ASD Tip of the Month

2016-2017 Archive

Avoid Power Struggles


We have all seen power struggles. They occur when two people are trying to dominate in one way or another - in school, home, and community. Children with autism spectrum disorder often engage in this type of behavior with the adults who teach and support them. If you find yourself involved in this type of struggle with your student or child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), realize that they most likely need to develop more appropriate problem solving, negotiation, self-regulation, and social competence skills. It is essential that those who approach situations from a "power angle", receive instruction immediately because those who use this type of behavior can experience serious difficulties later in life.

Visit the OCALI lending library for resources on this topic including:

Successful Problem Solving: For Students with high-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders by Kerry Mataya and Penney Owens

High-Functioning Autism and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Reducing Meltdowns by Brenda Myles Smith and Ruth Aspy

Provide Peer Supports


Many individuals with ASD want friends, but struggle with social communication skills, making it difficult to interact effectively with peers and form social relationships. Peer training and education can be vital to establishing a positive social environment for individuals with ASD. There are many strategies that involve training peers to be a "buddy" or "mentor" to enhance learning, academics and social skills for individuals with ASD. Some of these include Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention, Video Modeling and Peer Modeling. Having a peer support program to promote the inclusion of individuals with ASD not only improves outcomes for the students with ASD, but can also impact a number of outcomes for peers.

For great ideas on how to prepare for peer supports, check out the following OCALI Lending Library resources:

With Open Arms by Mary Schlieder
Peer Support Strategies for Improving All Students’ Social Lives and Learning by Carter
Peer Buddy Programs for Successful Secondary School Inclusion by Hughes
Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum by Wolfberg

Help Families to Select a Summer Camp


Summer is just weeks away, which means not only are we looking ahead to warmer days, but also to a favorite summer activity - camp! Overnight camps as well as day camp options are both great opportunities for a child to pursue a special interest, meet others, build skills, and have fun! Providing information in advance to both the camper and to the camp leaders is key. Talk with the leadership in advance about the schedule, expectations, accommodations, and activities. Give them information about your child and any supports that would be a good match for the camp environment such as a communication device, visual schedule, or warning time for transitions between activities. For the camper, write out details about camp that might be new or different such as the campground environment, activity highlights, life inside a cabin, and dining hall procedures. Ask some opened ended questions for the child to process and address such as special items he wants to pack (i.e. familiar objects, comfortable bedding, favorite shirt), which aspects of camp he is looking forward to, and any questions he has.

Visit the OCALI lending library for resources on this topic including:

Cabins, Canoes, and Campfires by Jill Hudson
Out and About by Amy Bixler Coffin and Jill Hudson
Top Ten Tips by Teresa Cardon

Support Handwriting through AT


Handwriting challenges are common for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and many other students with learning disabilities. Some struggle with motor challenges including applying appropriate grip and pressure to the writing utensil. Others struggle with getting started and organizing their thoughts. Still others find themselves writing and erasing continually because the words on the page are not “just right” and they inevitably end up with a hole in their paper from writing attempts gone wrong in their eyes. OCALI offers numerous resources for handwriting, allowing teachers to determine which factors impact a student’s ability to produce writing.

Visit the OCALI lending library for resources on this topic including:

Smartpen 3
Writing Kit
I Hate to Write by Cheryl Boucher

Other OCALI resources on this topic include:

SIFTS: Writing Domain - a tool to support teams through the AT feature matching process.
Writing: Motor Aspects - WATI - Part I - a new module in ATIM.

Reflect, Refresh, Recharge


The end of the school year is a time to reflect, refresh and recharge. To make the most of your summer, reflect on all of the positive interactions that occurred between you and your students. Let go of those 'grrr' moments and reflect on your favorite student moments. Refresh your mind during the summer. Read a good book. Enjoy family and friends. Recharge your body and mind by participating in favorite (or new) physical and social activities. Give to yourself. Recharging yourself during the summer months will support you as you prepare for another school year and teaching students with diverse needs.

Emphasize Predictability and Routines


What can make your life as a teacher easier, save time in the school day, help your students be ready to learn, and decrease unwanted behaviors? One answer is teaching routines to increase predictability! For all students, especially those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and executive dysfunction, routines are invaluable and necessary. Spending time at the beginning of the school year teaching the variety of routines that happen daily in your classroom will save time throughout the year. For example, routines may be embedded at the beginning/ending of the day, during lunchtime and recess, while lining up, or transitioning to and from activities. Providing a checklist for these routines, with picture supports as needed, helps to teach and maintain the routines. Remember, predictability and routines are your friend!

Visit the OCALI lending library for resources on this topic including:
You're Going to Love this Kid by Kluth
Simple Strategies that Work by Myles
Starting Points by Hudson and Myles
Difficult Moments for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Myles

Support Communication with AAC


Communication challenges are common for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Often times, parents and caregivers are concerned that use of an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device may prevent speech development. However, research has proven the opposite. Some students benefit from the instantaneous feedback provided by a voice output device which provides constant modeling of spoken words, phrases and sentences. For those who have limited verbal skills or who struggle with typical communication exchanges, an AAC system may help. AAC encompasses a wide range of supports from no-tech and low-tech options such as sign language and picture symbols to high-tech speech generating devices.

To learn more about AAC, visit the following OCALI resources: AT and AEM Center, Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) and OCALI Lending Library, which includes approximately 50 AAC devices and numerous books.

In addition, explore the OCALI online feature-matching tool, SIFTS, located on the AT and AEM Center and which includes a comprehensive domain about communication. Use this tool to identify necessary features of an AAC device.

Support Executive Function Skills


Do you have a student with autism spectrum disorder who is challenged with being organized, taking notes, and having needed materials? Executive dysfunction may be the cause. Executive function (EF) skills are cognitive processes that include organizing, initiating, goal setting, shifting attention, and self-monitoring. To support EF self-management skills, try visual supports such as checklists, scales, and graphic organizers. For EF time-management skills, explore the use of timers, schedules, and calendars. Challenges with information management can be helped with study guides, electronic file systems, dictation programs, and rubrics. And finally, materials management skills can be built with checklists, color-coding, email, and photo supports.

Visit the OCALI lending library for resources on this topic including:


Prepare for a Fun Holiday Season


December brings not only the holidays but extended time that children are at home. If you are traveling during the holidays or just staying home with family, prepare your child by providing visual supports for any new event. Visual supports may include a calendar of daily events, a schedule for the actual holiday, photographs of who will be involved, or a picture of the location where the event will take place. And if traveling, it's a good idea to bring things to do in the car or on a plane. Don't forget to provide choices for meals, seating and activities, as well as a home base area if time away from the celebration is needed.

For great ideas on how to prepare for travel, check out the following OCALI Lending Library resources:

Top Ten Tips by Teresa Cardon
Out and About: Preparing Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Participate in Their Communities by Bixler Coffin and Jill Hudson
Party Planning for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum by Kate Reynolds