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Challenging Behaviors in the Classroom

 

Addressing Behavioral Challenges in the

General Education Classroom

         

Tips for Student:

 

Tips for Students Who Call Out in Class:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Challenges with social understanding and        impulsivity can often result in students talking out in class. Some students have difficulty taking the perspective of others and may not be aware of how their  talking affects the class as a whole. When a question is asked, the student may think you are asking him specifically, unaware you are asking everyone and will call on different people to answer different questions. Sometimes they simply have not picked up on the generally unspoken rules of class discussions and lessons and need more specific instruction and visual supports to help them know what the expectations are. Some students may just have so much to say, they have difficulty containing themselves and may need to have structure in place to help them to stay on topic and table their desire to talk excessively about off-topic subjects.

 

  • If the student is off topic and feels like he must talk about the unrelated topic, consider scheduling a specific time (on yellow sticky or card, on student’s schedule) for him to share with you or the class.
  • Creating a visual cue of when it is “ok” and “not ok” to talk about the favorite topic can help the student learn when and where they can talk  about the topic. The use of the visual needs to be taught and reinforced when the student can curb his off topic behaviors. You must give them time to talk about it at some point in their day.
    • Teach him about on topic and off topic behaviors, ways to monitor it, and strategies for staying on topic during social skill instruction.
    • Teach the student the classroom routine of how to raise his hand and wait to be called on. Use a visual cue card as a reminder if the student often forgets (“raise hand/quiet voice” “wait for teacher to call on me.”)
    • Teach the class the rules and expectations for group lessons. Using Social Stories (Insert link for Social Stories Here) and visuals will help the student focus on what is ok and not ok.
    • Privately teach him how others may be feeling (teacher, students who also want a turn, etc.) when he talks out at circle.
    • Post behavioral expectations in your classroom that outline what is considered to be appropriate types of talking during specified times in the school day.
  • Be specific when the student is going to be called on (“After I call on Joe, I am going to call on you.”)
  • Remind the class that you call on students who are quiet and raise their hands before answering. Ignore the student who calls out and select another student to answer the question.
  • Develop a visual to signal the student when you will be calling on him.    (When you hold up two fingers, he will be next to be called upon.) (Have him draw a number from 1-4, before an instructional period. That will be the order that he will be called on to answer questions for that instructional period. If he draws number 2, you will call on him second.)      
  • Give him a specific number of poker chips and tell him he will have to “pay” each time he wants to talk. Each time he talks, ask for a chip. When he runs out, tell him - “First give me a chip. No chip, sorry, the rule is you must give me a chip before you can talk.” Once he gets used to a certain number of chips start to fade or take away chips. Be sure to keep your expectations close to those for other students of the same age and ability.
  • Use a visual sign for the whole class to know when it is “OK to talk quietly” and when it is “Quiet Time.”

 

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Tips for Students Who Talk Excessively About Preferred Topics:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Many students with autism have special interests  that they enjoy telling other people about. Sometimes they may perseverate on these interests. Students with ASD have difficulty taking the perspective of others and may not be aware of how their excessive talking is perceived by those around them or that others may not share their enthusiasm for the subject. At times, this may interfere with lessons or class discussions (insert hyperlink over the words “interfere with lessons or class discussions“ to link up to information from Tips for Students Who Call Out in Class) and/or their ability to relate with their peers.

 

  • Use a gentle touch on the shoulder as a reminder.
  • Have the student keep a notebook when he feels he must talk at inappropriate times. Encourage him to write down his thoughts and allow time for him to present his thoughts at a later time in the day.
  • Seat the student in a location with minimal distractions. Become aware of how often he is successful in gaining attention from others “on his topics.” Coach others in the classroom when it is ok to interactand when it is not. Give other students specific examples of how to encourage the student to be quiet.
  • Use a visual cue or “talking gauge” that can be moved to show when   talking is too much without competing with or adding to the noise.
  • Give him time in his day to talk about his topic(s) of interest with a person of his choice. Set a timer to help him be able to move on to anotheractivity when his “talk time” is used up.
  • Acknowledge their interests and allow time to pursue their interests at a later time, perhaps even earning that time as part of a reward system.
  • Give him a specific number of poker chips and tell him he will have to “pay” each time he wants to talk. Each time he talks, ask for a chip. When he runs out, tell him - “First give me a chip. No chip, sorry, the rule is you must give me a chip before you can talk.” Once he gets used to a certain number of chips start to fade or take away chips. Be sure to keep your expectations close to those for other students of the same age and ability.
  • Attempt to expand the student’s interest s by giving opportunities to research or learn about related topics, i.e. For a student who is interest in maps, consider introducing him to travel magazines or books about explorers or historical figures who ruled over expansive areas, like Genghis Khan or the Roman Empire.

