The importance of using a visual within-lesson schedule for children with autism

For children with autism, it can be hard to predict what will happen next. Often without realising, teachers can under prepare their students by not informing them of what will take place in an activity or lesson, in a way the child can understand. This can lead to high anxiety and confusion which obviously can result in challenging behaviour.

Visual within-lesson schedules, based at the level of sense making of the child, can give information to show exactly what will happen. If used properly, it can show the child what is to come, what has finished and when the lesson will completely finish.

Visual within-lesson schedules can be used individually or for a whole class (any class!). Some of the examples below are from mainstream classes of 30 children where all of the children are benefiting from the visual schedule.

 

Here are some examples:

within-lesson schedule

 

This is a visual within-lesson schedule for a numeracy session. It shows the activities which are going to take place and in which order. Lastly, there is a very motivating activity (playing with a ball) which helps to keep this particular child focused and engaged!

As each activity finishes, the photo is placed on the red side to show that it has finished. Over time, children can learn to do this action themselves and therefore increasing their independence in completing tasks themselves. This type of resource can really be used for any lesson, for ALL children!

 

 

making pizza within-task schedule asdteacher autism

Here are some other examples of how the same system can be used at different reading and comprehension levels. The second board shows increased vocabulary to the first board. This must completely depend on the individual child and their level of sense making. As you can see, for a child who understands symbols, this step-by-step guide will clearly support to show the child the different steps of the activity. This would be used in combination with modelling what to do by the teacher. The symbol program used to create these symbol resources is Communicate in Print.

 

within-lesson schedule making slime asdteacher

 

 

 

Here is an example of a visual within-lesson schedule for a child who can read or is at the early stages of reading. The child can use a pencil to tick off each step as they work through the stages. This would also be used in conjunction with modelling from a teacher.

 

 

 

 

within-lesson visual schedule

 

 

Here is a within-lesson visual schedule for a child who reads and it helps to structure what he needs to do and where he needs to be.

 

 

 

sticky note within-task visual schedule

 

 

 

It can be as simple as using a sticky note and pen! (if the child can read)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 within-task visual schedule

 

 

Pairing a picture with words can give more meaning to a child. This is an example of the different movements in a dance sequence during a dance lesson.

 

 

 

 within-task visual schedule dance lesson mainstream class

Here is an example of a within-lesson visual schedule, drawn by the teacher in front of a mainstream class of 30 children. The visual shows the steps of the lesson. After showing the class, the teacher placed it on the wall and at different points during the lesson, some of the children went up to it to look at it. It clearly supported ALL of the children and is very inclusive.

 

As educators it is our job to ensure all pupils can access the learning. Visual within-lesson schedules can support ALL pupils, not just children with autism. Children are never to old to use pictures (I have had comments/ questions about this from teaching staff before), this really is not the case so do not stop using pictures if it is helping a child/ class. I prefer using pictures to words and can grasp meaning quicker myself! Keep it visual!

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Taking turns visual resource: make sure the children know whose turn it is!

Children with autism can find it difficult to predict what will or could happen next. It can therefore be challenging to understand who will be chosen to have a turn during a group or class activity. This can lead to anxious or ‘disruptive’ behaviour such as calling out, crying and shouting, because the child does not know who’s turn it is and most likely wants to have a turn themselves!

This can be easily avoided by using a visual resource to show the child exactly who’s turn it is, even before the activity has begun. This will therefore immediately decrease any anxiety or confusion about whose turn it is because the child/ children can clearly see.

Here are a few examples:

  • Photo board showing whose turn it is on what day.
  • A spinning dial with everyone’s photo and an arrow which can be spun randomly to point to whose turn it is.
  • A board with Velcro so that a photo can be placed on to show whose turn it is.

turn taking asdteacher

Make sure the resource is clear so the child/children know exactly whose turn it is!

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Personalised learning: Using children’s interests to motivate them!

It can be challenging to engage any child if they are not interested.

It can be even harder to engage children with autism if they are not motivated.

A child must want to take part in a teaching activity otherwise it will be difficult to engage and keep their attention in order for learning to take place.

