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Tantrums & Meltdowns in the Classroom: Guidelines for Teachers of Aspergers and HFA Students

Every teacher of Aspergers and high functioning autistic (HFA) kids can expect to witness some meltdowns. At school, there are predictable situations that can be expected to trigger meltdowns, such as transitions between activities, on the school bus, getting ready to work, interactions with other kids, directives from the teacher, group activities, answering questions in class, individual seat work, and the playground.

Characteristics of Meltdowns in Aspergers and HFA Kids—

All young kids from time to time will whine, complain, resist, cling, argue, hit, shout, run, and defy their teachers. Meltdowns, although normal, can become upsetting to teachers because they are embarrassing, challenging, and difficult to manage. On the other hand, meltdowns can become special problems when they occur with greater frequency, intensity, and duration than is typical for the age of the youngster. 

There are nine different types of temperaments in these special needs young people:
  • Distractible temperament predisposes the youngster to pay more attention to his or her surroundings than to the teacher.
  • High intensity level temperament moves the youngster to yell, scream, or hit hard when feeling threatened.
  • Hyperactive temperament predisposes the youngster to respond with fine- or gross-motor activity.
  • Initial withdrawal temperament is found when kids get clingy, shy, and unresponsive in new situations and around unfamiliar people.
  • Irregular temperament moves the youngster to escape the source of stress by needing to eat, drink, sleep, or use the bathroom at irregular times when he or she does not really have the need.
  • Low sensory threshold temperament is evident when the youngster complains about tight clothes and people staring and refuses to be touched by others.
  • Negative mood temperament is found when kids appear lethargic, sad, and lack the energy to perform a task.
  • Negative persistent temperament is seen when the youngster seems stuck in his or her whining and complaining.
  • Poor adaptability temperament shows itself when kids resist, shut down, and become passive-aggressive when asked to change activities.

Prevention for Teachers of Students on the Autism Spectrum—

It is much easier to prevent meltdowns than it is to manage them once they have erupted. Here are some tips for preventing meltdowns in the classroom:
  • Avoid boredom. Say, “You have been working for a long time. Let’s take a break and do something fun.”
  • Change environments, thus removing the youngster from the source of the meltdown. Say, “Let’s read a book.”
  • Choose your battles. Teach kids how to make a request without a meltdown and then honor the request. Say, “Try asking for that pencil nicely and I’ll get it for you.”
  • Create a safe environment that kids can explore without getting into trouble. Childproof your classroom so kids can explore safely.
  • Distract kids by redirection to another activity when they tantrum over something they should not do or cannot have. Say, “Let’s read a book together.”
  • Do not ask kids to do something when they must do what you ask. Do not ask, “Would you like to study now?” Say, “It’s study time now.”
  • Establish routines and traditions that add structure. Start class with a sharing time and opportunity for interaction.
  • Give kids control over little things whenever possible by giving choices. A little bit of power given to the youngster can stave off the big power struggles later. “Which do you want to do first, work on reading or writing?”
  • Increase your tolerance level. Are you available to meet the youngster’s reasonable needs? Evaluate how many times you say, “No.” Avoid fighting over minor things.
  • Keep a sense of humor to divert the youngster’s attention and surprise the youngster out of the tantrum.
  • Keep off-limit objects out of sight and therefore out of mind. In an art activity keep the scissors out of reach if kids are not ready to use them safely.
  • Provide pre-academic, behavioral, and social challenges that are at the youngster’s developmental level so that the youngster does not become frustrated.
  • Reward kids for positive attention rather than negative attention. During situations when they are prone to meltdowns, catch them when they are being good and say such things as, “Nice job sharing with your friend.”
  • Signal kids before you reach the end of an activity so that they can get prepared for the transition. Say, “When the timer goes off 5 minutes from now it will be time to turn in your work.”
  • When visiting new places or unfamiliar people explain to the youngster beforehand what to expect. Say, “Stay with your assigned buddy in the museum.”

Intervention for Teachers of Aspergers and HFA Students—

There are a number of ways to handle a meltdown. Strategies include the following:

• Avoid shaming the youngster about being angry. Kids in healthy families are allowed to express all their feelings, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. They are not criticized or punished for having and expressing feelings appropriately, including anger.

• If the youngster has escalated the tantrum to the point where you are not able to intervene in the ways described above, then you may need to direct the youngster to time-out. In school warn the youngster up to three times that it is necessary to calm down and give a reminder of the rule. If the youngster refuses to comply, then place him or her in time-out for no more than 1 minute for each year of age.

• Learn to deal with your own and others' anger. When teachers discipline out of anger or with expectations that are inappropriate for the age of their youngster, they often make mistakes in the way they react. The place to begin is with ourselves. When we feel calm, we can model effective anger and conflict management.

• Maintain open communication with your student. Consistently and firmly enforce rules and explain the reasons for the rules in words your student can understand. Still, you can listen well to his protests about having to take a test or measles shot.

