HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Coping with Transitions: Help for Aspergers Students


"One of my new students this year has Asperger's Syndrome (high functioning female, age 6). She will throw a major temper tantrum whenever she is asked to stop one activity and get ready for the next one, which is very disruptive to the entire class. What can I do to help her move from one task to the next quickly and without resistance? It's like she has to complete the first project completely and perfectly before she is willing to go to the next."

First of all, your student may be experiencing a "meltdown" rather than a tantrum (click here to see the difference). Transitions are very difficult for children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. It's an interruption to their day and a change in their schedule. In order to minimize difficulty in transition, try to keep their schedule as routine as possible. Always let them know ahead of time that a transition in routine is coming. 

Using sensory integration techniques can be very helpful for some Aspergers children. It is best to have an occupational therapist work with you to first determine if your student is hyper-sensitive or hypo-sensitive (e.g., does she crave movement and the feeling of different textures and stimulation, or does she avoid movement and textures?).

There was a young autistic student who had a great deal of difficulty with the transition from home to school, and with transitions that occurred in his school day. The school created a sensory room that was just his. He craved movement, running and jumping on furniture, loved to feel his saliva against smooth surfaces, and loved strong odors. In his sensory room, there was a large hammock for him to lie in that would hold him tight. The ceiling was lined with colored lights. There were boxes with potpourri for him to smell. He would spend 20 minutes in this room at the beginning of his school day, 20 minutes before lunch, and 20 minutes before returning home. While he was in the room, he was encouraged to take in as much sensory information as he could. Once he left the room, he was calm and ready to learn.

Of course, not every school has the resources for a sensory room - and this won't work for every child - but demonstrates how some creative thinking can benefit even the most challenging behaviors. Prior to the intervention of the sensory room, the school was ready to expel him. With the sensory room in place, he became much more compliant, calm and willing to work with teachers and other students.

Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Also a lot of the tips work well for all kids of that age. That way it won't make her feel singled out and self conscious which can cause more meltdowns. I know my daughter is a perfectionist and has high expectations of herself. Anything that makes her feel like she stands out negatively will push her tolerance threshold.
•    Anonymous said... Count downs have saved our little guy from time to leave, to bath, to bed and even on trips, always needs to see the count down
•    Anonymous said... Do you have the day's schedule written out? How about a reminder that you are changing tasks in 5 minutes, then 3..
•    Anonymous said... I always give my Aspie daughters a five minute warning before doing a new activity, leaving the park, leaving a friend's house, etc. "Do your last favorite thing," is what I would tell them when they were younger. It seems to work really well! They know what to expect and what is expected of them.
•    Anonymous said... I found that visual timetables DIDN'T really work for my aspie son, but giving him real reason why something needed to happen was the key. He understands reasons. The Time Timer (you can get various sizes from the Sue Larkey website) was and still is the best tool in my arsenal though. Having THAT visual gave him some element of control back. Also giving them the opportunity to finish at a later time can sometimes help. If they finish other work quickly or instead of play...My son would recognise that this was our routine and then transition better knowing that he could come back to it.
•    Anonymous said... I give a fifteen minute countdown with a reminder at each 5 minute mark. Your class environment will go as smoothly as you plan it to. Learn about Aspergers and talk to her parents. They will give you tips and they'll work iF you follow through with them.
•    Anonymous said... Let her finish the first project.
•    Anonymous said... please listen to the parents about what works best for them at home and adjust that accordingly to fit your particular needs. I have had little success with teachers over the past seven years mainly in part to them not being willing to try the simplest strategies. The child will only benefit if she is comfortable at any given moment and there is an open line of communication between the teachers and parents.
•    Anonymous said... She still might be overwhelmed despite a countdown (I would be); do you have free time built in where she/they can finish unfinished activities? She might also feel better knowing she can come back to it before the end of the day (and knowing exactly when, not "later").
•    Anonymous said... We had this problem in kindergarten. I give my 7 year old daughter a run down of what we will do that day, and then warning half an hour before the event, and I know I will have to get her new teacher to do the same cos it's worked best for us. Now that she can tell time, I can do that as well ("We are going at 10:00 am," etc)
•    Anonymous said... without reading all of the previous comments..... From experience (16 yr old) there is no such thing as 'quickly, without resistence' ! ..... The key is regular warnings/countdowns to the change over time AND as Rebecca ^ stated....'real/true/logical' reasoning...these kids are smart and because they are so black and white....very, very realisitc!
•    Anonymous said... Would it hurt you or the other students to give her a little more time and let her finish? I'm sure the "melt down" (not temper tantrum) effect's the other students way more then trying to force her to stop a activity. In my son's IEP he is allowed to get up and wonder around in the class room or go outside. He is not expected to do what all the other students are doing....he isn't the same.
•    Anonymous said... Written schedules help tremendously. Come up with a signal that she and you agree on to let her know the transition is coming, and give her double the warning you give the other kids.
•    Anonymous said... You can't expect anyone with aspergers to transition quickly. They need prompting and visuals. The Time Timer is a wonderful tool. It's useful for all kids and doesn't single her out. Visual schedules posted clearly and reviewed every morning are also helpful for all kids. Don't assume because she has a dx that there aren't other kids in the class being overlooked, treat them all the same and things will run smoothly:) Anytime you sneak attack a change in routine, expect the behaviors. Guess what, we as adults are no different. Think about a traffic jam and you have a schedule to keep;) Unmet expectations are frustrating to us all. We need clear cut expectations. Be patient and good luck.

