Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Coping with "Transitions" at School

"According to the teacher, my child with Autism [level 1] tends to have a difficult time moving from one activity to the next (for example, from writing skills to Math problems to recreation time). Do you have any suggestions as to how his teacher can make these transitions less stressful for him?"

Transitions are very difficult for children with ASD. It is 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 (e.g., doing 'writing' exercises first, solving 'Math' problems second, and 'reading' third ...in this order every time). And always let you son know ahead of time that a transition in routine is coming.

Using sensory integration techniques can be very helpful for some autistic children. It is best to have an occupational therapist work with you to first determine if your child is hyper-sensitive or hypo-sensitive. For example, does he crave movement and the feeling of different textures and stimulation, or does he avoid movement and textures.

Here is a summary of a case study:

A young student with ASD level 1 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 smooth surfaces, and loved strong odors (in other words, he was hypo-sensitive). 
 
In his sensory room, there was a large hammock for him to lie in that would hold him tight and swing. The ceiling was lined with colored lights. There were boxes with potpourri for him to smell.

He would spend 10 minutes in this room at the beginning of his school day, 10 minutes before lunch, and 10 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. 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 peers.

This won’t work for every child, but demonstrates how some creative thinking can benefit even the most challenging behaviors. The important thing is to remember what works for your child, and incorporate that into his daily routine. 
 
The scenario above is just one of dozens of examples of accommodations that schools can make if they are willing to put forth a little extra effort.



PARENTS' COMMENTS:

