Early Intervention TeamPosted by Kris Baker on 5/11/2018 7:00:00 AM
After spending the last 20+ years in education, I am still expanding my knowledge and understanding when it comes to preschool. Most of my previous experience is at the elementary or secondary level, however, “According to research, learning and development are at their highest rate in the preschool years” ( TIES, 2018). This year, Earlywood formed the Early Intervention Team (EIT) to “Provide early intervention to students who need support to enhance their classroom readiness skills and be successful in the general education setting, the LRE. We provide effective training for adults working with students to help foster research based practice and individualized strategies” (Earlywood, 2017).
The Early Intervention Team was comprised of several staff, Katie Justice - Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Stacy White - School Psychologist Intern, Megan Downey - Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), Kris Baker - Autism Coordinator, Julie Brummet - Preschool Teacher, and Cindy McCourt - Skills Specialist. Although we had multiple success stories with individual students and classroom wide celebrations, we wanted to share the impact the Early Intervention Team had with one student and classroom.
The Early Intervention Team was referred to a case for a preschool student with limited functional communication and high rates of maladaptive behaviors. Some of the behaviors of concern included elopement, physical aggression towards staff and peers, spitting, flopping to the ground, and crying/yelling. This student struggled with school readiness skills, particularly sitting individually or in a group setting, task completion, and transitions. The primary concern shared by the home school staff involved his success at school and progress toward being prepared for the transition to the next grade level. They also had concerns regarding managing this student’s high rates of behavior, while supporting other students within the class.
The intervention focused on training school staff to use Applied Behavior Analysis techniques within the school setting. The Skills Specialist provided one-on-one support in the classroom setting to work decrease the frequency and intensity of the target behaviors and developing an effective behavior plan. This student benefited from a specific, consistent behavior plan which included a fixed reinforcement schedule, a structured work system/structured schedule, and a focus on functional communication training. When the EIT first began working with the student, the majority of his day was spent engaging in off-task behavior, running around the room, and laying on the ground. When staff attempted to intervene he engaged in high rates of spitting and aggression towards staff and peers.
Once the student began consistently utilizing replacement behaviors, the EIT trained the classroom teacher and instructional assistant on the student’s specific behavior plan and began fading their direct one-on-one involvement. As the intensity and rates of maladaptive behaviors decreased, the student was able to consistently engage with peers in the educational setting as well as increase the complexity of academic tasks. The success of this case was brought about by team collaboration between the home school and the EIT. The home school staff reported continued overall success with the student as well as the general classroom management.
TIES. (2017). https://teisinc.com/the-benefits-of-early-intervention/
Earlywood. (2017). https://www.earlywood.org/Page/827
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
Sensory Integration Strategies and ResourcesPosted by Kris Baker on 4/20/2018 7:00:00 AM
Sensory what? Often sensory processing difficulties are misunderstood and even over looked. I don’t know about you, but . . . even I have my own sensory “issues.” Please don’t ask me to eat cottage cheese, just the thought of the texture grosses me out. I loathe the squeak of lead from mechanical pencils, and please, if I don’t know you, allow me some personal space. Although these sensory components may really bother me, I have learned coping skills and tools that can help me to deal with these irritants and move on successfully. Some students, however; do not have tools or coping skills and these sensory struggles, which may seem minor to some, may be so intense, they are physically painful, and they are unable to move on successfully.
“In a groundbreaking new study from UC San Francisco, researchers have found that children affected with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders” (Bunim, 2013). Students with and without disabilities can experience sensory issues that can impact their academic, social and behavioral performance in the classroom. At times, what might be labeled as a behavior, may be a result of sensory dysregulation.
What is the difference between sensory integration and sensory regulation?
- Sensory Integration: one’s ability to take in information in from the environment and subsequently process, organize and synthesize this input in order to formulate and execute an appropriate adaptive response (Keirstein, 2008).
- Sensory Regulation: “how an individual responds to the sensory input he experiences. Appropriate sensory regulation must be equal to the actual input received” (Stackhouse et al. 2002).
