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AST 4: Success Stories: The impact of visual resources
One of the ways we can really enhance children’s understanding is through the use of visual resources. By visual resources I mean anything from pictures to photos to symbols to physical objects. Anything visual that when paired with a word, enhances meaning and understanding.
 So an example of using a visual resource versus not using a visual resource would be… When asking the question “do you want an apple or pear?”. I could ask this question with no visual resource or I could ask this question by having an actual apple and pear in each hand, or by showing a picture of an apple and pear.  The addition of the visual resources can really help a child’s understanding of the question, as well as help the child to focus on the question and additionally help to develop communication and language because the adult is modelling the vocabulary in context. For example, saying ‘apple’ when showing an apple.  Using visual resources to enhance understanding and develop language and communication can make such a difference and will help to prevent challenging behaviour, because the child’s understanding is supported. In this podcast episode, I share examples through my experience of teaching children with autism, where using visual resources has made such an impact for the child. These experiences taught me so much and I want to share this with you.  

Success story 1: Weeing in the toilet – the importance of ensuring the visual resource we use is meaningful and specific.

Success story 2: Like and don’t like visuals – the importance of making visual supports accessible.

Success story 3: Now and next board – how supporting transitions visually can impact a child’s understanding, engagement and learning.

I also provide information on an upcoming training workshop with Widgit Software and myself on April the 26th 2019, 10:00 – 12:30 at Camden Learning Centre in London.

The workshop is all about HOW and WHY we should use visual supports to support teaching and learning.
Tickets are only £4.50! More event information here.

I hope you enjoy the episode! Please share it with anyone who you think will benefit from the information or who may find it interesting.

The post AST 4: Success Stories: The impact of visual resources appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.

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The third episode of the Autism Spectrum Teacher Podcast is about the importance of embracing special interests with special guest Richard Semmens from The Engine Shed.

“The Engine Shed is a special interest group for children and young people with autism who like trains. They can play, talk and enjoy their interest in a welcoming, safe and relaxing environment – and their parents can talk in a supportive atmosphere. They run open days in Streatham, South London on the 2nd Saturday of every month.

I visited the engine shed during one of their open days a few weeks ago and had a great time playing with different trains, with children and young people and also had conversations with parents who spoke very positively about The Engine Shed and the impact it was having on them.

If you know someone with autism, which I’m sure you probably do, you will properly have noticed that they may have very high attention to detail, whether that is with a particular object, a particular interest or even noticing detail during an observation of something in a room.

It is frequently recognised that autistic individuals can be highly focused on a topic, toy or object. This is often referred to as a ‘special interest’ (or even an obsession, I personally opt for the terminology of special interest) and these special interests can start from a very young age and may continue through life, or may change regularly to a different focus.

I’ve taught children who have had highly focused interests in dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, the map of London, numbers, letters and many others. Individuals may also be very attached to particular objects or toys such as a book or figure or other object. I taught a child who carried a piece of broken coat hanger everywhere with him.

For a lot of children and adults, methods of transport including buses and trains is a particularly common special interest. Now there are many reasons why trains may be so appealing to autistic individuals and we discuss this further in the podcast. 

 In the podcast episode, Richard discusses the impact of The Engine Shed on the community, future plans and the importance of using special interests in engaging children and young people with autism.

The post AST 3: All aboard! Special interests with Richard Semmens and the Engine Shed appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.

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The second episode of the Autism Spectrum Teacher Podcast is a conversation about emotional regulation with Adem Cetindemar, an experienced teacher for children and young people with autism and severe learning difficulties.

We discuss what emotional regulation means, the importance of teaching regulating strategies and the impact this can have on learning and everyday life. 

Themes covered in this episode What is emotional regulation?
What are regulating strategies?
Practical ideas for understanding and supporting emotional regulation development
  • Knowing your students
  • Controlling environmental factors
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Consistency
  • Understanding function of behaviour
  • Implementing functional communication supports
  • Teaching a functional regulating strategy to replace a harmful strategy
  • Breaking down an activity into steps
    Language strategies
  • Planning strategies
  • The usefulness of filming a lesson or activity
  • Giving time to yourself as a parent of teacher to reflect
  • Enjoying your children and interacting with them at their level using Intensive Interaction

You can read more about teaching emotional regulation strategies in my blog post Emotional regulation: Teaching autistic children to recognise and respond to their emotion and Emotional regulation & communication table supports for children with autism.

As mentioned in the podcast, I have explained ‘Intensive Interaction’ in more detail in the blog post Intensive Interaction and early communication development.

You can listen to the first episode of the podcast all about inclusive teaching and support strategies here AST 1: Successful Teaching and Support Strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but ALL children!).

Please share this podcast with anyone who you think this information will be of any help or interest and subscribe to the podcast via the links at the top of the page.

Thank you again to Adem Cetindemar, what an interesting and informative conversation!

The post AST 2: Emotional regulation, behaviour, autism and severe learning difficulties with experienced teacher, Adem Cetindemar appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.

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Here is the first episode of the Autism Spectrum Teacher Podcast – AST 1: Successful Teaching and Support Strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but ALL children!)

Being as it is the first episode, I have given an introduction to myself and why I started the podcast.

