Encouraging Emotional Self-Regulation for Aspergers Youth in the Classroom: Implementing the Feelings Chart

 Now that you have created a very personalized feelings chart for a person with Asperger’s, it is time to implement the strategy so that it is effective in both preventing the escalation of problem behaviors, and deescalating a situation once it has occurred.
Feelings Chart

A key feature to this, and almost any other strategy, is to teach and review it when the individual is calm and there is no problem at the moment.  These conditions help to ensure that the brain is at its best, most rational thinking, and that the strategy is not associated with a negative or difficult situation.

The start of the day is usually a good time to use the feelings chart as the person checks in to the school routine.

Unless there has been a morning problem at home or on the bus, this is usually a time where there is a clean slate from which to build. Depending on the grade level, the feelings chart may be posted as a large visual guide of feelings, or as a personal tool in a notebook, or both. The calming activities may be reviewed along with some role-playing.

By using the feelings chart first thing in the morning, the teacher can assess where the students are in their feelings and respond accordingly.

Responses may include celebrating and reinforcing positive feelings, and offering support to those who indicate a problem is developing. If there is a problem, then help the student refer to the predetermined calming activities and identify which holds the most promise for resolving the situation.

Throughout the day look for opportunities to use the feelings chart to check-in, and prevent possible difficulties.

My experience has been that on a scale of 1-5 [with 1 being very calm and happy], once a student has escalated to a 4 or a 5, it becomes much more difficult to de-escalate.  Therefore, it is critical to intervene when students are at a 3 in order to increase the likelihood that they will be able to calm down.

The feelings chart may also be used to debrief the day at the end of school. The chart may facilitate a conversation about what worked, what didn’t, and how to make a better plan for the next day. And remember to refer to the feelings chart when the student is calm and happy. The more we celebrate those moments, the more we focus on good times and positive energy.

by Lisa Rogers

Using a Checklist & Self Evaluation to Avoid Behavioral Difficulties

Combo Strategies for Academic Tasks

Since the inception of this blog, we have explored a variety of specific strategies. I encourage all educators and parents to be creative, and mix and match to best meet the individual needs of your child and/or student. In a previous blog, we learned that mini-maps can help to prevent behavioral difficulties related to academic tasks.

Boy doing homework

Often, teachers note that a common antecedent or trigger to behavioral difficulties is the presentation of academic tasks.

The behaviors can range from a verbal protest to a meltdown when students feel overwhelmed by school work. The first question to ask, of course, is what is there about the work that makes the student feel so overwhelmed? Does the page look too busy? Is too much handwriting involved? Are there too many problems? Is it too difficult or too easy?

Understanding Special Interests and Aspergers

How to find the balance and productively use them at home and in class

Q:Dear Lisa,

“I have a son diagnosed with moderate to high-Functioning Autism who is currently enrolled in public Middle School. Though he is going through a natural teenage rebellion, I feel his autism is playing a huge role in the challenges he (and we, his parents) is currently facing. He struggles to communicate and he has poor receptive language, so even though he is very verbal- a lot of times he misunderstands. And then he misinterprets and he gets very angry.

He has been on meds since he was 5 to maintain mood. In the last few months he has become increasingly consumed with the computer, staying up late, wanting to sleep late, and only coming out for food. I know how to do all the schedules and what not, but he doesn’t care or want to comply. He is 6 ft tall and 250 pounds. He has an excellent teacher that provides structure in his Total Language Communication class.

Our son Trevor is addicted to technology. When we (his parents) as well as his teacher at school try and limit on-line play time he has become angry to the point to hitting the teacher and his father.

He ran away from home but the police brought him back that same day. I hate the computer! But he plays Minecraft online and has friends that he talks to. It is like his only source of socialization. So we are at a point where we may need professional support to help him get motivated to do something. I’m out of ideas. And I’m tired. please help!”

-Rebecca

A: Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your very specific question that I’m sure many will relate to very closely. This is one of the most frequent questions that I am asked from both parents and educators.

In an Interactive Autism Network (IAN) questionnaire of 250 adults with ASD, 84 percent reported having a special interest or topic. A majority of those said they enjoy activities or develop relationships based on their topic, or have a job or field of study related to it. Some, however, said their interest sometimes gets in the way of success at work, school and in relationships (45 percent), or has gotten them into trouble (23 percent). Common interests include animals, computers, music, science and science fiction.

Famously, Temple Grandin Ph.D., who has Autism, turned her special interest in animals into a notable career as an animal scientist and designer of livestock handling facilities.

Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

Depending on the grade level of your student or child, a math word problem may involve simple addition to complex rate problems, and everything in between. This week’s blog will explore as many different resources as possible to support word problems in a comprehensive way.

mathwp6

We will begin with several instructional strategies that are relevant for any content area:

  1. Chunking
  2. Graphic Organizers
  3. Steps of the Process
  4. Visual Guides
  5. Models of Correct Work
  6. Video Modeling
  7. Incorporate Interests
  8. Technology
  9. Pneumonic Devices
  10. Preview Learning

The first website that I offer is http://www.brightstorm.com/math/. This site has video demonstrations of just about every type of math problem in algebra, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry, precalculus and calculus. You can also enter your own problem and get a solution. For $4.99 a month, you can get an interactive online tool that will show you the steps to solving any math problem you enter.

Example: Word Problems Using Systems of Equations

Preventing Meltdowns: Part two

There is nothing amusing about “the meltdown”. It is reflective of a complete loss of control of the person with an autism spectrum disorder. It is often loud, risky at times, frustrating, and exhausting.

