Tips for Autism
Did you see my autism tips on Instagram? In case you didn’t, I thought I would share a little more information about each tip here with you! If you don’t yet follow me on IG, just search @lookslikelanguage. Easy! See you there!
This week’s tips have information I learned while working with low functioning students with autism at an ABA school. I don’t really know how much background you get in college now regarding autism, but there was nothing back in the day when I went to school. NADA.
So, everything I know has come from a combination of watching wonderful special education teachers, reading, taking many in-service courses and practical experience.
I thought I’d share some of the important takeaways and aha moments I had. Maybe they will be new to you and help you with a student you have. Maybe they will just remind you of what you already knew. But either way, I hope they help!
Tips & Take-Aways
In functional behavior analysis terms, what happened just prior is called the antecedent. We look at the antecedent behavior for a variety of reasons, including for figuring out what triggered the inappropriate behavior and how to eliminate it.
We need to work together as a team in the best interests of our students to reduce or eliminate inappropriate behaviors, but SLPs do have something to add from our specialty in communication.
While the incorrect behavior needs to be stopped, if there is a communicative intent that the behavior serves, we need to replace that behavior with an appropriate way to get those needs met. Looking carefully at what was going on prior to the behavior can possibly provide us with clues as to what the communicative intent may be.
We also must consider what happened immediately after the behavior, called the consequence in functional behavioral analysis. If our student gets something desirable after an inappropriate behavior, that behavior may actually become the way to request the desired item. Again, the behavior needs to be corrected and we need to help the student learn an appropriate way to communicate.
By the way, this always sounds easier on paper and in examples than it hardly ever is in real life, so I’m not even going to bother with an example here. Just keep working at it, readjusting your plan, until there is progress! It is the most important thing you can do!
Practice While Calm
Students never learn while they are upset! After you have a hypothesis about the communicative function, work on setting up situations to give the student as many trials as possible to practice the replacement communicative behavior while calm. Work with the team to follow the behavioral program while you are teaching the new communication skill.
The inappropriate method of communicating did not develop overnight, and the new way won’t be learned that quickly either. Careful data can help you tell if you are moving in a positive direction and keep your motivation levels up.
In my experience, children who are cognitively low functioning with autism usually have some problems with sensory integration. They will have some sensory modalities that they crave- toys and activities that fall in this category can be great for reinforcers and for breaks.
They also have sensory problems that inhibit them from being able to handle a variety of activities. The child who is sensitive to noises is a prime example. You might see him covering his ears when it doesn’t seem particularly loud to you, and he may not even be able to function during a fire drill. Getting an array of sensory toys will help you determine this pretty quickly, as well as giving you important information to use in planning therapy activities.
My students had a lot of self-stimulatory behaviors and very few to no actual play skills. They lacked the knowledge of what to do with the objects around my room and tended to use them as an extension of their favorite stimulatory activity. I found that if my students engaged with objects or traditional toys in any way at all, from looking or touching briefly to actually picking it up and interacting (inappropriately) with it, it meant they were interested.
I started with the toy that got the most interest and matched their preferred sensory modality to teach them how to play. When skills are achieved with one type of toy, expand it to a similar toy!
Click here to read more about teaching play.
If you’d like a little more help, click here to check out my free Getting Started with Autism Guide!
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