Lending Library Resources:
- My Sensory Book by Lauren Kierstein is an excellent resource with printables and visuals to help. This book provides an overview of sensory integration, clearly explains the different sensory systems and how they work, understanding that sensory can result in “big emotions,” connections between what students feel with the different systems, and how that impacts the body, teaching students to control their bodies as well as other ideas to look at triggers and emotional regulation in students. This book also has sensory assessments for teachers, parents and the student to help identify the different sensory struggles students may be having which, in turn, assist in selecting interventions to address student need.
- A Buffet of Sensory Interventions Solutions for MIddle and High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Susan Culp is a great resource when considering sensory programming and ideas for our older students. It is important to understand that some sensory strategies that may have worked with students in the past, may not be as effective or continue to work as students either get older or transition to the middle school or high school settings. This book also includes an overview of sensory integration, sensory assessments, as well as a “buffet” of sensory interventions for consideration. There are also other methods included to help our older students with self-regulation, anxiety and stress.
- Arnie and His School Tools Simple Sensory Solutions that Build Success by Jennifer Veenendall. For some of our students who do not struggle with sensory integration, certain sensory tools, interventions and self-regulation strategies may seem indifferent or even unfair if they do not get to use the same tools. Sometimes, sensory tools or activities are seen as toys or games when in reality, they are specially designed tools to help with self-regulation or anxiety. This is an excellent book to use to illustrate that all people are different, we all interpret sensory information differently and we all need different tools to succeed.
www.earlywood.org Educators -----------> Autism Resources -----------> Sensory
Under the educators tab at earlywood.org, you can visit the autism resources page that contains a sensory tab with a number of different resources to meet a variety of sensory needs. On the Sensory tab are general websites with information and activities for sensory needs including:
- General sensory information
- Sensory checklists and assessments
- Lists of activities for different types of sensory activities
- Social narratives to assist with sensory needs such as wearing a vest and the rules with fidgets
- Sensory ideas of children in the home vs the school setting
- And other sensory related needs.
andnextcomesL website with sensory activities and information
- Keristein, L. (2008). My sensory book: Working together to explore sensory issues and the big feelings they can cause: A workbook for parents, professionals, and children. Shawnee Mission, Kansas. AAPC Publishing
- Stackouse, T., Graham, N., & Laschober, J. (2002). Occupational therapy intervention and autism. In R.L. Gabriels & D.E. Hill (Eds), Autism from research to individualized practice (pp 155 – 177). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Ltd. (as cited in Kerstien, L. 2008).
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
New to the Lending LIbrary: 70 Play Activities for Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning & BehaviorPosted by Kris Baker on 4/6/2018 7:00:00 AM
In the midst of standardized testing, increased focus on educational standards and the overwhelming amount of technology in the classroom, one common theme I hear when going from school to school is the desire for more hands on, active and engaging activities to boost student skills and interest in learning. “Current research supports the budding relationship between movement and cognition in fostering executive function skills, self-regulation, and prosocial behavior” (Kenney, 2016). 70 Play Activities for Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning & Behavior by, Lynne Kinney was based on current research involving kinesiology, occupational therapy, cognitive science, physical therapy and speech language therapy (Kenney, 2016).
The activities in the book are designed to supplement current research and evidence based practices used to support student executive function skills, self-regulation, and other cognitive skills through the play activities. The activities are designed to be interactive, and have the children interact with the materials as well as the adults and peers participating in the activities (Kenney, 2016). The goal is for the students to “think in adaptive ways about how to change, modify, improve, or personalize the activities” (Kenney, 2016, pg. xiii). Activities correspond to the purpose behind the fun, targeting skills such as musical thinking, motor exploration, thinking activities for improved executive function, self-regulation, calming, alerting, and musical thinking with play math. Each activity includes a summary description of the activity, the related skill sets to target or explore, materials needed, setting up or introducing the activity, the activity itself and follow up review.
Some of the activities include:
- “My Anger Thermometer” related to skills involving critical thinking, decision making, emotional regulation, exploration, impulse control, narrative language, problem solving and reflection.
- “The Sort it Out Strategy” - Think, Strategize, Observe and Respond related to skills involving attention, decision making, impulse control, narrative language, problem-solving and successive processing.
- “Meet the Love Notes” teaching students whole, half and quarter notes, a rest and coordinating that these notes are the coordinated with counting, clapping, movement and math activities throughout the book.