• Notice, compliment and reward appropriate behavior. Teaching your student to do the right things is better (and easier) than constantly punishing bad behavior. Kids who get a steady diet of attention only for bad behavior tend to repeat those behaviors because they learn that is the best way to get our attention, especially if we tend to be overly authoritarian.

• Remain calm and do not argue with the youngster. Before you manage the youngster, you must manage your own behavior. Yelling at the youngster will make the tantrum worse.

• Talk with the youngster after the youngster has calmed down. When the youngster stops crying, talk about the frustration the youngster has experienced. Try to help solve the problem if possible. For the future, teach the youngster new skills to help avoid meltdowns such as how to ask appropriately for help and how to signal a teacher that the he or she knows they need to go to “time away” to “stop, think, and make a plan.” Teach the youngster how to try a more successful way of interacting with a peer, how to express his or her feelings with words and recognize the feelings of others without hitting and screaming.

• Teach kids about intensity levels of anger. By using different words to describe the intensity of angry feelings (e.g., annoyed, aggravated, irritated, frustrated, angry, furious, enraged), kids as young as 2 1/2 can learn to understand that anger is a complex emotion with different levels of energy.

• Teach understanding and empathy by calling your student's attention to the effects of his or her actions on others. Invite the youngster to see the situation from the other person's point of view. Healthy kids feel remorse when they do something that hurts another. Authoritative discipline helps them develop an internal sense of right and wrong. Remember, a little guilt goes a long way, especially with an Aspergers youngster.

• Think before you act. Count to 10 and then think about the source of the youngster’s frustration, this youngster’s characteristic temperamental response to stress (hyperactivity, distractibility, moodiness), and the predictable steps in the escalation of the meltdown.

• Try to discover the reason for your student's anger or meltdown. What does he or she want and is not getting? The reasons kids have meltdowns vary: to get attention, get someone to listen, protest not getting their way, get out of doing something they do not want to do, punish a teacher for going away, for power, for revenge, from fear of abandonment, etc. Let the youngster know the behavior is unacceptable. Talk calmly.

• Try to intervene before the youngster is out of control. Get down at the youngster’s eye level and say, “You are starting to get revved up, slow down.” Now you have several choices of intervention.

• You can ignore the tantrum if it is being thrown to get your attention. Once the youngster calms down, give the attention that is desired.

• You can place the youngster in time away. Time away is a quiet place where the youngster goes to calm down, think about what he or she needs to do, and, with your help, make a plan to change the behavior.

• You can positively distract the youngster by getting the youngster focused on something else that is an acceptable activity. For example, you might remove the unsafe item and replace with an age-appropriate toy.

Post-Tantrum Management—
  • Do not reward the youngster after a tantrum for calming down. Some kids will learn that a meltdown is a good way to get a treat later.
  • Explain to the youngster that there are better ways to get what he or she wants.
  • Never let the meltdown interfere with your otherwise positive relationship with the youngster.
  • Never, under any circumstances, give in to a tantrum. That response will only increase the number and frequency of the tantrums.
  • Teach the youngster that anger is a feeling that we all have and then teach her ways to express anger constructively.

Beyond the Tantrum Stage—

Most tantrums and angry outbursts come and go as Aspergers and HFA kids and youth grow in their ability to use language and learn to solve problems using words. But occasionally, fits of temper and violence persist into elementary school and may signal serious problems. Sometimes there are biological sources of anger that require diagnosis by a physician or psychologist.

If someone is getting hurt or if you use the suggestions listed in this fact sheet and nothing seems to work, it is time to get professional help. Ask a physician, school guidance counselor or psychologist for names of those skilled in working with autistic kids on anger issues. Or, check the yellow pages under counselors, for psychologists and marriage and family therapists who specialize in autism-related behavioral problems.

==> Methods for Preventing Meltdowns at Home and in the Classroom

Aspergers Students: IEP and ARD Documents

Although these documents were prepared specifically for use during an IEP process, they will be useful to moms and dads and professionals who seek a better understanding of kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism).

Sample Letter to IEP Committee from Parents—

[Date]

IEP Committee
[name of school]
[address]

Re: IEP of [name of Aspergers student]

Dear Members of the IEP Committee:

I am writing this letter to set forth the concerns/issues that we, as [name of Aspergers student] parents, would like addressed in [name of Aspergers student] annual "individualized education program" or IEP.

