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

Alone Time for Teens with Aspergers is Crucial: Allow Them Their Space

Breathing room or ‘alone time’ is good for anyone, but for someone on the spectrum it is crucial. When Sam was very young I found myself, as his mother, wanting to arrange play dates with other children who were not exactly knocking on our door for playtime. My reasoning was he must be lonely, so I did everything in my power to elicit playmates. Offering the best snacks, coolest toys, or excursions to area attractions, but it didn’t take long before no one came around.

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My son was alone.

What I’ve come to realize is that this is alright with Sam.

He really prefers time alone verses a party. Really. It was me who was projecting my ideas of companionship on him, a neuro-typical brain trying to outguess his autistic brain.

Fast forward 10 or so years and his contentment with an occasional relationship is greatly satisfying for him, and he does have a few. His time alone, however, is a structured necessity for him that keeps him grounded and on-task for the really important things such as work or school.

So as parents we should relax just a bit. Although socialization, to a degree, is important, allow your Aspergers child to be their own person.

Time to read, explore, invent, create or yes, online gaming to a degree can all be good for someone with Aspergers Syndrome. Sam even found companionship via social media sites.

If I could look back at my earlier self I would say “Relax just a bit. He is not as uncomfortable not being invited to parties classmates give, it is only me who is uncomfortable with this”.

Look a bit closer at your Asperger child to understand just how far to push socialization at an early age. You might be going to great means only to satisfy yourself, when in reality a simple outing like a trip to a museum with you might more than suffice.

by Jennifer Allen

Hard Skills with Aspergers: Teachable Abilities and Skill Sets in the Workplace

I have often been asked: What is the hardest part of your job? The majority of the time the answer is discovering what skills my clients have to offer to an employer. As an employment specialist I recognize that prospective employers are talking about hard skills.

Employees with special skills wanted - job interview candidates

So, what are hard skills?

Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that can be quantified.

For example: being able to type so many words per minutes, lifting a certain amount of weight, speaking more than one language, and being able to program computers. Hard skills work in conjunction with the soft skills we briefly addressed in previous posts, and will continue to address through this series.

Throughout my experience, something I have become aware of is: For individuals applying for jobs without a lot of past experience, these hard skills are learned through study, training and practice.

Hard skills can be taught and built upon.

So, where do you go when you have minimal experience, but want to work on your hard skills?

ABA and Aspergers: The Three Step Plan You Can Use

The main use of ABA for individuals on the autism spectrum is to decrease challenging behaviors and increase appropriate skills.

Little girl hiding behind her hands - copyspace

Here are the three steps for utilizing ABA to decrease challenging behaviors and increase appropriate skills:

Step 1: Assessment

The first step in decreasing problem behavior is to conduct a functional behavior assessment, which determines the function of challenging behavior.

Appropriate skills including academic, language, and daily living skills are assessed in a similar way. The founding father of ABA, B.F. Skinner, wrote the book Verbal Behavior in 1957. In the book, language is analyzed based on the function. Assessments like the Verbal Behavior-Milestones and Assessment Program (VB-MAPP; Sundberg, 2008) are utilized to assess the persons’ language skills, as well as other appropriate skills like academic and daily living skills.

Other assessments utilized in ABA are the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABBLS-R; Partington, 2006) and the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS; Partington & Mueller, 2013).

Step 2: Developing a Plan and Treatment Goals

Deciding if a Job is Right For You: The Work Assessment

If you were given the chance to work at a job you were interested in for a few hours to assess your skills and abilities, and to decide if you are comfortable and really enjoy it before starting the application process would you do it?

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This is called a work assessment, and it is imperative to future success. Vocational rehabilitation offices offer these kinds of important services for individuals with Asperger’s. A work assessment also work in tandem with the inventory assessments.

Work assessments are very beneficial. They allow an individual to work in a simulated or actual work environment for a few hours to decide if it fits the negotiable and non-negotiable parts of their inventory assessment. It allows an opportunity to observe the individual’s interaction with others, hard and soft skills, physical capabilities.

Does My Child Have Asperger Syndrome?

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Our son has Asperger Syndrome. To get the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 12 years ago and still, the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase. Though only meant as a ‘checklist’ remember this is not an official document and only mean’t to flag a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome. A doctor or trained therapist would need to make that call, however; if you are looking for a guideline of sorts….it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination! -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

Samuel Allen/Aspergers101 Spokesperson

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Social Interactions

Yes      No

____    ____       The child prefers to play alone.

____    ____           The child is rarely invited by others to play in the neighborhood or to participate in activities outside of school.

