1st week activities-Autism class-Help!?!

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by elizabeth, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. elizabeth

    elizabeth Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 11, 2010

    Hello! I am a new teacher with 6 Kindergartners with Autism at various learning and behavior levels. They, too, are "new" to this school and each other. Our first day was extremely stressful for all, and I believe my planning was one area lacking. Any ideas for intro activities/"about me" activities/new school themes? Or, strategies for introducing children to a new school?


    Many thanks, in advance.
     
  2.  
  3. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    1

    Sep 11, 2010

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I taught a kinder autism class (now have the same kids in elementary 1-4th grade) for 3 years and I definitely know how hard it can be, especially the first week! The good news is, with consistancy, patience, and a good routine, the kids can really shine!

    Are all your kids self-contained? Or do you have some going out to general education for parts of the day? If you do have kids in gen ed, I found it very helpful to meet weekly with the gen ed teacher to discuss upcoming lesson plans, behavior issues, schedule changes, etc. so I could prepare my kids and staff, as well as reinforce things that were happening in general ed classroom. I also tried hard to identify which parts of the day the kids liked and were successful at for them to join. We made visual rules for them, a behavior chart (penny board) and reinforced HUGELY for good behavior, and adding more time slowly.

    With all kids, at the beginning, I would work on getting routines down and not worry so much about perfectly planned activities. They're probably not going to go the way you want them to anyway at first! Also: visuals, visuals, visuals! Spend your time making visuals, organizing your environment, and teaching basic routines. Kindergarten autism is a world of surprises! Your goal is to keep the kids as calm as possible and getting them used to school. Thus, you have to try to incorporate things they already find reinforcing and add new/hard things in slowly. Try to figure out exactly what procedures and routines you want for the different parts of your day (snack, bathroom, independent work, group work, 1:1 work, free or "choice time," recess, lunch, music, etc). and spend time directly teaching them. You need to teach them how to self-calm, how to stay calm, and how to wait appropriately - and this takes time and patience.

    Keeping things short helps. Making sure that your environment is very visually organized is key, as well as making sure your kids have a functional way to communicate. If you don't already have it, I would recommend getting the PECS manual and starting PECS training, even with kids with some verbal skills. You can work on that in both your 1:1 teach times and your group teach times.

    Some ideas for teaching school routines/waiting/calming:

    -"waiting spots" wherever they need to wait - I tape a colored square on the floor or on the wall with their name. We have these by where the bus drops us off, in the hallway by the bathroom, in the hallway where we line up to go places, and on the playground (I tied colored plastic paint samples with their names on them to the chain-link fence). Start with sending the kids who are the best waiters to their spots, having the most difficult kid join the group last. Count to 10, sing a quick song or something, and then reinforce them for good waiting.

    -"waiting" boxes - small boxes with a few sensory toys (Dollar Tree is great for squish balls!) or figurines in them (I have TONS of little toys from Happy Meals, etc. I have gotten for a dollar in grab bags from thrift stores - my kids love them). In my room now, each kid has a "waiting box" with stuff they like, but in kindergarten, we had a "waiting box" at each classroom area. Then if you are doing a group with 2-3 kids, you can give a kid a toy from the wait box, do something quickly with the other kid, and switch. Reinforce the "waiting" kid for good waiting, etc. I pair this in conjunction with a visual "wait" card, so the kids get used to the visual for those times when there is no "wait" box available.

    -"waiting" chair - we had two of these by the door, with a basket of books in between. That way, if kids get done with something early, they have a designated spot to wait and something to keep them busy while you (quickly!) finish up with the kid you are working with. We also have a "waiting chair" in the bathroom with a basket of books, so you can take two kids to the bathroom at a time.

    Of course, you'll have to teach all these things - start by taking the kids to the waiting chair, say, on your way out the door to the bathroom, saying "time to wait!" or "waiting chair!" and sitting them down, counting to 10, and saying "Good waiting!" etc. Start slowly, reinforce to success, and build up.

    -walking around the school - we would do this every day in groups of two (or one, with my lowest, most intense kids). You can reinforce walking close to an adult. Say to them, "walk with me" or something similar, "good walking," etc. I also had a bag of Fruit Loops or goldfish in my pocket and would give them one for good walking/stop/wait every 20 steps or so. Use visual supports to show what you want/teach the meaning of the visuals. Then you can also practice "stop" and "wait." It is critical for safety that they can do these things, plus, its a great way to see the school, name, and talk about things in the school, and get used to its layout.

    -teaching the kids the first steps in how to relax/calm. We have a simple relaxation routine. At first, I directly taught all the actions to it (arms up, arms down, squeeze hands, shake hands, rub legs, deep breath) discrete trial style. I made a visual do/done system for it and we did it before every transition. Now, all my kids have it memorized and all I have to do is say, "relax" and they will launch into it. It is cute, and REALLY helpful for them.

