Educational Strategies for Students with Autism

4323 words (17 pages) Essay

18th Jun 2018 Education Reference this

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Have a look at the following video which interviews a number of teachers about their work with autistic students. They explain some of the underlying differences in individuals with ASD and suggest strategies for increasing their success in the school setting.

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Make a note of some of the strategies that they mention. Are they strategies that you have seen used?

Within the video there were several different strategies that were introduced, these ranged from individual approaches to work with the student as well as strategies that involved the whole class; not only the student with autism. Kurth and Mastergeorge (2010) comment that there are many teachers and paraeducators that do not have adequate training for students with autism, videos like this can be used as resources for these teachers. The video goes over these strategies and how teachers can integrate them into their classrooms daily. With how the video is set out, there are several teaching strategies that are explicitly talked about however there are also some that are only subtly mentioned or that you can see the teachers doing within the video. However, all these strategies; not just the ones that are explicitly mentioned, have their own places within the classroom to help the students not only succeed but feel comfortable within the classroom and school.

The strategies that are mentioned explicitly within the video are;

  • Priming, which is noted as how the teacher; or primary care giver or an aide, informs the student or class about something that is coming.
  • Academic Modification, is explained as modifying lessons and/or activities to be suitable to the student.
  • Home Base, listed as a place for the student to go to when they are needing time to calm down and collect their thoughts.
  • Visual Support, describes the different visual aids that can be utilised within the classroom and outside of the classroom to support the students learning.
  • Reinforcement, this was directly related to positive reinforcement of their behaviours within the classroom and to support personal growth.

Although there were only five strategies that are explicitly mentioned within the video, each strategy had other strategies subtly mentioned within their field. Examples of the subtle strategies mentioned are:

  • Priming: Creating classroom and school schedules for the students to follow, explaining to the class the lesson structure, and talking with the student about what anything that may be coming to prepare them.
  • Academic Modification: Explicit teaching of different skills for the student, offering repetition of a certain skill for the student to master, goal setting, and individual learning plans.
  • Visual Support: Seating arrangements for students needing to be closer to the visual aids, cue cards for students to refer to for additional support in the classroom or in social situations, and having the classroom labelled for students to know where everything is located.

These strategies whilst on their own may help in individual situations, however when utilised all together, develop into a teaching approach that allows the student to receive optimal support from their teachers and other support staff.

During my short time as a casual relief teacher and pre-service teacher I have been privileged enough to use these teaching strategies. These strategies come into practice daily, although I may go between schools these strategies are utilised within each school, however in their own way with subtle differences. Whilst I was teaching at a special school however, there was one classroom that has stood out for me where all 5 overarching strategies were used to a high level.

This grade had 7 students ranging from the ages of 8 to 10 all with a mild to severe disorder, with ability levels ranging from mild intellectual disabilities to a student that cannot speak or write. This promoted one aspect that came in on a lesson to lesson basis; academic modification. How this was utilised was that the teacher had an individual learning plan for each student within the classroom and they all had their individual goals that they were aiming for in each lesson. Individual learning plans are intended to have goals and objectives that an individual student can make progress towards within an achievable timeframe, whilst providing an educational benefit (Kurth & Mastergeorge, 2010). This became prominent in every lesson as it was separated into different tasks for each student however maintaining the overarching subject topic.

Within this grade as well, was the use of priming and visual supports. This was through having a class schedule for each day in pictures that are displayed on a Velcro board. This had a list of pictures for each lesson described as a picture; such as writing had a writing book and pencil, and lunch had a sandwich, in a descending order for the students to look at to have an understanding what the day entails. When I was in the classroom as a relief teacher I would also follow this support with verbal explanations of how the day would go to additionally prime the students for the day. Although the students were already feeling anxious when I do come into their grade because it is a change of routine not having their teacher, through using these priming strategies I have been able to calm the students down enough to begin to feel comfortable with me there for the day.

There is one strategy however that I have only seen small amounts of in schools; I was lucky to have the strategy used in this classroom, and that is the use of ‘home base’. How the support staff explained to me how the class used this strategy was that when a student is feeling anxious, stressed, aggravated, or distressed they had a soft calming room that they can go to so they can take themselves out of the situation. This was not able to be done on the students own will as they are unable to recognise this, however myself or the support staff would ask the student if they wanted some time in the room. This provided a safe secluded area for the student to calm down from whatever they were experiencing at the time.  I would personally enjoy to see more classes use this strategy as well as it noticeably had a positive effect on the student when they returned to the classroom.