[Continue with some background information: the following paragraph is a sample]

[name of Aspergers student] has been in a self-contained classroom for the majority of his course work since he entered middle school ([name of Aspergers student] was also in a self-contained classroom for four years of elementary school; for further information, please see the document, attached hereto, I submitted as an Addendum to the two page document entitled "Information from Moms and dads"). His teacher in that self-contained classroom is [name of teacher] and the instructional aide in the classroom is [name of aide]. Both [name of teacher] and [name of aide] have been very willing to educate themselves on autism and its ramifications in the school setting and have made many adaptations to allow [name of Aspergers student] to succeed in school. However, [name of teacher] will be leaving [name of school] to accept a teaching position at another middle school in the [name of school district]. The fact that she will be unavailable as [name of Aspergers student] teacher in a self-contained classroom next year, coupled with the fact that [he/she] has a difficult time adjusting to change, and the fact that we are planning for his last year in middle school, we, as his moms and dads believe [name of Aspergers student] should be mainstreamed in the 96-97 school year as provided under statutory law.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act ("IDEA") provides that states receiving funding under the act must ensure that kids with disabilities are educated in the regular classroom with nondisabled kids "to the maximum extent appropriate." 20 U.S.C. Section 1412(5)(B); see also, Oberti v. Bd. of Education, 995 F.2d 1204, 1206 (1993). Federal courts have construed IDEA's mainstreaming requirements to prohibit schools from placing kids with disabilities outside of the regular classroom if educating the youngster in the regular classroom, with supplementary aids and support services, can be achieved satisfactorily. See e.g., Oberti, 995 F.2d at 1207; Greer v. Rome City School Dist., 950 F.2d 688 (11th Cir. 1991), opinion withdrawn on other points of law, 956 F.2d 1025, reinstated in part 967 F.2d 470; Daniel RR v. State Bd. of Educ., 874 F.2d 1036, 1048 (5th Cir. 1989). "The Act [IDEA] requires states to provide supplementary aids and services and to modify the regular education program when they mainstream handicapped kids." Daniel RR at 1048. The Fifth Circuit goes on to state that if the school makes no effort to take such accommodating steps, the inquiry ends, because the school is in violation of the Act's express mandate to supplement and modify regular education. Id. "If the state is providing supplementary aids and services and is modifying its regular education program, we must examine whether its efforts are sufficient. The Act does not permit states to make mere tokens gestures to accommodate handicapped Aspergers students; its requirements for modifying and supplementing regular education is broad." Id. Indeed, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit states that "the school district must consider the whole range of supplemental aids and services, including resource rooms and itinerant instruction, for which it is obligated under the Act and the regulations promulgated hereunder to make provision." Greer, 950 F.2d at 696. "We emphasize here that the school district's consideration of whether education in the regular classroom may be achieved satisfactorily with supplemental aids and services must occur prior to and during the development of the IEP." Id.

After reviewing federal law construing IDEA, I also believe the school district is required to notify moms and dads (1) that mainstreaming of Aspergers students with disabilities is required under IDEA, if such mainstreaming can be accomplished by modifying the regular education program and by providing supplementary aids and services, and (2) what supplementary aids and services and modifications it is required to provide under law. See, Greer, 950 F.2d at 698. [continue with your situation, outline any problems you have had with the school's failure to meet the law; what follows is an example] I have never received such notification from the school. However, this letter is not about placing blame on the school for its failures in the past. This letter is meant to address the future and insure that all mainstreaming issues are adequately addressed. I am attaching several documents I would like the ARD Committee to complete and to include as part of [name of Aspergers student] IEP. The first document, which is 10 pages long, is intended to:
  1. identify [name of Aspergers student] strengths and interests 
  2. identify environmental challenges faced by a student with autism spectrum disorder that may lower an autistic' student's ability to function competently 
  3. identify possible sensory challenges and risk factors faced by an autistic student 
  4. identify potential social skills that may present a problem in an educational setting 
  5. identify those behaviors that may be a personal challenge for a student with autism spectrum disorder

These forms were taken from the "Technical Assistance Manual on Autism for Kentucky Schools."

The second document I would like the committee to consider is entitled, "Specially Designed Instructions for Educators: IEP Modifications/Adaptations/Support Checklist." Again, I obtained the basic format for this document from the "Technical Assistance Manual on Autism for Kentucky Schools". However, this form has been revised to more accurately describe the modifications and adaptations necessary for a youngster who is on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum. The changes are based on professional writings, most particularly the recent article by Karen Williams and a paper entitled "Tips for Teaching High Functioning People with Autism" by Susan Moreno and Carol O'Neal, both of which are attached hereto. The third is proposed goals for [name of Aspergers student] for the next IEP period.

In addition to the above, we request the following for the 1996-97 school year:

[nos. 1 through 6 are examples]
  1. That [name of Aspergers student] be mainstreamed into regular classes for every eighth grade class except math 
  2. That a circle of friends be established in [name of Aspergers student] [name of class] in conjunction and cooperation with the instructor of that course 
  3. That all of [name of Aspergers student] instructors be given a copy of the goals, modifications, special considerations, etc. prepared as part of this IEP 
  4. That both the instructional aide and [name of Aspergers student] educators in the regular classroom be allowed to consult as necessary with the special education teacher and the District's autism specialist 
  5. That education on autism be provided by the school district to the instructional aide as well as all regular instructors who teach [name of Aspergers student] 
  6. That the school provide [name of Aspergers student] with a one-on-one aide to assist him as necessary in the integrated classes

Thank you for considering our concerns and comments. We look forward to working with the school district to integrate [name of Aspergers student] into regular classes and make the transition to high school easier and more understandable for [name of Aspergers student]

Sincerely,

[your name and address]

Attachments

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This is a checklist form designed for moms and dads to provide to teachers and other educators to help them understand the strengths and challenges faced by a youngster with an autism spectrum disorder. It includes sections on environmental challenges, sensory challenges, behaviors, and social skills.