You can check out 70 Play Activities for Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning & Behavior by, Lynne Kinney through the Earlywood Lending Library.
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
Behavior Data Collection Resources at Your FingertipsPosted by Kris Baker on 3/9/2018 7:00:00 AM
Data!!!!! “No other four letter word can strike such fear and panic into the heart of an educator. Data” (Johnston, 2010). Teachers who are struggling with student behaviors, working through the process of a functional behavior assessment (FBA) or IEP behavior goal development or progress monitoring are often overwhelmed and intimidated by data collection. Often people have a multitude of excuses as to why they cannot collect data when at the heart of the matter, they either don’t know how, are intimidated by the process or are over complicating the process. The Earlywood Educational Services Website has entire page dedicated to data collection including a number of forms covering various methods of data collection all of which are ready to download and be put to use.
There are many methods of data collection and it is important that you carefully consider behavior you are looking to track and correlate that to the the type of data you are collect.
Frequency data: used to record the number of times a target behavior occurs in a given interval. For example: talking out, tardies, out of seat, or off topic comments. Frequency is typically used for quick, observable behaviors.
Duration: used to determine the exact length of time a student performs a target behavior. For example: length of a tantrum, amount of time spent out of class, or the duration of refusal.
Latency Recording – used to document the time it takes for a student to respond or initiate after a demand. For example: time it takes to sit down, to begin a given task, to join in the circle.
Partial Interval Recording: involves observing whether a behavior occurs or does not occur during specified time periods. Intervals should be broken down in the times of equal length for example, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes. Then you document during the given interval in the target behavior was observed.
Intensity: refers to the magnitude or severity of the behavior. You may take intensity documentation on a student who is physically aggressive to help operationally define and track the behavior. Below is an example of an intensity scale:
- Level 5: Hair pulling, head butting, hitting or grabbing others with force leaving a mark, turning over/throwing furniture, no coping skills exhibited
- Level 4: Hit or grab adult/peer with force, throwing multiple items placing others in harm’s way, no coping skills exhibited
- Level 3: Disrupting class; loud vocalizations; attempting to hit or grab others without contact, shoving items off desk, destroying personal property(tearing paper, breaking pencils), taught coping skills required multiple prompts/ineffective
- Level 2: Fidgeting; extra movement; tapping desk loudly, stomping feet, negative comments yet not disruptive to the environment – employs taught coping skills (self-time out, teacher directed hot pass, breathing, listen to music) with teacher prompt
- Level 1: Paying attention; accepting redirection from teachers, using taught coping skills (self-time out, teacher directed hot pass, breathing, listen to music)
- Behavior Documentation (partial interval with frequency in needed) 1 - 3 Target Behaviors
- Data Collection Partial Interval - By Minute
- Frequency, Duration & Intensity on one page
- Frequency Behavior Observation.doc
- Frequency Behavior PDF
- Scatter Plot Data Recording PDF
- ABC Data Collection Checklist with Intensity Rating
- ABC Observation
- ABC Data Checklist
- ABC Data Checklist.2
- ABC Data Collection PDF
- Latency Recording
- Duration Recording Sheet - PDF
- Generic tracking sheet for target behavior with "trials"
- Interval/Tally Recording
- Target Behavior Documentation
- Intensity-Duration Documentation
- 15 Minute Interval - daily
- 30 Minute Interval - daily
- 30 Minute Interval w/ Target and Replacement Behaviors PDF
- 30 Minute Interval Blank PDF
Other Websites and Resources:
- Davis School District - Multiple Data Collection Options
- PBIS World - Data tracking
- Behaviorbabe - Data tracking
- PENT - Multiple behavior documentation options
- Free Printable Behavior Charts
- KidzPointz - behavior tools
- Odessa High School Tiered Data Tracking Forms
References: used to record the number of times a target behavior occurs in a given interval. For example: talking out, tardies, out of seat
Johnston, T. (2010). Data Without Tears: How to Write Measurable and Educational Goals and Collect Meaningful Data.