Although I may not have a grade of my own yet, using these strategies through relief teaching has improved my own teaching skills in relation to not only students with autism or students with disabilities, but all students. I would suggest that all teachers use these strategies within their daily routine as they have been proven to have a positive impact on the students.

Search the WWW for more resources that relate to ABA or Applied Behaviour Analysis. You should search for videos as well as texts.

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is an intervention process that uses positive reinforcement to work towards change in behavioural responses. Susan Dodd (2005) suggests that to optimise the ABA persons within it should have interventions for 40 hours per week for a duration of at least 2 years. Dodd (2005) also lists that the interventions be carried out by a team of trained people including that of supervisors, therapists, parents, and peers. This is supported by Granpeesheh et al (2009) in the findings that a within two groups of children; one receiving 40 hours of intervention the other receiving 10 hours, the group with 40 hours per week showed expediential improvements whereas the 10-hour group showed very little improvement. Matson (2012) also explains that the younger the child with autism is when they undertake ABA, they will receive greater benefits from the program than that of older children.

What would positive reinforcement be like for a student with autism?

All students with autism, all students in general, react to positive reinforcement differently. What one child may experience as positive reinforcement, another may see as the complete opposite. This suggestion is that when positive reinforcements are given, the student is first to be understood. For example, a child with hypersensitivity towards physical contact may take a high five to be a largely positive reinforcement. However, a child with hyposensitivity towards physical contact may see it as an annoyance as their feelings are different to the other child. Temple Grandin (2008) suggests that positive reinforcements be directed towards the child’s interests, such as time on the computer; however, she suggests a laptop rather than a desk top as the laptop screens do not flicker in comparison to that of a desk top screen. Although you can have positive reinforcements such as a high five, verbal recognitions such as praising, or activities, when a reinforcement is specialised towards the individual student a greater outcome can be obtained.

An example is when I was teaching a 10-year-old boy in a local special school. I had already developed a relationship with this student at the school so he was comfortable around me within the classroom when his teacher was away. He had come into the school in an upset mood in the morning from an incident at home and whilst not seeing his regular teacher his mood did not improve. However, through building up prior knowledge on the child I knew that he has a very strong passion for Doctor Who. Luckily for me I had brought a book that I was going to surprise him with after I found out I had his grade for the day; my personal Doctor Who pop-up book. After seeing his attitudes, I used this book as positive reinforcement for him, if he could do some work for 10 minutes, he can read for a bit, then 15 minutes then he can read. This proved to not only calm him down as it was his interest, but he also was more productive within the classroom. This would not work on other students for a behaviour reinforcement however with this individual child it is within his interests and can be utilised.

Why is it important to observe the consequences and repetition of behaviours?

Reinforcers help students with autism build up and improve on their behaviours inside and outside of the classroom. These reinforcers can be positive, negative, and neutral; all of which will prompt different reactions from the student. However, it is imperative that the student be observed before and after the reinforcer is given in the aim to give the student the optimal reinforcer. Food reinforcers are common practice within schools and have been seen to be affective most the time; such as an extra piece of fruit for good behaviour or lunch with the principal. Although food reinforcers are good to utilise, there are many people that will rapidly eat; which can lead to choking or possibly death, and if not recognised will continue their unwanted behaviours to get more food (Matson, Turygin, Beighley, Rieske, Tureck, & Matson, 2012). To prevent this from occurring teachers may utilise journals and/or notes on observing student behaviours to try and understand what the student is trying to portray.

Common behavioural traits of autistic children are repetitive behaviours these can include rocking, hand flapping, or spinning (Kluth &Shouse, 2013). It is important to observe the repetition of behaviours as functional assessment can follow as a form of behavioural intervention. Matson (2012) describes that in a situation of repetitive stretching after observation and assessment treatment packages could be developed and resulted in the behaviours being effectively lessened.

How can you calm a student with autism who is anxious and upset?

To deliver appropriate calming strategies for a student with autism it is imperative that you first understand the student.  The effective way of getting to understand the student is through getting to know what their triggers are, what may cause this anxiety or upsetting moods. For example, if a student has low communication skills they may be anxious because they are unable to communicate if they require something such as food or trying to express their opinion on a situation. Ways that can be utilised in this situation can be helping the student communicate through alternate means; such as through hand motions, or through talking charts.