One way of grabbing a child’s attention is to use that things they are already interested in during learning activities. You will have to be really creative in finding different ways of using the child’s interest! Here are some examples:

  • A child who loves messy play:

    Messy play can be used for so many different learning activities! Different language, sign and core vocabulary can by modelled and learnt (i.e. “let’s pour water in the bowl”), number concepts can be taught (i.e. counting, adding e.t.c with the addition of different objects), colours, scientific concepts (i.e. mixing/ changing materials), life skills such as cleaning hands (and bodies if it’s really messy!) and lots more!

messy play asdteacher

  • A child who loves specific cartoon or film characters:

    Use the characters in any way to get the child’s attention. Here are some photos of some characters used in learning activities. The children were learning concepts such as identifying and matching pictures and photos and learning the concept of ‘big’ and ‘small’.

matching pictures autismsize autism asdteacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

size autism asdteachersorting big and small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to see some of the ways that you have used a child’s interests in learning to keep them engaged and motivated! Post comments and photos below!

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Visual emotional regulation/ communication table supports for children with autism

In order to be ready to learn, children must be regulated and have their physical, sensory and emotional needs met. Let’s face it, a child is not going to learn anything if they are, for example:

  • Over stimulated
  • Under stimulated
  • Very tired/ hungry/ thirsty
  • Needs the toilet

If a child is experiencing any of the above, and they do not have a functional way of communicating it, learning is very unlikely to take place and there is high potential for challenging behaviour to occur.

A child must be regulated in order for any learning to take place!

 

It is important that we provide supports in order to teach/ give the children the tools to communicate these needs. Every child is different and will require very individual supports.

I have found that if I put detachable visual supports that are tailored to meet individuals needs directly on the table where the child will be sitting, the supports will therefore be in eye view of the child both giving a visual prompt/ reminder as well as being close enough to use as a communication tool (by either pointing at/ within reach to give to an adult/ encourage a child to verbally ask).

autism table visual supports

 

Some examples of visual supports on the tables in my classroom

One pupil has the following visual supports on his table:

  • ‘toilet’
  • ‘break’ (outside with adult supervision and a 3 minute timer before returning to the lesson)
  • ‘sit’ (prompt to sit if necessary)
  • ‘help’ (prompt to teach the concept of ‘help’ at the time a child needs help by showing the symbol/signing ‘help’ as well as a visual prompt to request ‘help’)

Another pupil is currently learning to use symbols to request, as well as learning to use the toilet. Having one clear ‘toilet’ symbol on her table enables a supporting adult to prompt her to go the toilet by showing her the symbol. After a month or so of prompting, she began to request the toilet herself by taking this symbol. I must say here, that was after weeks and weeks of her throwing the symbol off the table!! But it was just placed back on the table (quietly and calmly) and after a while she became used to the symbol being there.

 

communication table support

 

Another pupil has the following visual supports in front of him that support his emotion regulation:

  • ‘massage fingers’ (a mutual regulation activity that has a very calming effect on him and his busy fingers)
  • ‘pencil’ (a self regulating activity where he will hold or ‘flick’ a pencil, again this has a very calming effect on him)
  • ‘calm room’ (to request a quiet break from the lesson in a separate room next door with adult supervision and a 3 minute timer) before rejoining the lesson.

These visual supports help this particular child to communicate and emotionally regulate during lessons and throughout the day.

 

communication strip

 

Other pupils in the class with increasing verbal language have ‘core vocabulary boards’ on their table to support the teaching of core vocabulary and also to encourage the child to form verbal sentences. For more information on core vocabulary boards, click here

As you can see the examples above are very individual as each child has their own requirements. Other important factors to consider are:

  • ensure there is not too much visual information in the child’s eye view. This can be distracting and therefore prevent the purpose.
  • ensure the symbol/ picture/ photo/ object is clear, specific and meaningful to the child. There is no point in using a photo of a drink with other objects/people in the photo if you just want it to mean ‘drink’.
  • our pupils abilities and needs are forever changing and therefore the supports we provide should reflect this. The supports should be carefully observed in order to see if they are benefiting and enabling the child.
  • The aim is to ensure the child is emotionally regulated and ready to learn. Remember- a child will not learn if they are not regulated so this area should be an important focus.

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Teaching Resource Tuesday!

Teaching Resource Tuesday

 

Starting tomorrow on Tuesday the 29th of August, I will be posting a teaching resource idea every Tuesday!

When teaching children with autism and severe learning difficulties, we need to make sure that our approach and the resources we use are:

  • highly visual: to enhance and ensure understanding
  • multi-sensory: children learn in different ways so we therefore must provide resources to stimulate different senses
  • ‘to-the-point’: resources must be obvious and clutter-free to be easily understood by literal thinkers
  • engaging: in order to capture and keep children’s attention, resources need to be highly motivating and engaging!