____    ____           The child’s social interactions and responses are immature, not keeping with his/her age or his/her cognitive abilities in other areas.

____   ____            The child has difficulty interacting in group settings.

____   ____            The child does not play with other children as expected: he/she may not appear interested in their games, or may not know how to join in.

____   ____            The child appears to be vulnerable to teasing, bullying and being taken advantage of by others.

Behavioral Observations

Yes      No

___      ___            The child has difficulty understanding the effect his/her behavior has on others.

___     ____            The child has a significant amount of difficulty taking the perspective of another person, even when it is explained to them.

____   ____            The student has overwhelmingly limited interests in things such as video games, superheroes, cartoon characters.

College with Asperger’s: 7 Benchmarks for Effective Support on Campus

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has risen significantly since first described in the 1940s. The Center for Disease Control estimates currently 1 in 68 children in the United States lives with an ASD diagnosis, and that 46% of those diagnosed have average to above average intelligence. A large body of literature describes the significant, life-long difficulties faced by many individuals diagnosed with ASD. The support needed for college students diagnosed with more traditional disabilities are well documented. However, information is lacking in regard to effectively supporting the college instruction of students with Asperger’s Disorder and how to support their navigation of a campus society.

College Students with Asperger’s: Academic and Campus Accommodations Necessary

Researchers explored the topic of providing effective supports to college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. Investigators convened a panel of experts to provide input on the topic, and then used a Delphi surveying method to categorize common themes identified by panel members.

The survey resulted in the creation of the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This tool is available as a PDF file for use in your own college assessment:

Attachment: Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with ASD

Research conclusions included:

1. Social Challenges, Independent Living Skills, and Cognitive Organizational Skills were mentioned as a need more often by expert panelist than was Academic Challenges. This suggests panelists agree that students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder are, generally, intellectually capable of performing in the classroom but struggle with the social and organizational aspects of the college lifestyle;

2. Resources dedicated to meeting the Social Challenges of students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder are considered integral to effective college support;

3. Traditional disability services are ineffective for supporting this student population due to: (a) its historical focus on meeting academic rather than social needs, (b) its lack of resources, and (3) its general lack of expertise regarding the disorder;

4. The panel of experts connected self-advocacy and disclosure more to academic success than to other aspects of campus life;

5. Mental health services are identified as a necessary support for college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.

These services, however, were mentioned fewer times by the panelist than the need for:

  • dedicated staff with specialized knowledge to provide supports;
  • having a well-informed campus community, and
  • utilizing a well-staffed support program with expertise in the disorder. An equal number of panelists mentioned the need for having staff to teach students to identify on-campus resources and supports, which would generally include student mental health services;

6. The panel of experts revealed faculty and staff attitudes may play a role in college success for college students with Asperger’s Disorder. More panelists expressed a need, however, for increased on-campus knowledge and information about the disorder.

7. Finances and Resources were identified by the majority of panelists as barriers to academic and non-academic success alike due to the high cost of hiring personnel with expertise.

Their research was published in the peer-reviewed Southern Regional Council on Educational Administration Yearbook 2013; Ellison, Clark, Cunningham, and Hansen (2013).

by Dr. Marc Ellison

Maximize Potential in the Workplace

My job is to bring people together—to create an environment where the employee can maximize their potential and an employer can utilize that potential.

Female Supervisor Using Digital Tablet At Warehouse

As an employment specialist for Compass Resource Group one of my first steps in trying to uncover their potential is to assess the soft and hard skills of the individual. In my experience this seems to be the greatest barrier individuals with Asperger’s face. In the next few entries I plan to discuss the difference between hard and soft skills as they apply to both the search for and maintenance of employment.

What are soft skills? The Oxford Dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

With regards to soft skills, the greatest questions from job seekers and employers are:

  • How do I encourage friendly interactions between coworkers and supervisors
  • How do I create and maintain a comfortable and safe work environment
  • How do I address the unique logistical concerns of employment such as changing schedules and arranging transportation as they affect individuals with Asperger’s

In the next post I will discuss the different strategies we at Compass Resource employ to foster an environment of mutual respect and understanding between the employee, their coworkers and supervisors in the workplace.

By Maggie Cromeens

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

Suspect Aspergers?

Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 years ago and still the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase.

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The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.

However if you are looking for a guideline of sorts, it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination!                  -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101