An example of a student with autism whom I have taught whilst they were upset resulted in the student feeling uncomfortable with a blinking overhead light. Their hypersensitivity towards light resulted in them being upset towards the flickering light. Although I had quickly turned off the set of lights that the flickering one is in, the student remained upset and distressed. The way that I had calmed the student further was that I let the student go to a calming room, where they had access to different sensory items such as stress balls and beanbags (both large to sit on and small to hold); the student was there for about 5 minutes before they returned on their own accord. Through this removal from the situation, the student could calm down and eventually return to the classroom with prompting.

Videos and Texts that can be used for teachers and primary care givers.

This YouTube video is the beginning of a series of videos that involve different steps of ABA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pN6ydLE4EQ

This YouTube video is a university presentation that discusses ABA in an academic approach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri0owHvCDAk

Primary care givers may not have the time to research ABA for themselves, however teachers may link them to this YouTube video and website. Autism Speaks not only gives an overview of what ABA is but also how it is utilised in schools. The website also has further autism information for primary care givers to read.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyCx-OLzgJw

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba

The book; Clinical and Organizational Applications of Applied Behavior Analysis by Roane, Ringahl and Falcomata (2015), is a useful resource for teachers to acquire a basic understanding of the applications of ABA in different situations,

Roane, H., Ringdahl, J. E., & Falcomata, T. S. (2015). Clinical and Organizational Applications of Applied Behavior Analysis. London: Elsevier

Explain how stress and anxiety underpin sensory difficulties (hyper and hypo sensitivities). What strategies can be used to reduce anxiety and stress related to sensory issues.

Stress and anxiety effect many people worldwide from children with sensory difficulties; hyper and hypo sensitives, up to fully able adults. Moree and Davis (2010) state that those on the autism spectrum range from 11% to 84% having anxiety disorders as well, averaging out to being 40-50%. Anxiety can be described as someone having excessive fear and avoidance in response to specific objects or different situations, whilst being absent of true danger (Shin & Liberzon, 2010). Although anxiety is a known trigger of stress, it is not to be confused as being the sole trigger of stress; another primary trigger is trauma through social, emotional, physical, and psychological occurrences.

People with hypersensitivity are understood to have strong emotional and physical reactions, heightened detections of stimuli, and having a heightened apprehension of the stimuli together with an unfocused or unselective attention (Elwin, Ek, Schröder & Kjellin, 2012). This commonly relates back to vision, hearing, and touch (Elwin, Ek, Schröder & Kjellin, 2012), however it also relates to smell and taste as well as can affect all senses. The National Autistic Society (2016) lists some examples in which hypersensitivity may occur:

  • Visual: Can be distorted resulting in objects and bright lights appearing to jump around.
  • Sound: Noise can become magnified to the person.
  • Smell: Smells can be intense and overpowering.
  • Taste: Foods and flavours can be found too strong and overpowering.
  • Touch: Being touched or touching things may become painful or uncomfortable.

Individuals that live with hypersensitivities towards different senses may become anxious when they are in different situations as the experiences that they have are predominantly negative. An interviewee by Elwin et al. (2012) mentions that the noise of other children around them was torment, they could not shut it out, it frightened them as well as wearing them out. If someone is experiencing this daily within a classroom, they will begin to associate the classroom with fear and torment, which will lead to having anxiety before entering the classroom and being stressed when they are in the classroom.  Another example given through an interview by Elwin et al. (2012) is that someone has a hypersensitivity in their vision, bright lights are not a good thing to them, they mention that there were times when they would go outside and the light from the sun would make them quite literally sick as well as having the same affect with flashing lights however they describe it as worse. If this person is in a classroom with one of the lights flickering, which is common, it can cause them to feel anxious as it will be affecting them and from previous experiences they may relate it to being sick.

Hyposensitivity is recognised as people that have no indistinct registration of stimuli, less discrimination and recognition of stimuli, and having strong cravings for specific stimuli (Elwin, Ek, Schröder & Kjellin, 2012). These reactions were common to pain, proprioceptive, and interoceptive stimuli. The National Autistic Society (2016) lists some examples in which hyposensitivity may occur in visual, sound, smell, taste, and touch senses:

  • Visual: May have poor depth perception, problems with throwing and catching, clumsiness.
  • Sound: May only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or no hearing at all.
  • Smell: Can have no sense of smell and fail to notice extreme odours; this may also include their own body odour.
  • Taste: They may eat or mouth non-edible items such as stones, dirt, and metal.
  • Touch: They may have a high pain threshold.