 

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Tips for Students with Autism Who Can Be Argumentative:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Some students may actually enjoy arguing     because  it stimulates their logical thinking skills and it probably often works for them in  being able to negotiate a new “deal.” For some students, this strategy of interacting makes a social situation predictable and controllable from their viewpoint, offering a less stressful interaction for them, though arguing proves to be most stressful for those around them. Be attentive to see if their behavior is escalated or deescalated after this type of interaction. There are some students who are experts in their area of interest and quite possibly might know more about a subject than even their teacher. When this occurs, students may be likely to correct the teacher and argue over details regarding the subject during a lesson. Inflexibility of thinking is a common characteristic of autism. If there is a contradiction or change in a procedure, concept or rule, a student may react in an argumentative way .

 

  • Work with the speech pathologist to address more positive means of expressing his opinions.
  • Use social stories to address that sometimes you can engage in “negotiation” and sometimes it is not allowed. Be concrete as possible about when, where it is ok within the school day, with whom, etc.
  • Coach his peers and others in the school and home that commonly interact with him in how to respond when he engages by arguing withthem. When everyone responds the same way, he will implement the new strategies being taught with greater consistency also.
  • Teach him other ways to interact with people that still offers positive reinforcement for him (reinforced by the argument vs. the social engagement for the sake of spending time with others, their smile, niceties, etc.). You  may have to build in external reinforcement for social engagement without arguments/negotiations.
  • If a student feels compelled to argue his point and it is interrupting the  flow of a lesson, allow the student to write for 5 minutes in a journal      about his perspective, so that he may get his thoughts out and move on.
  • Teach, use, and post phrases like, “It is OK to agree to disagree,” or “Everyone has a right to their opinion.” Having these types of phrases posted, make it easy to refer to and make the concept more concrete.
  • If you notice arguing in the classroom is a pattern. Consider meeting with  the student for a few minutes. Find out what activities help calm the student down, i.e. taking a five- minute break, taking deep breaths, counting to 10, squeezing a stress ball, drawing for a few minutes, etc. Write down a menu of choices that he can select from when he is starting to feel anxious and argumentative. Have him keep this in his desk or binder to refer to when prompted.
  • Write a list of scripts or key words the student can use to communicate in a more positive sounding manner, and consider making a bank of words that are unacceptable in your classroom, i.e. “dumb” or “stupid.”

 

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Tips for Students Who Come Across as Rude, Insensitive, or Offensive:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: People with ASD have difficulty with taking the perspective of others. They tend to be more center focused and have trouble imagining that others do not know the exact information they know. Their logic can sometimes be, “If I know it, then everyone should also,” or, “If I feel this   way about a topic, everyone does as well.” In addition, many students with autism are very good at telling the truth. Sometimes stating facts, such as a  person being overweight, can prove to be offensive or rude to some. Similarly, many with ASD do not have a working knowledge of what are considered topics that are appropriate and not appropriate. This can often result in misunderstandings. Lastly, some students may not feel compelled to respond to others’ greetings and bids for attention and will simply not respond.

 

  • Have the student make a T-chart. Label one side “OK Topics” and “Not OK Topics.” If a student brings up an inappropriate topic, inform him that it is not appropriate and have him document it on his chart. Also, give the student an example of a topic that is OK to talk about to put on his chart as well.
  • Following a poor exchange that you have observed, do a “social autopsy” in which you reevaluate the situation and discuss what happened, why it didn’t work, and what can be done in the future.
  • Model and teach appropriate ways to greet and respond to greetings.
  • Explain why the student offended you or a classmate. Sometimes students with ASD need someone to explicitly point out what they did wrong so that they can learn from their interactions with others.
  • Speak with the speech therapist or school counselor to see if there are any social skills groups that your student may join to develop his social interaction skills and understanding.
  • Speech therapists can be of help to provide you with resources and ideas of how to integrate social interaction skills into your classroom routine.