Anonymous said... a first then card on his desk with Velcro pictures, first is the current task and then is the task they are switching to - not just subjects but include snack, lunch, packing up back pack, etc on pictures, as the current one is finished more the then to first and put the new then on. Does not have to think about the whole day, just what is happening now and what will happen next - then reminders from teacher about how long until next task is great, so something along the lines of 5 more min of math then we will be doing literacy, then again at 2 minutes if 2 reminders not enough, then maybe 3
Anonymous said... A part of my daughters IEP is to give warning to finish her thought or assignment to them move to the next and it works most of the time.
Anonymous said... A visual timetable and an egg-timer or app with a timer can help.
Anonymous said... Could she set a timer for him? These kinds of guidelines for how much longer he has on one activity, before moving to the next has helped my son.
Anonymous said... Could they not give him a pictorial timetable so he knows what is happening and what comes next? It's something we used as a matter of course working with children with ASD and something I've used at home with my own son who has Aspies. 
If not then can they not just give him a warning? So "in 5 minutes we are going to stop doing x and we will start y" ?
Anonymous said... Does he have an IEP? Maybe a Para to help him???
Anonymous said... Does she give him transistion cues? Does she say "in 5 minutes we will be doing _____" or something to that effect? That would probably go a long way. I know with my daughter (who remains undiagnosed since they changed testing, at least where we live) does much better when given cues
Anonymous said... Following. My son also struggles with this.
Anonymous said... How about a schedule of Today's Events on the board...depending on his age, he'll be able to look at it during the day and know what's coming next...Lord help the teacher though, if she gets spontaneous and changes things up! Also, a reminder from the teacher that, 'in 5 minutes is recess' could help to give a warning that another activity is coming soon... Hope this helps...it did for us! xxx
Anonymous said... I had a visual schedule when they were younger with transition cues. I still have to give my kiddos plenty of transition cues. I start around 10 min, 5 min, 1 min, and then transition.
Anonymous said... I Home School my son and it took care of all the problems with school.
Anonymous said... In addition to what everyone else said, I got a copy of the daily and weekly schedule and made cards for my son. We sat down the night before and went through what he would have and in what order the next day. After a few weeks, he was comfortable and confident in the schedule and didn't need the cards, though we did pull them out for things like field trips. Now he doesn't use them at all - hasn't all year.
Anonymous said... Mine relies on the visual timetable (do NOT forget to have it right!), timers and his amazingly fab teacher has given him his own clipboard that has pictures plus "tick boxes" that he carries around. He loves being given "jobs" to do as well so if the activity is coming to an end they say 5 minutes AND p could you do the checks to see if everyone's ready for ________.
Anonymous said... Most teachers are pre deciding that aspergers isn't something that needs special treatment. They are being allowed to shun our kids, they do it with ADHD too. Now the DSM-V is making it worse. They think because aspergers is a social delay and kids can talk, they are typical. If they only knew. Makes me angry.
Anonymous said... My oldest has ADHD and Aspergers ... for him over the years (going into 4th grade next school year) he likes to be told ahead a very detailed schedule of his school day or class... what is going to done first, middle, last. He also gets one on one pull out for writing and reading though he has an IEP for ADHD. You could get a 504 plan since Asperger's is back in the DSM Autism spectrum definition again....
Anonymous said... My son had his schedule taped to his desk. The teacher would also announce the upcoming change in 3-5 minutes "class we're going to start on xyz in 3". He also had a timer on his desk for the rough days so he could see how much time he had. We even use the timer method for homework.
Anonymous said... My son has 5min down time between subjects. This seems to be effective and he transitions better. The problem we have is focusing long enough to do the work.
Anonymous said... my son has an aide, and is starting psychological visits this weekend for behavior issues, and focus/changing routine.
Anonymous said... My son is at an autism specific school, they have visual schedules and get reminders about when these changes will occur. Much like everyone has mentioned, I have no new suggestions but I can say that this is exactly how the specialist teachers deal with it.
Anonymous said... My son school has a set routine for each sessions ie 1st session is English 2nd is writing then break then maths and history then break the afternoon session does change but our teacher ensures my son knows what is happening after break so he is aware. It is the same every day this has helped my son good luck.
Anonymous said... My son struggles with this at school everyday. He has a visual timetable broken down for the whole school day. He also has a 5 minute reminder before an activity is about to end. Then a 2 minute one. His favourite subject is maths and hates writing. So getting him to stop maths is tricky but his 1-1 deals with it very well. Lots of reminders and visual aids are great.
Anonymous said... My son's teacher tapes a graphic organizer on his desk every day. It allows him to see what's going on for the day and helps with the transition from one activity to the next.
Anonymous said... Preparation is definitely key - use a timetable and give warnings or count down to changes, my son is 14 and I still do this now x
Anonymous said... Schools, summer camps... they all give my son a notice that they will be moving to another activity or room in a few minutes. Very accommodating to do this for us and him.
Anonymous said... She needs to get education on Aspergers first of all. Is she aware of his dx? She needs to do her homework on his needs. Does he have a 504 or iep. They need to be followed. It's up to the school to tweek their style to accommodate him and his needs. Schools are lacking badly in this area. He needs prompting, a written schedule with time coordinates reflecting when each subject starts. She can have a time timer to indicate how long between subjects, and the five minute warning, that's helpful for all kids, not just aspies. Shame on her for being uneducated, assuming she knows his dx. They put this on us to do their work, its better to homeschool, why bother with them. Smh. Sorry, this is a sore subject with me obviously. I'm not asking them to build their day around him, just be aware and make him feel like he's a part of the class, by simple, subtle accommodations.
Anonymous said... Sounds like if the parents don't do the leg work, our kids are all struggling. Something is wrong here. And Michelle, yes, that does solve all the school issues, but, why doesn't your son deserve to be with the other children in the school setting because they are too lazy to help him. Schools need to step up and make the necessary accommodations to support our children's learning. They wouldn't get away with it for any other dx in the world. Not one! Our kids are being, " left behind!" Unacceptable!
Anonymous said... Teacher needs to start giving advanced warnings about changes. Maybe at 10 , 5, 2, and 1 minute before hand. This way it's less of a shocker at change time.
Anonymous said... Teachers need to be better educated in this disability and how to accommodate your child. As parents we have to be diligent and observant on what is hapenning with them and clue teachers on what works. This school year is about over, but I recommend that when the new year begins you speak and email each teacher about your child's disability. I found a great resource online. The PDF package its called " A teacher's guide to Asperger's syndrome". It helps me tremendously to communicate and educate the teachers. You will have to be in constant contact to ensure your child us getting the accommodations he needs as school. Lots of good advice here. Good luck and hope for a better school year.
Anonymous said... There is a timer available with three programable lights on it. Makes a nice visual heads up.
Anonymous said... These are all great suggestions Visual reminders are great for our son who also has aspergers. So are the count down to switching actitivies 
Anonymous said... Use a visual timetable, he can see what is coming next and tick off what has already been done, it breaks the day up into manageable 'bite size' chunks
Anonymous said... Visual schedules at school and great for home too!
Anonymous said... Warnings a must - Visual if at all possible. Substitutions should be announced at the start of the day, not sprung on the kids at the start of the lesson. Visual progression of the day helps too on the door or desk. Pictures to demonstrate the sequence of event are far more useful to the ASS child than times
Anonymous said... you are so right, because you can't see the disability, it's not there. With regard to transition, a 5 minute warning, either verbally or visually has helped my son.


