Before I continue on the next stage of Our Journey I just want to post a picture of an example of the schedule I've mentioned in my previous posts. I couldn't do one myself as I no longer have any activity pictures etc to take a photo of. I cleared out everything in the post-flood clearout! It really brings home the progress made when I can quite happily throw that stuff out! Anyway this picture appears courtesy of and the extra supervisor at their Special School. Younger children will need a picture of each item to accompany the text. This really is a great way of keeping them on task.
Also, see here for that wonderful description I mentioned last time regarding Sensory Integration and Autism. Told ya no-one does it better!
OK, after that little detour we're back on the road again! I'm not sure if I'm going the right way about all of this. My intention is to use our situation to show how Integration in a Mainstream School can work. I'm trying to find the balance between NOT boring you by going into too much detail and yet give as much info as I can. If just one person reads this and gets one thing out of it then it's worth it! Any input would be appreciated!!
So, we'll move on and talk about Behaviour in the Classroom....
There are a lot of issues that will affect the ASD child's behaviour in the classroom. From what I've observed over the past few years, these issues will vary from child to child. However most issues will apply to all of them....they just display it to a different level. Here's some examples:
Self-regulation: If they feel angry or their "engine" is high or low, for whatever reason, they find it difficult (or impossible) to get themselves out of it.
We've received a lot of help on this one and it's still an area of ongoing concern...although huge progress has been made. The Clinical team did the programme with him and it was great. It taught him how to recognise how he was feeling. Unfortunately it was usually too late... he can go from being perfectly fine to really angry in 2 seconds flat!
So they then moved on to the "Incredible 5 Point Scale" which is more detailed then the above programme. All the information is available in the book of the same name. It's very good I think, but probably more useful for older children. It deals with a huge range of issues. Getting angry, speaking in loud voices etc. The child learns to rate how they feel on a scale from 1 to 5. They detail how it feels to be at a 1 or 2 etc and then they suggest themselves what they might do to get themselves back to a 1. They can "tell an adult" or use the relaxation techniques, for example. The plan is to help them learn to self-regulate themselves! Very empowering for them as they get older. This is a programme I think we need to go back to!! You tend to start these programmes and it's wonderful, and then you stop doing them! TBH there's so much to keep up with...what with homework and resource work etc, etc!
This issue in the classroom, for us, is usually dealt with by his SNA. And what a wonderful SNA she is too! She'll take him to her desk and try to calm him down, or take him out of the room if neccessary. Snuggles has yet to tell us when he's STARTING to feel angry...he just gets angry.
An other way to help them calm down is give them "hand fidgets". These are just small things they can discreetly have in their pocket or schoolbag. We have a flour-filled small balloon and a squidgy ball that he can squeeze to calm himself. He likes blue tac so he uses that also. Another great idea is to put a piece of velcro under the table so he can play with it just enough to calm him down or keep him sitting at the desk to stay focused. Also they can use a "move 'n' sit" cushion. We've only just sent our one in to school. You see, I was afraid he would stand out because of it. But, I've been informed there are quite a few in the class (undiagnosed!) who would benefit!! So it's gone in. Snuggles had to explain the cushion to the whole class and they all got to try it for 10 minutes! Now it's just part of the classroom.
One of the most important things I've learnt was through the Marte Meo programme when I was advised to "name" how he's feeling like "I know you feel angry right now but it's NOT OK to push/hit/kick (choose relevant option!) that little boy"! I found that really helpful. He feels someone understands him and then we can talk about the issue.
Change of Routine: This really sets Snuggles off! He's used to the routine...1st we do Maths, then English or whatever. Then teacher does something new, lets say she does a drama thing. Or anything that involves movement. That's it, he's "high"! Giddy messing, shouting up "bold" words, sticking pencils up his nose, pulling faces etc, etc!. Most kids with Autism would probably display their dissatisfaction in a different way. They might get really upset at the change of schedule... but you'll be in no doubt what's upset them! But some, like Snuggles display it through giddy/hyper behaviour. They appear to be "bold" and that gets them in trouble.
Returning to the classroom after a Resource session (even though that's part of his routine) is also hard. He's fine at the session but when he gets back in to the class he's "high" and gets real giddy and distracts his classmates.
Also, P.E. makes him very giddy. Again, if the activity involves movement he's off! He gets into trouble a lot in P.E. The advice from the O.T. and S.L.T. is, as he has Auditory Processing Disorder (see below) he learns best with visual supports. He should sit near the P.E. teacher so he can "see" what she means. Same applies in the classroom...he should sit near the teacher. Not in the back row! Believe it or not that was tried! Didn't work! Told them it wouldn't!!
By the way Teacher (this year and last) likes to move the children around every so often. That was hard for snuggles at first but it's worked out really well. He accepts the change now.
Auditory Processing: Again, another very important thing I learnt, just recently, is that as Snuggles (like most kids on the spectrum) has Auditory Processing Disorder it's VERY hard for him to stay still and behave like the others ALL day. Basically his head is wrecked from trying to process the many instructions given to him, working through background noise etc. This is yet another reason for high or giddy behaviour.
The Teacher MUST give the ASD kid the time to process the question she/he's asked so that the child can answer. Even if that means repeating the question... a number of times. He's not ALWAYS ignoring you and not answering! If you give him a 3 part instruction it's likely he'll just do the last one. It's best to reduce your language too. I've an awful habit of putting unnecessary words in instructions I give him! Why go all around the houses confusing the child when a simple "Go upstairs, brush teeth, downstairs put shoes on " will do! No embellishments AT ALL. Now, I'll have to say it 3 times and he will ask "What's next mum" but I don't get mad at him anymore 'cos I understand.