Here is a video that explains meltdowns from the perspective of someone living with autism.  Feel free to share with others, as it is available through youtube.

 Ask an Autistic: What is a meltdown?

One might say that the loss of control overtakes the child. They need their teacher or parent to recognize this and help them to regain control, as they are unable to do so on their own. A child with autism in the middle of the meltdown desperately needs help to regain composure.

Moreover, it becomes critical to learn to recognize when the meltdown is imminent.

In this way, you can both work to prevent a meltdown. The individual with an autism spectrum disorder needs to learn how to recognize the feelings of escalation and then actualize strategies to de-escalate before the crisis ensues.

LRfeelingschartThat is why a “feelings chart” or “emotion rating scale” can be such an important strategy.

Notice the left column of this particular feelings chart. It should be reviewed when calm to help identify the internal and external indicators that emotions are changing. The right hand column is just as, if not more important, in that it helps to identify calming strategies for that particular individual.

It is best to intervene early in the escalation process to increase the likelihood of a successful solution to the situation.

We are not “giving in to” or “reinforcing” negative behavior when providing one of these calming strategies, but rather throwing a lifeline to someone that is unraveling neurologically for many possible reasons.

by Lisa Rogers

Decreasing Neurological Stress

by: Lisa Rogers

How do we decrease neurological stress?  The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs.
A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health (2006) found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks, providing evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in autism.beliefs, aspie
Although grammatically incorrect, the following statement is about neurological processing. Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t. As you say this, make goggles and cover your eyes with your hands. Then, cup your hands and make ear muffs over your ears. This will help your brain to remember an essential understanding that is the foundation for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress.
To process information auditorily means to capture transient information, the spoken word, interpret its meaning and find the most appropriate response within the vast catalog of possibilities in the brain. That requires a great deal of work for any brain, but often becomes a daunting task for individuals with ASDs. If someone gave you a list of 20 grocery items to buy verbally, you would probably be able to remember the first six or seven and forget the others. To decrease your stress about keeping all 20 items in your brain and increase the likelihood that you will successfully purchase the entire list, you would probably want to write them down.  Furthermore, you feel a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item.

Developing Social Skills

The topics discussed in this blog are often inspired by questions from readers.  This week’s topic of developing social skills is in response to such a question from a parent.

social skills

As you develop social skills, it would be helpful to identify the specific skill[s] that you and your child feels would be most beneficial.  For instance, do they struggle in initiating conversations?

If so, then two strategies might be helpful that you can work on at home.

First, conversation starters or scripts might provide the support necessary to engage in this difficult social skill.  More information can be found in a publication title:  Life Journey Through Autism:  An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome which is available as a free download at the following website:  http://researchautism.org/

A companion strategy is video modeling.

Depending on the specific skills that you want to develop, you can either make, find or purchase videos that teach how to do that specific skill. I have found some quality videos on YouTube or TeacherTube.  Another resource for purchase is available through Model Me Kids at http://www.modelmekids.com/.

In trying to provide information about programs that are evidence-based, I would like to share the following from the attached article titled:

Evidence-Based Social Skills Training for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The UCLA PEERS Program

Using Narratives in School to Address Sensory Differences

Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.

narrative

 

One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.

The following is an example of such a narrative:

Passing Period at High School

My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.

In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.

When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.

Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.

That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.

I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.

Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.

I can do this!

Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.

The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.

Preparing Autistic Students for a New Activity

Priming: A Method of Preparation

In a previous post, we reviewed strategies for solving math word problems. One of the comprehensive strategies noted was priming. This week, we will take a closer look at this strategies in order to apply it across subject areas and grade levels.

priming

Priming is a method of preparing a student with ASD for an activity that he or she will be expected to complete by allowing the student to preview the activity before it is presented for completion.

Priming helps to:

Transitioning to Middle School

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

 

Q: Dear Lisa,

My son has High functioning Autism and is in general education classes in public school. He will be going to Middle School next year and I was wondering how should I prepare the teachers for him, and him for the teachers? This will be different as he no longer has just one teacher but will have many. We have had our ARD and I know the school does so much but I’m nervous and wanted to know what I can do as his parent.

-Sharon Kaiser/Plano, TX

Middle School

A: Dear Sharon,

I’m so glad to have this question. Too often, April or May rolls around and then we begin to have a conversation about transitioning to a new school in the following Fall Semester. By planning ahead, parents and teachers can alleviate the anxiety associated with such a big change and increase success from Day 1 of school. Of course, each person on the spectrum responds to and deals with change in their own way. By including your son in the process, you can make decisions that are tailored to his needs.

Possible activities to consider include the following:

  • Determine the point of contact[s] at the new school
  • Plan a visit to the new campus; coordinate with a small group of friends if possible
  • Set up a Circle of Friends or buddy/social coach
  • Provide a map of the new campus
  • Build a schedule that includes student interests
  • Build a schedule that will meet sensory needs
  • Write a social story about the new campus and new staff. You can find a sample social story in video format at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk0Nag4zvJk
  • Consider beginning to switch several classrooms at the elementary campus to practice this new aspect of Middle School life in a safe environment
  • Ensure the new staff have training in autism to build common understanding
  • Ensure that visual supports are in place to prevent stress. Signs on the first week of school can help navigate a new environment [e.g. schedule, scripts, narratives, etc.]
  • Discuss whether or not the student will benefit from a “Home Base”. A “Home Base” is a predetermined location for the student to regain composure or work through a problem.
  • Develop a plan for communication between home and school

In addition, I strongly recommend creating a portfolio of your child’s strengths, needs and interests.