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Sibling Relationship Issues: Message to Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

"Any tips for helping my two older children (not autistic) to have a little more compassion for their younger brother who does have autism? I try to help everyone get along, but it is wearing me out. Playing peace-maker is definitely my toughest job at present. Help!"

Parenting in general can be overwhelming. Add autism (ASD Level 1) to the equation, and the job just got tougher!

Taking care of a youngster on the autism spectrum can take up the vast majority of the parent's time and energy. From learning everything you can about the condition and what it entails ...to various doctor and specialist appointments ...to seeing about special accommodations both at home and at school, the list of things that must be done can seem endless. Fitting time and effort into more than cursory attention to your neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) kids who are also under your care can easily fall by the wayside without you realizing it.

Sibling relationships can be challenging when one child has ASD. Siblings often do not understand this disorder and the challenges that it creates. Also, the child with the disorder may take attention away from the other children, and may even embarrass them because of his or her inappropriate behavior. The family as a whole will face challenges beyond those of the typical family.

Siblings of a child with ASD may:
  • Be overly helpful to get attention
  • Feel alone or jealous
  • Feel angry towards their sibling
  • Feel embarrassed or bitter when they have to include their sibling in social situations
  • Feel guilty for not having the disorder
  • Feel resentful for having to care for their sibling

Sometimes the jealousy and resentment comes not so much from the extra time or attention their "special needs" sibling gets, but from a lack of understanding about why he gets that extra time or attention. Siblings might understand that their autistic brother or sister has a developmental disorder, but not understand the full effects of what that means. So, have them help you care for their sibling.

Maybe your neurotypical children can help with homework, or accompany you to a doctor visit or therapist appointment to see what really happens there. You certainly don't want to make any of this their full time responsibility, but by doing it once or twice, it can help open their eyes up to just why it is that you have to devote the extra time or attention to their autistic sibling. It can also make them more compassionate to autistic kids in general.

Being organized is essential. Keep track of your efforts. One of the best things any mother or father can do to is to schedule not only doctor and other appointments, but also certain events such as playtime. Be sure to set aside time for each child individually, at least once a week if not more, along with other family time. This does not mean you can’t be spontaneous, but it does allow breaks in your busy pace to occur more often if you purposely pen them in between all the other appointments.

Don't be afraid to talk about the disorder and the effects it is having on your family. Siblings need to understand this disorder to the extent that they can, based on their developmental stages.

Sibling rivalry can be a healthy sign, as it is common in all families and indicates that the youngster with ASD is being treated as any other sibling would. However, recognizing that this child can present some very real and challenging behaviors, it is important to prevent aggressive behaviors.