 

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Tips for Students Who Are Aggressive to Others:

Possible Reason Due to ASD He may have poor social judgment and be     unaware  of the feelings of others. He may have sensory misperceptions,         being so overloaded by the social demands of the situation that his response   is to strike out to get others to leave him alone. He may have limited ability to communicate verbally, especially when frustrated or upset. It is well known that when upset people with ASD have decreased ability to verbally express  themselves. He may not understand how to interact appropriately.

 

  • Work with your speech pathologist to teach him social skills (social judgment, perspective of others, how to interact appropriately, problem solving, requesting a break in a quiet place when upset, etc.) Reinforce him generalizing any of those skills back into his daily activities.
  • Use social stories (www.thegraycenter.com) to give the student           information about the social demands and expectations for different social situations so he can anticipate what may happen and how he could respond appropriately. Giving students pre-warning and pre-teaching is a very effective tool for social success.
  • Use visual tools to help the student de-escalate. You could teach a calming routine of “Count to 10 slowly, Take 3 deep breaths, Give yourself 3 self-hugs.” Having visual choices available when he is beginning to get upset may redirect the behavior into more appropriate choices being made.
  • Consult your ASD specialist and Special Education Case Manager about developing a Positive Behavior Support Plan. Meet with them to discuss options and review periods to evaluate whether the plan is working or not.
  • Evaluate the sensory needs of the student. What environmental changes can be made in the classroom to accommodate his sensory needs. For example, his desk moved to an area out of the high traffic paths, remove the visually distracting bulletin boards or overhead displays near his desk, etc.
  • Consult the Occupational Therapist about creating a sensory diet for the student to help the student maintain an “even” level of sensory input rather than over or under responses.
  • When your student is in the middle of an outburst, reduce the amount of verbal language that you use, as it could exacerbate the aggression.  Instead offer visual cues, such as writing down a message to the student on a piece of paper, or picture cards, directing him to begin a pre-determined calming sequence.
  • Get in touch with your school counselor, behavior specialist, or autism specialist to get ideas about designing a calming sequence or process    that fits your individual student.
  • Are you having trouble trying to determine the reason for your student's behavior? If you have about 20 minutes to spare consider reading the Motivation Assessment Scale informational worksheet. It will give you directions as to how to complete the scale to investigate the possible motivations for your students’ behavior. Be sure the share the results    with your ASD Specialist, behavior specialist, or another IEP team member who can provide support and ideas for next steps. http://www.connectability.ca/connectability/pages/si_tipsheets/mas-tool.pdf

 

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Tips for Students Who Do Not Respond to Typical Discipline Strategies:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Students with ASD often do not respond to   scolding, isolation, guilt or shame. He may have receptive language limitations which impact his ability to understand the meaning and content of a scolding. Lack of social awareness often lessens the effect of ‘shaming’ a student. He may have inconsistent memory retrieval skills resulting in him not remembering the rules or why he shouldn’t do something. He may not understand the relationship between behavior and consequences. Further, typically fun and rewarding activities like assemblies, PE, lunch, recess, and music may be difficult for students with ASD. Missing out on those things may actually be rewarding.

  • Work with the speech pathologist on strategies to increase his receptive language skills. Use simplified language at his level of understanding when you talk to him to increase his understanding. Using visual models and visual cues will also increase his receptive understanding.
  • The speech pathologist can give suggestions and strategies for activities to the adults who work with a student with memory retrieval problems. Visual cues are very important. Provide written information that the student can refer back to when he has forgotten. This also helps him feel more successful and less dependent on adults to complete tasks.
  • Work on expected and unexpected behaviors based on common daily situations. Michelle Garcia Winner (Thinking About You, Thinking About Me) has some very good suggestions on how to teach this, along with a visual model.
  • Help him to learn about basic sequences. (“First x, then y.” “If x, then y will happen” ) Natural consequences that happen at school can be good learning opportunities. (“First work, then play.” “If you hit at recess, then you sit at the wall for 5 minutes.” )
  • Choose consequences that are meaningful to the student. If you say you have to eat before recess and this is a student who does not like to eat and gets overloaded by going outside with 100 other students, he won’t mind getting to sit in a quiet cafeteria after everyone leaves.
  • Consider having the student or his parent(s) complete a reinforcement inventory to find out what motivates the child.
  • Rather than using verbal warnings, use a visual warning system. (Make some examples on Boardmaker and Word and insert examples on website!) Using a visual will help the student remember what his or her status is and how many more chances he or she has left before the stated consequence will occur.

