How to help support children with autism manage the changes leading up to Christmas

The winter holiday season can be one of the most challenging times of the year for children with autism.

There are all sorts of anxiety provoking, unpredictable changes to usual daily life in the lead up to Christmas such as:

 

  • changes to the environment at home, school and everywhere else with bright lights and decorations
  • people wearing different clothes such as Christmas related costumes and outfits
  • changes to school routine such as Christmas play rehearsals, outings and parties
  • family visits and trips
  • people acting different because they are excited about the holidays or just too cold because of the weather!
  • presents (what is in that box!?)

 

In order to prepare for these changes, it can help to have a calendar which includes any upcoming events and changes. This is so the child can see when the events will take place. This can be made in any way that makes sense to the child- for example a written or picture calendar.

Here is an example made in Microsoft Word:

 

Christmas holiday calendar ASD Teacher

 

It is good practice to ensure that the calendar is marked off by the child each day to make it clear to them which day it is and what may be happening on the next day. This can be done by ticking or marking the day with a pen.

It is also important to make sure the school holidays are marked on the calendar, or to have a separate school holiday countdown calendar. This is to aid the transition between school and the holidays and to make it clear how many days are left in the holiday.

 

Christmas Holiday Countdown ASD Teacher

 

What a wonderful time of the year! Enjoy!

Christmas Songs Choice Board asdteacher.com

Interactive Christmas Songs Choice Board

I love Christmas songs!!

Christmas Songs asdteacher.com

 

Here is a free interactive PowerPoint choice board that links straight to Christmas songs on YouTube. When the image is pressed, it opens the video on YouTube. This allows the child/ children to make a choice from a selection of songs. This can be great in a class or group setting on an interactive whiteboard or at home on a computer or laptop. The 6 songs featured on this resource are favourites of some of the young children I have taught and they are:

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
Dancing Christmas Tree
Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
Jingle Bells (Singing Hands)
5 Little Elves
Winter Wonderland

The images and links can easily be changed on PowerPoint to insert your children’s favourite songs by changing the ‘hyperlink’.

Christmas Songs Choice Board asdteacher.com

 

I always love to do some singing at some point in the day and the children really enjoy singing with multi-sensory resources, objects and pictures!

 

Download the Interactive Christmas Songs Choice Board

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

role play shopping asd teacher

Role play shopping game with free coin visual supports

 

Role play shopping can be a real fun way of learning about coins as well as practicing counting, all with the inclusion of motivating toys and items!

 

Items needed:

  1. Firstly, find some toys or items that the child will be really motivated by, anything from bubbles, to cars, to balls to their favourite snack item.
  2. Label them with a price, an amount that the child can count to.
  3. Make some coin visual supports to help the child learn the coins and how much they amount to. Visual supports can be removed once the child has learnt the coin. Download the coin visuals below (in word.doc format). They will last longer if they are laminated, but this is not essential.

coin-visuals-1-asd-teacher

Download coin visual supports 1

Coin visual supports 2 asdteacher.com

Download coin visual supports 2

4. Find some coins and put them in a little purse, wallet or money box.

5. A toy till can always be fun but not essential

 

The game:

Place the items in view, the child can choose an item by their preferred means of communication; saying the items name, forming a symbol sentence, signing or choosing a symbol/ photo.

Adult to then show how much money the item costs via the label on the item.

Child to use the visual support to help find the correct coins. Support the child to count if necessary. Gradually reduce the support, encouraging the child to count as independently as possible.

The child can then give the adult the coins in exchange for the chosen item.

Have fun!

role play shopping asd teacher

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

 

the garden school

The Garden School – A highly specialist school for children with autism

The Garden School is a highly specialist school for children aged 4 – 16 years with autism as well as severe learning difficulties, located in the London borough of Hackney in the U.K.

The Garden uses a child-centred approach to teaching and learning. A wide range of evidence based interventions and approaches to teaching are used across the school.

There is a lot that can be learnt from their video ‘Step into The Garden’; from the highly personalised learning, to ensuring engaging and exciting teaching, to the incredible and important family support, to the accessibility of visual supports that aid communication, transitions and learning.

 

Please take 7 minutes to ‘Step into The Garden’…

the garden school autism hackney

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Teaching personal hygiene to children with autism – free visual story

Management of personal hygiene is a very important skill for all children to learn in order to grow and develop independence.

 

Daily activities as part of a routine

As a teacher of children with autism, personal hygiene tasks are a high priority on the school daily timetable. Dedicating time to personal hygiene activities as part of a routine, every day, is a good method of ensuring the children have regular time to learn these important skills. These activities can include:

  • washing hands (before and after eating, after messy lessons)
  • getting dressed and undressed (for exercise or P.E.)
  • brushing teeth (after lunch)
  • washing face (after brushing teeth)
  • using the shower (after swimming)
  • washing under armpits and using deodorant (I have taught this as part of a lesson and then implemented time to wash under arms in the afternoon – (best taught in the summer when the weathers warmer if you live in the UK!!)

 

Model how to do it

Show the children how to do it – brush your teeth before and whilst the child is brushing their teeth to show how it is done. Wash your hands to show the child how to wash theirs. Always have a set of your own equipment ready to model! Children can learn a lot faster by seeing you do it.

 

Use visual support

Here is a visual lesson-starter I made for an introductory lesson on washing armpits and using deodorant. Each picture is a slide on ‘Powerpoint’.

teaching hygiene autism asd teacher

 

I either modelled the steps (I modelled washing my armpits by wearing a vest and using a large bowl and flannel) or acted out (I definitely couldn’t model being in the bath!).  I then printed it and made it into a ‘Social Story’ book that the children could look at another time.