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Welcome to ASD Teacher!

Hello and welcome to ASD Teacher! A website with strategies, resources and information about understanding and teaching children with autism (ASD = Autistic Spectrum Disorder).

Steph ASD Teacher

 

My name is Steph and I am a specialist teacher for children with autism based in London, U.K. I have taught in both mainstream and special school settings, as well as developed and lead an outreach service providing specialist support to mainstream schools to build their knowledge and skills in good autism practice, leading to better outcomes for children and staff.

 

I have taught many amazing children over the years who have inspired me to learn as much as possible about how to best teach children with autism, understand and interpret behaviour, support and develop communication and emotional regulation, ensure children are achieving and learning and most importantly- having fun!

Teachers do not get taught how to teach children with autism during teacher training and often do not feel skilled or equipped to teach a child/children in their class. Teaching assistants often do not have training at all. It is therefore very important that we share positive autism practice and understanding of the experience of a child with autism to ensure that children have the education they deserve that meets their abilities and needs.

Navigate this website by selecting one of the categories above to direct you to related posts.  Please feel free to get in touch with me via the contact page tab above or by the social media to the right.

I hope you find this website useful!
Steph

Understanding level of sense making – The ComFor assessment tool

the garden school comfor assessment

From left to right: Myself – Stephanie Reed, Jarymke Malijaars (Ku Leuven), Pat Quigley (The Garden Head of School) and Beth Junor (Specialist ASD Speech and Language Therapist).

I was very grateful to attend the ComFor training held at The Garden School in January. The ComFor assessment is a tool used to determine what would be the most appropriate form of augmentative communication for an individual with autism and little or no verbal language.

The ComFor Assessment

The assessment is a very methodical range of sorting activities which aim to identify what forms of supports an individual can make sense of in order to put in place the most appropriate augmentative communication intervention. These supports include objects, pictures, line drawings, pictograms, photos and written language symbols. The assessment uses different levels of sense making to understand where an individual may be functioning. These levels of sense making are:

  • Sensation: How babies experience the world and learn to react to their environment (i.e cry for attention)
  • Presentation: The individual begins to learn the function of communication and can communicate actively in the present context (i.e looking at, pointing to and babbling towards a cup)
  • Representation: When speech is used and a word represents an object (i.e. the word “drink” is used to ask for a drink). If an individual does not speak, but they learn that a picture, symbol or object refers to an action (i.e. to drink) then they have reached the level of representation
  • Metarepresentation: When language is used and understood beyond the literal meaning (i.e. a joke or sarcasm)

The ComFor assessment aims to ascertain which level of sense making an individual is operating at and therefore, which type of augmentative communication approach would be most suitable.

Below are photo examples of different forms of augmentative communication implemented after the ComFor Assessment at the appropriate level based on the individuals level of sense making (with photos taken from Met Andere Woorden – ‘In Other Words’)

Objects of Reference
Objects related to the activity are used to communicate what is coming next (i.e. bib for lunch time)

object of reference asd teacher comfor assessment

Assembling objects
The child below is able to take the object and place it into the awaiting object (i.e. cup in cup holder) in order to have a drink

assembling objects asd teacher

assembling objects asd teacher

Assembling pictograms
The pictogram will slot into the correct place (i.e. headphones where the headphones are used)

assembling pictogram comfor assessment

Matching pictograms
The child below is able to recognise the pictogram and then transition to and take part in the activity that is displayed in the pictogram (i.e lunch time):

matching pictogram asd teacher comfor assessment

The ComFor assessment is an extremely invaluable tool to decide on the most appropriate form of augmentative communication in order to ensure the individual understands and is able to communicate to their full potential. Further information on the ComFor assessment tool can be found at the offical ComFor website here as well as in the journal article ‘Making Sense in a Fragmentary World’ (Neons & Van Berckelaer-Onnes, 2004, Sage Publications and the National Autistic Society).

 

asdteacherclassroomstrategies

Autism Friendly Classroom Strategies

Me and my team of wonderful teaching assistants decided on the following important strategies for all of the team to follow in the classroom. The strategies are also essential for new people entering the classroom to know and understand. These strategies are therefore visible on the wall as you enter the classroom:

Classroom Strategies

 

sand timerEnsure transactional supports are in place to support the pupils at all times
Show sand timers and count down from 5 when an activity is finishing, refer pupils to their visual timetables (using the prompt “what’s next?” if necessary), use first and then boards, visuals (pictures, photos, symbols, objects).

