some things that may be helpful when choosing from the clothing immediately available include choosing the softest fabrics (second hand clothing often is more acceptable on sensitive skin than new clothing). Sweat suits in cold weather or t-shirt/short sets in hot weather can serve as both clothing and pjs eliminating the need for your child to change out of pjs if that is an issue. Many times new clothing will be donated at shelters. If possible choose several days worth of the same outfit for your child. This means he will have many days of new clothes, but each outfit is exactly the same. If purchasing new clothing several of the same outfit in different colors may be helpful in that your child will have several outfits that all feel the same to wear. Sweat suits or t-shirt/short sets can eventually become pjs in the weeks ahead as you introduce new outfits for daytime wear.
  • If your child has become used to having things marked with tape or markers you might also mark his clothes so he can feel like he is indeed wearing his own clothes, as evidenced by the tape or marker spot. These markings can be placed on the front inside hem or on the outside if necessary for your child to have it visible without needing to flip the hem over to check. Put the same mark in the same place on every outfit.
  • When your child receives toys, books or personal care items such as toothbrush and comb you can also mark these items to visually identify to your child that these items belong to him.

These are but a few ideas to get you started in bringing some predictability, sameness and routine back to your child even when, in reality, there seems to be no anchor in your daily life just now. Visually defining space and marking belongings can go a long way in helping your child make sense of the confusion, chaos and change that comes with picking up the pieces after a natural disaster.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013). Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009). Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on October 16, 2016.
Please leave comments here.

 

A Visual Schedule for Use in Natural Disaster

Many children with special needs use a visual schedule to organize their day. A visual schedule shows which activities and the order in which the activities will happen. A visual schedule can map out a big chunk of time such as an entire morning, afternoon or even a whole day. A first/then visual schedule shows what will happen just now (first) and what will happen next (then). (Endow, 2011)

If your child uses a visual schedule it is important that you continue using a visual schedule through the aftermath of a natural disaster. This can be difficult when you do not have access to your child’s usual visuals or, in many cases, may not even be able to live in your own home for several days. Here are some quick tips to create a visual schedule to support your child even if you yourself have no idea what might happen as the day unfolds:

For a Child Who is a Reader:  Use any paper and write the daily activities you know will happen even if you do not know exactly when or how they will happen.

Example: For sure your child will wake up, eat meals, use the bathroom, get dressed, etc. Use these ordinary activities to anchor a schedule.

Then, in between these items you can insert the phrase “mom will figure out what goes here ____________.”

Adaptation For a Child Who is Not a Reader:  Draw a happy face, label it MOM (or the name of the adult in charge) and explain what it means. If your child cannot comprehend an explanation you can teach it to him by using a routine. When it is time for MOM on the picture schedule you can draw your child’s attention to it and say, “MOM’s time.”  Do this the same way using the same words at each schedule transition time so your child comes to know what this visual means.

Then, when it is “MOM time” you can insert what ever needs to go on the space regardless of what it might be. I have used this sort of schedule successfully with many children when I myself have no idea what the day will hold.

Anti Anxiety Tip For the Child Who Needs His World Sorted Out:  Make a point to let your child know you will always show/tell him ahead of time whenever something new or different will be happening.  This isn’t always easy. You may be asked to move locations or share space in an emergency shelter in the spur of the moment.

When I stayed at a shelter and these sorts of things happened I took my children to “the office.” In reality it was the bathroom – the only truly private place available.  I would then give them the scoop on the change or the next thing coming. I then fixed the schedule to incorporate the information. Then, we would all take five slow deep breaths, putting our fingers up to count each breathe and on five we would calmly exit the bathroom. It seemed to work better some days than on other days. Having this routine was helpful to us all, decreased overall anxiety and left us all with a sense of belonging and family camaraderie.

Conclusion:  If visual schedules have been part of your child’s life before the natural disaster, these are some ideas to start your thinking in useful ways you might easily support your child when you yourself may not know much ahead of time what will happen when.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013). Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009). Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on October 13, 2016.
Click here to leave comments.