Behaviors That May Be Personal Challenges for a Student with an Autism Spectrum Disorder—

Qualitative Impairments in Social Interaction:

• ____engaging in stereotypical question asking as interaction pattern
• ____impaired imitation - not engaging in simple games of childhood
• ____inability to respond to social cues
• ____inability to understand how someone else might feel
• ____inappropriate giggling or laughing
• ____inappropriate use of eye contact, avoidance or extended staring
• ____inappropriately intrusive in social situations
• ____lack of socially directed smiles when young
• ____little sense of other people's boundaries
• ____mimicking actions from TV, but not in reciprocal manner
• ____not accepting cuddling, hugging, touching unless self initiated
• ____poor use of non-verbal gestures
• ____trouble with back and forth social interactions
• ____trouble with competition, i.e., winning, losing, being first
• ____wanting and needing to be left alone at times

Restricted Repetitive & Stereotyped Patterns of Behavior, Interests & Activities:

• ____defensive to touch that isn't self initiated
• ____difficulty waiting
• ____difficulty with unstructured time
• ____excessive fearfulness of some harmless objects or situations
• ____exploring environment through licking, smelling, touching
• ____fascination with movement (spinning wheels, fans, door & drawers)
• ____history of eating problems
• ____history of sleeping problems
• ____impaired response to temperature or pain
• ____insistence on routines, resisting change
• ____lack of fear of real danger
• ____lining up and/or ordering objects
• ____negative reaction to change in environment
• ____pacing or running back and forth, round and round
• ____perfectionist, problems with correction or "mistake"
• ____repeatedly watching videos or video segments
• ____staring at patterns, lights, or shiny surfaces
• ____strong attachment to inanimate objects (strings, bottles)
• ____very sensitive to sounds (may have acted as if deaf as baby)

Qualitative Impairments in Communication:

• ____difficulty understanding abstract concepts
• ____difficulty when verbalizations are too fast
• ____difficulty with concepts that are time bound or lack concreteness
• ____difficulty with long sentences
• ____echoing what is said directly, later, or in a slightly changed way
• ____low spontaneously initiated communication
• ____problems answering questions
• ____problems getting the order of words in sentences correct
• ____problems responding to directions
• ____problems understanding jokes
• ____problems understanding multiple meaning of words
• ____problems understanding sarcasm, idioms, and figurative speech
• ____problems using speed, tone, volume appropriately
• ____problems with pronouns
• ____problems with reciprocal conversations

Learning Characteristics:

• ____ability to manipulate items better than paper-pencil abilities
• ____delayed response time
• ____good visual skills
• ____hyperactivity
• ____impulsivity
• ____needs help to problem solve
• ____over and under generalization of learning
• ____problems organizing
• ____sequential learner
• ____short attention span to some activities and not to others
• ____uneven profile of skills
• ____well developed long term memory

Observable Problem Behaviors:

• ____aggression - biting, hitting, kicking, pinching
• ____eating problems
• ____low motivation
• ____non-compliance and refusal to move, to do things
• ____screaming, yelling
• ____self-injurious behaviors - biting, hitting, pinching, banging parts of body
• ____sleeping problems
• ____temper tantrums
• ____toileting problems

Possible Motor Problems:

• ____balance
• ____clumsiness
• ____initiation - can't seem to be started in motor acts
• ____motor fatigue - tired easily
• ____motor planning - can't seem to make body do what it needs to do
• ____perceptual motor, spacing, sequencing, printing, writing
• ____stiffness
• ____strength

Some Environmental Challenges that Lower a Student's Ability to Function Competently

Internal-

• ____being hungry
• ____being sick
• ____being tired
• ____being touched
• ____making a mistake
• ____not being understood
• ____not having adequate skills for job
• ____not having choices
• ____not having enough information
• ____not understanding

Major Changes-

• ____activity location changes
• ____alterations at school, work, home, community
• ____anticipating an event or activity
• ____cancellation of an event or activity
• ____family member or friend is late or not coming
• ____friend or buddy absent
• ____having to wait too long
• ____small schedule changes
• ____staff or teacher absent
• ____time changes

Environmental Confusion-

• ____being off the pace of others
• ____crowds
• ____losing things of value
• ____noise
• ____not having enough space
• ____surrounded by competing visual stimuli
• ____surrounded by too much movement

Relationships-

• ____being corrected
• ____being denied
• ____being ignored
• ____being interrupted
• ____being late
• ____being left out
• ____being scolded
• ____being teased
• ____fear of losing people who are valuable

Possible Sensory Challenges: Risk Factors

Sound/Auditory-

• ____confused about direction of sounds
• ____distracted by certain sounds
• ____fears some noises
• ____has been diagnosed with hearing problem at some time
• ____likes sounds that are constant and mask outside sounds
• ____making self-induced noises
• ____reacts to unexpected sounds

