Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A few methods I use in teaching ASD

As a parent of a child with ASD and a teacher of children on the spectrum, I have a couple of trusty favorites and methods that I use that I wanted to share for anyone who is just starting this journey. I have worked with severe Autism as well as High Functioning Autism.

Jed Baker, has some great ideas in "The Social Skills Picture Book". This is especially helpful for children who are going into social situation and not recognizing cues. I find a lot of children I work with, really respond well to the layout. I use my own camera and create scenarios based on real live social situations we encounter and we go back and discuss.

ABA has always been at the core of our learning and while I have some issues with ABA, I do appreciate how things are broken down and follow a perfect sequence to learning. I've had "Behavioral Intervention for Young Children With Autism" for about 4 years now and we still refer to it at times; it has been a bible for me.

My son is a very visual hands on learner, this is how I taught him math, he responded immediately to cube stacking. We also play, high card/low card with uno cards and he uses this visual to check who wins the hand.

My son learned phonics from Sesame Street and Starfall.com. When starfall came out with books, I had to get them, they are similar to the "Bob books".

I also write a lot of social stories and they are directed from an incident that occurred; for instance when my son tried to take off his seat belt once, we wrote a social story about safety, why it's important and we also went over the outcomes of not being safe.

We are going on a road trip to see his grandparents as I pointed out in a previous post, my parents will take care of DS for a few weeks while I work. I had to write the entire scenario out in a social story. Complete with drawings of California to Nevada and I was very clear on timeframes and what he would be doing and what I would be doing in his story. He totally gets it and is okay with it. He wants to read this story all the time now.

Other great tools that have worked for me:

iPad apps (they have a ton of great apps)

Flashcards (basic but tried and true)

Teach2Talk Videos (it's how my son learned to Share)

Baby Bumble bee series (in the early intervention stage this was great!)

Positive Reinforcement in the form of a token system

One last thing that has helped me out with social situations was constantly being out and gathering real live situations so that we can practice.

With any challenging situation... naturally you would want to avoid it, but I had to face it and face it and face it, until my students (including my son) were comfortable.

For instance, if you like to dine out but your child presents a challenge, then you target this and work on. One of my students had severe behavior problems but she loved to eat. How I helped Julie (not real name) with dining out was to pick a restaurant she liked, and talk to the owner. I explained the situation and asked if he did not mind that we come here during an off time and get her use to it. He was totally happy to help out and said to bring here in. This student was 15 years old, had issues with waiting and 3x my size, so I always needed one other person to go on field trips because her tantrums were violent. Before leaving the house, I showed her pictures of the car, the restaurant and then a picture of home and explained the situation. We would go and yes there were many times where we had to physically restrain her, but with practice she got it and her behavior in the restaurant improved to the point where she had no more aggression. We were able to move to different locations. I just want to add this took a lot of time and dedication, it was not an overnight success and it involved lots of patience and great restaurant owners and understanding patrons. It wasn't easy but we did make progress with this.

I started restaurant training when my son was 2. We started off small, like off times at a fast food restaurant, then we worked our way up. I was sure to give positive support like with Julie. Now DS can sit and behave in a restaurant for the duration of the meal and loves to dine out.

My current student has a problem initiating play on the park. This started with him just circling the parameter of the park and not going in to play. Then he moved on to just playing by himself on the swing or monkey bars. This is where I was hired. I started off with some "clinical" teaching of initiating play at home. We discussed fears, anxieties, etc... After that we did role playing in the house using family members. Then we took it to the park... we go to playgrounds and I "coach' him on how to play. I don't want him to stick out with the other kids, so I know how to do it. It started off rocky of course, but as the weeks went on and we practiced he started to get the hang of it. Last Saturday, John (not his real name) made 3 friends on the park. He was soo proud of himself, it was GREAT!!!

I really love what I do and seeing the progress and satisfaction on the students face and seeing their own pride is too much to put into words. I'm lucky to do what I love for my occupation. Since I was 5 years old I wanted to be a teacher.

I have a Masters's in Education and I plan on pursuing a PhD in Special Education and I want to focus on social skill building for children, teens and adults.


  1. no doubt your children and your students are so blessed to have you as their teacher and coach! your love for what you do shines through the page. thank you for sharing some of your teaching methods - i think the cube stacking is something that might help my daughter.

  2. Thank you so much...that really made my day! I truly love those kiddos and think about them day and night. As for the cubes, you can look on lakeshorelearning.com and type in unifix cubes. Let me know if you can't find them.