Instructional Strategies for teaching Autistics

What are some strategies for teaching autistics?

After receiving my ASD diagnosis around the age of two, my parents got me early intervention services. My early intervention services included all kinds of therapies, in which I received seven days a week. Evidence-based practices were applied, which helped me tremendously. Today, I apply evidence-based practices into my work as a paraprofessional for students with disabilities. I make sure to implement instructional strategies that are personalized to the student. There are three instructional strategies I used when working in early childhood with an individual with ASD: task analysis, modeling, and visual supports. 

Task Analysis is an instructional strategy in which a complex skill or behavior is broken down into small, individual steps for a student to complete. Once a student masters one step of a complex skill or behavior, they can move onto the next step of a complex skill or behavior. This approach is effective because it teaches a student to learn through steps. For example, I recall teaching a student with ASD to wash their hands. The first step I taught them was to turn on the water from the faucet. By the last step, I taught them to dry their hands. After the student completes all of the steps, then they could eventually perform that complex skill independently. As demonstrated, task analysis is used to teach any kind of skill, from academic to daily life skills. The goal of task analysis is for a student to complete a complex skill or behavior independently by using the steps they were taught. The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (n.d) explains that task analysis helps students with ASD become more independent by having a skill or behavior broken down into steps instead. This instructional strategy can be implemented in any setting, thus promoting generalization. In sum, task analysis is a step-by-step process that addresses all kinds of domains: behavior, communication, and social. 

While using task analysis, modeling can be implemented during any of the steps, depending on the student. Modeling is an instructional strategy used to engage a student to perform a skill or behavior. The teacher describes the skill or behavior that is being taught. For instance, when I taught a student with ASD to wash their hands, I had to use modeling sometimes to show them how to perform a step of this complex skill, such as turning on the water by using the faucet. This approach is effective because students with ASD observe the teacher’s thought processes, and learn to imitate behaviors that encourage learning. Through modeling, it helps students apply new skills and behaviors into various environments. This instructional strategy is beneficial in many ways: promotes generalization of a student’s skills and behaviors, increases independence, builds a student’s confidence, and decreases a student’s errors. To sum up, modeling encourages learning through observations of skills and behaviors for students to perform. 

In addition, visual supports is an instructional strategy used to help students process information that they are learning. Visual supports can include schedules, choice boards, checklists/organizers, visual behavior supports, and etc. For example, I worked with a student with ASD who was using a first/then visual, which shows a picture of the task that must be completed first and then another picture of a reward following the task. This visual behavior support teaches a student of what is expected of them to do now and what will happen next. This approach is effective because it teaches students skills across curriculum areas: social, communication, and behavior. Visual supports teaches students social skills, in order to apply them in their own social situations. Visual supports promote students to use alternative communication skills. Visual supports teaches students to cope with changes. All in all, visual supports helps teach a student various skills, from communication to behaviors. 

In conclusion, three instructional strategies can be used to teach early childhood children with ASD: task analysis, visual supports, and modeling. These instructional strategies can be applied together at once or separated, depending on the skill or behavior being taught to the student with ASD. These instructional strategies are important to help a student with ASD grow as life-long learners.

So what kind of strategies have you used for teaching autistics? Share your thoughts in the comment’s section!

Reference:

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder. (n.d.). What are evidence-based practices? Retrieved from https://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/evidence-based-practices

Assessments for ASD

Evaluation process

How does a child or adult get evaluated for ASD? What kind of assessments are involved?

During the age of one, my parents were recommended by a neurologist that I should get evaluated for ASD. My parents wanted to know what was going on with me in regards to my development, so they followed the neurologist’s advice. As a result of my evaluation, I was diagnosed with ASD around the age of two. When it comes to evaluating people for ASD, there are different kinds of assessments implemented: standardized assessments and non-standardized assessments. 

Standardized assessments are assessments with consistent questions, which use the same scoring and administration procedures to measure and compare students from their peers in the class and peers in their grade level. When using this assessment for evaluating people for ASD, it examines an individual’s knowledge and abilities in many domains: cognitive, social, and language. Durand (2014) describes the following forms of this assessment implemented in ASD evaluations: Wechsler Intelligence Scales, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. These forms of assessments are focused on the main domains of human development, which can help determine areas of concern. When evaluating children with ASD, I can use these forms of assessment to find out the child’s development compared to other children in their age group and estimate the severity of a child’s ASD. This is one of the assessments used when evaluating individuals for ASD, so now let’s talk about non-standardized assessments.