 

 

Teaching One Autistic Student to Ask For Help

During the past school year I worked with a third grader diagnosed with autism as he returned to school after being discharged from a treatment center. Jake displayed many behaviors that did not work well in the classroom. These behaviors occurred predominantly during math class. Jake’s scores in math were 82 – 90 percent over the previous quarter. With these scores, it did not appear that he was struggling in math.

I discovered that most of Jake’s behaviors stemmed from frustration. Jake knew when he needed help, but did not have a good way to request help. He would make noises of frustration, throw his pencil and tear up his math work. If I wasn’t quickly able to figure out the difficulty and respond in a way Jake perceived as helpful he would direct his frustration at me by hitting, kicking, biting, scratching, swearing or pulling my hair.

During a moment of calm I supplied Jake with an index card that said, “I need help.” We practiced with make believe scenarios where Jake would need help, at which point he would hand me the “I need help” card. I discovered that using this card bought me about thirty extra seconds in which to figure out exactly what Jake needed and to supply it before he would engage in his frustration behaviors.

Next I worked with Jake on how to ask for the specific help he needed. Because he was unable to verbalize what sort of help he needed. I started saying, “Show me” as soon as Jake handed me the “I need help” card. If Jake hadn’t yet started the next math problem I would say, “Get started. Hand me the pencil when you need help.” Both these strategies initially worked well, but after a few times Jake started making noises of frustration when I was using his pencil. Then, he would snatch the pencil from me and finish the problem on his own, the whole time making his frustration keening noises quite loudly. I realized Jake only needed specific help and then could resume the steps in solving the math problem.

Because Jake had previously used “My Turn” and “Your Turn” cards for communication when playing games, I got these cards out, thinking that rather than making his noises of frustration when he wanted the pencil back to finish the math problem he could instead hand over the “My Turn” card. Even though I thought this was a great idea, Jake did not. Each time I got the cards out he would get up and return them to the game shelf.

I then tried a card that said, “Thanks for your help.” I had another student model doing a math problem, handing over the “I need help” card and his pencil, and then, handing over the “Thanks for your help” card at which time I immediately gave back his pencil. Again, I thought this was a great idea, but Jake did not find it useful.

Finally, Jake took out his pencil case, unzipped it and held it out to me, offering me a pencil. We settled into a rhythm, each with a pencil in hand. Jake would work on his math problems. When he needed help he would push his paper towards me where I would do the next step or two. When he no longer needed my help he would put his hand on his paper, at which point I would stop writing. He would take the paper back and finish the problem. This system worked great, but the disadvantage was that I needed to sit next to Jake while he completed each math assignment.

Over time, I first stood up next to Jake and then started moving, first a few steps, and then further and further away while he was working on his math assignment. Even though he had the “I need help” card out on his desk, he did not use it to secure my help when I was not close enough for him to hand me the card without getting up. I did not want to insert a verbal prompt, telling him to bring me the “I need help” card as I knew the verbal prompt would be really hard to drop out.

Instead, I asked the student sitting in front of Jake to turn around and point to the “I need help” card on Jake’s desk as soon as Jake started making noises. I further instructed that if Jake didn’t pick up the card and bring it to me, this student should pick up the card and bring it to me. I wanted Jake to see the card worked the same way whether I was sitting next to him or was further away from him, with the only difference being that he would need to get up and walk the card over to me when I wasn’t sitting beside him. After seeing the student in front of him bringing me the “I need help” card a few times, Jake started bringing it to me himself.

Finally, I had the student in front of him model picking up the “I need help” card and holding it while he simply raised his hand, the typical way students summon help. Three months later, Jake’s noises of frustration and his behaviors had diminished. In addition, Jake was raising his hand to ask for help, sometimes he held the “I need help” card and other times he simply raised his hand.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013). Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009). Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on July 10, 2016. Leave comments here.

 

Teaching Autistic People

Just like people of all ages can learn, so is it that autistic people of all ages can learn. It is an utterly sad state of affairs that this even needs to be said, but unfortunately, it needs to be said. Too often I see autistic children being babysat rather than being taught at school. When I ask about academic curriculum being used, I am told, “Oh, he has autism” as if this is an answer to my question.

