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 photo 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

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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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.