Autism and elopement/running/bolting

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Beverly, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. Beverly

    Beverly Comrade

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    Apr 29, 2013

    I was wondering what your thoughts are or how your districts deal with students running and bolting from the room or the playground, etc. I understand FBA, and I've read research stating that something like 65% of children with Autism engage in this running/bolting behavior, even in familiar "safe" places. I've worked in schools where they suggest not running after the students so that the behavior doesn't turn into a game or become reinforced- but for some students this seems ineffective to me. (Or, for instance, when we are outside waiting for the buses to pull up and the student wanders off, I don't feel it's acceptable to let him head toward the street without someone catching him). If students are not bolting for attention, how do you think staff should respond? I work with preschoolers who qualified under DD, but I (and most of the staff who come into contact with these students) see signs that they may eventually get an Autism diagnosis. How can I make the argument that they're not misbehaving intentionally?
     
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  3. bison

    bison Habitué

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    Apr 29, 2013

    I'm not sure how you can proceed, but I can share my relevant experience. I've been in a situation (when I worked in Sp. Ed) with a student who would run off school grounds, across the street, and into random homes if he/she was able to. It was a serious issue, and not attention-seeking behavior. We HAD to always keep an eye on the student, often a physical hand (guiding hand on the shoulder, etc). If we looked away and there was an escape route, he/she was gone. In that case, I'd run after him/her as fast as I could. It was a safety issue and there was no way we could just let him/her go. That said, everyone in the school helped out and knew the issue. There was no one claiming the student was doing it intentionally. The student improved over a very long period of time, but he/she was NEVER just allowed to run off. I've never had a student that did it just to act out.

    Sorry for the ambiguity, trying to protect anonymity!
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Apr 29, 2013

    It sounds like you have 2 questions/issues - how to manage the behavior, and how to communicate your thoughts on the function of the behavior.

    In terms of the first, I'd probably create a specific plan that dealt with various if/then conditions, such as what happens if he runs when outside, in the hallway, etc. Another element might include what to do if you catch him within 20 feet, as opposed to if he leaves your sight and you can't leave your group of kids. Another element would be restraint, and would depend on who was qualified, under what conditions a restraint is warranted, etc. Part of the plan would also probably include prevention - understanding triggers and avoiding them, seating him so that he had to pass by you on the way to the door. Other thoughts: potentially locking school exits close to your building, having walkie talkies and letting administrators handle it, etc.

    In terms of the 2nd, I think you answered with your response about the FBA: you would collect and present data that demonstrated the function of the behavior.

    On a bit more philosophical note, I think "intentionally" could be difficult to define, and probably not a very behaviorally descriptive term. "Intentionality" probably suggests a full awareness of the behavior and results of the behavior, while unintentionality would probably suggest that the child isn't fully in control of the behavior and doesn't know the full impact of it. I'm guessing most kids' behavior is somewhere in the middle. The reason I'm even bringing it up is that I would stay away from the term since it's probably a matter of philosophy rather than something you could prove. You could prove (within reason), however, that the child was engaged in the behavior for a particular reason that did NOT warrant a response aligned with attention-seeking behavior, such as frustration or avoidance.
     
  5. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Apr 29, 2013

    Our custodian built us partial doors with slide locks at the top. Looks sort of like those split half doors but there is no top part and it is more like 2/3 or 3/4 high. This is on the hall side of the door frame and we will have the regular door on the room side of the frame. Does that make sense?

    As for the play ground, ours is fenced in and gates are "locked" with a bungee cord or chain with a hook thing like those clip on keychains.
     
  6. Beverly

    Beverly Comrade

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    May 3, 2013

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses. Our playground isn't fully fenced in. I'm not too concerned about the hallways, but definitely going to the buses and on the playground.
     
  7. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

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    May 4, 2013

    thoughts on bolting

    Hi Beverly,

    I teach elementary K-6 students with moderate to severe autism (self-contained) so I totally understand where you are coming from! I have a few thoughts on addressing not only the bolting, but the underlying lack of social awareness for kids with even the most severe autism.

    In the immediate present, I think it is critical to be aware of the issue and proactively assume the child will bolt at all times, then staff for safety (we like to do adult in front and back of the group at all times; proactively hand hold or use other preventative measure for kids you know will run).

