Strategies for Success

From the Autism Parent Support Group of Kennewick and our own Mrs. Lawrence, Academy Schools is pleased to share the following:

Working with families and educators for over two decades has taught me some important lessons about what it means to provide meaningful intervention to students with autism spectrum disorder. It is easy to get caught up in the moment-to-moment challenges and lose perspective on what we are trying to accomplish. Too often we employ strategies that address an immediate problem, without figuring out how to address the challenges over the long-term.

Here are some important concepts every parent and educator should consider when working with children with autism:

Allow for Processing. Autism at it’s core is an information processing disorder. This impacts a person’s ability to take in, make sense of, and respond to information.  It is essential to remember the importance of slowing down in order to speed up!  When we give a child time to process directions, demands, questions, etc., we can help support their learning and improve their overall processing.

Behavior is Communication.  Behavior of a child with autism can make little sense to us at times and can even appear irrational. However,  ALL behavior is rational if we can see the world from the child’s eyes.  When we listen, observe, and investigate in order to understand the function of the behavior, we can make sense of it and see the world the way the child does. Be careful not to make the mistake of jumping in to change the behavior before understanding it.

Relationships are Essential.   We learn and grow through our relationships with others. Behavioral and emotional self-regulation begins with being able to regulate with others.  This is just as important, if not more important to their future success. Children with autism need to not just learn about social skills, but have opportunities to apply them and experiences to reflect on and learn from.

Communication is a Powerful Tool.  Speaking and communicating are two very different things. The ways in which we use verbal and nonverbal communication has a significant impact on our students’ communication development and thinking.  We need to work on reducing demands (questions, direct prompts, requests, etc.) and communicate more in an inviting manner by increasing our nonverbal communication, sharing our experiences, and using primarily indirect mindful prompts. Making this change will help promote dynamic thinking, problem solving, and reduce the likelihood of an oppositional response.

Promoting Thinking, and Problem Solving.  The most important outcome of the learning process is to teach students to think. We need to create daily opportunities for students to think about and flexibly respond to what is happening around them.  Many people unknowingly overcompensate for the child with autism by doing the thinking for them.  We must slow down and allow kids to appraise, process, and focus more on the problems and less on the solutions.

Look for Obstacles.  Everyone has obstacles and challenges that impact their ability to function at their best. The responsibility for identifying and resolving behavior obstacles and challenges lies much more with adults than it does with children. When a child is acting out, behaving inappropriately or not as expected, it is tempting to blame the child.  Often people expect the child to meet their expectations instead of changing their expectations to match the child.  Instead ask yourself based on the child’s sensory, cognitive, social, and emotional vulnerabilities, could the expectations and demands be changed to better match the child’s current skills? Are there accommodations and modifications that can be made? Even the smallest thing can be a demand for a child.

Families as Partners.  Parents are the primary players in the growth and development of their children. Professionals and families must be more than a team for the purpose of completing required paperwork. A working relationship based on trust and mutual respect is required for students to reach their highest potential.

Teaching or raising a child with autism while rewarding, is not an easy task. I hope these concepts and strategies help the back to school transition be a successful one.  If you are in need of more guidance, support or training, give us a call, we are here to help!

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