Individuals with ASD have limitless potential. Expect great things from them because they are more likely to achieve at that level. Individuals with ASD can be successful at school, work, home and in the community when we work together to match the individual's skills to tasks and provide the necessary instruction and supports when a difference between the two exists. Use "when" instead of "if" and "will" instead of "hope". Never put a limit on what someone can achieve!
Visit the OCALI lending library for resources about presuming competence including, Beyond Access Model: Promoting Membership, Participation and Learning for Students with Disabilities by Jorgensen, McSheehan, Sonnenmeier, and Miranda.
Focus on Independence
The ultimate goal for anyone supporting an individual with ASD is to ensure that the individual is independent. Stand back and don’t hover. Observe and see what the individual can do for herself. Be patient and give the individual time to complete a task or even attempt the task before providing support. Providing some distance between you and the student can encourage her to independently begin and complete an activity or steps of the activity, build social relationships and self-confidence.
To learn about strategies that support building independence, visit the OCALI lending library resources including Building Independence: How to Create and Use Structured Work Systems by Reeve.
Remember Wait Time
Wait time is essential for individuals with ASD. Allow individuals the time to process information and prepare a response or action before repeating/rephrasing the question or directive. Consider the auditory processing speed of a person with ASD as that of a computer... when you repeatedly hit the command button on a computer it does not make it go any faster, it actually slows down the process. Thus, commit to the 10 second rule and give an individual at least 10 seconds to respond before intervening.
Prime for Holiday Events!
December is a month filled with parties, holiday concerts and other special events. Such activities can be overwhelming for anyone, especially for an individual with ASD. Introduce the activity or event to the individual before it actually occurs. This is called priming. Priming lets him know about the specifics of the activity or event before it happens and what to expect. This intervention helps to make the activity or event more predictable and less stressful for everyone. To learn more about priming, visit the OCALI lending library for resources, such as Asperger Syndrome and the Elementary School Experience: Practical Solutions for Academic and Social Difficulties by Susan Thompson Moore.
Support Sensory Needs
Many individuals with ASD have difficulty processing information from the environment through the different senses- touch, smell, sight, sound, taste, proprioception, vestibular, and interoception. Some are over-sensitive to certain sensations, others may be under-sensitive, and still others may have a combination of over- and under-sensitivities. Individuals may engage in certain behaviors or avoid certain activities or situations due to their sensory differences. Understanding the sensory needs of individuals you support is critical as they impact learning, social interactions, attention, basically everything. Consult with an occupational therapist to determine appropriate interventions.
To learn more about sensory differences, visit the Sensory Differences Autism Internet Module or visit the OCALI lending library resources including A Buffet of Sensory Interventions: Solutions for Middle and High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Culp.
Teach the Hidden Curriculum
Individuals with ASD do not always incidentally understand the hidden curriculum needed to be successful in school and community environments. The hidden curriculum includes unstated rules, expectations, customs, slang, metaphors, etc. It often includes the social cues that most people can learn through observation or subtle hints, such as body language. The social challenges of individuals with ASD contribute to the difficulty of understanding the hidden curriculum. Provide direct instruction to assist in acquiring skills. Equip yourself with strategies to help them make sense of the hidden curriculum.
To learn more about the Hidden Curriculum, visit the OCALI lending library resources including Hidden Curriculum: The Practical Solutions for Understanding the Unstated Rules in Social Situations by Myles.
Make Time for Relaxation
Incorporating relaxation times throughout the day can be very beneficial for individuals with ASD. “Time away” from the stressors of the classroom, work setting or a community event may reduce anxiety, support a behavioral concern and provide a period of quiet time and respite. Home base, a “chill zone” or designated safe place can serve as a relaxation area. It is designed to be a safe place, free from stress, to calm, take a break, or recover.
To learn more about home base, visit the Home Base Autism Internet Module.
Consider Behavior as Communication
For individuals with ASD behavior may be a way to communicate when no other way exists at that moment in time. They may be communicating anxiety, frustration, a want or need, sensory overload, pain, illness or something else. When behavioral concerns arise, conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA). An FBA can be helpful in figuring out whey the behavior might be happening and how to build a plan to address the individual's needs and change the behavior.
To learn more about FBA's, visit the Functional Behavior Assessment Autism Internet Module.
Start Where You Want to End
Think Backwards Planning! The first step to transition planning (that must occur no later than age 14) is to select adult outcomes that the youth wishes to achieve. When you know the goal... the ADULT goal, you can then start to plan backwards. What needs to happen each year to achieve that goal? What skills need to be developed? What services need to be provided? What course of study is necessary? Of course these goals will be refined as the youth ages, but using the adult goal as the measuring stick keeps you on target. Remember, you don't have to wait until 14 years old to start thinking transition... start when the child is young! To learn more about transition planning, visit OCALI's Lifespan Transition Center.
Traveling over the Summer
Summer brings family vacations, day trips and exploring new sites. Preparation is key! When possible, use photographs, brochures, pamphlets, etc. to help prepare your child for the new adventure. Depending on where and how you are traveling, build a "travel bag" of items for the trip, such as sensory items, visual supports, DVD's/iPod, books, food, etc. If traveling by plane, contact the airline ahead of time and ask if you and your child can do a dry-run visit to the airport and board an airplane. Plan ahead! For great ideas on how to prepare for travel, check out Top Ten Tips: A Survival Guide for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum by Cardon from the OCALI lending library.