Sight/Vision-

• ____arranges environment in certain ways and can tell if out of order
• ____avoids eye contact
• ____becomes excited when confronted with a variety of visual stimuli
• ____closely examines objects or hands
• ____enjoys patterns
• ____enjoys watching moving things/bright objects
• ____has been diagnosed with a visual problem
• ____has difficulty tracking
• ____has trouble with stairs, heights
• ____is distracted by some or too much visual stimuli
• ____is sensitive to light
• ____likes TV, VCR
• ____makes decisions about food, clothing, objects by sight
• ____upset by things looking different

Smell/Olfactory-

• ____sensitive to smells
• ____explores environment by smelling
• ____ignores strong odors
• ____reacts strongly to some smells
• ____smells objects, food, people

Touch/Tactile-

• ____appears to have depth perception problems
• ____becomes irritated if bumped or touched by peers
• ____dislikes having hair, face, or mouth touched
• ____dislikes the feel of certain clothing
• ____doesn't like showers
• ____explores environment by touching
• ____has to know someone is going to touch ahead of time
• ____initiates hugs, cuddling
• ____is defensive about being touched
• ____is sensitive to certain clothing
• ____likes to play in water
• ____mouths objects or clothing
• ____over or under dresses for temperature
• ____prefers deep touching rather than soft
• ____refuses to touch certain things
• ____refuses to walk on certain surfaces
• ____upset by sticky, gooey hands

Taste-

• ____dislikes certain foods/textures
• ____explores environment by tasting
• ____has an eating problem
• ____tastes non-edibles
• ____will only eat a small variety of foods

Movement/Vestibular-

• ____appears clumsy, bumping into things
• ____arches back when held or moved
• ____avoids balancing activities
• ____climbs a lot and doesn't fall
• ____likes rocking, swinging, spinning
• ____moves parts of body a great deal
• ____seems fearful in space
• ____spins or whirls self around
• ____walks on toes

Perceptual/Perceptual Motor-

• ____difficulty with body in space
• ____distracted by door, cupboards being open, holes, or motion
• ____has difficulty with time perception
• ____has trouble with paper/pencil activities
• ____problems organizing materials and moving them appropriately
• ____problems with use of some tools
• ____relies on knowing location of furniture

Social Skills That May be Personal Challenges

Personal Management/Self Control-

• ____accepting correction
• ____accepting that mistakes can be fixed
• ____being prepared and organized for activities and lessons
• ____being quiet when required
• ____changing activities
• ____finishing work
• ____taking care of personal and school belongings
• ____talking when spoken to, especially if asked a question
• ____turning in assignments on time
• ____waiting
• ____working independently without bothering others

Reciprocal Interactions-

• ____asking for a favor
• ____asking for feedback, recruit praise
• ____asking for help, seek comfort
• ____asking someone to play or do an activity
• ____caring when someone is hurt or sick, not laughing
• ____complimenting
• ____gaining joint attention (point, look, talk)
• ____getting attention in specific way, raising hand, waiting
• ____greeting
• ____imitating
• ____initiating social interactions
• ____inviting others to join
• ____letting someone know that you are hurt or sick
• ____negotiating
• ____offering help, comfort
• ____playing
• ____sharing
• ____sitting and participating in group
• ____social chat
• ____taking turns

Reciprocating Social Interactions Appropriately-

• ____accepting help
• ____accepting that some things aren't possible
• ____answering questions
• ____commenting on a topic
• ____giving a reliable yes/no
• ____giving eye contact appropriately
• ____listening
• ____making a choice
• ____responding to teasing
• ____sharing other's enjoyment

Manner of Interaction-

• ____being considerate
• ____being honest
• ____being kind
• ____being polite
• ____keep a specified distance from a person
• ____looking at person talking appropriately
• ____not being a tattler
• ____not hitting, kicking, saying bad words
• ____not walking away while someone is talking

Learning Situation Specific Behaviors-

• ____at a sports event
• ____in a store
• ____in church, school, home
• ____what and where are private
• ____with authority figures
• ____with peers, no adults
• ____with strangers

Abstract Social Concepts-

• ____being good
• ____caring
• ____doing one's best
• ____fairness
• ____friendship
• ____humor
• ____kindness
• ____lying
• ____politeness
• ____timing

Group Behaviors-

• ____come when called to group
• ____stay in certain places
• ____participate with group
• ____follow group rules:

1. get out
2. pick up, clean up, straighten up
3. put away
4. talk one at a time
5. voting - majority rules
6. walk, stand still, stay to right
7. winning and losing

Questions to Ask About INCREASING MOTIVATION

When these questions are answered, remember to address and analyze the Aspergers student's entire day and week across all environments to assure these motivational strategies are addressed systematically.

• Are attempts towards goals and objectives reinforced?

• Are environmental and instructional cues utilized instead of relying on constant adult verbal and physical cues?