    My present most severely impacted student (actually, probably the most severely impacted student I have ever seen or worked with) has 1:1 support, and uses a gait belt in school. We help her put it on when she arrives and an adult holds onto the end of the belt at all times when transitioning around the school. The student constantly alternates between running and walking (she has very little social awareness) but is moving on her own, free of holding hands, and still safe. Within the classroom, with the door shut, we try to let go of the belt as much as possible and use proximity (one foot away, but still "on guard" to catch/block/elopement). We also use this: http://connectorrx.com/ when outside and on community activities. Gives her some freedom, while allowing her to be safe and close to us. Its awesome!

    My other thought is that I think it is critically important to actively work on responding to others' commands to stop and wait. The world does not run according to their time clock, and these are critical life skills for students with autism at EVERY level of functioning. In my opinion, kids that this is an issue for should have this actively worked on, every day, in a variety of capacities. It CAN improve. I think part of the problem is that kids with autism are not socially aware enough of where others are, and are highly distractible. I suggest 5 ways of working on this:

    1) firmly establish group routines and stick with them. If kids know what to expect, they are able to concentrate more on skills like waiting and stopping, and social awareness that are hard for them. For example, when we get ready to go to the playground, each kid has a color coded chair in the hallway, a color coded poly spot, and a chart with velcro checks indicating the order they are to put on their outside clothes (I live in Minnesota. We just had 15" inches of snow on Thursday. May 2nd. Yeah. Winter can go away now.) Adults circulate (one on each end of the chair line so as to catch "bolters") and prompt as necessary, but we really try hard to get the kids to be as independent as possible. When the kids are done getting ready, they are to sit on their chairs and "wait" for their friends. At this time, while they are waiting, I will often go around and point out to the kids who is still getting ready, who we are waiting for, etc, have them point to the kids that are still getting ready, etc. Lots of positive encouragement and support during this time for appropriate sitting and waiting. All my kids can sit and wait now, but when we were first teaching this skill, we would reinforce good sitting with edibles or by allowing them to hold a small fidget toy if they were ready and sitting appropriately. This increases their social awareness, even the severely impacted kids. When I ask, "who are we waiting for?" most of my kids can scan the group and say or point to the kids that are missing or still working. When everyone is ready, we go around and "check" or ask them, "Johnny, is Susie ready?" etc. and then they have to check and be responsible for finding Susie, deciding if the is ready, pointing to her or whatever their skill level is. They are becoming responsible for looking at and keeping track of each other. Then 1 adult is the leader, kids go in the middle, one adult at the back. My student who is a severe and chronic bolter uses the connecter belt with another adult at the end and it is her job to shut all the doors after we exit (which she loves to do, so she is motivated to walk with us). Then when we get to the playground, all backpacks go on a bench. We have recess; then the "alarm" goes off (on my phone) and all kids go to the bench to get backpacks, sit down, and WAIT for all kids. Again, we are constantly pointing out who is missing, etc. When EVERYONE is there, we make our line again. We do not let anyone wander off on their own, ever; they are caught and brought back to wait. I find that sitting down really helps facilitate waiting, and having a specific spot (visually marked) to wait really helps also, especially when you are first teaching this skill. My most severely impacted student has her own bench, because she tends to be overly grabby with others, but she does sit and wait - she is connected to us by the belt, but we're working on her sitting without touching an adult until all the kids are ready. Then we repeat the above procedure to walk to the buses (our recess is at the end of the day, but you get the idea). In every environment we are in, we have "wait" spots - by the bathrooms, in the gym, in the lunch room, etc. The kids are rock stars at finding their spot and waiting for everyone.