In my work as an autism consultant I am called on to go to public schools to see autistic students who are thought to be failing what the system has to offer. Most of the time students I see have behaviors that don’t work well in a school setting. For all students I am called in on, I use the stabilization techniques below, which are also the first steps I use when teaching autistic students if the student is not stabilized. This is why I can say that even when your student has autism, including when behaviors are present, he can learn just like any other student can learn. Autistic people are just as deserving of an education as other human beings. That being said, specific supports must be in place to insure access to that education. After all, nobody can do math (or any subject) when they are literally bouncing off the wall (a sign of extreme sensory disregulation).

Stabilization

  1. Internal Regulation (sensory diet)
    Autistics have a neurology that means many systems (sensory, emotions, movement) in their body do not automatically regulate. This means conscious attention and effort must be brought to regulate whatever systems need regulation. For most autistics I work with, the sensory system is so disregulated that it masks emotional and movement disregulation.

  2. External Regulation (interactive visual schedule)
    It really helps to know what is going to happen when – the schedule of events.

    Most students have a neurology that can pick up this sort of information without being instructed. They can sort out the spoken words of the teacher. Students with autism typically have weak auditory processing abilities. Their neurology may not allow them to take in verbal words, sort out which words are relevant and process those words to understand what will happen next. This means every transition from one activity to another can hit them as a huge surprise, causing further disregulation.

    When typical students are distracted and miss the teacher’s verbal instruction of “get out your math books now” they usually become aware that the other students are getting math books out of their desk so they know they are meant to get out their math books too. Autistic students do not pick up these external cues as readily.

    Even when they see other students getting out math books, autistic students do not necessarily take that to mean they should also get out their math book. This has nothing to do with cognitive ability. It has to do with weak connections between areas of the brain – several areas of the brain working together to synthesize environmental, social, emotional and other kinds of information to inform them “I need to get out my math book.”

    Visual schedules support this issue for most autistic students. It is often helpful for the schedule to be interactive – meaning the student needs to do something with the schedule before each transition.

  3. Relationship
    Most students I have been called on to consult for have experienced much angst along the way. They know they are not like other kids. They may or may not know they have autism. One thing I find is that students who are able to communicate are very aware they are different from other kids and they have made up a narrative to explain their differences to themselves. I have been honored by a number of students sharing these stories about why they are different. I have yet to hear a positive story. They are typically stories about major character flaws, sometimes character traits they have heard others ascribe to them such as lazy, stubborn, willful, violent, refuses to share, refuses to co-operate, etc.

    As I begin working with new students I typically use a simple interactive schedule to show them “work” and “sensory break.” I ensure they are successful at following this schedule even if it means we work for a few seconds and engage in sensory regulating activities for a much longer time. I am visually instructing how schedules work while getting the student’s sensory system regulated and doing that in the context of forming a positive relationship.Most students I see have not experienced a lot of positive relationships. They have learned not to trust others around them. I am giving them an exact visual way our time works. They can count on it, become part of it and will always succeed. Over time strong relationships develop. Once a relationship is solid, we know what sensory activities are needed (along with how long and how often) and the student has mastered his interactive visual schedule I know he is now stabilized. Once stabilized we are ready for more formalized instruction.

Instruction

  1. Identify and Teach Needed Skills
    Besides academic instruction, students with autism often have particular skills for which they need to receive direct instruction. This can be anything from how to open a milk carton to waiting for the teacher to call on you when your hand is raised before contributing. It is helpful to identify a few of the skills that are deal breakers to your student getting along in the classroom. Learning and using these skills can be intertwined with academic content and other parts of the day.

  2. Ensure Success by Decreasing Task Demands
    Differentiated Instruction is one way to reduce educational task demands to match the needs of an individual student while ensuring them opportunity to learn along with their peers even though he may not have the same personal resources to bring to the task. My favorite person when it comes to differentiating instruction is Paula Kluth. Every student can do something. If you need ideas on how to use general education curriculum for students with autism who you think cannot do general education curriculum please look up Paula’s work. (paulakluth.com)

    My favorite people when it comes to a discussion about decreasing task demands are Ruth Aspy and Barry Grossman. (www.texasautism.com) An example of decreasing task demands for a student who struggles with handwriting is to take handwriting off the table in all subjects except Handwriting Instruction. Perhaps a scribe is used to do the actual handwriting task or an app such as Dictation Dragon, which means he can now do creative writing through dictation. If the student is an efficient typist perhaps that is the way to go, which means the student can now do social studies assignment that involves answering questions with a paragraph.

