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

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

 

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

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

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