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

Every child loves songs! Here is a free interactive song choice board

Here is a free interactive choice board that links straight to songs on YouTube. The songs are some favourites of primary aged children I have taught. These interactive choice boards are very easy to make in a program such as PowerPoint by creating ‘hyperlinks’ to a web page.

Interactive singing choice board

A child can choose a song by clicking on the picture. This can be great in a class or group setting on an interactive whiteboard or at home on a computer or laptop.

Click here to download the interactive song choice board!

Teaching Resource Tuesday

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