 

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Tips for Students Who React Negatively When Asked to Correct Work or Suggestions Are Given:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: He probably struggles with perfectionism, feeling like he should be smart enough to know how to do it. He may have been told in the past that he is very smart and so is easily frustrated when he sees evidence that he “isn’t smart.” He also may not know how to redo his work or feels once he has finished the work...it is finished and so can't go back to redo any part of it. Many students with ASD are one trial learners and so to be told they now need to unlearn and do something another way is very difficult because he already HAS actually learned it this way.

 

  • Teach him about how we learn from our mistakes and we all make mistakes. Even Albert Einstein made mistakes (He flunked classes in high school because he was a visual thinker rather than an auditory one!)
  • Teach him relaxation strategies (take 3 deep breathes, count to 10, think about something that makes you happy) and practice using it in progressively more difficult situations for this Student, ending up using it when he is told to correct a paper.
  • Use errorless learning as much as possible-observing as he gets started so that you are assured he is doing the work correctly, rather than practicing errors.
  • Evaluate the level of difficulty of the work assigned to determine if it is appropriate for a student and/or if changing the visual appearance of the work, reading level, or time constraints to complete the work will remedy the situation.
  • Reduce the emphasis on competition in the classroom. Receiving criticism or correction may create more stress for the student in that type of classroom environment.
  • Provide or post rubrics or expectations for the task at hand and/or work samples. Having a visual of the expectations and/or expected outcomes; will assist the student in being able to self-monitor and not take correction so personally.

 

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Tips for Students Who Have Difficulty Keeping Appropriate Physical Boundaries:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Your student may be seeking sensory input from physical contact with others. He likes the feel of the contact and touches textures that he finds interesting (hair, clothing textures, sensory objects). Because he has difficulty with social perspective taking he doesn’t understand that other people may not like to be touched and that touching others is not expected behavior when standing in line. There are many unspoken social rules about what is an acceptable amount of distance and touching in social settings. People with Autism often need to be explicitly taught many of the unspoken social rules that exist in society.

 

  • Teach him what is expected behavior when standing in line , for example, (arms at side, face the front, talk quietly, leave space between you and     your neighbors in front and behind you, etc.)
  • Use visuals such as tape on the floor for students to line up on which      leaves personal space for each student.
  • Write a social story (wwww.thegraycenter.org) for the student about appropriate touch at school and what the perspectives of teachers and students are.
  • Work with your speech pathologist to address this and other social issues through specific teaching of social rules and skills (social distance, turn taking, etc.).
  • Use a reinforcement system to help the student learn to line up without bumping and touching others, for example. Ask for help from your special education department or autism specialist to develop the reinforcement system.
  • Meet with the student and make a list of acceptable ways of greetingfriends and staff at school (high fives, shaking hands, fist bumps, etc.) and unacceptable behaviors for school (kissing, smelling hair, hugging peers, etc.). Type up a pocket sized version he may keep with him at school to refer to.
  • Coach classmates on polite ways of communicating and redirecting students who may invade their personal space such as, "You are a little too close, can you take a step back, please?”
  • Teach the student scripts to say when he does violate people’s personal space.

 

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Tips for Students Who Overreact to Touch from Others:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Some people with ASD have heightened awareness of their personal space . When others are in his personal space his anxiety may greatly increase leading to aggressive behavior (verbal or physical). Many with autism have disregulated sensory systems in which deep pressure touch, such as bear hugs, are preferred and light touch, such as when a person brushes by you in the hall, can be very upsetting to their sensory system. Unexpected touch or non-preferred types of touch for a person with ASD may result in a fight or flight response.

 