 
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24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you not start the day with maybe a chart that has times on where you stick each activity you are going to do that day under the time you are doing it? Maybe if the child knows in advance it may help with coping with moving from one activity to another.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow...someone please help this child and teacher :(( 5 minute warnings help.....visual timer.....and knowing when she will be able to complete the project.....tell her ahead of of time that if its not complete when time is up that she can finish it @ whatevr time/takehome? Oh wow...I hope someone is there to guide them this year.

Anonymous said...

Yes counting down for my son helps...I will start at 10 min...and then every so often let him know what he is down to so he is preparing himself for the change that's about to happen.

Anonymous said...

I have to give my aspie son a warning, if we are going to the store, I call and tell him we are leaving in 10 minutes, if I don't do this, there is normally a meltdown.

Anonymous said...

My son is always placed in a classroom with a time specific schedule posted in the room - if they don't have that they are willing to put one on his desk. However we have been blessed to always have a teacher who does this for the entire class and tries her best to stick to it. This nearly eliminates all issues with transitioning for our son.

Anonymous said...

my son has issues with transitioning as well and it has been easier if you give him warnings leading up to the end of a project and we have a egg timer that goes off letting him know the activity is over and of course being as consitant as possiable with it

Anonymous said...

i'm glad a teacher is finally asking how to transition the students from one activity to the next! my daughters 2nd grade year was rotten cuz her teacher was a lazy ass who didn't understand/want to learn how to transition easier.

Anonymous said...

Tell her firstly what they will be doing that day and repeat it a few times to get her agreement. I have to do this with my 5 year old. As long as he's aware he's happy x

Anonymous said...

and of course make sure you and the parents are using the same approach if not it will not work ask the parents what they have done and if they do not have a solid approach in use at home find one together that way she has consitancey at home and school it will help her all around : )

Anonymous said...

I was going to suggest the visiual schedule too. My son keeps one laminated on his desk so he can check things off to keep track of where they are at. At the end of the day if he has had a good day he gets 15 mins of computer free time.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think "quickly" is an error in expectation in this question. Good advice in the comments and the link!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Suzanna! My gut reacted to sooo many many "flags' in the request for help. All I could think was "quickly" get someone in there to help.

Anonymous said...

Times and warnings are not only beneficial to kids with Aspergers. They're good for kids! This is my frustration with teachers. How is this not common sense? How about a child development class? How about actually understanding children?