• Are experiences shared rather than constantly instructed?

• Are familiar, acquired activities kept in the program as new ones are added?

• Are likes, interests, and strengths; questions minimized?

• Are naturally occurring reinforcers used?

• Are reciprocal social interactions reinforced and shared rather than corrected?

• Are student preferences used and attempts made to update these and use reinforcers that the Aspergers student REALLY likes?

• Are the activities useful and meaningful for the Aspergers student?

• Are the options for choice expanded through meaningful experiences and successes?

• Are the reinforcing stimuli varied, are there choices of reinforcers, and is the schedule of reinforcement varied?

• Are there cooperative experiences?

• Are typical social reinforcers (smile, pat, praise)really motivating?

• Is choice making encouraged, invited, accepted and taught?

• Is feedback provided immediately so the connection between the reinforcer and event is clear?

• Is information given so person understands; questioning developed & utilized?

• Is intrinsic motivation utilized?

• Is natural initiation encouraged and invited?

• Is reciprocal communications encouraged and is there ample opportunity?

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This is a checklist form designed for moms and dads to provide to teachers and other educators. It incorporates "teaching tips" and modifications/adaptations often necessary to enable a youngster with an autism spectrum disorder to thrive and succeed in the school setting.

Specially Designed Instructions for Educators: IEP Modification/Adaptations/Support Checklist—

SPECIALLY DESIGNED INSTRUCTIONS FOR EDUCATORS: IEP MODIFICATION/ADAPTATIONS/SUPPORT CHECKLIST

FOR____________________________
DATE___________________
GRADE__________________

Communicating to the Aspergers student-

• Avoid idioms, double meanings, and sarcasm____
• Avoid using vague terms like later, maybe, "why did you do that?"____
• Be concrete and specific____
• If necessary for understanding, break tasks down into smaller steps____
• Provide accurate, prior information about change____
• Provide accurate, prior information about expectations____
• Slow down the pace____
• Specifically engage attention visually, verbally, or physically____
• Use gestures, modeling, and demonstrations with verbalization____

Encouraging Communication with the Aspergers student-

• Encourage input and choice when possible____
• Model correct format without correction____
• Pause, listen, and wait____
• Respond positively to attempts____
• Watch and listen to attempts to respond____

Social Supports-

• Build in time to watch, encourage watching and physical proximity____
• Create cooperative learning situations where _______can share his/her proficiencies____
• Establish a "buddy system" in each class____
• Focus on social process rather than end product____
• Practice on specific skills through natural activities with a few peers____
• Practice on specific skills through natural activities with one peer____
• Praise classmates when they treat _________with compassion____
• Protect the youngster from bullying and teasing____
• Structured activities with set interaction patterns and roles____
• Specific teaching, rehearsal, practicing, and modeling in natural settings of the following skills:

1. accepting answers of others____
2. accepting success of others____
3. complimenting____
4. Concentrate on changing unacceptable behaviors and ignore those that are simply "odd"____
5. following ideas of others____
6. greeting____
7. Individualize social stories giving specific situations emphasizing descriptions and perspectives____
8. inviting____
9. joining others____
10. joking and teasing____
11. negotiating____
12. responding____
13. repairing breakdowns____
14. Shared interests using interests and strengths____
15. taking the lead____
16. Teacher or school personnel advocate who will problem-solve and facilitate____
17. turn-taking____
18. waiting____

Environment and Routine-

• Allow modifications as needed to deal with sensitivity to touch issues, such as immersing hand in gooey liquid____
• Avoid surprises, prepare__________________thoroughly and in advance for special activities, altered schedules, or other changes, regardless of how minimal____
• Minimize transitions____
• Offer consistent daily routine____
• Provide a predictable and safe environment____
• Provide personal space in resource or other room for relaxation____
• Reduce distractions and sensory overloads____ noise____vision____smell____
• Talk________________through stressful situations or remove him/her from the stressful situation____

Presentation of Material-

• Presented visually____

1. calendars/maps/charts/diagrams____
2. computers____
3. demonstration____
4. objects____
5. pictured and written____
6. pictured____
7. video____
8. written____

• Consistent use of expectations____
• Divide instruction into small, sequential steps____
• Peer tutoring____
• Provide needed prompts and cues____
• Provide repeated opportunities to practice____
• Use established routines____

Assessment and Assignments-

• Allow extra time____
• Alter activity____
• Apply learning to real situations____
• Highlight text____
• Learn format ahead of time through rehearsal____
• Modify difficulty____
• Modify questions format____
• Provide choice of activity____
• Provide visual cues as a way of teaching how to summarize/write____
• Shorten____

Self Management/Behavior-

• Analyze the purpose of behavior from student perspective____
• Avoid pressure to "be good" or other abstract expectations____
• Avoid punitive measures that lower self esteem, increase anxiety, and are not understood (e.g., taking away set routines, free time, exercise, sending home, lecturing or yelling at)___
• Encourage choices and decision making where appropriate____
• Incorporate strengths and interests into daily plan____
• Individualized contract____
• Provide reinforcement that is individualized, immediate and concrete
• Teach use of timer or other visual cues____
• Translate purpose into skills to be taught____
• Avoid disciplinary actions for behaviors that are part of the disorder, i.e.:____