Individuals that are living with hyposensitivity may not have the same anxieties and stresses as those of hypersensitivities however they will still have their own. An example by Elwin et al. (2012) is of one person who describes that he is unable to tell when they are hungry or thirsty and relies on the post symptoms of feeling sick or dizzy from being without food or water for too long. This can lead to stressors arising for when they are going places as they may feel that if they cannot tell when they are hungry or thirsty, they’ll get sick or dizzy in public and can result in further issues.

Temple Grandin (2008) elaborates that when someone has sensory issues they are to be addressed however not to be mistaken by behavioural issues. Grandin (2008) further explains that there are different accommodations that need be put in place to help people with these sensory issues. Different strategies related to both hyper and hyposensitive sensory issues suggested by Grandin (2008) as well as the National Autistic Society (2016) include:

Visual:

  • Wearing a hat inside or sunglasses inside to reduce the lighting in the room.
  • Using a laptop screen over other screens as they do not flicker
  • Having incandescent lights rather than fluorescent.
  • Doing different balancing games such as using a ball to sit on.
  • Having dull coloured paper rather than white.

Sound:

  • Wearing headphones or earplugs for half the day, Grandin (2008) suggests not the entire day as no improvements will be made.
  • Using visual supports as teaching tools such as visual outlines of the day.
  • Minimal usage of verbal instructions.
  • Priming people before going to a loud area.

Smell:

  • Creating routines in hygiene such as regular times for bathing / washing.
  • Creating a routine of having deodorant or body spray applied to the person with hyposensitivity.
  • Using unscented shampoos for people with hypersensitivity.
  • Creating fragrance-free environments.

Taste:

  • Developing dietary programs in relation to having food that is either blander for hypersensitive people or having strong flavours for hyposensitive people.

Touch:

  • Limit physical contact.
  • Preparations prior to any physical contact such as telling people that you are going to hug them.
  • Turning clothes inside out to prevent the seam from rubbing.
  • Constrictive clothing for hyposensitive responses.
  • Squeeze machine sessions.

If strategies such as these are implemented the environmental and social factors relating to the sensory issues will be reduced, which in result will further bring down anxiety and stress levels within hyper and hyposensitive people. Although it may not entirely remove anxiety and stress, it will help lessen the symptoms to create a more comfortable environment.

Reference List:

Autism Speaks. (2015). Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba

Autism Speaks. (2008, September 8). Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyCx-OLzgJw

Dodd, S. (2005). Understanding Autism. Sydney: Elsevier.

Elwin, M., Ek, L., Schröder, A., & Kjellin, L. (2012). Autobiographical Accounts of Sensing in Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 26(5), 420-429.

Grandin, T. [University of California Television (UCTV)]. (2008, February 7). My Experience With Autism [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wt1IY3ffoU

Granpeesheh, D., Dixon, D. R., Tarbox, J., Kaplan, A. M., & Wilke, A. E. (2009). The Effects of Age and Treatment Intensity on Behavioral Intervention Outcomes for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 3(4), 1014-1022.

Kluth, P, Shouse, J. (2013). The Autism Checklist. Hoboken: Wiley.

Kurth, J., & Mastergeorge, A. (2010). Individual Education Plan Goals and Services for Adolescents With Autism: Impact of Age and Educational Setting. The Journal of Special Education., 44(3), 146-160.

Matson, J. L, Turygin, N. C., Beighley, J, Rieske, R, Tureck, K, & Matson, M. L. (2012). Applied behavior analysis in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Recent developments, strengths, and pitfalls. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 144-150.

Moree, & Davis. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders: Modification trends. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(3), 346-354.

Roane, H., Ringdahl, J. E., & Falcomata, T. S. (2015). Clinical and Organizational Applications of Applied Behavior Analysis. London: Elsevier

Shin, L., & Liberzon, I. (2010). The Neurocircuitry of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety Disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology., 35(1), 169-191.

The National Autistic Society. (2016). Sensory Differences. Retrieved From http://www.autism.org.uk/sensory

The Organization for Autism Research. [ResearchAutism]. (2013, March 7).Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers (Part 2) [Video File]Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veQKDDE9C_w

Wiley, M. [Matt Wiley]. (2012, February 7). ABA Autism Training – Chapter 1 – The Discrete Trial [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pN6ydLE4EQ

Wiseman, E. [HopeNetworkServices]. (2012, June 15). Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism Spectrum Disorders [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri0owHvCDAk

Have a look at the following video which interviews a number of teachers about their work with autistic students. They explain some of the underlying differences in individuals with ASD and suggest strategies for increasing their success in the school setting.