  3. Reinforcement
    There is significant brain research that shows students with autism do not benefit from the same kind of social reinforcement that typical students do. For typical students, in general, the more social opportunities you can add into instruction and use for reinforcement, the more learning that takes place.

    For students with autism, social reinforcement and adding social aspects to learning detract rather than enhance learning. Tangible reinforcement tied to learning has been shown to work better than social reinforcement. In fact, it has been the ticket to learning for many autistic students.

    NOTE: I realize ABA therapy has had a history of using reinforcement in a punitive manner tied to repetitious drilling, often quite disrespectfully. This makes punishment, demeaning drilling and disrespect wrong. It does not make reinforcement wrong. All human beings benefit from positive reinforcement.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013). Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009). Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean in June 2016. Add a comment here.

 

Autism and Consequences

One way people learn is from consequences. For example, if you leave your car parked outside with the windows down and it rains, the natural consequence is that your car seats will get wet. Sometimes a person with authority over another engineers a consequence for certain behaviors as a way to decrease the frequency of unwanted behaviors. For example, a mother or a caregiver might decide that if hitting occurs at the park there will be no going to the park for the next two weeks. This sort of engineered consequence for unwanted behavior works for most people most of the time. It is why we use it to successfully teach our children to become responsible citizens – responsible for themselves, their behavior, their belongings and beyond. These kinds of consequences rarely work well for individuals with autism.

Underlying Brain Functioning
For consequences to be effective in deterring future behavior, a typically functioning brain needs to be in place. For example, if an individual is prone to hitting others when at the park we decide that because he very much enjoys going to the park, the consequence of not going to the park for two weeks will help him to not hit or at least hit less when he does go back to the park.

The underlying brain function that causes this consequence to be helpful in reducing hitting is very intricate and is based on reliability of connections between many areas of the brain. In practical terms it means that in order for this consequence to change the hitting behavior, at minimum, these elements must all function smoothly for the person receiving the consequence:

  • Understand hitting is wrong
  • Love going to the park
  • Understand hitting at the park will mean no park for two weeks
  • Be negatively affected during the two week park ban, i.e. wishing it wasn’t so
  • Dislike the park ban so much that he is willing to not hit
  • Come to learn what he can do instead of hitting
  • Have the skills and ability to carry through with alternative behaviors
  • After returning to the park and finding himself about to hit – his brain quickly and efficiently connects all the dots, gathering up and synthesizing information from multiple areas of the brain in a split second whereby he can put together an informative and behavior-altering understanding that keeps him from hitting.

Most people have brains that can accomplish all the above bullet points. However, people with autism do not. Autistic people generally have brains that do not support the last bullet point. Remember, an autistic brain means the connections between areas of the brain are weak making it difficult for the brain to pull together information from the various brain regions – the very thing needed for consequences to change future behavior.

A confounding factor here is that autistic people, after an incident and when in a calm state, can repeat to you exactly what happened, why it was wrong and what they will do instead of hitting next time they are in a similar situation. Then, the next situation arises and the hitting again occurs. After the incident is over the autistic individual is usually remorseful, knows what he did was wrong, understands what the consequence will be and promises not to hit next time, reciting all the options he might employ other than hitting. Then, the next situation arises and the hitting again occurs. Repeat, repeat, repeat over and over and over.

Regardless of how many times the consequence of park ban is employed it never seems to work in terms of stopping the hitting. Many times people assume the consequence of park banning isn’t a big enough consequence so they up the anti. I have seen this get out of hand quickly and regardless of how big the consequence or how articulately the autistic individual can explain the behavior/consequence sequence it is not effective in producing the desired behavior change.