Non-standardized assessments are personalized assessments used to measure individual progress of students. When it comes to using this assessment for evaluating individuals for ASD, they examine an individual’s specific performances, skills, and abilities. Durand (2014) shares the following forms of this assessment implemented in ASD evaluations: questionnaires, observation measures, and semistructured interviews. When I got evaluated for ASD, the doctor who evaluated me used a checklist of questions in regards to developmental milestones. Also, the doctor observed my behaviors, and they recorded my behaviors based on their observations. Plus, I had to perform basic tasks based on the doctor’s instructions, such as walking on my tippy toes, responding when someone said hello to me, and etc. The doctor modified the tasks when needed based on my individual needs. This kind of assessment is flexible when evaluating individuals with ASD because it can be modified and accommodated based on their needs. This kind of assessment can be changed as the child develops overtime. When evaluating children with ASD, I can use this kind of assessment to find out the child’s severity of ASD, and any information about the child that will be useful for developmental and evaluation goals. Unlike the other kind of assessment,  individuals participate more in this kind of assessment due to their individual needs. 

All in all, these assessments are used to evaluate individuals for ASD. Standardized assessments can be used to understand the child’s development compared to other children’s development in the same age group and estimate the severity of the child’s ASD. Non-standardized assessments allow people to create development and evaluation goals for the child, and get them interventions and services based on their needs. Both kinds of assessments are beneficial in evaluations for ASD. 

So now do you understand more about assessments used to evaluate people for ASD?

Reference:

Durand, V. M. (2014). Screening, diagnosis, and assessment. In Autism spectrum disorder: A clinical guide for general practitioners (pp. 67–83). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.libauth.purdueglobal.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pzh&AN=2013-21334-004&site=eds-live

Stimming

A boy showing body movement.

What is stimming?

Wang (n.d.) explains the meaning of stimming as repetitive behaviors, such as movement and/or speech. Stimming is one of the signs/symptoms of Autism. When I was really young, I used to rock back and forth, bang my head against the wall, and spin in circles nonstop. There are many reasons that Autistics stim:

  • Over or under stimulation = sensory input (less or more)
  • pain reduction
  • management of emotions/ self-regulation: negative and positive emotions displayed through movements or sounds

Is stimming an issue? Stimming is not an issue because it can be calming and soothing for Autistic children and adults. Although, if stimming interferes with learning, causes harm to others and/or themselves, or leads to emotionally harmful social reactions, then it should be addressed. Here are ways to handle these kinds of stimming behaviors mentioned:

  1. Safe and peaceful environment! Adjust the environment by creating a peaceful, safe environment filled of sensory toys to maximize comfort for everyone. It is all up to you!
  2. Good relationship with an Autistic child/adult! This means to spend time with an Autistic child/adult. For an example, join in stimming with them through exercising. The benefits are relationship building and creating healthy routines for everyone.
  3. Get medical exams! Sometimes stimming can be due to undetected health issues that an Autistic child/adult is experiencing, such as ear infections or migraines. By having an Autistic child/adult checked up yearly from a doctor, this helps eliminates any health issues.

Did you know Autistic children and adults are not the only ones who stim? Have you experienced stimming yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Reference:

Wang, K. (n.d.). Autism and Stimming. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/autism-and-stimming/

Eye Contact

Two people face-to-face

Do our eyes tell so much about ourselves?

Eye contact is a form of non-speaking communication between people by demonstrating emotions. Poor or lack of eye contact is one of the signs/symptoms of Autism. My parents shared with me that I lacked eye contact for a very long time. It took me a long time to look at people face to face. The main reason eye contact is hard for Autistic children and adults is due to brain development:

  • Connection of nerves not working together in the brain!
    • Massachusetts General Hospital (2017) explains that imbalance of networks in the brain creates abnormal, delayed development of social interactions, including reaction of eye contact. Therefore, there could be underconnectivity of networks in the brain, which can demonstrate underlying causes of eye-avoidance.
    • Stewart (n.d.) describes sensory, language, and social difficulties of Autistic children and adults due to sources and networks not working together in the brain. For example, it can be difficult for Autistic children and adults to read body language, such as messages conveyed from the eyes. The visual and language networks with sensory input may be not working well together, which explain difficulties of social context.