Make a note of some of the strategies that they mention. Are they strategies that you have seen used?

Within the video there were several different strategies that were introduced, these ranged from individual approaches to work with the student as well as strategies that involved the whole class; not only the student with autism. Kurth and Mastergeorge (2010) comment that there are many teachers and paraeducators that do not have adequate training for students with autism, videos like this can be used as resources for these teachers. The video goes over these strategies and how teachers can integrate them into their classrooms daily. With how the video is set out, there are several teaching strategies that are explicitly talked about however there are also some that are only subtly mentioned or that you can see the teachers doing within the video. However, all these strategies; not just the ones that are explicitly mentioned, have their own places within the classroom to help the students not only succeed but feel comfortable within the classroom and school.

The strategies that are mentioned explicitly within the video are;

  • Priming, which is noted as how the teacher; or primary care giver or an aide, informs the student or class about something that is coming.
  • Academic Modification, is explained as modifying lessons and/or activities to be suitable to the student.
  • Home Base, listed as a place for the student to go to when they are needing time to calm down and collect their thoughts.
  • Visual Support, describes the different visual aids that can be utilised within the classroom and outside of the classroom to support the students learning.
  • Reinforcement, this was directly related to positive reinforcement of their behaviours within the classroom and to support personal growth.

Although there were only five strategies that are explicitly mentioned within the video, each strategy had other strategies subtly mentioned within their field. Examples of the subtle strategies mentioned are:

  • Priming: Creating classroom and school schedules for the students to follow, explaining to the class the lesson structure, and talking with the student about what anything that may be coming to prepare them.
  • Academic Modification: Explicit teaching of different skills for the student, offering repetition of a certain skill for the student to master, goal setting, and individual learning plans.
  • Visual Support: Seating arrangements for students needing to be closer to the visual aids, cue cards for students to refer to for additional support in the classroom or in social situations, and having the classroom labelled for students to know where everything is located.

These strategies whilst on their own may help in individual situations, however when utilised all together, develop into a teaching approach that allows the student to receive optimal support from their teachers and other support staff.

During my short time as a casual relief teacher and pre-service teacher I have been privileged enough to use these teaching strategies. These strategies come into practice daily, although I may go between schools these strategies are utilised within each school, however in their own way with subtle differences. Whilst I was teaching at a special school however, there was one classroom that has stood out for me where all 5 overarching strategies were used to a high level.

This grade had 7 students ranging from the ages of 8 to 10 all with a mild to severe disorder, with ability levels ranging from mild intellectual disabilities to a student that cannot speak or write. This promoted one aspect that came in on a lesson to lesson basis; academic modification. How this was utilised was that the teacher had an individual learning plan for each student within the classroom and they all had their individual goals that they were aiming for in each lesson. Individual learning plans are intended to have goals and objectives that an individual student can make progress towards within an achievable timeframe, whilst providing an educational benefit (Kurth & Mastergeorge, 2010). This became prominent in every lesson as it was separated into different tasks for each student however maintaining the overarching subject topic.

Within this grade as well, was the use of priming and visual supports. This was through having a class schedule for each day in pictures that are displayed on a Velcro board. This had a list of pictures for each lesson described as a picture; such as writing had a writing book and pencil, and lunch had a sandwich, in a descending order for the students to look at to have an understanding what the day entails. When I was in the classroom as a relief teacher I would also follow this support with verbal explanations of how the day would go to additionally prime the students for the day. Although the students were already feeling anxious when I do come into their grade because it is a change of routine not having their teacher, through using these priming strategies I have been able to calm the students down enough to begin to feel comfortable with me there for the day.

There is one strategy however that I have only seen small amounts of in schools; I was lucky to have the strategy used in this classroom, and that is the use of ‘home base’. How the support staff explained to me how the class used this strategy was that when a student is feeling anxious, stressed, aggravated, or distressed they had a soft calming room that they can go to so they can take themselves out of the situation. This was not able to be done on the students own will as they are unable to recognise this, however myself or the support staff would ask the student if they wanted some time in the room. This provided a safe secluded area for the student to calm down from whatever they were experiencing at the time.  I would personally enjoy to see more classes use this strategy as well as it noticeably had a positive effect on the student when they returned to the classroom.

