NEW! Free webinar with information around the science of ABA, on April 2nd, World Awareness Autism day
Free Webinar: Created and Recorded by Autism Learning Partnership April 2, 2019 – Autism Awareness Day
Myth Busting – Science of ABA and some everyday uses. (46 Minutes)
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Helpful Strategies for Effective Instruction with Learners with ASD
Delivering effective instruction is key in producing desired outcomes for our learners. Providing clear messages help ensure that learners understand what is expected, which in turn can lower anxiety. This is a fundamental skill for front line staff supporting learners with ASD. Once attention and motivation have been established, the 3 following strategies can help make our instructions more efficient.
Keep It Simple using Behavioural Skills Training
An expression often heard in the world of education is that our learners are our best teachers. One learner who proved this expression to be true for me early on in my career as a school psychologist, was Jillian** (fictional name), a seven-year old girl with autism spectrum disorder. Mrs. Harris**, Jillian’s teacher requested support because Jillian most often spoke very quietly when giving responses in class, and this was becoming an important barrier for her participation during activities such as group work, reading, circle time, as well as interaction with her peers. I observed Jillian in class and observed the same behaviour and challenges, and her parents confirmed that this was an issue in other community settings. Determined to assist with this issue, I developed a plan that involved shaping her voice volume gradually. As part of the plan, I broke down the steps to increase her voice volume. The process would involve having her first imitate me when I whispered a word, then continue to imitate me as I gradually increased my volume, and provide positive reinforcement when she would imitate louder and longer utterances, until she would imitate a normal voice volume. When I began working with Jillian on this skill, the session went all too smoothly! While she enjoyed the positive reinforcement for a job well done, it occurred to me that Jillian was already able to speak at a normal volume.
Teaching Adaptability Skills and Strategies by Creating Flexible Schedules
Paul is an active and artistic ten year old who loves drawing and participating in Art class. He independently follows his school schedule with the use of a visual schedule and often expresses his excitement when art is the next day or coming up later in his routine.
Proactive Strategies for Supporting Student Success
At a team meeting, Mr. Richards** (all names fictitious) expressed concern and frustration regarding the behaviour of one of the students in his class. Michael is an eleven-year-old in his class who frequently becomes upset when he is given corrective feedback or when answers are marked as incorrect on an assignment. In these instances, Michael “shuts down” by either putting his head on his desk, crying or storming out of the classroom. While Mr. Richards realizes that Michael has some challenges in the area of emotional regulation and rigidity, he has moments when he feels like he is walking on eggshells. So, in order to avoid setting Michael off, he avoids giving him constructive feedback. Other moments, he is sterner because Michael “just needs to learn to deal with it because that’s how it is in the real world.”
Self-Calming Strategies for Learners
Rosie, an eleven-year-old student, had started exhibiting aggressive behaviour toward objects (pushing materials away, tearing or crumpling papers, and tossing materials on the floor) when she became frustrated with an activity. The team and parents had started prompting her by saying, “Rosie, take deep breaths. You need to calm down.” The school team and parents noticed that every time they said it was time to calm down that her frustration increased and the aggression toward the object became more intense. The words “calm down” and “breathe” appeared to trigger Rosie and she would tear more paper or start to kick things close by, insisting she did not need to breathe or calm down.
Recess: Another opportunity to teach our learners!
When you ask most elementary children the favorite part of their day, you are likely to get one of two responses: recess or gym. This is a time where they can play and talk with their friends, get some fresh air, and burn some energy. There are so many social skills that are required in that short period of the day that come naturally for many students and that don’t require specific instruction (e.g. asking a friend to play, taking turns, knowing how to use the playground equipment, following the rules of a game, conversational skills, making comments, going along with what a friend would like to do, handling other children talking loudly and rushing past, etc.). For children with autism, this period of the day can represent a significant challenge.
Social Interactions… A Barrier to Inclusion?
Even though learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) all have their own unique characteristics, they often share a common challenge: social interactions. Skills such as approaching others and initiating interactions, speaking and listening to others, considering others’ feelings and maintaining eye contact can be difficult to master for a learner with ASD. Some of them do have a desire to connect and interact with their peers but others prefer individual activities. All these factors can certainly contribute to awkward, complex or even problematic social relationships with peers.