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
New Resources to the Lending Library & Links to help with Goals!Posted by Kris Baker on 2/23/2018 7:00:00 AM
I don’t know about you, but there are days when I am working on IEP goals that my brain couldn't draft an effective goal to save for love nor money. I know there are a lot of different acronyms and methods to guide goal writing but, many times the hardest part is figuring out your wording and making the goal measurable. One of the many interpretations of the S.M.A.R.T. goal acronym is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Sensitive. Even with this framework and the parameters, all of the individual elements that go into an IEP goal, such as the target skill or behavior, specific wording, specially designed instruction (SDI), and method of progress monitoring can complicate goal writing to the point that I am at a standstill. I just sit in front of my computer, knowing what I want the student to work toward or acheive, but I can’t get the goal down on paper (screen). Apparently, I am not the only one struggling with this, which is why Earlywood has several resources and opportunities to help:
First, on March 2nd from 8:30 - 3:00 Stephanie Lawless will be leading a training on Functional Behavior Assessments, Behavior Plans with a focus on GOALS!!! There are still seats available for this session. This training will focus on conducting Functional Behavior Analyses using Pathway Charting, existing data, and new data within a formal FBA process. Training will also cover writing behavior plans that address challenging behavior, functional equivalent replacement behaviors, effective behavior goals, progress monitoring, and how to ensure plans are followed with fidelity. You can register by clicking the link above or going to the professional development calendar at earlywood.org
Also, the Earlywood Lending Library also have several new resources to assist with goal writing:
- Writing Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives by Bateman and Herr
- From Gobblygook to Clearly Written Annual IEP Goals by Bateman
- 800+ Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives by DeFeyter
These books have ideas, suggestions and sample goals to help you create measurable and objective goals. Many of these are available to check out from the Lending Library and if not, you can reserve one if needed. Just create and account and reserve your book!
There are also a number of online resources for goal writing. Now, I will admit that these are NOT PERFECT resources, but they are just that, resources to help you with wording or to target a specific skill when you just can’t find the words, method of measurement or specially designed instruction.
IEP Goal Bank PDF
Again, these goal resources aren’t perfect. It is important to individualize each goal specifically to the student you serve. I get that goal development can be difficult but, cookie cutter IEP goals are not in the best interest of the students, nor do they meet the I - Individualized portion of IEP. Check out these options the next time you need guidance and inspiration during goal development.
Kris Baker, Autism Consultan
Expect the Unexpected!Posted by Kris Baker on 2/9/2018 7:00:00 AM
Expect the unexpected - No thank you! I don’t know about you, but I am a self-proclaimed type-A control freak. I like to have a plan for everything with a back up plan if needed. I even like to have back up plans for my back up plans! So, when the unexpected happens, I will admit that it can ruffle my feathers, resulting in unexpected behaviors. So, “expected” and “unexpected” doesn’t just involve what happens to you; it is how we respond behaviorally to different situations. Michelle Garcia, Winner and Pamela Cooke’s, You Are a Social Detective, explains and defines these two types of responses.
Expected behaviors are actions or behavioral responses that are relevant and expected for the given situation; they are behaviors that make others around you feel respected and comfortable. For example, sitting in your desk, a small verbal “yes” when you see you’ve gotten a good grade on a test, or maybe being a bit upset with a bad grade. Unexpected behaviors are those behaviors that are not expected in a given situation. For example, crawling under the desk in class, yelling profanity at teachers when you get a bad grade, or crying uncontrollably when you don’t get your favorite treat in your lunch. Unexpected behaviors make others around you feel unsure or uncomfortable. “The goal in all of this is to help our students learn to observe social situations more carefully and understand that behaviors are linked to others’ emotions, and how each of us feels about another's behavior affects how we treat each other. At the end of the day, when we do expected behaviors it makes us feel better about ourselves” (Social Thinking, 2018). It is important to teach our children that their behaviors and actions can affect the feelings of others just as their feelings can be impacted by the behavior of others.
One way to improve a student’s understanding of expected and unexpected situations and behaviors is to incorporate this vocabulary into the daily climate of the classroom. As situations and behaviors arise in the classroom, targeting and talking about the terms “expected” and “unexpected” gives teachers the opportunity to acknowledge and praise students when they are exhibiting expected behaviors for the given situation, as well as directly informing students when they are exhibiting unexpected behaviors without the need for a long lecture about the specific behaviors being displayed. Incorporating this vocabulary into lessons is also beneficial and can help students generalize this skill to multiple settings, situations and environments.