Although I may not have a grade of my own yet, using these strategies through relief teaching has improved my own teaching skills in relation to not only students with autism or students with disabilities, but all students. I would suggest that all teachers use these strategies within their daily routine as they have been proven to have a positive impact on the students.

Search the WWW for more resources that relate to ABA or Applied Behaviour Analysis. You should search for videos as well as texts.

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is an intervention process that uses positive reinforcement to work towards change in behavioural responses. Susan Dodd (2005) suggests that to optimise the ABA persons within it should have interventions for 40 hours per week for a duration of at least 2 years. Dodd (2005) also lists that the interventions be carried out by a team of trained people including that of supervisors, therapists, parents, and peers. This is supported by Granpeesheh et al (2009) in the findings that a within two groups of children; one receiving 40 hours of intervention the other receiving 10 hours, the group with 40 hours per week showed expediential improvements whereas the 10-hour group showed very little improvement. Matson (2012) also explains that the younger the child with autism is when they undertake ABA, they will receive greater benefits from the program than that of older children.

What would positive reinforcement be like for a student with autism?

All students with autism, all students in general, react to positive reinforcement differently. What one child may experience as positive reinforcement, another may see as the complete opposite. This suggestion is that when positive reinforcements are given, the student is first to be understood. For example, a child with hypersensitivity towards physical contact may take a high five to be a largely positive reinforcement. However, a child with hyposensitivity towards physical contact may see it as an annoyance as their feelings are different to the other child. Temple Grandin (2008) suggests that positive reinforcements be directed towards the child’s interests, such as time on the computer; however, she suggests a laptop rather than a desk top as the laptop screens do not flicker in comparison to that of a desk top screen. Although you can have positive reinforcements such as a high five, verbal recognitions such as praising, or activities, when a reinforcement is specialised towards the individual student a greater outcome can be obtained.

An example is when I was teaching a 10-year-old boy in a local special school. I had already developed a relationship with this student at the school so he was comfortable around me within the classroom when his teacher was away. He had come into the school in an upset mood in the morning from an incident at home and whilst not seeing his regular teacher his mood did not improve. However, through building up prior knowledge on the child I knew that he has a very strong passion for Doctor Who. Luckily for me I had brought a book that I was going to surprise him with after I found out I had his grade for the day; my personal Doctor Who pop-up book. After seeing his attitudes, I used this book as positive reinforcement for him, if he could do some work for 10 minutes, he can read for a bit, then 15 minutes then he can read. This proved to not only calm him down as it was his interest, but he also was more productive within the classroom. This would not work on other students for a behaviour reinforcement however with this individual child it is within his interests and can be utilised.

Why is it important to observe the consequences and repetition of behaviours?

Reinforcers help students with autism build up and improve on their behaviours inside and outside of the classroom. These reinforcers can be positive, negative, and neutral; all of which will prompt different reactions from the student. However, it is imperative that the student be observed before and after the reinforcer is given in the aim to give the student the optimal reinforcer. Food reinforcers are common practice within schools and have been seen to be affective most the time; such as an extra piece of fruit for good behaviour or lunch with the principal. Although food reinforcers are good to utilise, there are many people that will rapidly eat; which can lead to choking or possibly death, and if not recognised will continue their unwanted behaviours to get more food (Matson, Turygin, Beighley, Rieske, Tureck, & Matson, 2012). To prevent this from occurring teachers may utilise journals and/or notes on observing student behaviours to try and understand what the student is trying to portray.

Common behavioural traits of autistic children are repetitive behaviours these can include rocking, hand flapping, or spinning (Kluth &Shouse, 2013). It is important to observe the repetition of behaviours as functional assessment can follow as a form of behavioural intervention. Matson (2012) describes that in a situation of repetitive stretching after observation and assessment treatment packages could be developed and resulted in the behaviours being effectively lessened.

How can you calm a student with autism who is anxious and upset?

To deliver appropriate calming strategies for a student with autism it is imperative that you first understand the student.  The effective way of getting to understand the student is through getting to know what their triggers are, what may cause this anxiety or upsetting moods. For example, if a student has low communication skills they may be anxious because they are unable to communicate if they require something such as food or trying to express their opinion on a situation. Ways that can be utilised in this situation can be helping the student communicate through alternate means; such as through hand motions, or through talking charts.