1. anxious____
2. avoidance of eye contact____
3. lack of "respect" for others____
4. perseverating on topic of interest____
5. repeating words or phrases____
6. slow response time____
7. talking to self____
8. upset by change____
9. upset in crowds or with noise____

Homework-

• Individualized____
• More help____
• More time____
• No more than one hour per evening____
• Shortened____

Staying on Task-

• Break assignments down into small units____
• Provide frequent teacher feedback and redirection____
• Provide time in resource or special education room for completion of homework and class work____
• Sit_________next to buddy so buddy can remind_________to return to task or listen to lesson____
• If necessary, lessen homework expectations____

`````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

This document is an example of some IEP Goals.

Proposed IEP Goals—

The following sample document is a list of goals for an IEP period.

GOALS FOR INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLAN (IEP)

FOR_____________________________
DATE____________
GRADE___________

A: To Improve Communication and Socialization

1. Accept the success of peers without making negative comments.
2. Ask for help from teachers or aides when needed.
3. Attempt to learn the interests of peers.
4. Be positive in communicating with teachers and peers.
5. Be respectful of peer's opinions.
6. Compliment peers when appropriate.
7. Establish and maintain eye contact when speaking to teachers and peers.
8. Initiate discussions with peers.
9. Respond appropriately to peers in social situations.
10. Share expertise and special interests with peers.

B: To Succeed in the Regular Classroom

1. Be positive as you approach your work and new tasks.
2. Establish method by which ________________can organize and keep organized.
3. Establish method by which ______________can help himself/herself control anxiety.
4. Notify the teacher/aide if you are distracted by sensory input.
5. Notify the teacher/aide if you do not understand the material.
6. Notify the teacher/aide if you find yourself becoming overly agitated or anxious and your own efforts to control the anxiety have not been successful.
7. Participate appropriately in class.
8. Stay focused on the instruction in the classroom.
9. Understand that, though teachers and aides will attempt to let you know of potential changes in schedule, etc., there will be times when such notice cannot be given. Work on accepting change without becoming emotionally unraveled.



 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… 504s are legal Documents overseen by the office of civil rights and easier to get than IEPs. My son needs both but the school Refuses because they ignore anything but test scores and grades that would lose them money.
•    Anonymous said… Anyone encountering resistance like this should hire an advocate to work as their voice in these meetings. I wish I had done it far sooner than I did. An advocate speaks the language, knows the laws and will keep your child's needs always at the top of everything else. It's money you won't regret spending because of the aggravation it will save you from.
•    Anonymous said… Do NOT back down to the school! You are his voice.
•    Anonymous said… Find an advocate who knows the laws regarding IDEA ... individual with disabilities education Act .... or a lawyer .... but keep up with this fight ..dont let them step on your kids rights ... the schools seem to do this a lot ..its sad
•    Anonymous said… From what I understand, in my state anyway, is that the school will do psychological testing & decide if & what the IEP should be. If they decide he doesn't need one, & you disagree w/their decision, you can take your child to have the testing done wherever you want & the school is responsible for payment of that evaluation. They don't get to deny the diagnosis you already have, tho. Remember...you are the boss. They work for you & your son. Not the other way around! Good luck!
•    Anonymous said… I found out that some of the educators evaluating the IEP is clueless about Asperger's. I found out the counselor has zero experience in psychology. She was formerly a teacher and principle. She could not relate. She only read about the disorder and attended a conference. No experience working with these children at all. Based on test scores, they don't take it seriously. My son state test scores are in the top 10%, yet he can not stand loud noises, crowds of people, has repetitive behaviors, lack social skill, limited emotions, and more. These child have to be monitored. Yet, they will expect normal behaviors and organizational skills. Been doing this for 14 years. You may have to schedule a meeting with the Board of Education in your city.
•    Anonymous said… I have been through the same experience!!! The teachers are not the doctor and do NOT have the education OR degrees to diagnose or undiagnose
•    Anonymous said… idea 2004 says that academic and functional skills must be considered. The purpose is a) To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living; So children with Aspergers Or High functioning Austim need sensory help, OT and social skills all of which fall under IDEA. To deny a 504 to a child with a qualifying disability is discrimination and be reported to the office of civil rights which oversees educational discrimination. If your school system can not site the reason for the denial of the IEP/504 and show it to you, then keep Pushing.
•    Anonymous said… It's a fight and shouldn't have to be. I don't understand why they can't adhere to or implement what is in the IEP. I went to the school the week before the start of my sons first day of second grade, to make sure everyone was on the same page. I ended up chewing the principal out on the first day. My son's behavioral specialist was there that day and called to tell me they had nothing in place for him and he melted down. The principal had no idea I knew this when I called and she tried to play it off as nothing happened. I immediately called for another IEP meeting. They don't like you to have more than 1 a year, but it's your right to request them. my next step is a lawyer. This school even violated HIPPA , put another child's info in my child's IEP. I could go on.... Good luck to you on this journey.