Eye contact should not be forced and should occur naturally. Eye contact is important for attention and reasons of communication. Here are some ways to teach Autistic children and adults eye contact naturally:

  1. Special interests! Do not tell directly to Autistic children and adults to look at them. This will make them not comfortable. Develop conservations or activities based on the their interests and interests you both have in common. Benefits are relationship building and working on an Autistic child/adult’s skills more naturally.
  2. Be surprising and unexpecting. Give a good reason for an Autistic child or adult to look at you. By doing something surprising or something not right in the environment, this will gain an their attention and eye contact.
  3. Choose the right activity. Activities, such as games, are a great way of developing various skills not just for Autistics, but for anybody. Here are examples of games that focuses on developing eye contact: hide and seek, pass the ball, playing puppets, under the blanket game (great for sensory input!), and etc.

The way to help Autistics develop on their eye contact is by using natural teaching procedures. Everytime you see an Autistic child or adult look at you or others, reinforce them! It is so encouraging for Autistics to hear how well they are doing, and they get attention themselves. Reinforce consistently because it helps in the long run!

So, do you think eye contact should be taught naturally? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

References:

Massachusetts General Hospital. (2017, June 15). Why do those with autism avoid eye contact? Imaging studies reveal overactivation of subcortical brain structures in response to direct gaze. ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170615213252.htm

Stewart, R. (n.d). Should we insist on eye contact with people who have Autism Spectrum disorders. Indiana Resource Center for Autism. https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/should-we-insist-on-eye-contact-with-people-who-have-autism-spectrum-disorders.html

Interview with Marcus Boyd on Autism Activist and Music

What is an autism activist?

An autism activist is someone who advocates for rights of autistic people. An autism activist believes in helping autistics who have less than they do and provide services for better outcomes in life. Special interests can guide autistic people into becoming their own activists and advocates in the world. Now that we understand the idea of special interests turning people into their own activists and advocates, here is the next guest of this blog story!

Marcus Boyd is an Autistic activist and music producer. His music represents a part of his work as an autism activist and demonstrates his special interest in music as a music producer. He represents for autistic adults who can make it in the world of music industry, while advocating for autistic people through keynote speaking engagements and legislative work. Marcus is leading a positive change of ways people think about autism in the world. In fact, he became the first guest ever featured on my blog whose story was shared in one of my college courses! One of my professors in my online college this semester shared Marcus’s journey with autism a week before the interview recording. So incredible! You can watch the interview I did with Marcus here:

You can follow Marcus as “Autism Activist Marcus Boyd” through these social media accounts:

https://www.facebook.com/AutismActivistMarcusBoyd/

https://www.instagram.com/autismactivistmarcusboyd/

https://twitter.com/boydautism?lang=en

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV-xmlhdVZHTI05Wt2-fmpw/featured

Interview with Mrs. Bella on Music Intervention

What is music intervention?

Music intervention is a kind of intervention in which helps autistics with self-expression, such as their feelings and emotions. Quintin (2019) shares that music evokes circuits of rewards and emotional responses in an autistic brain, which are released from the inside out. Music intervention has proved to help autistics improve their social interactions in the world. Now that we learned the importance of music for autistic individuals, lets learn about my next guest that I interviewed for this blog story!

Mrs. Bella is a music teacher from the United Kingdom. She became the second guest on my blog who was featured from outside the U.S. In this guest interview, we discussed about her experiences as a music teacher and providing music intervention for autistic children. I thank her for all she does as a music teacher for autistic children. She is incredible! Check out the interview I did with her here:

To learn more about Mrs. Bella’s Autism Music Academy, here is the website to check out: https://www.autismmusicacademy.com/

Mrs. Bella can be followed on the following social media accounts:

https://www.instagram.com/singcreateplay/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/autism.music.academy.freegroup

Reference:

Quintin, M.E. (2019, September 18). Music-Evoked Reward and Emotion: Relative Strengths and Response to Intervention of People With ASD. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncir.2019.00049/full

Early Detections of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Have you ever had a feeling that something was different?