An example of a student with autism whom I have taught whilst they were upset resulted in the student feeling uncomfortable with a blinking overhead light. Their hypersensitivity towards light resulted in them being upset towards the flickering light. Although I had quickly turned off the set of lights that the flickering one is in, the student remained upset and distressed. The way that I had calmed the student further was that I let the student go to a calming room, where they had access to different sensory items such as stress balls and beanbags (both large to sit on and small to hold); the student was there for about 5 minutes before they returned on their own accord. Through this removal from the situation, the student could calm down and eventually return to the classroom with prompting.

Videos and Texts that can be used for teachers and primary care givers.

This YouTube video is the beginning of a series of videos that involve different steps of ABA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pN6ydLE4EQ

This YouTube video is a university presentation that discusses ABA in an academic approach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri0owHvCDAk

Primary care givers may not have the time to research ABA for themselves, however teachers may link them to this YouTube video and website. Autism Speaks not only gives an overview of what ABA is but also how it is utilised in schools. The website also has further autism information for primary care givers to read.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyCx-OLzgJw

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba

The book; Clinical and Organizational Applications of Applied Behavior Analysis by Roane, Ringahl and Falcomata (2015), is a useful resource for teachers to acquire a basic understanding of the applications of ABA in different situations,

Roane, H., Ringdahl, J. E., & Falcomata, T. S. (2015). Clinical and Organizational Applications of Applied Behavior Analysis. London: Elsevier

Explain how stress and anxiety underpin sensory difficulties (hyper and hypo sensitivities). What strategies can be used to reduce anxiety and stress related to sensory issues.

Stress and anxiety effect many people worldwide from children with sensory difficulties; hyper and hypo sensitives, up to fully able adults. Moree and Davis (2010) state that those on the autism spectrum range from 11% to 84% having anxiety disorders as well, averaging out to being 40-50%. Anxiety can be described as someone having excessive fear and avoidance in response to specific objects or different situations, whilst being absent of true danger (Shin & Liberzon, 2010). Although anxiety is a known trigger of stress, it is not to be confused as being the sole trigger of stress; another primary trigger is trauma through social, emotional, physical, and psychological occurrences.

People with hypersensitivity are understood to have strong emotional and physical reactions, heightened detections of stimuli, and having a heightened apprehension of the stimuli together with an unfocused or unselective attention (Elwin, Ek, Schröder & Kjellin, 2012). This commonly relates back to vision, hearing, and touch (Elwin, Ek, Schröder & Kjellin, 2012), however it also relates to smell and taste as well as can affect all senses. The National Autistic Society (2016) lists some examples in which hypersensitivity may occur:

  • Visual: Can be distorted resulting in objects and bright lights appearing to jump around.
  • Sound: Noise can become magnified to the person.
  • Smell: Smells can be intense and overpowering.
  • Taste: Foods and flavours can be found too strong and overpowering.
  • Touch: Being touched or touching things may become painful or uncomfortable.

Individuals that live with hypersensitivities towards different senses may become anxious when they are in different situations as the experiences that they have are predominantly negative. An interviewee by Elwin et al. (2012) mentions that the noise of other children around them was torment, they could not shut it out, it frightened them as well as wearing them out. If someone is experiencing this daily within a classroom, they will begin to associate the classroom with fear and torment, which will lead to having anxiety before entering the classroom and being stressed when they are in the classroom.  Another example given through an interview by Elwin et al. (2012) is that someone has a hypersensitivity in their vision, bright lights are not a good thing to them, they mention that there were times when they would go outside and the light from the sun would make them quite literally sick as well as having the same affect with flashing lights however they describe it as worse. If this person is in a classroom with one of the lights flickering, which is common, it can cause them to feel anxious as it will be affecting them and from previous experiences they may relate it to being sick.

Hyposensitivity is recognised as people that have no indistinct registration of stimuli, less discrimination and recognition of stimuli, and having strong cravings for specific stimuli (Elwin, Ek, Schröder & Kjellin, 2012). These reactions were common to pain, proprioceptive, and interoceptive stimuli. The National Autistic Society (2016) lists some examples in which hyposensitivity may occur in visual, sound, smell, taste, and touch senses:

  • Visual: May have poor depth perception, problems with throwing and catching, clumsiness.
  • Sound: May only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or no hearing at all.
  • Smell: Can have no sense of smell and fail to notice extreme odours; this may also include their own body odour.
  • Taste: They may eat or mouth non-edible items such as stones, dirt, and metal.
  • Touch: They may have a high pain threshold.