February is National Inclusive Education Month in Canada. In order for all learners to feel fully included in our schools and communities, it is important that they have positive, enriching and authentic social experiences.
Differentiation in Action – Conversation with a Specialist in Music Education
As part of Inclusion Month in Canada, I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak with Isabelle Perron Desjardins, a learning specialist (agente pédagogique provinciale) at the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development within the Francophone educational services sector. Isabelle is recognized for her expertise in teaching music, and she has generously given her time to share her experience in the application of effective practices for differentiation in the context of music education.
Teachers Make a Difference
It was an absolute pleasure to meet and speak with Sarah Hoyt, recipient of the 2018 Canadian Association for Community Living National Inclusive Education Award. Her passion for connecting with learners shines as she speaks about her students’ progress. Sarah’s gentle and practical approach to including learners is only part of the reason she was recognized with this award. Sarah wants to make a difference in her students’ lives and wants her students to feel cared for and respected. Check out some of our conversation where she shares about a learner who successfully rejoined the class after working in an alternate learning setting and the practical strategies she uses to support learners.
Celebrating Inclusion in the Early Years- Behavioural Interventions in a Child Care Context
Research shows that with early behavioural interventions, children with ASD are much more likely to make gains in development and independence during their school years and into adulthood (Carr & Leblanc, 2007) than children who do not receive behavioural interventions. Hence, in New Brunswick, children with ASD are offered access to programs and supports to help them succeed and develop in their early years. Families with preschoolaged children with ASD have the opportunity to enroll in the Preschool Autism Program. The Preschool Autism Program offers up to 20 hours per week of behavioural interventions and supports for a child and their family. This program aims to decrease the barriers that are preventing children from learning in their natural environment through behavioural interventions that are customized for each child. The Preschool Autism Program is delivered by an organization called Autism Intervention Services (AIS).
Physical activity: a multi-challenge asset
We all know that physical activity is essential when it comes to child and youth health. It is recommended that they exercise at least one hour every day (Government of Canada, 2018). This is exactly why physical education periods, recess and extracurricular activities are so important; so students can be more active. Research also shows that physical activity has a positive impact on individuals with ASD.
Tips for smoother transitions back to school after a break
Marie is an eleven year old who loves playing piano, listening to music, painting and learning about mammals. While at school she spends time learning with her classmates in their common learning environment and also completes individualized programming throughout her school. She is currently learning to use PECS more consistently to communicate her needs and wants and has been learning to stretch and use a stationary bike to manage her anxiety. Like her peers, Marie has challenges transitioning back to school after a break, however she requires some additional supports to help her have success. Marie’s teaching team wants to provide the best learning opportunities for Marie and would like her return to the school routine after the spring break to go as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the things Marie’s team does to help her.
Independence Among Learners with ASD
Dominic is an eight-year-old boy with ASD. During a meeting with the school team, Dominic’s parents admitted that despite their son’s learning progress, it was still very hard for them to manage Dominic’s behaviour at home. Because of the family’s working schedule and Dominic’s brother’s activities, Dominic is often home with only one parent. The child must be supervised at all times as he climbs on every piece of furniture and then jumps off of it. Also, his behavioural tantrums made it challenging to go out and do things in the community. His parents therefore asked the professionals in charge of his learning plan how they could help him become more independent.
I can do this!
Last week, we discussed the importance of developing independence in our learners (Independence Among Learners with ASD). Today, we highlight five areas that will promote independence in children with ASD.
Moving on up! Practical Transition Activities: Grade to Grade
As the end of the school year approaches is it important to start thinking about how to prepare our learners for the new locations, teachers and routines in their next grade. Schools generally schedule activities for all students to help with grade-to-grade, and school-to-school transitions; however, learners with ASD may need more opportunities to prepare for these changes of schedule, location, and people.
Moving on up! Practical Transition Activities: School to School
We all need support and adjustment time when making a significant change in our lives. Typically, Canadian students have two major school changes during their school years; elementary school to middle school, and middle school to high school. Considering some of the things students must adapt to; new location, people, transportation, schedule, bells, and expectations; changing schools is a major transition. Schools often support all learners as they prepare for a new school by talking about the differences and positive activities available at the new school, arranging school visit, and sharing important details with families. Learners with ASD may need additional support and opportunities to prepare for these school to school transitions.