Can you just imagine how hard it is for a child to be integrating so well and yet have to stand up and do spelling and maths test every Friday?? With Auditory Processing issues?? Imagine Maths Tables Kings and Queens, where they have to stand up and answer the sum QUICKLY. If you get it wrong you sit down. The one left standing is King or Queen. Then imagine the child also has an issue over being first at everything! God, that was a nightmare. I hated that one SO much. That was in 2nd Class. The weekly tests still continue though...but I think they just write down the answers now!
Organisational Skills: I think I've concentrated so much on just getting to where we are today that I'm only now realising how much we need to work on this area. He, like most ASD kids, has poor organisational skills. Organising his desk for example , taking out the necessary books. This can get him into trouble in the classroom as the others are well started and he will appear like he couldn't be arsed! Which is probably true a lot of the time!!
He's also very disorganised for homework...regularly leaves required books in school etc. I usually lay out the books for him to start. I HAVE to stop doing that!! A very good tip I was given just recently was to simply give him a starting point so, one VERY busy evening I just told him "do your homework". I must have said it 5 times and I was getting mad at him....'cos he looked like he couldn't be arsed. Then I remembered the tip and I said "take your homework journal out, see what first piece of homework is". Magic....worked like a treat!
But you can see how easy it is for the child to be misunderstood.
So these are the issues that affect Snuggles and some things that can be done to help him. There are a number of classroom activities that can help too. They are everday "jobs" that can be given to the ASD child and no-one's any the wiser! Carrying heavy loads or pushing things helps calm them so one of Snuggles jobs is to take the chairs off the desks or the baskets down, wipe the blackboard...vigorously! We were also advised to allow him regular movement breaks. A folder needs delivering to the office??? There ya go Snugs...your job!
And what if these don't work?? ........
This is a LONG post I know, but this ties in with the above so I'll keep going!
The class Teacher really has a tough job trying to integrate the ASD child in her class and dealing with all the above. She/he most likely has at least 29 others in the class, some of whom will have undiagnosed issues. Snuggles ain't the only one going to resource I can tell ya!
Teacher has to keep control ...... the ASD child has to learn what's acceptable behaviour. The main problem I have in this area is that while I vehemently believe that the child MUST understand WHY he's being punished sometimes I've had to accept he just has to be punished regardless. Other children in the class get upset if one child gets away with doing something they can't. If he's punished enough times over an issue he doesn't understand he'll simply learn not to do it again because he gets in trouble, without understanding why what he did was wrong. However, it is preferable that he understand why he shouldn't repeat the offending behaviour. This is where a Social Story can work in tandem with punishment.
It is important that the punishment bears a fair relation to the "crime" and that it happens pretty soon after the misdemeanor! I've heard some awful stories about kids having to miss a Christmas Recital, for example, over a misdemeanor they didn't even understand. Snuggles has , once or twice, had to skip playing in the yard the day after a misdemeanor. That was really tough on him . He just sat with SNA and cried and screamed for 30 mins.
We're in 3rd class now so I've a bit of experience behind me. I see what works and I see the wonderful, ensightful, willing to listen Teachers that we've been blessed with. We've had Mr K in 1st class, his last year as he retired then followed by another well established teacher in 2nd class. This year we have a Teacher straight out of training college. That worried me a bit. No need though...she's great. All of them open to suggestions but this one has great ideas. Here's what's working for us:
Class Rules: There's a list of rules. For example:
We work hard and do not waste time
We are gentle and do not hurt others
We must always talk nicely to teacher and not
The last one was included specifically for Snuggles (with accompanying Social Story) as he regularly says shut up and answers back.
Class rules are read out every so often and then SNA ( and me at home....God, I must do that soon!) revises them with Snugs as necc.
Warning Cards: the next step in the class is actually Smiley face/Sandtimer but SLT and Psychologist suggested that he gets 1 or 2 warnings first so Orange and Red cards introduced to the whole class. So if he misbehaves he's alerted to the relevant class rule and he gets an orange card or two then it's a red card. I have some for home too!
Smiley face/Sandtimer: At the end of the day (most days) teacher asks each child what they deserve. Whether or not they got a red card that day is a big hint! This teaches them honesty and responsibility in that they have to own up to their behaviour. Can be very problematic for us, but it's working.
Goldentime: The result of the above is 30 mins fun activity on a Friday afternoon. You sit out for just 5 mins if you have a sandtimer.
Check Marks: Introduced by yours truly!! When ALL the above wasn't working recently I suggested this as it's worked at home. I feel that smiley faces are great but the sandtimer is a negative. Lets go back to basics and praise the positive. So every hour or so he gets a checkmark if earned. They discuss it though and he has owned up to not deserving it so we're back on track! Well a checkmark is more likely to lead to a smiley face than a sandtimer isn't it?!!
Pupil of the Week: Oh this one is GREAT! When a child is finding things difficult but is working really hard on changing things he/she gets "praised"! Once a week, in Assembly a child from each class is deemed (by class teacher) to be pupil of the week. Snuggles was pupil of the week just before Christmas for "keeping his basket tidy" (organisational skills) and AGAIN last week for trying to "keep calm and being honest" (self regulation and taking responsibility - thanks to check marks I believe!)!! He was so thrilled with himself! They get called up to the stage to get their certificate and the MUCH coveted prize of a Homework Pass! Well done Snuggles!
Phew ........ all done for now! Apologies for the long post, but I had to do these two together. I've done my best to double check the links on this so hopefully they're working OK!
Please stay tuned for more on Academics, Interaction with Others and Resource etc... XX J