 

You can download the powerpoint ‘I need to keep my body clean’ story for free > here.

 

Visual supports to aid the structure of an activity can be very helpful for a child with autism; in understanding what is expected, in setting a routine and knowing when the activity has finished. Here is an example of visual structure for putting shoes and clothing on just before leaving home to go to school.

 

I know a child who currently uses this independently (moving the symbol to the red side when he has completed the task). A few months ago, his parents were both physically helping him and having to verbally prompt him to do each of these steps. He has now learnt to do this independently and the whole process takes less time! Brilliant result!

 

Shoes-on schedule

Do feel free to share any strategies and resources you use that work well!

 

Learn more about visual structure > here or visual timetables > here

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Teaching the concept of ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ – modelling with symbols on lolly sticks!

The abstract concept of ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ can be difficult for children with autism to understand. Therefore, the concept of ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ often needs to be taught explicitly, and an effective way (from my experience) to do this is by modelling the language at the exact time the child is either clearly liking or disliking something.

 

Model language: for example “Steph likes tomatoes” or “Steph doesn’t like the swing”

 

Verbal language can be reinforced and emphasised using sign and symbol. A warm mention of  The Garden School in Hackney where we put ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ symbols on lolly sticks which makes a great easily accessible resource! One side has ‘like’ on and the other side has ‘don’t like’ on, therefore making it quick and easy to change as required.

 

like and don't like lolly sticks

 

In my classroom I would have a pouch on the side of my cupboard which was easily accessible to me at any time, so in the right moment (it can happen anytime!) I could quickly grab the ‘like/ don’t like lolly stick’ and show it to the child whilst they are obviously enjoying/ disliking something.

 

like and don't like lolly sticks

 

If the child is verbal, they are likely to repeat the language. I have even had a child get up from her table and walk to the pouch to take the lolly stick and tell me she did not like something, brilliant! She then began using the language ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ independently herself.

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

Are you always reminding a child to use a ‘finger space’ when writing? Use a visual support! (free resource)

Remembering to leave a space between words when writing can sometimes be tricky for children to remember.

 

A visual support can often help to remind a child to leave a space between words, if it is in the eye view such as on their table. A visual support will also encourage a child to leave a space by themselves rather than becoming reliant on an adult telling them to leave a space.

 

I like using ‘finger space’ visual supports that are shaped like a finger. As well as acting as a visual reminder, the child can also place it on their work and use it as a physical measurement, so placing it after a word and then starting the next word after the finger.

 

finger space visual support asdteacher.com

 

Click here to download a free visual finger space resource. Simply print, cut out and ensure the child knows what it means by showing them how to use it. Make sure the visual support is in the child’s eye view when writing and encourage independency by enabling the child/children to get it themselves.

 

Another more individual ‘finger space’ visual support idea is to use a photo or photocopy of the child’s hand. This will give the child ownership of the visual resource as it is their own hand!

 

finger space visual support asdteacher.com

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

The importance of making the use of objects clear for children with autism

It can sometimes be easy to overlook that not every child knows what to do with certain objects.

Children with autism find generalising learning difficult and therefore if they learn how to do something in one context, this does not necessarily mean they will know how to or have the desire to do it in a different context. For example, a child may learn to place blocks on top of each other with their Dad at home but will not necessarily know how to build in a different context, for example with Lego at school.

For this reason, it is important to ensure that children know what to do with objects before expecting them to use them in the way intended.

It is important to remember to:

  • Always model first (e.g. show the child how to do it e.g. cutting out a desired shape with scissors in front of them so they can see)
  • Use visuals to break down the steps in the activity and make this clear (e.g. visual instructions of what to do with the Duplo blocks)

clear visual instructions asdteacher

 

  • Use visuals to show the desired result of the objects

desired end result visual asdteacher

 

desired-end-result-visual-asdteacher-2

 

Remember, make it clear to the child what it is you are expecting them to do!

 

Teaching Resource Tuesday

 

Preparing to go on an aeroplane! An editable personalised ‘Social Story’

New or unfamiliar experiences can be daunting for anyone.

This is especially true for a child with autism who has difficulty predicting what could happen and generalising knowledge and experiences. Going to a new place can therefore be scary and provoke a lot of anxiety. This is why preparing in advance as much as possible is extremely important and can really help a child to understand where they are going and what they will be going to do. Preparing for new experiences can take the form of:

  • Looking at photos (i.e. looking at photos of a park before visiting the park)
  • Looking at books with pictures of the place or experience (i.e. looking at or reading a picture book about the Zoo before going to the zoo)
  • Watching videos of the place or experience (i.e. watching a video of a supermarket before going to the supermarket)
  • Touching or using objects related to the experience or place (i.e. using a toy stethoscope before going to the doctor)

With access to the internet or a camera, it is can be easy to create a very personalised photo story to show pictures and give a timeline of events to aid a child’s understanding of a new event or experience. These can then be looked at on the computer (or other devise) or printed out to make a book.

Teachers: photo stories can be made specifically for an individual pupil or directed towards the whole class or group and viewed on the interactive whiteboard.

Parents: photo stories can be looked at anywhere! they can even be taken when going to the experience or place and referred to as the event is happening to show what will be coming next.

personalised photo story asdteacherPersonalised photo story asdteacher

Click here to download an editable story about going on an aeroplane. Photos and text should be changed to suit individual needs. Use specific photos to make the message clear. If you are going to Gatwick airport in London, then use a photo of Gatwick airport and not another airport!

Teaching Resource Tuesday