  • Ask for permission when you need to touch him or lean into his personal space during instructional periods. Give him the time to prepare himself for you to enter his space.
  • Set up his work space and instructional spaces so that he has the personal space he needs. For some students, having a visual display of where their    area is, decreases their anxiety (marked off with colored masking tape, use of a placemat, laminated construction paper, etc.)
  • Teach him relaxation strategies (such as, take 3 deep breathes, count to 5, tighten then relax your upper body muscles, ask for a break, signal others they are too close) and to recognize his own body signals for anxiety. Learning to implement relaxation strategies will help him manage his anxiety level and give him more time to respond appropriately.
  • Teach him other ways to respond when others enter his personal space. Honor that it bothers him and help him problem solve positive and  productive ways of dealing with the situation. Using a visual prompt of those strategies you discuss will help him employ them in the future. Post the problem solving ideas in areas where his space is most often invadedso they are easily referred to when needed.
  • In assemblies or floor time allow the student to use a chair to sit on, rather than sitting on a bench or on the floor to avoid unwelcomed touch from peers.
  • If a student is anxious in crowded environments, give the student a choice of an alternative way to participate, such as sitting in the doorway of the gym for a pep rally, rather than inside of it, therefore reducing the possibility of unwelcomed touch.
  • Consult with an OT about providing opportunities for the students to become gradually desensitized to various types of touch.

 

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Tips for Students Who are Inflexible or Have Difficulty with Transitions, Changes in Routine, and Time:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Students with autism have a need for predictability and completion. When things change, they feel out of control and unsure of what is going to happen next. Having a personal schedule or reliable place to look to see what will happen is very helpful for students with these issues. The concept of time is abstract for many students, verbal warnings alone, may not be enough to prepare some students for transitioning to the next activity, especially for those students who feel compelled to fully complete a task before moving on to the next one.

 

  • Build in predictability within his day by providing a consistent schedule    which he can refer to when he is confused about upcoming events, activities. If he can trust the schedule, he will be less anxious about changes when they need to occur. His schedule needs to be at a level that he can easily grasp the information, whether the information is written, words and pictures, or pictures.
  • Write schedule changes onto the classroom schedule or the schedule    that the student uses (personal schedule). This will help him to be able  to see and refer back to the up coming change. A change that has been written down is acceptable or more acceptable to the student.
  • If possible, warn the student of absences or be sure to let him know as  soon as you find out. If the teacher or the assistant will be gone for the day, assure the student that the other adult will try to have his day      remain as much the same as possible. Debrief the substitute about the needs of the student. Have good substitute plans available with review  work if you feel he will be too anxious to learn new material or that learning new information from someone new will be too stressful.
  • Pair verbal warnings about transitions with timers to make time concepts more concrete and visual.
  • If a student feels compelled to complete one task before moving on to    the next, create a system for the student about what he can do if he is not finished before the class needs to move on, such as putting it into a “unfinished work” or “ work in progress” folder without penalty.
  • Reward adaptability.

 

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Tips for Students Who Perseverate on Topics, Numbers, or Ideas:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Many with autism have an intense interest in a favorite subject or topic. This is one of the strengths of a person with ASD in that they can totally immerse themselves into a particular area and become experts. These interests can interfere with the school day when they interfere with a student’s ability to complete work and stay focused on the topic or task at hand. Sometimes, students can get “stuck” and have difficulty moving on to what they are expected to do in the classroom.

 

  • Use Social Stories (www.thegraycenter.org) and classroom rules of   expected behavior to help him learn that he needs to learn about other things also when at school.
  • Use his special interests as a reinforcer for his participation or completion of necessary classroom activities. “First complete ____ assignment, then can read about ___ for 5 minutes.”
  • When appropriate, let him use a topic of interest (report writing, daily journaling - 2 days on other topics, 3 days on topic of interest).
  • Find a way to incorporate the student’s interest into the classroom. For example, allow your student to do a mini-lesson on reading a map, or      about George Washington
  • See Tips for Students Who Talk Excessively About Preferred Topics.

 

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Tips for Students Who Run from the Classroom:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Student may be getting overwhelmed or frustrated with the demands of the classroom that he is attempting to seek out a quiet place or less demanding place. He may be attempting to get to or return to a place  where something desired is at (book he is fascinated with in the library, playground equipment). He may be attempting to get a consistent reaction from  the environment (when I run out of the room, someone chases after me).

 

  • Assess what the purpose of the behavior really is (escape, avoidance, to obtain something desired, etc.). Based on the purpose, consult with your autism specialist or behavior specialist to determine the appropriate response.
  • In the mean time, use environmental set-up to limit his ability to leave   easily (do not sit him near an exit within the classroom, have an adult   aware and place body between student and exit so if he does attempt to leave adult can redirect him back to his seat instead of running after him). Add visuals to the classroom (a “stop” sign on the exits, a Social Story (www.thegraycenter.org) about it being against the rules for students to leave the classroom without teacher’s permission, etc.)
  • If the student enjoys getting attention from staff or peers from running off, perhaps reduce the level of reaction you respond with. The student may be trying to find a way to connect with you and get your attention. See if you can schedule in some rewarding one on one time with him. Teach him to ask for a break to replace running out of the classroom.
  • If trying to get to something or somewhere and you know what it is, write it into the student’s schedule a time for him to go there. This will decrease his anxiety and reassure him that he will get access to the desired item.
  • If the student is seeking movement, be sure to provide opportunities in  the school day for him to have some gross motor movement.