Some sample questions:
- Was that situation expected or unexpected? How did the character respond - with an expected or unexpected behavior?
- How did the character act in an expected or unexpected manner?
- When _____________- displayed the unexpected behaviors, how did the other characters feel? How do you know? What would have been an expected behavior in this situation?
- List the expected or unexpected behaviors the different character displayed in the story? How did the expected behaviors affect others? How did the unexpected behaviors affect others? How do you know?
- If _______________ had acted differently how would this have changed the outcome of the story?
- In a different situation or setting would the behavior be expected or unexpected?
- Does the setting impact whether the behavior was expected or unexpected? How?
- How did the behavior of ____________ impact other characters in the story?
- How did unexpected behavior of ______________impact the outcome for that character?
- Google Site with great ideas and activities for expected and unexpected behaviors along with links to various videos and activities
- Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) free Expected vs Unexpected Behavior Sorting
- TpT free field trip expected and unexpected behavior activity
- TpT Free data collection sheet for expected and unexpected behaviors
- TpT Free expected and unexpected behavior sort with lunch recess and class
- Social Thinking: Are you Teaching Expected and Unexpected the Wrong Way?
- Expected and Unexpected online flashcards
- CrazySpeechWorld activities for expected and unexpected behaviors
- TpT Free expected and unexpected behavior activities
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
Self-Regulation Across the Curriculum - How Big is Your Problem?Posted by Kris Baker on 1/26/2018 7:00:00 AM
When I am asked to come and consult with school staff regarding a student with explosive behaviors, I often hear comments such as, “That came out of nowhere,” “I don’t see what the problem is,” or “That should not have escalated to such explosive behaviors.” The truth about stress and the problems we face is that the magnitude of the problem depends on the individual experiencing the difficulty. Heather Forbes, in the book Help for Billy states, “It is the child’s PERCEPTION and the EMOTIONAL INTERPRETATION of the event that classifies it as trauma or not.” Instead of insisting that the problem wasn't big enough to warrant the explosive behavior why don’t we teach children how to classify and identify different levels of problems, and then identify appropriate reactions and coping skills for the different levels??
It is essential for some students that the teacher validates the belief that problems will occur, but that not all problems are catastrophic. In fact, some problems are very small and that our reactions should match the size of the problem. Zones of Regulation provides students with tools to evaluate the magnitude of problems and corresponding reactions.
Zones classifies problems into three areas: 1) Big Problems are problems that many people share and that have no easy, quick, or pleasant solution; 2) Medium Problems are problems some people share and are able to resolve in an hour or up to a couple of days; and 3) Little Problems are problems that only affect one or two people, and can be ignored or resolved in a matter of minutes (Kuypers, L. 2017). You can then create a scale as a visual support to identify the range of problems along with appropriate reactions. Staff can work with students to identify the size of their problems and then evaluate the reaction match.
Here is an example of scales created with LessonPix(r)
Staff need to coach students on problem identification and ratings based on the scale and practice with a multitude of situations and problems that occur throughout the day in a variety of settings. Teachers and staff should model for the students placing their own situations and problems on the scale. To promote a more universal application, staff can include this type of activity into content curriculum. Using guiding questions throughout curriculum allows students to see the broader applications of this too instead of seeing it as an intervention solely for explosive behaviors.
Some sample questions are:
- What was the problem the main character experienced? What size was that problem? How do you know?
- Did other characters face problems? What were they? What size were the problems? How do you know?
- Did the reactions match the size of the problems? Why or Why not? If not, what should the reaction have been?
- If the character overreacted, how did that impact the other characters? How would the story or outcome have been different if their reaction had matched the problem?
- Did emotions cause the size of the problem to get bigger or smaller? How do you know?
- How could the characters have reacted differently? And - would that change the outcome?
- Have you ever faced a similar problem? How did you rate that problem? What was your reaction? Did your reaction match the problem? What would you do different?
- Did reactions help solve the problems or did they make the problem grow? What could have been done differently?
It is important that we, as educators, understand that what may be a small problem to us, might be a big problem to a child. We can’t expect children to change their perspective and reaction without teaching them to do so and equipping them with the tools to change.