 

verbal languageReduce verbal language, ensuring key words are modelled verbally and with sign
This is in order to ensure language is understood and also learnt. Further support key words with Makaton signs and visuals. Encourage communication in class and throughout the school with speech, sign, symbols and visuals.

 

time to process

Give pupils time to process information
This should be up to 10 seconds before repeating the instruction if necessary.

 

behaviourRemain calm and completely reduce verbal language when challenging behaviour occurs. Follow Behaviour Support Plans
Ensure the triggers and behaviour are logged in the ABC charts in the Behaviour Support Plan folder.

 

model firstAlways model/ show a pupil how to do something first before asking them or expecting them to do it

 

nameAddress the pupils by their name first
This is to ensure the pupils have your attention.

 

breakPrompt the pupil to have a break if they show signs of dysregulation (e.g. they seem over stimulated or are getting frustrated) in order to regulate their emotions before returning to class.

 

time keepingEnsure you have excellent time keeping
This will ensure the class runs smoothly and the pupils are not waiting.

 

Special iApps: exceptional apps for children with special needs including autism

special iapps

Special iApps is a variety of exceptional apps aimed to teach a range of concepts to learners with special needs, including autism.

The apps are clutter free and minimalistic, great for an easily distracted learner! There are no annoying in-app purchases or adverts that could be pressed at any time and take the learner away from the app. This enables the learner to use the app as independently as possible. Having a minimalistic design also ensures the learner is only focused on the task rather than any background images, menu bars of other distractions.

The Special iApps range was developed by the parents of a son with Down syndrome alongside parents, teachers, speech and language therapists, and other professionals.

 

The range of apps include:

Special Stories
Touch Apps
Special Words
Special Numbers
My 1st Signs
Match and Find

Special Stories

My favourite app in the range is ‘Special Stories’ which allows you to easily put together a customised story featuring photos or pictures and recordable sounds. I especially like using this app to make stories that feature the child and aims to teach something such as a step-by-step task or appropriate social behaviour, like a Social Story.

asd teacher special stories

 

The above photo is taken from a Social Story I put together for a child, although I’ve changed the child’s photo to my photo for the blog! It can be much more interesting for the learner if the story features photos of themselves or familiar people and objects.

The audio feature is great as well because it means you can record yourself reading the sentence, enabling the child to listen to the story independently. Or it may be that you record the child reading the story or saying a word. The choice is limitless!

This is a great and easy way to create motivating stories that aid the learning of reading skills, language skills and social skills.

Touch Apps

The Touch app range feature different early learning themes with each app focuses on one of the following themes:

  • colours
  • numbers
  • words
  • shapes
  • emotions
  • animals

special iapps wordsThe app shows a clear photo or picture. When the user touches the picture, the word is revealed and read aloud. When the screen is tapped again, the next picture appears. I like the pictures and the font used in the apps as they are very clear.

special iapps colours

For children who are at the early stages of learning language, whether they are verbal or non-verbal, these apps enable the user to hear the language and pair it with the image by just tapping. I love hearing one of my pupils repeat the words after tapping the picture!

 

Special Numbers

The Special Numbers app is a great maths teaching resource which covers themes including:

  • counting
  • matching numbers
  • ordering numbers
  • same or different?
  • how many?
  • matching numeral to quantity

The app allows you to edit the level for different abilities which has been really helpful in extending pupils learning and for also seeing progress! For example, on the ordering numbers activity, you can set the amount of numbers from 5 all the way up to 20.  This is definitely a brilliant app for teaching different early maths concepts with the ability to control the level of which the child is working on.

special numbers

Special Words

Special Words is a great app for teaching key vocabulary and early reading skills. The themes covered in the app include:

  • matching photo to photo
  • matching word to word
  • matching word to photo
  • matching photo to word

This is a motivating way for children to take part in activities involving these early reading skills. There is audio on all of the activities and therefore, the word is read aloud when the child successfully matches the photo or word. This enables the child to hear and learn the key words and also encourages the child to say the word aloud.

special words                                           special words 2

 

I highly recommend these apps for teaching children early reading and math skills, and not just for children with special needs, these apps are great for teaching all children with their clear images, audio and distraction free interface.