Individuals that are living with hyposensitivity may not have the same anxieties and stresses as those of hypersensitivities however they will still have their own. An example by Elwin et al. (2012) is of one person who describes that he is unable to tell when they are hungry or thirsty and relies on the post symptoms of feeling sick or dizzy from being without food or water for too long. This can lead to stressors arising for when they are going places as they may feel that if they cannot tell when they are hungry or thirsty, they’ll get sick or dizzy in public and can result in further issues.

Temple Grandin (2008) elaborates that when someone has sensory issues they are to be addressed however not to be mistaken by behavioural issues. Grandin (2008) further explains that there are different accommodations that need be put in place to help people with these sensory issues. Different strategies related to both hyper and hyposensitive sensory issues suggested by Grandin (2008) as well as the National Autistic Society (2016) include:

Visual:

  • Wearing a hat inside or sunglasses inside to reduce the lighting in the room.
  • Using a laptop screen over other screens as they do not flicker
  • Having incandescent lights rather than fluorescent.
  • Doing different balancing games such as using a ball to sit on.
  • Having dull coloured paper rather than white.

Sound:

  • Wearing headphones or earplugs for half the day, Grandin (2008) suggests not the entire day as no improvements will be made.
  • Using visual supports as teaching tools such as visual outlines of the day.
  • Minimal usage of verbal instructions.
  • Priming people before going to a loud area.

Smell:

  • Creating routines in hygiene such as regular times for bathing / washing.
  • Creating a routine of having deodorant or body spray applied to the person with hyposensitivity.
  • Using unscented shampoos for people with hypersensitivity.
  • Creating fragrance-free environments.

Taste:

  • Developing dietary programs in relation to having food that is either blander for hypersensitive people or having strong flavours for hyposensitive people.

Touch:

  • Limit physical contact.
  • Preparations prior to any physical contact such as telling people that you are going to hug them.
  • Turning clothes inside out to prevent the seam from rubbing.
  • Constrictive clothing for hyposensitive responses.
  • Squeeze machine sessions.

If strategies such as these are implemented the environmental and social factors relating to the sensory issues will be reduced, which in result will further bring down anxiety and stress levels within hyper and hyposensitive people. Although it may not entirely remove anxiety and stress, it will help lessen the symptoms to create a more comfortable environment.

Reference List:

Autism Speaks. (2015). Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba

Autism Speaks. (2008, September 8). Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyCx-OLzgJw

Dodd, S. (2005). Understanding Autism. Sydney: Elsevier.

Elwin, M., Ek, L., Schröder, A., & Kjellin, L. (2012). Autobiographical Accounts of Sensing in Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 26(5), 420-429.

Grandin, T. [University of California Television (UCTV)]. (2008, February 7). My Experience With Autism [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wt1IY3ffoU

Granpeesheh, D., Dixon, D. R., Tarbox, J., Kaplan, A. M., & Wilke, A. E. (2009). The Effects of Age and Treatment Intensity on Behavioral Intervention Outcomes for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 3(4), 1014-1022.

Kluth, P, Shouse, J. (2013). The Autism Checklist. Hoboken: Wiley.

Kurth, J., & Mastergeorge, A. (2010). Individual Education Plan Goals and Services for Adolescents With Autism: Impact of Age and Educational Setting. The Journal of Special Education., 44(3), 146-160.

Matson, J. L, Turygin, N. C., Beighley, J, Rieske, R, Tureck, K, & Matson, M. L. (2012). Applied behavior analysis in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Recent developments, strengths, and pitfalls. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 144-150.

Moree, & Davis. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders: Modification trends. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(3), 346-354.

Roane, H., Ringdahl, J. E., & Falcomata, T. S. (2015). Clinical and Organizational Applications of Applied Behavior Analysis. London: Elsevier

Shin, L., & Liberzon, I. (2010). The Neurocircuitry of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety Disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology., 35(1), 169-191.

The National Autistic Society. (2016). Sensory Differences. Retrieved From http://www.autism.org.uk/sensory

The Organization for Autism Research. [ResearchAutism]. (2013, March 7).Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers (Part 2) [Video File]Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veQKDDE9C_w

Wiley, M. [Matt Wiley]. (2012, February 7). ABA Autism Training – Chapter 1 – The Discrete Trial [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pN6ydLE4EQ

Wiseman, E. [HopeNetworkServices]. (2012, June 15). Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism Spectrum Disorders [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri0owHvCDAk

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