A social story for neurotypical siblings:





* More information on this issue can be found here: Helping Non-Autistic Children Cope with Their ASD Sibling


Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
 
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Here's what other parents have had to say:

•    Anonymous said... Finding balance is a difficult thing. I know that my 10 year old feels I give his younger brother (9 year old with ASD) much more of my time and its probably true. It's a tough situation to always be in. I've talked to my oldest about the challenges our youngest deals with and he'll give his brother a break for a liitle while, but before you know it...he's right back to pushing his brother's buttons.  So wish I could have a day of peace.

•    Anonymous said... That is a tough job and it will wear you down real fast and in a hurry. My family has gotten a lot of help from ICM's and other therapists and still at times I want to pull my hair out but I do my best to be patient. It's hard being the only peace maker in the home and it's even harder when others do not want to understand. That's the case in my home anyway. Sometimes there's just not enough caring to go around. My oldest son has Aspergers and he's 14 and slowly I have learned to live with certain things and deal with things when it comes to him but when it comes to others in my home I almost have no tolerance for their actions and behaviors towards my oldest son. Sometimes I feel he is picked on just to get a rise out of him and if it wasn't for the help we get I would have already went crazy. I count on resources a lot and I am always looking for more ways to help my son and help my family.

•    Anonymous said... I'm having the same issue with my 15 year old daughter and 8 year old son who has Aspergers. He isn't on any meds yet due to his father...going to meet with the dr Saturday and Dr will emphasise the importance of it.

•    Anonymous said... My older daughter doesn't have asperger's but my son does and it has caused a lot of jealousy. I have had to explain to her that he get more time with certian things because that helps him be equal to her. She should be glad that she doesn't have those same problems to overcome and should be happy for that. No one expects her to answer for him.

•    Missy said... Mine is the other way around--DD15 has Asperger's, while DD11 is neurotypical. DD11 struggles at times to understand why her sister is treated differently than she is. DD11 has had to grow up in a hurry, having to help take care of her older sister at times.

•    Unknown said...I'm having a tough time. My 20 yr old son has just been diagnosed with aspergers. His 17 yr old brother is increasing intolerant and has a sharp tongue sometimes making derogatory comments which result in fights. Any advice please I'm desperate .

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Individual Educational Plan {IEP}: Common Mistakes to Avoid


There is probably no process as frustrating for parents and educators alike as the IEP process. As a team effort, the IEP process is designed to help develop a program that is in the best interest of the child with ASD or [High-Functioning Autism]. All too often, the schools experience a lack of resources or have other challenges, which leaves the parent feeling that she is not receiving the support that is needed.

There are several common mistakes parents and teachers make when creating an IEP (or going through the IEP process). These include the following:

1. The parent signs the IEP when she doesn't totally agree with it.

Never sign an IEP at the meeting, especially if you don't agree with it. A verbal commitment that "we will work out the fine details later" is not binding, but your signature is. Remember that you have three days to review the IEP before signing it. It is always a good idea to take the IEP home and review it one more time, even if you think that everything is fine.  Never feel pressured into signing an IEP!

2. The short-term goals will not meet long-term goals.

If a specific long-term goal is agreed upon, make sure that the short-term goals adequately support progress towards the long-term goal.

3. The parent fails to review a preliminary IEP.

Without a preliminary look at what is being proposed for your ASD youngster, your first opportunity to see the IEP is in the IEP meeting where you are expected to agree to - and sign - the IEP. This puts you in an unfavorable position, because you can feel pressured to agree to items without having time to really think through their implications. Always ask for a preliminary copy prior to the IEP meeting, and never feel like you have to sign at the meeting.

4. The IEP contains goals that cannot be measured.

This is the most common mistake made when creating IEPs. It is easy to make - and accept - overly generalized goals and achievement objectives and believe they are acceptable. Many IEPs contain goals and objectives like, "...will improve letter recognition." This is a vague goal which can be claimed as "achieved" with very little progress actually having been made. A better goal would be something like, "...will recognize 9 out of 10 random letters shown, 4 out of 5 times." This is specific and measureable.