After I turned one years old, my parents noticed I was not making regular developmental milestones compared to my older sister, Samantha. This was back when my family and I were living in Brooklyn, NY. The Child Mind Institute (n.d.), shares some developmental milestones infants are supposed to achieve by the age of one:

  • Gets up without assistance
  • Demonstrates emotions of fear towards strangers
  • Responds to simple requests, such as someone saying “hello”
  • Repeats sounds and noises to get attention
  • Tries to say words other people say
  • Copies gestures and imitates
  • Uses hand grasps, such as a pincer grasp
  • Follows simple directions

Is an infant missing developmental milestones? How do we know if someone is Autistic? Here are some signs and symptoms of Autism to know and comprehend:

  1. Delayed speech and language development
  2. Repetitive behaviors (ex: hand flapping, rocking, spinning, head banging, creates same noises or sounds, etc.)
  3. Fixation on special interests, objects, or activities
  4. Does not like changes in routine
  5. Poor eye contact
  6. Demonstrates lack of social interaction (ex: playing, sharing, and talking to others)
  7. High or low sensitivity to sounds, smells, tastes, texture, and/or colors
  8. Avoids physical contact due to sensory sensitivity
  9. Demonstrates attention to detail
  10. Difficulty with social cues (ex: difficult to understand others are thinking and feeling)

Please be aware that these are some of the many signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There are many more signs and symptoms beyond this list. As for me, I demonstrated every single sign and symptom on this list here. I did not say my first word until I was six years, and I did not fully communicate in sentences until I was ten years old. I used to bang my head against the wall, rock back and forth, and spin in circles as my repetitive behaviors. I was sensitive by touch, which meant I did not like hugs nor people touching my skin; I did not feel comfortable people touching me as an infant. I used to not like changes in routine at all. These are some examples from my infant years. You can learn more about this in my blog story, “Early Years”.

Do you know someone who displays these signs or symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Reference:

Child Mind Institute. (n.d). Milestones at 1 Year. CMI. Retrieved on July 2nd, 2021. https://childmind.org/guide/developmental-milestones/milestones-at-1-year/

Interview with Timothy Rohrer on Disability Inclusion

What is disability inclusion?

The CDC (n.d) shares the meaning of disability inclusion as allowing individuals with disabilities be part of society just like everyone else. Examples of disability inclusion includes the following: individuals with disabilities being employed in the workplace, participating in school clubs and activities, playing in games and sports in the community, and etc. Everyone has the right to be involved in the world. By working together, the world can be a more inclusive place for everyone to live in. Now let me introduce to you a guest that I interviewed in this blog story!

Timothy Rohrer is a young adult on the Autism spectrum from New Jersey who is impacting lives of individuals with disabilities by advocating for disability inclusion. Ever since he created his own disability inclusion pamphlet, he grew into an advocate known as “Tips4Inclusion”. He is a keynote speaker who has shared his journey on the Autism spectrum and other topics in special education for various school districts and organizations throughout New Jersey. He creates videos on YouTube about various topics in special education, including inclusion. He is an author of a book, “Timmy’s Story: A Story about Autism and Friendship”. In this guest interview, we discussed about his journey on the Autism spectrum and the importance of disability inclusion. Check out the interview I did with Timothy here:

You can follow Timothy Rohrer as “Tips4Inclusion” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Here is the website for visiting “Tips4Inclusion”: https://tips4inclusion.wixsite.com/disabilityinclusion

Reference:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d). Disability Inclusion. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/disability-inclusion.html

Traveling on the Autism spectrum

July 2020: summer vacation in Finger Lakes, NY!

What are your plans this summer?

The summer season has begun, and many families are traveling for day trips or vacation. Although, depending on an individual’s personality and/or where the individual is on the Autism spectrum, needs and challenges will be different for everyone. Thus, day trips and vacations can be difficult for many Autistics. Vartan (2017) shares many reasons that day trips or vacations can be difficult for some Autistics in which should be kept in mind:

  • Unexpected changes in routine due to new experiences
  • Issues with new noises and sights that can impact sensory input
  • Finding acceptable foods due to choosy eating habits
    • NOTE: I shared a blog story about helping Autistic children and adults going from choosy eating to healthy eating. The blog story is called, “Choosy Eater to Healthy Eater”.
  • Different levels of co-occurring disabilities or conditions
    • Example: An autistic child or adult having a physical disability as well, from minor to significant, depending on the individual.