Resources for Zones:
Kuypers, L. (2017). http://www.zonesofregulation.com/learn-more-about-the-zones.html
Forbes, H. (2012). Help for Billy. Boulder, Colorado: Beyond Consequences Institute, LLC.
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
Social Emotional Engagement as Part of the Core CurriculumPosted by Kris Baker on 1/12/2018 7:00:00 AM
Everyday we encounter different situations, circumstances and even people who can either add a positive vibe to our day or test our limits to the point of exhaustion. There can be days where everything is running smoothly, and then something unexpected happens and the day goes downhill fast. Many children can identify how they are feeling and then cope and adapt to changing circumstances without effort, however; for many children self-regulation in the midst of change and the unexpected can be debilitating. When children are introduced to new academic concepts or struggle with academic content, as educators, we teach, practice, reteach, practice again and then reinforce students for their efforts. Students who struggle with self-regulation and coping skills are often punished or disciplined. What if we took a proactive approach to model and teach self-regulation and coping to all students through our daily curriculum and those daily “teachable” moments.
I don’t know about you, but there are days I wake up with a chip on my shoulder and I am irritable from the get go, and other days I wake up feeling rested and content. For students, understanding and reading these changes in emotion in others as well as themselves can be difficult. Zones of Regulation is an approach to pro-actively teach self-regulation by categorizing our different feelings, emotions and levels of alertness into four defined zones. “The Zones framework provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of, and independent in controlling, their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.” The goal of Zones is to move teach and coach students toward independent regulation of their emotions, how to react to the different emotions and to equip students with skills and tools to manage their feelings.
The “Zones” are divided into 4 levels that are determined by our feelings and states of alertness. The Zones of Regulation describe the individual Zones,
“The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.
The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone. This is the zone where optimal learning occurs.
The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions, however persons still have some control when they are in the Yellow Zone. A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.
The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions. A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone.” Kuypers, L. (2017)
Zones can be used with visual supports for the entire class as a check in when students arrive in the morning by having students identify their zone. Here is a picture from Fun with Firsties where they have a universal visual for the classroom for the Zones.
Everyday students can check in and identify their zone for the morning. The teacher could also identify their zone and then change their zone depending on situations throughout the day to highlight self-awareness and regulation throughout the day. Then with any situation, book, social studies or science lesson, target talk and question the zones to incorporate self-regulation into the general curriculum. For example, use questions such as:
- What zone was the character in at the beginning of the story? Middle? End?
- Did the character’s zone change during the story? How? Why?
- Did the character’s zone affect others in the story?
- List the emotions the character experiences in the story? Place these emotions in the zones.
- When the character acted like __________________ what zone do you think they were in? How did you know?
- What the character able to refocus and go back to green? If so, how? If not, what could the character have done to get back to green?
- What could the character have done to prevent going to the red zone? What do you do to prevent going to red?
- Choose a character from the story and list the emotions and feelings they experienced. Is this person like you or not like you? Explain. How did this character’s emotions impact the story or other characters in the story?
Resources for Zones:
Kuypers, L. (2017). http://www.zonesofregulation.com/learn-more-about-the-zones.html
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
Mindfulness: Holiday Stress on ChildrenPosted by Kris Baker on 12/8/2017 7:00:00 AM
For many of us, the holiday season is one of fun, friends, family, and A LOT of food! It is important to keep in mind that the holiday season also can include stress and anxiety due to unusually busy calendars, new or unpredictable festivities, increased social events, overwhelming sensory stimulation, and a complete lack of routine. As many people look forward to time with family and friends this season, for many children the lack of family, lack of family involvement, and for some children, a missing family member can bring painful realizations, memories and emotions. As we work to help students cope with everyday situations and emotions, it is also important to help children work through these particularly hectic and hard times of year.
Calendar: Create a specific calendar that lists your special events, as well as their time and location. This way you can proactively prompt your child regarding changes in routine. Prompt and/or forewarn your child of changes in their routine, and mark the events off the calendar as they are finished.
Journal: For children struggling with emotional overload, missing family or previous family trauma you may establish a holiday journal, text thread or email to allow the child to communicate their feelings. For some children, the holiday season may be a hard time for them as many their friends may be sharing about family get-togethers and traditions, or they may be struggling with previous holiday memories.