After a time of bigger and bigger consequences, parents, teachers and caregivers start blaming the person with autism as if he wants to be a bad person. They say he is making poor choices and ascribe character flaws such stubborn and mean. It doesn’t turn out good for anyone, including the autistic.

Ways to Get a Different Outcome
Once you understand autistic brains will most likely be unable to attain the last bullet point in the above list – not because the individual consciously chooses this, but because of the brain functioning available to him – it would make sense to stop using consequences in hopes of changing behavior. But, we still have the hitting behavior. What can we do instead? Here are some ideas that have worked for numerous autistics of all ages whom I have worked with:

  1. Escalating Behavior
    If the behavior is escalating in nature; i.e., if you can predict when it will occur because you can see the build up then you can prevent the behavior by intervening very early on rather than waiting until the last minute when it is impossible to stop the behavior from happening. In escalating behavior the physiological fight/flight kicks in right before the behavior occurs. This means the individual is operating on survival instinct, feeling he is fighting for his life, no matter how small and non-life threatening the situation actually is in the moment. Thus, intervention when the behavior is occurring fails. Successful intervention is at the beginning stages. For more information please look at Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With ASD.
  1. Non-Escalating Behavior
    If the behavior is not escalating in nature, remember the reasons an individual gets an autism diagnosis and address those areas – communication, social, specific deep interests, and sensory. In light of this, here is what I do to help prevent unwanted behaviors when out in the community.

A.  Proactively Address Sensory Regulation Daily
Strive to make sure autistic individuals are supported daily in sensory regulating activities. As an autistic myself, daily sensory regulation allows me to be employed and go out into the community each day. It is the same for others I’ve worked with. For the individual in the example, when he was well regulated he was able to cope with unexpected events better. This meant he was less likely to hit.

B.  Plan Schedule Ahead of Time
It is important for most of us to know what will happen ahead of time. This is true no matter how our autism presents. Very few autistic people can track a verbally recited chain of events that are to happen in the future. Some people need a written list. Some need a picture schedule. All of us, regardless of how autism presents in our bodies, like to know the plans rather than to have continual surprises randomly occurring.

C.  Stop Talking
As autistics get overloaded in sensory, social or emotional aspects of situations the ability to process and comprehend verbal input decreases. Helpers typically “help” by talking more. This is the opposite of what is actually helpful to autistics in tense situations.

D.  Use Alternative Communication
Even for a person who is highly verbal, an alternative way to communicate becomes essential in tense or overloaded situations. For example, one individual I worked with had a key chain with mini pictures of the van, a bag of peanuts (his favorite snack), his house, and his favorite video game. When he was having difficulty in the community, I would hand him this key chain. Offering the key chain was a nonverbal way to communicate our exit plan.

E.  Use Positive Reinforcement
In this example the pictures on the keychain showed the order of events and included two reinforcements. First picture was the van. Second picture was the bag peanuts that were in the glove box in the van. Third picture was his house where his favorite video game (fourth picture) would be available upon arriving. Thus, positive reinforcement got him out of the park when needed so as to prevent the hitting from occurring.

F.  Plan and Practice Exit Strategies
Use preplanned signals or visuals to exit a tense or problematic situation BEFORE any problem behavior can happen. In this example the keychain with mini photos was our exit strategy. We went to the park on three different occasions specifically to practice using the exit strategy. Once the strategy was practiced, including eating the peanuts on the ride home and playing the favorite video game, we then went back to the park for an hour – our usual park time. It was important for this young man to actually get his park time.

G.  Assure Social Understanding
After a difficult time and the individual is settled down remember to go back and insure social understanding of what happened. Most autistics are literal and concrete by nature. Social situations are rarely literal and concrete. Thus, we are prone to have a different take on social situations than most other people. I have found it helpful to draw out a situation, finding out the autistic person’s take on it and leaving space in the stick figure cartoon frames for the thought bubbles of other people. Often times the way other people think is a surprise to autistics because it makes no sense to a literal and concrete mind. Social constructs and socially accepted behavior in society are based on this thinking style of the majority. Many autistics benefit in learning this social information.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013). Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009). Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean June 14, 2016. To comment click here.