Anonymous said...

Start a reward chart for the childs specific issues. Positive reinforcement works wonders for kids on the spectrum. For example, each class period that they are able to move on with their work then they get a sticker, after so many stickers they get extra time doing something they enjoy, such as computer time. You're teaching them to move on and also to work towards a goal, that it's okay not to be perfect.

Anonymous said...

My daughter responds best to a timer. I even got her a stopwatch so she can set it herself. I will tell her, in 10minutes you have to get ready for bed. she will set her timer, and when it beeps, she will get ready for bed. If she doesn' have the timer I will just count down for her. telling her she has 10mins, 5mins, 1min. Works pretty good. The go this at her school. We have been blessed with a great school with excellent teachers. Their Autism program is excellent.

Anonymous said...

I, also, agree with your statement! Quickly? Realistic expectations are a must. My son transitions pretty well, but I have always used the verbal countdown method with him. First-we will be ...in 15 minutes. Second 10 minutes left until we..., third -5 minutes left until we... It really is common sense. I think with verbal count owns it is also important to state the full new activity. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if it has actually gotten better with my son or I've just polished my technique over the years so we have fewer issues with it :-) Has anyone else experienced this scenario in a Dr.'s office? Whole waiting room of people watching as your son is being called and your son won't get up until he has moved all the beads to just where he wants them on (can't think of what the name is for them) the wooden thing with the looping tracks that you slide the beads on? Oh, and of forbid they had as magnadoodle! He would try to fit all the transformers names on the screen and if he ran out of space, he'd erase and start all over... no countdown possible in an office, never know how long you'll be waiting. So, now I bring something or him so he can just pick it up and bring it back with him.

Anonymous said...

You have to make it a choice for her to want to stop. I say things to my son like "is this a Noah choice or a family choice, right now we need a family choice". Then reward for thinking of the others. You could say " I need you to make a class choice right now, the other kids are ready to do ....., could you make a class choice?". Then everyone once is a while "say class our friend her need 5 more mins, could we give her 5 more mins friends?"
How it helps.

Anonymous said...

I had several students in a class with the same issue. I made a circular chart with pictures that show each activity, Aspergers kids have "loop" or process thinking so this helped to show the next steps they had to take.

Anonymous said...

Set a timer. At least 10 minutes before time to stop set it for 5 minutes. When it goes off let her know she has 5 minutes left. Set it for another 3 minutes and tell her it is time to clean up and get ready for the next project. It might seem tedious but our kids in the spectrum NEED this. Eventually she will be able to just have the timer tell her when it is time to stop.

Anonymous said...

My daughter had this same problem. So her teacher gave her a basket for just her stuff, whatever she wasn't finished with and it was time to move on to something new, she put her unfinished work in the basket and could come back to it when she had free time. They get the feeling that they are never going to finish it and it makes them panic but if they know it will be there later it takes some of the panic away. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

My son had the same problem. We set the timer and before he started the project his teacher would remind him if it wasn't completed when the timer went off, he could take it home and complete it. We started this in preschool. When he started reg. school it set him up to understand home work a little better. On the other hand, when the teacher handed out papers for home work but gave the kids time in class to do it, he wouldn't do it because it was "home" work. As a teacher you have to be very direct with them because they will take you at face value on everything you say. I hope this helps and thank you for taking the time to try and figure it out. You sound like a great teacher.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it is almost impossible to get their mind off what they are doing. I might be able to get my son to do a different project but his mind will stay distracted on the previous one till he is able to finish it. That's just how it is.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the counting them down until time is up. I do that with my kids, the worst is for them to have to stop what they're doing at bedtime. So I tell them at one hour until bed. If I notice on the ten min. mark, I tell them every ten min. I always tell them at 30 min. left, 15 min. left, 10, and 5. Hope this helps. It's helped us a lot.

Anonymous said...

Thank you teacher for caring enough to ask and not just punishing the child for something out of their control.

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