    -it was REALLY hard for my kids to have recess with gen ed. Also, we didn't have a scheduled gym time like everyone else. I solved this problem by making a 20-minute gym time in the middle of the day when the gym teacher was at lunch. It is semi-structured, so we run laps for 5 minutes, (my para and I run too!) play with gym equipment for 10 minutes (all the same, and color coded, so, no fights!), then sit on the "wait" mat for 5 minutes and doing squeezes/deep breathing. That gives them some time to burn off energy (I have several kids who LOVE to run), without all the social anxiety and aggression problems of gen ed recess. Then, we go to recess at the end of the day. It helps with transitions (straight onto the bus! much more reinforcing than back into the school), motor planning problems (only have to put the snow clothes on once! helpful in the great white north), and social and communcation anxiety. Towards the end of the year, we started inviting gen ed peers out in pairs and threes to play with us. It was MUCH more successful than "inclusion time" at gen ed recess. Plus, if you are having a really bad day (and we all do), you can go out a few minutes early. If it is an inclement weather day (surprise! no recess!), your whole afternoon isn't shot. You can just drag out the afternoon activities longer, or pull something special off the shelf (Legos, playdoh, sensory toys, shaving cream, etc.) that is novel and voila! Bus time.

    -VIDEO MODELING is soooooooooooooo successful with my kids. I have videos for everything. I would strongly recommend trying to get a FLip video recorder. It is easy and quick to videotape something, and you can either plug it into your TV and play it straight from there or download it to your computer and play it on an LCD or smartboard. You can make videos of your school, cafeteria, playground, important people, other kids modeling play skills (gen ed peers loved to be my "movie stars"), whatever. I even taped myself modeling things like washing hands using our visual task strip and they would pay attention so much better when watching me on a screen than in real life. Showing a short video or 2 is a successful way to include kids in a group, while reinforcing basic skills and routines. Also, videotaping them doing something successfully and correctly, then showing it back is hugely reinforcing to them.

    -I made a book every year with kids and staff pictures based on Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Johnny, Johnny, what do you see (turn page) I see Susie looking at me. If you are lucky enough to have a Smartboard, you can "hide" the pictures and have the kids "erase" to find out who it is. Great for face discrimination/social skills. We also did one this year with school places. I am doing one this year for each kid of people in their family - our modified version of "Star of the Week."

    I also found it helpful to plan by the month instead of trying to keep up with gen ed curriculum/themes. My kids needed more time to grasp the concepts and the more repeated exposure they got to it, the better. Our first month was always School/Community.

    I'll try to take pictures of some of this stuff when I go in to work tomorrow, if that would be helpful for you to see? Hang in there. It will get better! Concentrate on the good stuff that happens every day and remember - if something's not working at first - give it time. Our first impulse is to change it, but that's not always necessary. And sometimes counterproductive. Try to think of how to make it the most structured and visual it can possibly be, and be calm and consistent. They will get it. It just takes time.

    Hope that was helpful!
     
  4. elizabeth

    elizabeth Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 11, 2010

    Wow! Truly hlepful.

    Thank you so much for your insight. The ideas you've provided are invaluable. My program is actually comprised of 5 Kindergarten classes beginning at a brand new site, and I would love to share this with the other teachers.

    The 6 children are in a self-contained environment all day. They do go to gym, but it is separated. As it stands, we will remain with these classes as they move up in grades.

    On a very specific note, when your class transitions to a new activity, do they come to the same place in the room to discuss what's next, or are they referred to their own schedules?

    I love the modeling via videos idea and am hoping the school might be able to purchase one!

    Again, thank you. I'd love pictures but can not ask you to go out of you way.


    Sincerely,

    Pam
     
  5. elizabeth

    elizabeth Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 11, 2010

    aka Elizabeth

    thanks again!
     
  6. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    1

    Sep 11, 2010

    With the exception of one whole-group time, gym, recess, and lunch, our entire day is structured as a rotation of individually scheduled work and small groups of 2-3 students.

    All my kids transition with their own visual schedules, every time, even to/from whole group things. That's where the wait box comes in handy - after they know what to do with it and where to sit, they can wait on their own for 2-5 minutes. That way you can have kids coming "from" other things to large group by checking their schedules - and if you are not immediately ready to start (still finishing working with a kid, etc.) they have something independent to do, and you have a reminder to quickly transition the kid(s) you have.

    I have one kid on a wall photo schedule (he is a brand-new, never-been-in-school kindergartner). All my other kids use portable visual schedules. In years past, I taped an outline of a schedule book with a symbol saying "put schedule here" in all my classroom areas. This year, as I have mostly all my kids working in groups of 2 and 3, and that would be a lot of schedule spots, I have a table at the front of the room that I jokingly refer to as Grand Central Station. This has a colorered "schedule spot" taped to it for every kid. Their schedule books stay on that table all day, but they come back to it to check them.

    Our one whole group time usually starts as 5-10 minutes together, then gradually we add more activities until we are working 20-30 minutes. I have one kid that only joins for the last 10 minutes - you can individualize it as they are able to be successful.

    Mini-schedules and duration maps are also extremely helpful in getting kids to work in groups. For example, if you are doing a small group calendar time, the kids' individual schedules would say calendar. Then, once they arrive at the calendar area, you could have a group mini-schedule (like on a Do/Done board) that shows symbols for 1) month 2) days of week 3) counting/date 4) sing a song and 5) watch a video (here you could put a video model of something calendar or counting related) and 6) all done/check schedule.