•    Anonymous said… I've never heard of not accepting a diagnosis after the childs been officially assessed, how ridiculous of them. Best thing I ever did was use a company called Advanced Behavioral Services. It was covered under my insurance and the woman that helped my son was able to come to the school and speak on his behalf and I never felt alone in this and I was always supported. I'm sure if you google you can find similar help in your area, find an advocate you don't have to do this alone.
•    Anonymous said… My son has Aspergers and I started by taking his official diagnosis documentation and scheduled and MDT meeting. When you walk in with official paperwork with a diagnosis from a psychologist who specializes in this area, they start to listen. Then you can move towards the IEP and hold the school accountable. Find out who is the special education coordinator in the school and speak directly with them if possible. There should be someone besides a counselor.
•    Anonymous said… Simple statement to school, "Your job is not to give the diagnosis. Your job is to accommodate it."
•    Anonymous said… stay strong and know that this will be a constant battle.
•    Anonymous said… The middle school rejected my son's diagnosis too. They did their own evaluation of him when I requested an IEP and claim he "showed no signs." I had him diagnosed by a private psychiatrist and they still won't accept it. They claim that because my son has no intellectual problems there is no problem,but his social skills are abysmal. UGH,the school drives me insane!
•    Anonymous said… You are 100% right about test scores. They look at test scores not the details or characteristics of Asperger's.

Post your comment below...

A Child on the Autism Spectrum Interviews His Parents

Hi everybody, my name is Matt. After reading questions and answers to Mark Hutten, I was so sad to hear all the problems parents are having. I know I’m only 10 but I decided to interview my parents what they thought about my autism and how they helped me so that I could share with you:

Me: When did you first think I was different?

My parents: We noticed when you were about 3 years old, when you decided to stop eating.

Me: What did you do?

My parents: Well we went to the pediatrician who told us this was normal, and not to force you to eat, that you would eat when you decided to. Well that was a mistake still to this day you won’t touch a lot of foods.

Me: What did you think when the psychologist told you I had autism?

My parents: We were torn. We were happy in a way that we finally found out why you were acting differently, but sad thinking how can we help you?

Me: I don’t understand?

My parents: Every parent’s first impulse is thinking “what did I do wrong?” When we found out it was autism, and it was not our fault, this made us feel a little better. But now knowing that you have an autism spectrum condition,  it made us feel helpless thinking how can we help you. Matthew, every parent wants to help his or her child live a happy life.

Me: Is there anything you think helped me get this far?

My parents: Yes. I made sure ever since you started school I asked you four simple questions. Tell me something good, something bad, something happy something sad. This made you talk about your day and we could elaborate on a specific topic, which was most important to you. Now every day we talk about all different topics.

Me: Yes we still do it today, but I call it debriefing now.

Me: How did you get me to try new things?

My parents: The one that best works for you is reward and consequence. Do you remember when you would not ride your bike for the whole summer?

Me: Yes

My parents: Well it was not until I purchased a computer game and told you, that you could not play it until you rode your bike. You learned to ride a bike in 2 hours.

Me: Is there anything else you think that helps me?

My parents: Matthew it’s all trial and error. There have been times a strategy may work but the next day fails completely. We find its one step forward and 2 steps back. I get told a lot of the time that I’m a pessimist.

Me: What does that mean?

My parents: It means I look for the worst things in life. I do this to try to look ahead on what problems could arise for you. Everything I try to teach you now is not to learn for today but 2 years from now. I have always tried to teach you some problem solving of situations that may arise as you get older. Hopefully with constant repetition when this time comes, it would have sunk in and you would be ready.

Me: Are you tired of having a son with autism?

My parents: If you mean tired as exhausted, there are times, but I get the same exhaustion from telling your brother to pick up his clothes. Matt I’m a mom. I’m tired all the time. It goes with the territory. If you mean am I tired of you… NEVER. I wanted two boys and I was blessed with two wonderful boys, so to that answer - no!!!! You are a wonderful son with so many gifts to offer and I love you and will always love you.

Post-script-

Matt: "I hope that this may help parents. As my mom and dad said, 'it is all trial and error' and if these worked for me maybe they may be able to help your kids with autism."

----------

Resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
  

Anonymous said...Made my eyes my eyes a little moist. My daughter and I have similar conversations and I don't always know what to say but try to be insightful and honest. My daughter believes fully that I am her hero in life and that's so much to live up to when I feel at a loss so often. I feel so alone sometimes. Reading this conversation between parent and child really really helps to feel not so alone. So thank you!
  at 7:46 AM  

Anonymous said... I loved this article. Your mom gave some insight into how to get my 6 year old to share his day w/ me. I hope to have conversations like yours with him someday. I love him very much!!
   at 1:57 PM

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content