Growing up, I had sensory issues and choosy eating habits during day trips or vacations. For instance, I will never forget the first time I ever went to Disney World. It was 2004, and I was 6 years old at the time. My parents used to find restaurants that had French toast, pizza, or macaroni and cheese on the menu. If they did not any of these foods on the menu, my family and I would go somewhere else until there was at least one of these foods on the restaurant’s menu. Keep in mind that it took me a long time to learn and try new foods, so I still had choosy eating habits for years.

Furthermore, I remember watching a show in Disney’s Animal Kingdom section of Disney World. The noise level of the show was so loud for me that I covered my ears the entire time, and I was starting to cry at one point. My mom noticed I was not having fun watching the show, so she got me outside because it was quieter outside than inside, since the show was playing inside. As I got older, I became not as sensitive with loud noises as I used to. A lot has to do with watching shows or listening to music on my phone by having the volume higher. Want to know how to help Autistics get ready and get through day trips or vacations? Here are some ways to help Autistics get ready and get through a fun day trip or vacation:

  1. Be flexible! Allow the Autistic child or adult choose the vacation or day trip in mind. It allows them to work on making decisions for themselves. Although, keep in mind to make sure the location for the day trip or vacation is Autism friendly, which means places that have employees with knowledge about individuals on the Autism Spectrum. For example, Walt Disney World has a program in place that accommodates Autistics and their families. This is a great location because not only employees understand, but the location advocates for Autistics by having a program in place. Lastly, make sure to establish some break times during the day trip or vacation for everyone to rest up.
  2. Establish an itinerary! Make sure to have a schedule full of routines because this will make a vacation or day trip less stressful for Autistics. Some changes in routine can occur during a day trip or vacation, which is understandable. Make sure to use visual supports, like a visual schedule, to demonstrate a change in routine. Autistic children and adults will learn and know expectations for the day during a day trip or a vacation, no matter the changes or not.
  3. Use social stories or role playing! By creating social stories or role playing about vacations or day trips, this helps Autistics know expectations and understand in general about vacations or day trips.
  4. Be equipped and prepared! Make sure to have packed sensory items and anything else based on Autistic child or adult’s needs to get through traveling and through a day trip or vacation. Here are some recommended items or objects: noise canceling headphones, visual supports (EX: visual schedule), fidget spinners, stress squeezable balls, an iPad or tablet, weight lap blanket, portable scents (sensory seekers), sunglasses, chewable foods (ex: crackers or pretzels), and etc. These are some recommend items, so remember to pack based on an Autistic child or adult’s needs.

Where are you going this summer? If you have been on a vacation or went on day trips already, where did you go? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Reference:

Vartan, S. (2017, September 26.) How the world is changing for travelers with autism. CNN travel. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/travelers-with-autism/index.html

4th of July

This year’s 4th of July is coming back to how we used to celebrate 4th of July. From watching fireworks to having BBQ parties, it is a fun holiday. Although, this holiday is one of the many holidays that can be hard for Autistics, due to social interactions and/or sensory sensitivity.

When it came to our 4th of July parties with my cousins, I always had a blast! Sometimes my family would host 4th of July at our house, or I would go to my cousin Ashley’s house. Although, I recall not enjoying the fireworks in person when I was younger because of the noise. The fireworks were so loud that I would always cover my ears! For years, my family and I would watch the fireworks live on TV. Who can relate with me about this?

Everyone can enjoy great holidays like this one! Here are some tips to make this holiday more friendly for everyone to celebrate:

  1. Discuss about it! Any social stories about this holiday would be important to share to Autistics, so they know what is expected and general knowledge about the history of this holiday.
  2. Go through old pics from this holiday! Going through pictures about what goes on during this holiday with the family can help Autistics be prepared.
  3. Be prepared for anything! This means to have everything that an Autistic child or adult needs, from noise cancelling headphones to fidget or stimming toys. If going to see fireworks in person, make sure to prepare an Autistic child or adult by watching fireworks on YouTube, so the volume can be controlled. Also, make sure there is a relaxation area in the environment when needed for an Autistic child or adult.

As asked earlier, who can relate with me about being sensitive to loud noises, such as fireworks?

I hope everyone has a great and fun 4th of July!

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