Sensory: Work with children and pay special attention to holiday decorations, music or activities that may lead to sensory overload. For some children the sound of Christmas music, the materials used in crafts, or the sight of Santa may cause extra stress, or may be overwhelm their sensory system.
- Sound/noise cancelling headphones or earbuds with preferred sounds may be an option
- Establishing a signal for the child to communicate when they need a break
- Allowing the child to have preferred calming items
- Fidget tools
- Weighted blanket
- Weighted vest
- Calming blanket or stuffed animal
- Completing pre activity calming sensory activities
- Social narratives identifying the activities and sensory stimuli that may be involved in what they are going to do as well as ways to get help when needed are beneficial
- Calming sensory activities (AndNextComesL.com)
- SensoryProcessingDisorder.com Heavy Work Activities
Social Narratives: Social Narratives are a method of intervention which define and describe social situations by highlighting appropriate cues and examples of how to respond, or behave (NPDC-ASD, 2014). The goal of a social narrative is to help individuals adjust to changes in schedule or routine, address behavioral struggles, teach social skills, and to encourage appropriate communication.
- Prime a student for a holiday convocation, field trip or even a church or other religious function
- Prepare a student for their holiday party or holiday program
- Routine or schedule changes
- How to cope with sensory overload
- Etiquette and expectations for a formal holiday meal as well as a way to excuse him/herself if needed
Change: Be willing to change some of your traditions. If some of your traditions are either too overwhelming for the child or trigger past hurts, be willing to try something new or start a new tradition. Allow the children opportunities to decide what activities will take place and even if they are allowed to opt out of some of the holiday activities.
The best thing you can do for the holiday season is to keep an open mind, prepare your students for the holiday changes and be open to trying something new to meet the needs of your students. Keep in mind that while the holiday season is mostly one of love and laughter, for some it is completely overwhelming and even traumatic.
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism: Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Your Son/Daughter on the Autism Spectrum
- National Professional Development Center on ASD
- The Child Mind Institute: How to Take the Stress out of the Holidays
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism: Visual Supports Holidays and Celebrations
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant
Mindful Thinking: Intentional RelaxationPosted by Kris Baker on 11/17/2017 7:00:00 AM
“Brains in a constant state of alert due to physical, environmental, or emotional stress can have chronically elevated cortisol levels.” (Hawn Foundation, 2011). Many aspects of school such as, academic rigor, social situations, sensory stimulation, transitions correction/redirection, and instructional demand can cause students various levels of stress in students. It is essential that we teach students how their bodies respond to these levels of stress and proactively teach methods to relax and cope with daily stressors students experience in school, at home or in the community.
One great way to start this is to begin by reviewing the previous activity teaching student to feel their heart rate and pulse. Students are taught to take their pulse at a resting rate, and then again during physical activity to differentiate their heart rates when calm and stressed (or in this case active). It is vital to teach students that individuals must change their body, their movement, or activity to return their heart to a normal resting rate (Hawn Foundation, 2011). Then staff can work on different activities to help students relax. After these activities, have students check their pulse rate again for a comparison. (See article on deep breathing)
- Methods to incorporate movement:
- Quiet and calming brain breaks
- Break Break Cards individual small group and/or whole group
- Minds in Motion methodologies
- Online Resources for movement
- Move to Learn
- Cosmic Kids Yoga
- Fit Factor Kids – YouTube workouts
- Zumba Fitness Kids *(more difficult and faster moves)
- http://www.healthetips.com/jam-program.php - Jam School Program (1 minute videos)
- http://5-a-day.tv/ (subscription required)
- Super Stretch Yoga – (free) super hero stretching and yoga
- Jump Froggy Jump – (free) – exercises that coordinate with movements between the student and the iPad which creates an interactive gameYuvi
- Story Aerobics – (free version = 1 episode), $7.99 all episodes and reinforcement. This app creates exercises to go along with different stories. Students can earn virtual stickers for completing episodes which can build to a larger reward.
- NFL Play 60 – (free) -exercise while collecting coins which allow players to unlock other characters
- MotionMaze – (free) - this is a puzzle game where you help the captain find the hidden treasure with different exercises
- Kids Yogaverse: I am Love - $3.99
Kris Baker, Autism Consultant