    Duration maps are also great for group times, because you can "flex" the passing of time, depending on how successful your kids are. You can then always end on success. I put things the kids really like on our duration map tokens, like pictures of Thomas the Tank engine or whatever. Its great for new activities, because then you have an "out" if things don't go so well the first time. :)
     
  7. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    1

    Sep 18, 2010

    Hope your second week went better Pam!

    I was taking some pictures in my classroom this week for another project, so thought I'd share them here in case they are helpful to you. They are mostly of visual supports, but I will try to include descriptions of how we use them to teach and improve activities.

    [​IMG]

    Our group table. We alternate between doing (short!) group activities, 1:1 activities, and independent work. Our lowest kids we introduce to group time slowly with supports to show how much they will be expected to do:

    [​IMG]

    The checks show how many things they need to stay for and do. It might be as simple as pointing to a picture in a book or giving a response to a question on a communication device.

    [​IMG]

    The checks can be adjusted by adding "no" signs to the back half with Velcro. That way you can start with just including a kid for one quick thing (end on success!) and then build up.

    [​IMG]

    We have a part of the day called Partner Play - we work on social and communication skills, teaching specific play skills and targeting communication w/peers during this time. At the beginning, we use a play schedule to teach what to do:

    [​IMG]

    Kids match the numbers from the schedule to boxes to know what to do:

    Then we use toys I have adapted with social and communication visual supports:

    [​IMG]

    This one is a photo album adapted with pictures of a tea party, step by step. Words and pictures tell what to say and do for each step.

    [​IMG]

    This one is a Partner Play parachute game I made for a kid who really likes rockets and airplanes. i taped a picture of a rocket on the beanbags. Then I made a countdown strip with stars (shows him we will play 5 times) and made a visual cue of what to say:

    [​IMG]

    Each box has a visual cue of what the toys are. Later, these cues go on a choice board.

    [​IMG]

    Or on a page in their PECS books

    We also have classroom jobs every day. My highest kid sets up my lowest kid's schedule using this clipboard to retrieve his pictures:

    [​IMG]

    Here is one of my kiddos who loves and is very calmed by water washing dishes using a visual checklist of what to do:

    [​IMG]

    Other kids wash tables, sharpen pencils, and stack chairs, etc.

    We do a structured gym time every day for 20 minutes. I thought I had pictures of some of those visuals, but I guess I don't. When we are done, we sit on mats, get drinks of water (its one kids' job to go get each kid their cup, bring them water, thank you, etc.)

    Here's our deep breathing visual:

    [​IMG]

    We also do yoga on days we can't go to the gym!

    Visual supports are EVERYWHERE in my classroom. Myself and my paras all carry a ring of visual cues daily.

    [​IMG]

    They have things like Wait, Stop, Follow Directions, Quiet, Yes or No, 5 more minutes, Time's Up, etc. Often kids with autism will respond MUCH better to a visual reminder than words (provided you have taught them what the visual means).

    Hope that helps! Keep trucking. Things will get better and soon they will even be fun!
     
  8. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Messages:
    13,151
    Likes Received:
    1,017

    Sep 19, 2010

    Bethechange--I can't begin to tell you how helpful your posts have been. We have a new student in one of our kindergarten classes (general ed) who does not yet have a diagnosis of autism--we are reasonably confident one is coming--and we have been struggling with what to do in the classroom. I've forwarded your posts to both the classroom teacher and the educational assistant in the classroom and I'm sure they will prove invaluable. Thanks!
     
  9. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    1

    Sep 22, 2010

    Mrs. C,

    No problem - I am glad they were helpful. It is so sad and frustrating when kids get all the way to KINDERGARTEN age and no one picks up on the fact that they have autism. I taught in a kindergarten center for 3 years and every year - a kid walked through the door on the first day and I was like................where was this kid????!!!! This year I have a kindergartner that skipped the kindergarten center completely and is in my room b/c he came to kindergarten registration with no. language. at. all.

    Kudos to you for helping out your kinder staff! Hang in there. It does get better (and even fun!)
     
  10. elizabeth

    elizabeth Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 22, 2010

    Thank you, again.

    Your advice and suggestions have been truly helpful and generous. The pictures are invaluable. Thank you for sharing and empowering somes "newbies"!
     
  11. elizabeth

    elizabeth Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 22, 2010

    Yes it was!

    The second week was much better!
     
  12. SPEDteachAutism

    SPEDteachAutism New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2015
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 16, 2015

    Thank you!

    I loved running across this thread! Bethechange, I hope you are leading staff development at this point. Amazing tips!
     
  13. TIRCO

    TIRCO Rookie

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 29, 2015

    Keeping this thread in my back pocket for when I start teaching! Thanks for all the amazing tips, Bethechange!!!
     
  14. smile3

    smile3 Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2015
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 6, 2015

    Vey good post!
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. Backroads,
  2. Caesar753,
  3. Leaborb192,
  4. Kelster95,
  5. MrsC
Total: 616 (members: 5, guests: 496, robots: 115)
test