Teaching students with moderate to severe autism?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Ms_T, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. Ms_T

    Ms_T New Member

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    Aug 7, 2013

    Hi everyone! I teach 2nd and 3rd grade students with moderate to severe autism in a self contained classroom. There are two teachers in my classroom and 7 kids with quite a lot of inappropriate behavior going on (jumping, running, climbing, etc), we're finding it quite difficult to get one on one teaching going on a consistent basis. We've tried putting the kids at learning centers to work quietly on their own activities while one teacher watches them but they tend to blow through activities quickly and rush away to zip around the classroom. We know that most of the behavior is due to a need for movement and try our best to provide opportunities where they can do that appropriately but there are limits to what we can do and we also don't like splitting the teachers and class up (i.e. teacher 1 takes some students to jungle gym while teacher 2 remains in class teaching). Does anyone have other tips and ideas on how to manage a classroom with kids who have a lot of hyperactive behavior?
     
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  3. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

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    Aug 9, 2013

    Hi! I also teach k-6 mod/severe autism and have had up to 8 kids in my room at one time (with 1-3 paras, depending on the year). They are movers and shakers for sure! So, you have no paras? What do you guys do when it is time for you to eat lunch/have prep?

    Without knowing your classroom or particular students (as every student with ASD is different, as we well know!) here are some ideas that have worked well for me:

    1) start to group your students! 1:1 work is awesome and I WISH we had the ability to do more of it, but in my experience, it is not realistic in public school. There just aren't enough people. Also, it is good for these kids to get used to functioning in a group, WAITING, taking turns, staying put when things aren't particularly interesting, etc. When I first start teaching staying in groups, I usually keep the activities very short, easy, and reinforce heavily for staying put. Think about your kids' skills and ability levels and pair the "most likes" together, or in twos or threes. Depending on where they are, you can go back and forth quickly with 2 students, or you can give one something to do and work for 3-5 minutes with the other, then switch. If you have computers, computers are a great "third" center that in my experience, most kids do independently enough. Check out the ZAC browser - its a free downloadable internet browser for kids with autism that simplifies web surfing and has a variety of favorite kid-friendly activities, games, and videos. They also can't x out of it and get into other stuff unless you put in the password. Hee hee. This has GREATLY helped my kids with independence on the computer. It is not what I would consider terribly academic, but they do learn stuff from it, they love the videos, and anyway, watching videos on youtube is an age-appropriate leisure activity for peers, so I don't stress too much if they do this for 10-15 minutes.

    2) Use visual timers! Start small, but teach them that a timer means they are to stay put until they see/hear the red all gone/beep. I use them for computers, lunch, groups, recess, gym, EVERYTHING and even my lowest kids recognize the timer and what it means.

    3) Use visuals, everywhere, on everything. At group table, label their chairs, their spots, their pencils. I color code everything so there are no squabbles and no questions (also helps with independence). And for some reason, kids stay put better when they can see their own space.

    4) Teach them to be responsible for every part of every routine, including taking out/putting away supplies as they are able. (this will help if you are very organized and have labels and visual spots for everything). Not only will this help keep your classroom running and minimize the things YOU have to do between groups, but it will teach them to follow directions, be persistent, have more awareness of their things, their space, and others, and make them more independent in general.

    5) Be creative with the movement breaks - we are lucky to have access to a sensory room to use in the morning, but we also have a "movement zone" in our hallway! It has visual cues of 8 different activities on the wall, visual-schedule fashion, and there are also no signs velcroed on top in case we want to delete one or two activities. The kids have poly spots to stand on and we move through the exercises. Maybe your OT could help you with this. Start short, with 1-2 activities until the kids are familiar, then gradually lengthen. you can practice ANYTHING while you move. I keep a box of flash cards over by our movement zone and the kids take turns picking what we are going to review while we march, sway, spin, etc. We start large group with MeMoves, and we do yoga after lunch. If you have access to a SMARTboard or projector, there are tons of great kids' yoga videos on youtube and MeMoves was specifically developed by am OT to target certain areas in the brain and help with calming kids. We also are able to use the gym in the morning and afternoon for 10 minutes before the other kids get there, so we go down and run laps (they all have visual lap counters on the wall to count their 5 laps. Then they sit and wait until all are done before we leave. When we were first teaching this, we had one adult with skittles standing by the wall with the "done" kids reinforcing their good sitting, waiting, etc. with skittles. Now we don't need them at all, they totally know what to do, so we are teaching them to cheer for the other kids that are still running! Social interaction!)

    6) Teach kids what they CAN do when they finish their independent work. For example, at the end of my kids' independent work strips, there is a Velcro piece that says, "please check my work" and they have to come find a teacher (PECS style) and have their work checked. I have masking tape X's on the floor so they know where to stand while having their work checked. Teacher checks and has them correct any errors. Then there should be some kind of procedure for what is next. You could have a "waiting" area or "waiting" chairs where they could go to look at books, use fidgets, etc. When my kids were really little they all had a "wait" box with stuff they liked in it that they were allowed to sit in their group chairs and use until everyone was ready. When I say 1-2 kids were finished with independent work, I knew it was time to wrap it up with my group. Start small, reinforce good waiting constantly.........it will pay off!! Maybe you want to consider a time of day when everyone works on independent things so you can both reinforce whatever procedure you decide to use.

    8) Don't be afraid to make boundaries for behavior. Use visual cues, "no climb" signs, "no" signs on cabinets and things you don't want them in, etc. and stick to them. Though I have found that sometimes there is a fine line in figuring out what they can and cannot control, and you have to do some trial and error, even kids with the most severe severe autism CAN be taught to stay within behavioral boundaries if you are calm, patient, visual and consistent. Focus on their strengths and what they do well. Tell them and show them what they CAN do with their hands and bodies instead.

    10) Start small, start slow, work up. It can be tempting to change things around in the middle of the river if they seem like they are not working, but I have found it takes my kids an average of 3-4 weeks to start responding to rules and procedures without a lot of support. They will get it! Be consistent and patient as you can.

    11) Utilize your OT. I LOVE our OT - she and I conference once a week and she has been soooooooooooooo helpful in helping me figure out sensory needs of my kids. We have a variety of individualized things in place for them like adapted seating (ball chair, squish cushion, individualized exercises to do before starting work, etc.) Also, decide what you will and will not accept in terms of behavioral boundaries, and don't stress too much about other movement. For example, one of my kids likes to spin during independent work (but he is working). He stands, does a few problems, spins in 2 circles, sings himself a little song, then goes back to work. As long as he is working, I let him do this. Another student of mine has the option of standing or sitting at group table. She is allowed to stand as long as she is in her "box" that I taped on the floor with masking tape. When we are getting ready to go and waiting for everyone, the kids are allowed to either sit on their chairs or stand in their "boxes." This gives them some freedom to move, while staying within socially appropriate boundaries. For the record, I love poly spots! I taught them to stay on their "spots" during group activities like the movement zone and I take them everywhere with me, when we go out into the community. My kids all know what they are for and they calm down instantly when we have to wait somewhere and I say, "here's your spot."

    Good luck! Have a great school year!
     
  4. Listlady

    Listlady Companion

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    Aug 9, 2013

    Hi. I just went to a training yesterday, and one of the suggestions for students who need to move was to get those foam noodles people use for swimming and let students put them on the floor and tool them back and forth with their feet. It's fairly quiet and keeps them occupied. They can cut each noodle into two or three pieces.

    Other quiet things they could touch and not disturb others would be good: stress balls, play dough or some kind of putty, small bean bags. One teacher stuck some of those commend Velcro strips under the desk tops so that students could rub them.
     

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