 

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Tips for Students Who Make Noises in Class:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: Your student may have difficulty keeping his body still. With some students, this motor movement helps them to be able to focus on what is being presented. You will have to observe whether or not this is true for your student.

 

  • Work with the occupational therapist to develop a “sensory diet” for him which will help him get the sensory input he needs throughout his school day. A sensory diet will help him learn to identify when he needs sensory input and what activities meet his needs (deep pressure, calm or active activities, loud or soft, etc.)
  • For mouth noises, explore the use of gum, suckers, mints or other oral stimulation during times when it is very important to have the classroom quiet.
  • Find some quiet fidget toys that student may use to reduce noises he may  be making with his hands.
  • Sometimes students make their own noises to drown out excessive environmental noise. Pay attention to the general volume of the room to determine if that is the case, and see if you can help reduce the noise level.
  • Teach him how to recognize how to read his body’s needs for sensory input.
  • Develop a list of possible things he can do when he feels a need or staff feels he needs a break (go for a walk, take a note to the office, get a    drink-in the classroom or in the hallway, go to the hallway with an adult  and jump in place and/or roll on the floor to get the wiggles out, etc.).
  • If you are not able to allow all of your students to have access to these strategies, discuss with the class differences in different people’s needs.
  • A book called How Does Your Engine Run? A Leader's Guide to the Alert Program for Self-Regulation (http://www.amazon.com/Engine-Leaders- Guide-Program-Regulation/dp/0964304104) has some very good  suggestions also. You can check the book out from the Regional Library through your Autism Specialist.

 

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Tips for Students Who Stim off Lights/Objects, or other Stereotypic Behavior:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: People with autism spectrum disorders have either hyper (too much) or hypo (too little) response to sensory input. Their systems   often have a very difficult time consistently “regulating” or balancing. Thus, often they will partake in whatever means necessary to manage the sensory information within their “disorganized” bodies. Depending upon their sensory system at that moment, they may handle the same or similar situations differently. The student may find this repetitive motion emotionally soothing, particularly during a time of stress. It is familiar and predictable. Sometimes a student simply may not know what to do next and is filling time.

 

  • With the help of your autism specialist, teach relaxation or “self calming” strategies so that the person knows what “calm feels like within his own body.
  • Consult with an Occupational Therapist to help you teach the student how to identify when his body is “too high” or “too low.” For example: use a visual aid, such as an emotions thermometer; 10 = crisis, 1 = asleep.
  • Determine, with the student if possible, a list of activities that are calming and/or alerting to the student. Once the person in taught how to identify one’s “Internal Thermometer,” then one can refer to the personal list and choose an activity to help with “re-centering” their own system.
  • Seek out a curriculum that teaches the students about their own sensory system. A book called How Does Your Engine Run? A Leader's Guide to the Alert Program for Self-Regulation (http://www.amazon.com/Engine-Leaders-Guide-Program-Regulation/dp/0964304104) has some very good suggestions. You can check the book out from the Regional Library through your Autism Specialist.
  • Implement a “sensory diet” with the help of the Occupational Therapist. A sensory diet is the pre-planning of activities into the student’s day that are either calming or alerting. The idea is to provide small chunks of input throughout the day, in an attempt to keep the person’s sensory system “even” all day long. For example, if the student rocks consistently after returning from the cafeteria, instead allow 10 minutes in the rocking chair before returning to their desk.
  • Notice what the student is doing. Can it be replaced with a more           appropriate behavior that would meet the same sensory need? For example: rocking chair instead of rocking back and forth while standing  or sitting; self hugs instead of bumping into walls, etc.
  • Talk to your ASD specialist or Occupational Therapist about ideas for appropriate replacement behaviors to be taught and additional problem solving if behaviors persist.
  • Control the time that the student can engage in the self-stimulatory behavior. For example, if the student loves to watch a fan spin, let him  earn “time” to do it using a positive behavior reinforcement chart.        *See your ASD specialist &/or special ed. Case manager for assistance.        
  • At first, you may need to use a “First x, then y” sequence. Visually show the person that when he is finished with the activity you want completed, then he can watch the fan for 3 minutes.
  • Reward the student, when not engaging in the self-stimulatory behavior.
  • If you suspect your student is engaging in these behaviors because he is bored, he may just need some ideas of ways to fill his free time. Create a menu or choice board of things he may do with any extra time during the school day.