I am yet to try ‘My 1st Signs’ and ‘Match and Find’ but I look forward to using them!

Download the apps here:

app store            play store

Attention Autism stage 1: attention bucket video and comments from creator Gina Davies

After I completed the Attention Autism training last year, adopting the approach in my class has made a HUGE impact on the children’s attention and interaction levels, the staff teams skills in working as a group, and most importantly, it has been a whole lot of fun for everyone!

Attention Autism is a highly motivating and creative approach to building attention and early communication skills and I highly recommend any parent, carer, family member or anyone working with children with autism, to learn more about Attention Autism.

Attention Autism stage 1 preview video
Attention Autism

 Attention Autism

‘Attention Autism’ was developed by specialist speech and language therapist, Gina Davies.

The approach is based on:

  • An understanding of the ‘typical’ attention levels and development of infants
    • This enables us to think about where the child is at with their attention and communication development and what to work on next.
  • The common strengths of people with autism
    • We know that people with autism are visual learners and have good visual skills, therefore, we should use visuals and pictures to share a message, reduce anxiety and add structure. We must also ensure we demonstrate an activity first, as well as modelling how to take part in an activity. This aids the children’s understanding of what they need to do.
  • The characteristics of autism
    • Including difficulty with social communication, interaction, rigidity of thought and sensory processing differences.
  • The knowledge that successful communication is dynamic, motivating and fun!
    • As Gina says, we must “offer an irresistible invitation to learn”.

 

The Attention Autism activity structure is divided into 4 parts:

  • Stage 1: Attention bucket (to focus attention)
  • Stage 2: Attention builder (to sustain attention)
  • Stage 3: Interactive game (to shift attention)
  • Stage 4: Individual activities (to focus and sustain attention in a group, then transition shifting attention to individual activity and then refocus on the group)

 Attention bucket

 

Stage 1: Attention bucket

 The aims of the bucket session are to:

  • Focus attention on the leading adult and their agenda
  • Engage attention with enthusiasm
  • Enjoy the session!

 

Items needed:

  • Highly engaging toys and items that the children will (hopefully!) enjoy watching
  • A bucket with lid, to put the toys and items in
  • A pen and whiteboard for you to draw pictorial information to show the children what the next activity is

 

 The bucket session:

Here is a video of me and a group of 3 children and 2 supporting adults enjoying a bucket session.

 

 

Notes from the video

The session is begun by drawing a picture of the next activity on the whiteboard and introducing this to the group. Drawing the activity as well as saying it can aid a clearer understanding of the next task. I often find the children are really focused when I’m drawing as they want to know what is coming next!

After the pictures have been introduced, a song about the bucket can follow as another familiar prompt to start the session. Gina’s ‘I’ve got something in my bucket’ features in the video!

The leading adult then takes 1 object at a time from the bucket and models or plays with it in an enthusiastic and engaging way.

The leading adult can then model key words related to the toy or object. These key words can be then reinforced by the supporting adults and then, hopefully the children!

The children can only watch and not touch! This is important in order for the children to develop their focus and attention on the leading adult.

The supporting adults role is to model engagement and enthusiasm, as well as key words and language, and to ensure the children observe and not touch. If a child comes to take the item, the item can be put back in the bucket and the lid on. The supporting adult can direct the child back to their seat.

Some of the most favourite bucket toys for my class this year have been a rolling and laughing dog, a dancing pumpkin, the blowing ball, the long wizzee balloons, any wind up toys and a woopie cushion!

 

Comments from Attention Autism creator, Gina Davies

Gina DaviesIt’s a great privilege to be asked to contribute to this blog. It is easy to run training such as the Attention Autism Programme and give advice but it is putting the new strategies into action that requires courage and resilience. Here is a fabulous example. I love the enthusiasm and engagement Steph is modelling. She is truly offering an irresistible invitation to learn and the students are learning how to focus their attention and tolerate the adult led agenda at the same time. Steph makes it look easy but she is working as a part of a team with her support staff and this takes practice for everyone including the students. It is not about bribing the children to take part with promises of first this then a reward or obliging compliance, it is about creating curiosity and joy in shared good times that are packed with learning opportunities. It is a pleasure to see the work in action.

Gina

 

Find more information about Attention Autism training and Gina Davies at:

http://ginadavies.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/ginadaviesautism