    2) Teaching waiting, stopping, and coming: when we first start, it is just short bursts throughout the day. We give the command to "wait" then use a countdown with an open hand of 5 fingers; then count down 5,4,3,2,1. I also have a visual cue of it that I use for some students. Given something motivating, the student needs to "wait" for it before being given access, etc. You can slowly lengthen the amount of time between the counts, move onto a timer, back up proximity, etc. It has taken 2 years, but even my severe student can do this in short periods. She actively pays attention to the countdown, and we do this for almost everything she wants or grabs for during the day. We also PRACTICE (as in, "go for a walk" is on her schedule) walking in the hall (our school is a circle, so we do 3 laps - she has a visual chart to keep track) walking and periodically, when a class is coming down the hall, I will put her against the wall, back up, and have her "wait" until they pass. She has gotten awesome at this, and I can actually even let go of her belt now, she will wait as long as she is against a wall and she sees my "wait" hand. Then after they pass, I slowly count down before we walk again. She is always motivated to check her schedule and uses a wall schedule and visual name card, so before we give her the name card, we have her "wait," count down, and then slowly increase the distance she has to walk to us (with no one holding on) to get her name card. We're toilet training her too, and when she stands to indicate she is finished, if she hasn't peed yet, we tell her, "you need to wait" and she sits down again, we count down (slowly!) and then she can be finished. We're starting to work on "stop" with her also - one adult at the end of the hall, one starts walking with her, when she bolts, front adult commands her to "stop" and reinforces with edibles as appropriate, etc. I think the STAR curriculum has some specific programs and protocols for working on these things, and these are loosely based on them, modified as appropriate for student and school.

    3) for higher kids, or kids with more verbal and social awareness, work on this through social stories, comic strip conversations, and active, daily, constant pointing out what it means to be part of a group. Imitation is hard for kids with autism and learning through observation of others does not come naturally. RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) has some great activities to teach group skills, as does anything by Michelle Garcia Winner. During community outings or school events, I group my kids based on ability and who pairs well together, but I prep them BEFORE we go on who will be in their group (adults and friends) and we work on keeping "brain in the group" (doing and thinking about what the group is doing) and "body in the group" (keeping the space between yourself and others close). **brain and body in the group are concepts from Michelle Garcia Winner** We practice walking in the hall and looking at where peers are, moving body close, etc. Usually start with just the kid and an adult, but as they gain skills, move onto two students of similar skills paired together, etc. Whenever we do group things (the pledge for example, or the calendar) we do parts of it together "as a group" and we work on looking at and listening to others and "doing the same" - we do exercises in gym where kids have to "follow the group", we do activities in music where kids have to "match your friend" by finding the same beat, etc. Its everywhere, constantly, throughout the day.

    4) Use VISUALS! This is probably captian-of-the-obvious-for you, but I find that so many people assume that kids that are verbal and can read do not need visual supports. THEY DO NOT HAVE TO BE PICTURES. I use post it notes constantly as reminders for them. We do have a huge stop sign on all the doors that lead out of the classroom and school, but I will put post its on students desks in gen ed with messages like, "when I am done, I can: 1) read my book or 2) ask an adult to leave the room" etc. Teach them to reference that and use it! This promotes independence and reminds them of the social norm to reference others before leaving.

    5) Perservere. It can and does get better! I have had my students anywhere from 2 - 4 years at this point, and I have seen such huge improvements in all of them this from active, daily work. Not just explaining that the "rule" is to stay with an adult, but working on the underlying social awareness and independence too.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Beverly

    Beverly Comrade

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    May 4, 2013

    BeTheChange, thank you so much for your suggestions! I think the source of frustration for me right now is that since my students are new (3 y.o.s starting midyear) and are only considered DD right now, I've not been given many supports. (And, as I discussed in another recent thread, I've noticed a different approach to ECSE overall between this and other districts). I will check out Michelle Garcia Winner, thanks! I feel like everything is going well, but there was one incident where I didn't feel like my assistant acted appropriately and it's hard to challenge the culture of the building when I'm new, you know? I appreciate the support here :)
     
  9. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

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    May 4, 2013

    Glad to help, I know what it is like to be an "island" with no help!

    I think 3-y.o will be too young for most of Garcia Winner's printed stuff, but the social concept ideas are great, and can be modified to start teaching (keep body with group). The TACSEI webite at http://www.challengingbehavior.org/ has some good resources for younger children, including social stories (I've used Tucker Turtle) and checlists for staff of positive interventions. I think with 3-yo, (and I used to teach ECSE) depending on functioning level, I would start with a lot of visuals, a lot of structure, and a lot of consistent routines, including a "transition" routine to buses, playground, whatever that is the same every time. That way kids AND adults know what is expected of them. :) Good luck - I know its hard to change others' minds too!
     

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