 

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Tips for Students with Explosive Outbursts:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: People with ASD typically do not possess the coping strategies and/or communication skills to deal with and express their feelings of stress, frustration, and offensive sensory experiences. When upset, people with ASD have decreased ability to verbally express themselves. Unfortunately, they sometimes find alternative means of expression which appear as disruptive behavior in the classroom. Further, they may have poor social judgment and be unaware of the feelings of others. At times, they may have sensory misperceptions; being so overloaded by the social demands of the situation that his response is to strike out to get others to leave him alone.

 

  • Work with your speech pathologist to teach him social skills (social judgment, perspective of others, how to interact appropriately, problem solving, requesting a break in a quiet place when upset, etc.) Reinforce him generalizing any of those skills back into his daily activities.
  • Use social stories (www.thegraycenter.com) to give the student information about the social demands and expectations for different social situations so he can anticipate what may happen and how he could respond appropriately. Giving students pre-warning and pre-teaching is a very effective tool for social success.
  • Use visual tools to help the student de-escalate. You could teach a calming routine of “Count to 10 slowly, Take 3 deep breaths, Give yourself 3 self-hugs.” Having visual choices available when he is beginning to get upset may redirect the behavior into more appropriate choices being made.
  • Consult your ASD specialist and Special Education Case Manager about developing a Positive Behavior Support Plan. Meet with them to discuss options and review periods to evaluate whether the plan is working or not.
  • Evaluate the sensory needs of the student. What environmental changes can be made in the classroom to accommodate his sensory needs? For example, his desk moved to an area out of the high traffic paths, remove the visually distracting bulletin boards or overhead displays near his desk, etc.
  • Consult the Occupational Therapist about creating a sensory diet for the student to help the student maintain an “even” level of sensory input rather than over or under responses.
  • During an outburst, limit the amount of verbal directions you give. More auditory input tends to be agitating for a student in crisis. Instead, use picture icons or written words to communicate and guide the student to a quiet place and/or offer calming strategies.
  • Make sure safety for yourself and your students is your first priority.  Consider having a plan for when crisis situations occur. Ask yourself      these types of questions: Who will I call? Will touching my student in     crisis aggravate the situation? Should the rest of the class have a plan?
  • Thinking through these types of questions will help you feel less stressed in the situation and be more effective at diffusing the situation and keeping everyone safe.


                                                     Explosive Outbursts

  • Understanding the motivation behind disruptive behavior can often lead to effective problem solving solutions. If you have about 20 minutes to spare, consider reading the Motivation Assessment Scale informational worksheet. It will give you directions as to how to complete the scale to investigate the possible motivations for your students’ behavior. Be sure the share the results with your ASD Specialist, behavior specialist, or another IEP team member who can provide support and ideas for next steps. http://www.connectability.ca/connectability/pages/si_tipsheets/mas-tool.pdf
  • Remember not to take these outbursts personally. Most students with  autism truly want to do what is right . Due to the sensory differences and increased anxiety levels of students with ASD, they often tend to be on the threshold of a fight or flight response.
  • Ask your Autism Specialist to teach you about The Incredible 5 Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis. It is a simple, inexpensive way to integrate your school’s Positive Behavior Support (PBS) program into your classroom. It will benefit your student with ASD, as well as the rest of your class. Consider logging in to the Autism Internet Modules website to watch a self-guided module of how to get started.

 

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Tips for Students Who Are Frequently Out Of Their Seats and Wandering the Classroom:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: There are many possibilities for this behavior. First, he may not know what to do next or not understand what the expectations are.  He may just need to release some energy before he can sit down. If he is actually going to look at something in particular, it could be he has become visually distracted or is fixated on being able to look at the item of interest. The student could be over-stimulated by noise, frustration, confusion, etc. He may be trying to calm himself by walking around the classroom.