Off to School – Starting School on the Right Foot (Part 1)
Sending a child off to school can generate all kinds of emotions for families. Excitement, pride, worry, sadness, and yes, even relief, are typical feelings that families may experience as they send their precious little one to school. For families with a child with autism, these feelings can be amplified making transition to school a daunting and scary endeavour. Will my child be okay? Will they understand my child’s needs and know how to work with him/her? What supports will be in place? Is the school ready for this … is my child? As educators, we can help to alleviate some of the fears that families may have about the transition through careful planning, communication, and a well-organized case conference in the Spring prior to school entry. In this week’s Friday tips and for the next few weeks, we will review the various components of a sample agenda for the transition planning meeting (Appendix A). These tips are based upon our experience in working with families, and best practices for transition planning.
Off to School – Starting School on the Right Foot (Part 2)
In last week’s Friday tips, we reviewed some best practices for helping to set the tone for a positive working relationship with families from the very beginning of the school experience, even prior to the transition meeting. In this edition, and in subsequent Friday tips, we will review the various components of a sample agenda for the transition planning meeting (see below) to gather essential information about the child’s strengths, needs, skills and learning profile. These tips are based upon our experience in working with families, and best practices for transition planning. They may serve to validate or supplement your current processes.
Off to School – Starting School on the Right Foot (Part 3)
In the last couple of weeks of Friday tips, we have shared some of our experiences in facilitating transition meetings for families whose children with autism are beginning school (see www.autism-learningpartnership.com for Parts 1 and 2). This week, let’s dive into some of the key questions the school team will need to develop a transition plan for the child. While this series is devoted towards helping learners with autism transition into school, these strategies may also be helpful for all children who require transition planning.
Note: The New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development collaborated with the other Atlantic Provinces as part of our collaboration with APSEA Autism in Education in developing an information paper on this topic.
Read Article: Off to School – Starting School on the Right Foot – Part 3
Off to School – Starting School on the Right Foot (Part 4)
Everyone benefits from well-planned transitions. Learners with autism are no exception. They may experience additional challenges regarding changes to their routine. Engaging in proactive and collaborative planning in the months before the school year starts can help reduce stress for everyone.
In Parts 1 through 3, we’ve shared strategies to help set the stage for a positive working relationship with families by offering a sample agenda, and a series of key questions to gather essential information about our transitioning learner (see www.autism-learning-partnership.com). In Part 4, we will take a closer look at best practices regarding the meeting wrap-up and important next steps.
Here comes the nice weather!
It can be challenging for learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to generalize their skills in different settings and contexts. When concepts are taught in the environment in which they will later be applied, it is much easier for the learner to implement those concepts effectively. Teaching in the natural environment allows team members to teach target behaviours while taking advantage of the learner’s interests and the reinforcers present in the environment.
The playground or even school trips can certainly be suitable for teaching and learning certain skills. Adults working with the learners should thoroughly plan these teaching periods. Here are 7 steps that could help you plan interventions in the natural environment.
A Conversation with Dr. Janet Twyman: Tips for Using Technology for Instruction
The Autism Learning Partnership team had the pleasure of learning from Dr. Twyman at a recent two-day conference on the use of technology as a teaching tool for learners with ASD at an event organized by APSEA Autism in Education. She generously gave of her time to share some general advice for educators with us.
A Pioneer in the Field: Remembering Dr. Murray Sidman
Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is a relatively young science that studies socially significant behaviour to improve quality of life. In the early 1960’s, many researchers and practitioners contributed to shaping this science into what it is today. One of these great minds, Dr. Murray Sidman, passed away last week, at the age of 96.
Happy Summer Holidays!
Here comes the end of another school year! This time of the year usually feels quite nice and is filled with celebrations, but it can also be a pretty challenging time for learners who struggle with transitions and changes. During the next weeks, classrooms daily schedules may change to fit in special events and students will have to empty their desks and lockers to clean the space that other students will take next September. For some individuals, it may be difficult to accept a change in their regular schedule just because a picnic is happening outside instead of a regular lunch at the cafeteria. They might feel nervous throughout the whole morning while others feel so excited.