need ideas for student with autism

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by stevensone77, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. stevensone77

    stevensone77 New Member

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    Apr 10, 2012

    I am a teacher of children with autism. I have been teaching for 14 years and have a ton of resources, ideas, and materials. However, I am STUMPED by a current kiddo.
    This child has so many splinter skills and I don't know what to focus on next.
    Here is a list of his deficits and skills:
    -Nonverbal - able to use pictures to communicate basic wants such as food choices, color choices, toys
    -able to match most anything given - picture to picture, picture to object, similar pictures, items by attribute, item by function, words, numbers, colors, etc
    -able to sort and assemble up to 5 pieces
    -able to follow a picture schedule independently (familiar schedule items)
    -can copy letters and numbers to write items (not always legible)
    -independent in all self-care skills - can feed self, is toilet trained, can clean up area, brush teeth, wash face, comb hair, etc
    -Can do 1:1 correspondance
    -Can place correct number of objects for numbers 1-5 (touch math method); working on 6-9 and expect mastery by end of May
    -CANNOT receptively identify objects (have been discrete trial training "touch" ball, pencil, cup, spoon, all year and have seen NO progress
    -CANNOT match words to pictures (have been discrete trial training and mass trial training picture/word match for boys, girls, exit and poison all year and have seen no progress
    -CANNOT follow unfamiliar directions
    -does not show comprehension of lessons. Will ask "what animal are we talking about" and will point randomly to pictures, however, if shown a picture of the animal we are talking about can match to similar animal picture. (hope that makes sense)
    -does not show interest in toys/computer/music - chooses to sit with a squish ball and slinky at all free times
    -Very self-stimulating with flapping hands, squeals, and "burping" noises

    So, here is my question. What skills do I go to next? What should I be focusing on for this kid? Any ideas are appreciated!!!
     
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  3. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Apr 11, 2012

    Have some ideas for you-- but first, what age is the student?
     
  4. stevensone77

    stevensone77 New Member

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    Apr 12, 2012

    He is 11
     
  5. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Apr 12, 2012

    Do you have access to iPads or Augmentative Communication Devices? This would be an incredible skill for your student. Even if you don't have the special/expensive AAC apps, there are a ton of free or very low costs that could be used to teach him the skills he needs to become a proficient and independent communicator. PECS is a great foundation - but if he's proficient and it's holding him back from learning more language (does he acquire new words pretty readily? i.e. he wants the chocolate cookie, you add a chocolate cookie picture to his book, then he can ask for the chocolate cookie?), then it is time to look at ways to continue to develop his language.

    If you don't have access to an iPad/AAC device/AAC specialist, I would recommend teaching him additional communication skills such as, "Excuse me," (sit in his chair and tell him to sit down, repeatedly, while prompting him to tell teacher/peer "excuse me"), "saying" (waving) goodbye when leaving the classroom (you can even add a mini me recording device - about $10 - with a recording of "goodbye" by the door, which allows for voice output while he connects the "wave" to the word "Goodbye" to the action of leaving the room). http://www.teachwithsound.com/servlet/StoreFront Here's the device, about $8 + shipping. You can use these for other things as well (completing a picture schedule / work schedule - having him say, "I'm finished!" when he's done... vocational skills - completing an activity and then requesting more [i.e. I need more envelopes, or I need more stamps]).

    Really, at this point, he seems like a kid who will have difficulty with receptive language for the rest of his life. I've had kids like this. The kids who really never move forward in the receptive domain. It's important to not "ignore" receptive language skills, but to really make modifications to your programs in such a way that he can be successful. For your "boys" and "girls" program - perhaps a more "life skill" way of teaching it would be to take this student to all of the different bathrooms in the school (and community if you are able!) and teaching him which one to go in (via the "mens" and "women's" pictures on the doors paired with the words). You could also take pictures of bathroom signs (or download them from the internet, there are tons on google!) and do discrete trial programs where you say, "Which bathroom do you go in?" or "Which bathroom is for boys?" Even if he doesn't understand what you're saying, he knows what the expectation is (boys) and that question is never going to change (we aren't going to quiz him on girls because we don't care!) So having him be able to choose the correct bathroom to enter is a huge life skill, more so than being able to read the words.

    For math, I would try some functional money skills. Do you have a vending machine in your school? Sounds like he's probably in elementary school so I am betting not - but even if you have one in your teacher lounge, maybe you can get permission to use it with your student. Start by teaching him to place coins in the machine UNTIL it reads "$1.00" and then teaching him to make a choice. If he's not at the point where he could match letters and numbers to make an intentional snack choice, you can make a huge flash card or other large visual with the numbers/pictures of snacks he likes. He can bring this with him when he goes to the machine. Point out to him, "Look! A4! That's doritos. You love doritos!" and I would bet that after spending some time doing this, you could fade out the visual cue because he would eventually be able to see the numbers in front of the vending machine choices and pick what he wants. Here again, he's not really counting money but he's A) learning to put coins into the machine until it says $1.00 and B) learning to make a choice independently and C) learning to match the numbers/letters from the snack choice onto the keypad.