 

  • Before entering the classroom, pre-cue him about what will happen next. Encourage him to refer to the schedule so he knows where he is expected to be seated and what he should be doing next.. For release of energy, let him cruise the classroom until everyone gets settled down and in their seats. You could set a timer or tell him 3 minutes for cruising then take your seat. If you find the 3 minutes was not enough, you may need to build in longer walks within the classroom or if too disruptive walking in the hallway. Provide him opportunities to move.
  • If the wandering is related to area or item of interest, set up a time in his schedule to have access and his need to take multiple opportunities throughout the day should decrease quickly.
  • Have the student sit on a stool or T-stool. A T-stool can force the student to pay attention to keep balanced.
  • Try to determine the source of the “over-stimulation” so that the root of the problem can be addressed. Does he need more support to complete the work? Is the work at his instructional level? Is the classroom too noisy? Did someone bother him and he is reacting? Is the student next to him making noise or wiggling the table?
  • When you determine the source of the “over-stimulation,” address those instructional needs through environmental changes (a quiet area to work because it is too noisy, increase the use of visuals to increase his understanding of what he needs to do, change the instructional level of  his work if it is too hard for him, etc.)
  • Try giving him a visual of the classroom rules and teach him what each one means. Add the rule “when the teacher is talking, students need to remain  in their seats.”
  • Ask for assistance from the autism specialist and occupational therapist to determine what a sensory diet would look like for this student. A sensory  diet consists of regular breaks in the day where he is able to get the sensory input he needs to be able to focus and attend when needed. The diet can be a simple as taking a walk to the office to “deliver” an envelope to the secretary or as complex as having routine of specific exercises that need to be accomplished several times a day to help him address his sensory needs.
  • Allow the student to use a lapboard and work on the floor instead on at  the desk.
  • Have the student work at a table instead of a desk to provide enough   room for movement.
  • Consider allowing the student to stand or sit on an exercise ball or        seat disk when in the classroom.

 

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Tips for Students Who Touch and Fidget with Things in the Classroom:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: He is likely seeking sensory input. He needs to  have this sensory input to remain calm, or possibly to focus his auditory or visual senses. Closer observation of the occurrences of the behavior can offer valuable information. For example, if you notice that he has increased movement when anxious then he is using it to maintain emotional control. Or, if you notice that he has an increase in movement during transitions, it could be a response to increased noise and activity levels.

 

  • He may need to have a sensory diet developed and implemented to decrease his need to fidget constantly. You can gain information about this through the building Occupational Therapist and/or your Autism Specialist.
  • Selecting items that are ok to fidget with will help him know what is ok  and not ok. You could help him identify where these things will be kept and occasionally add or change the items in the “fidget basket.” Allowing other students to also have access will help the student not feel like he is being singled out or different. Others often benefit from having fidgets available also!
  • Allow him to fidget but you may need to work on setting parameters for the fidgets with him if it is really bothering you or distracting other students. If it is very distracting, consider changing his desk assignment to a place in the classroom to minimize the distraction (at the end of a row vs. in the front of a row, at the outside vs. in the middle of the desks).
  • Choose fidget items that are not loud, or overly distracting for your student to use.
  • If the student frequently gets up from his seat to touch with classroom  items, see Tips for Students Who are Frequently Out of their Seats and Wandering the Classroom

 

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Tips for Students Who Cover Their Ears or Yell When Hearing Certain Noises:

Possible Reason Due to ASD: A student with ASD who must endure offensive sounds without options to reduce the noise level or take a break from them will be more likely to respond with greater behavioral problems than simply covering  his ears or yelling. The person is very sensitive to sounds to the point of pain. The person reacts to certain pitches and tones, but not to others. This will vary from day to day and in various settings. The student possibly is yelling to block out the offensive sounds he is hearing.

 

  • Provide appropriate ways to escape sounds when needed, such as headphones, ear plugs or quiet areas.
  • Notice which sounds and/or environments tend to elicit this response    and/or ask the student to point to or tell you what the offending noise it.
  • Consider allowing the student a way to participate in an activity that will  limit exposure to the loud sounds, such as sitting in the doorway, avoiding proximity to speakers, sitting in the back, etc. If the activity is something that is not mandatory, consider allowing the student a choice as whether or not to attend the entire activity.

 

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Helpful Links:

  1. Calm in Crisis
  2. Social Autopsies Worksheet
  3. Motivation Assessment Scale
  4. Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME by Michelle Garcia Winner

 

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