There may be times when you will not agree with an IEP. All schools have a due process procedure you can follow that will progressively escalate your complaint through the appeals process. If you can’t agree on your IEP, the school will provide you the information and steps you need to begin the due process procedure.

Many moms and dads find the assistance of an advocate or attorney to be an invaluable tool in their dealings with IEPs and education issues. The decision to utilize an advocate or attorney is a personal decision, but one that has many merits.

The IEP process is critical to the educational success of the child. Parents and educators need to develop an IEP process that (a) enables both parties to feel as though their concerns are heard, and (b) ensures that the child's needs are being met.  
 
 


 
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Calming Techniques for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"How do you deal with an autistic child (age 5) who frequently has severe temper tantrums whenever she doesn't get her way, for example, can't play here favorite game 24/7?"

In order to understand what calming techniques will work with your ASD (high functioning autistic) child, you will first need to determine what things irritate her and have some understanding of the context in which she is throwing a tantrum. 
 
While she is calm, make sure your child knows what the expectations are, but don't confuse the issue with trying to talk to her about things at a time when she is already upset.

Here's a basic plan:
  1. Recognize the signs (e.g., facial expressions) and triggers (e.g., transitioning from one activity to the next) that your child is becoming upset, and intervene prior to a tantrum. Try to redirect her to an alternative activity, something that she enjoys.
  2. If "redirecting" does not stop the tantrum, tell her to stop. Don’t add any extras, just STOP (calming and directly).
  3. If she still doesn't stop, remove her from the area in which the tantrum is taking place. Provide some physical redirection to an area where she can calm down. It can be very effective to call this her SAFE place. It may include a bean-bag chair where she can sit. But, eliminate any extras in the area, such as toys or other preferred items. 
  4. If she doesn’t voluntarily go to her SAFE place, physically escort her there.
  5. Tell her she must be calm for 5 minutes before she can get up.

This may seem like a overly simple process in order to deal with what may be a challenging behavior. The key is to be consistent so that your child will always know what is coming. If the child is in school, try to provide this program across all environments. 

It is amazing how many children on the autism spectrum will actually learn to go to their SAFE place independently as a way for them to control themselves. (Tip: They LOVE structure and routine!) You want your child to self-monitor her behavior, and you want to show her that you believe she has the ability to calm herself down.


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... We also struggle with tantrums and even rage with our 8 year old son. I agree with setting clear limits. Zoe, can you give me an example of emotional regulation? Im not sure i know what that means.
•    Anonymous said... Trying to stop it before my 6yr son goes over the hill has not been easy for me,
•    Anonymous said... Let me know...my 10yo aspie is getting too aggressive for me.
•    Anonymous said... Lately its been take the flight system before the storm hits, I ask him whats wrong or what happend, and sometimes he can express bit other times it break or throw things,,,
•    Anonymous said... get some some books or flyers on how to calm down, even picture stories. During calm days talk about other options for dealing with there own stresses better, taking a deep breath, counting to 10, walk away, dive into a bean bag, give them alternative options, ask them to use words to tell you what's bothering them. Then at times of tantrum calmly remind them of the other options, guide them, it will take time. You have to also understand why the tantrum is taking place as you may deal with different tantrums in different ways, for example is it too much sensory stimuli, boredom, just plain refusal, what happened before the tantrum etc. My son used to have very long tantrums, we worked on this for about 2+ years, he still has some but they have reduced considerably in how often and for how long. It took a lot of consistency, guidance and repetition to see improvement, it won't happen overnight. I am not talking about the typical kind of tantrums that you see in kids, children with HFA/Aspergers can, as you know, have tantrums that are on a whole other level.
•    Anonymous said... Assertive limit setting works for me - acknowledging and validating the childs feelings and difficulty but setting firm limits around what kind of behaviour is and isn't acceptable. We also work on emotional regulation and perspective-taking as a backdrop to this.

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Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...