    Additionally, another great math/money skill is paying for items. Does he buy his lunch? Does he have to swipe a lunch card or type a lunch number? Get him to be independent with this. He will need this skill in the future. You didn't mention lunch but he could be taught to enter his own number, take his dollars out of his wallet, or swipe his lunch card (whatever your system is) if he practices in an instructional session (paraprofessional or other therapist can work with him every day outside of the lunch session). If it's a lunch number, try a backwards chain, teach him to press the last number and then enter. The last two numbers and then enter. Even if it takes 5 months, He will probably need his lunch number until he is 21 and he is learning to pay for items on his own. If "memorizing" the lunch number is the challenge, give him a clothespin to clip onto his pants with the lunch number. Can he copy numbers? Teach him to put his finger on each number on the clothespin, type it on the lunch keypad, then move to the next number, then enter. There are many ways you can teach this but if you break it down into little tiny baby minuscule steps, he will get it in time.

    Totally know what you're saying about the comprehension of lessons. This goes with his receptive language weaknesses. Auditory learning is not his style! He's a visual kid, like many of our friends with autism. :)
    I would recommend giving him visuals for the stories you read (i.e. if you read about dogs, give him a copy of the story with picture cues for the words - because he's not reading anyway - he's gaining more from the pictures) - at the top should be a huge picture of a dog if that is the title/main idea of the story. This way, he can be taught to answer the question, "What are we talking about?" by looking at his own worksheet or story with picture cues. It's basically like providing a story to a blind student in braille - once we give it to him in his mode of communication, he's more likely to understand! And, it is likely that throughout his life he will need these sorts of accommodations, so it's not out of the question to provide these supports now so that he can gain as many skills as he can in school. Hope this makes sense!

    You said, "Cannot follow unfamiliar directions." A great skill domain to work on would be, again, functional directions. So, you can teach him "contextual" directions - such as "Wash your hands," but you don't give the direction until he's at the sink. You might provide a visual cue, "Wash your hands" (while showing a picture of the sink), or "Tie your shoes" by pointing to his shoes when they're untied (which is another skill in itself if he cannot tie his shoes!), or "pick up the toys" when he is in the toy corner and there are toys all over the floor. Anything that is in context is likely to make a lot more sense to him.

    Leisure skills - What kinds of music have you tried with him? Music is a GREAT leisure skill for kids with autism because it's so "normal" (even if he likes baby songs, that's a starting point!!!) Have you tried headphones? Sometimes (surprisingly) the kids like it when its in headphones because they don't hear the outside noise. Ask if he has an iPod at home (or check with your tech dept to see if you have any mp3 players or iPods at your school). Teach him to put the headphones on and listen to music. This is great for lifelong skills because it's something that will be appropriate for the rest of his life, no matter what he's listening to! If he doesn't like "music," you can also download other things like sounds (does he like trucks? animals? whatever he likes you can download sounds to those things and intersperse sounds with music). Maybe he likes a specific story, you can record yourself (or mom or someone motivating) reading a favorite story and he can listen to that. To the outside world, he's an eleven year old listening to an iPod, which is appropriate! So whatever you put on there, I don't care! Try to be creative with the iPod, because this one can really be used in many ways. Additional leisure skills - if you have access to an iPad, there are a variety of cause/effect (simple/baby/low level) games that are available and many of them can "look" age appropriate (there's a lava lamp app called OOZE that you just manipulate the goo on the screen and I have colleagues (typical!!) who love this app!) So There are tons of opportunities in that area, as well. Again, he's playing on an iPad, so really whatever he's doing doesn't matter TOO much as long as he has a way of keeping himself occupied with something appropriate.

    Another great leisure skill is legos. That's appropriate for an 11 year old. Put a bunch of legos together to build a tower, and teach him to pull them apart. Then teach him to build them back together. He may need to be "reinforced" with an edible or other item for doing this, because even though we think it's fun, he may not care about it. At least teaching him to do something with the legos, even if it only lasts for 1-2 minutes, is increasing his leisure skill repertoire. I had one kid who HATED the actual act of putting the legos together, but he liked to take them from one container and put them in another container. Hey! For a kid who had NO LEISURE SKILLS, this was something that ultimately kept him occupied and involved age appropriate materials! So we went with it! He had a bucket of legos on the left, with a sterlite bin with a small hole in the top, and he would move the legos from the bucket into the hole of the sterlite bin, one at a time. (LOL we kept thinking he was going to figure out that he could take the top off the sterlite bin and just dump the bucket in.... but that never happened!)

    At this point I would focus on:
    FUNCTIONAL
    COMMUNICATION
    BEHAVIOR
    LEISURE

    I wouldn't "abandon ship" on all other academics, but I wouldn't put as much emphasis on it. Everything you do with him, think to yourself, how will he need this in the future? It might take him 2 years to learn a skill, so we want to make it count!

    As mentioned above, try to develop his language as much as possible, even if that means adding more pictures to his book, or using low tech AAC devices like the mini me that I posted above. Use the squish ball and slinky to your advantage by reinforcing appropriate behaviors. Try to get his behavior in check as this is something that would preclude him from recreational and vocational programs in the future.

    Hope this helps!
     

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