My vision for the podcast is:

Sharing knowledge, information and practical advice related to autism through having conversations with autistic individuals, parents, carers, teachers, educational professionals and service providers. 

The first episode is just me and I will be discussing successful teaching and support strategies that will not just benefit autistic children, but all children. I have based these strategies on regular themes that come up during my outreach and consultancy visits to different schools.

Future episodes will include special guests!

AST 1: Successful Teaching and Support Strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but ALL children!)1. Always think about the sensory input in the environment

The sensory input in the environment can really have an impact on an individual. There is often a lot of sensory input going on around us all of the time. In today’s classrooms, there is a lot of sensory stimuli. For example; busy, colourful classroom displays, lots of resources around the room on tables and shelves, bright lights, lots of different smells and different sounds. Sometimes, autistic children can find it difficult to block out different stimuli or experience the input differently to you and much more sensitively.

There is what’s known as hypersensitivity, which is being very, very sensitive to sensory input, or hyposensitivity which is being under sensitive or perhaps not register specific sensory input. Every individual is different and can be both over sensitive and under sensitive to different sensory input. We always need to remember that everyone is experiencing the sensory input around them differently and this is especially true for an autistic individual. I will give examples about how you may observe this and potential strategies to adapt the environment to support different sensory needs and in turn, promote a conducive learning environment.

I discuss more about sensory needs in the blog post – ‘Sensory needs, autism and our class ‘exercise’ activity’ and ‘Sensory equipment for children with autism’.

2. Adapting our use of language and communication

A child will get a diagnosis of autism because they have differences in their receptive and perhaps their use of expressive language. Each individual will have very different communication needs. It could be that one person doesn’t develop any verbal language and has challenges with understanding the language and communication used by others. Perhaps another person has very advanced expressive language skills and can talk very well. However, they may experience difficulties in understanding non-verbal communication or some of the language from others around them.

I will discuss different strategies to enhance your own communication, such as using very specific language, ensuring your communication is clear, reducing language to the important key words, using visuals or objects to enhance language, using Makaton sign, giving time to process information after giving a child an instruction, using one instruction at a time and other strategies related to adapting our language and communication to support a child.

I discuss this further in the blog post ‘Why the choice of language you use to communicate with an autistic child is so important’.

3. Be consistent

Consistency in our approach is extremely important. Ensuring there is familiarity and routine can enhance predictability. This can be especially important for an autistic child. A lack of consistency, whether it be in the way you manage behaviour, your use of language or the morning routine, will increase anxiety and confusion for any child. I will discuss examples of this.

4. Be organised

Organisation is extremely important. I will give examples of how being ultra organised made an impact on my lessons and some strategies I used for keeping organised and ensuring the school day runs smoothly!

There is further information about the organisation of a classroom in my blog post ‘What to consider when setting up a classroom for children with autism’.

5. Focus on developing emotional regulation

Emotion regulation is our ability to recognise and respond to our emotional state. For many children with autism (in fact many children in general) it can be challenging to recognise and safely manage these emotions. It is therefore extremely important that we teach children how to recognise their feelings and then ensure they have strategies to know how to deal with those emotions. I will give some ideas as to how to develop emotional recognition as well as how to develop strategies for children to regulate their emotion.

I discuss emotional regulation further in my blog post ‘Emotional regulation: Teaching autistic children to recognise and respond to their emotion’ as well as ‘Emotional regulation & communication table supports for children with autism’.

6. Focus on developing social interaction

It is important to model social interaction through playing with the children. Some children may find it difficult in knowing how to interact or how to interact ‘appropriately’. You therefore will need to explicitly teach different social situations and social skills. Modelling play and language will really help the children see how to do this. Social Stories are a great resource for teaching personalised, social skills.  I am a big fan of the ‘Intensive Interaction’ approach in developing early communication, interaction and relationships.

I discuss Intensive Interaction further in the blog post ‘Intensive Interaction and early communication development’.

7. Understand the function of behaviour

Behaviour always has a function. When you are observing any kind of behaviour, remember that it is a form of communication and will serve one of the following functions:

  • Communication (e.g. are they frustrated that they have not been any to communicate something to you)
  • Social attention (e.g. are they doing it to get your attention)
  • Sensory processing (e.g. are they sensitive to something in the environment that is causing them distress)
  • Escape or avoidance (do they not want to be in that room or take part in that activity)
  • Tangibles or objects (e.g. has their favourite toy been taken away from them without warning or can they see an object that they want)

I will discuss the functions of behaviour further and ways of assessing behaviour to determine the triggers.

8. Use transition supports

A transition support is a visual aid that will support an individual in understanding where they are going, what they are doing next or what they are doing in the day. This must be personalised and based on the individual’s level of understanding. There are many different types of transition supports. Some examples that I discuss include;

  • A ‘now and next’ board, showing photos or symbols of the current and next activity which helps support a smooth transition from one activity to the other.
  • A visual timetable, which displays photos or symbols of the activities that are going to happen in the day. This gives the child or class a clear visual understanding of the different activities that they will be doing and will support the transitions between activities.
  • A written list of the upcoming tasks on a whiteboard, this will support a reader to effectively and independently transition to the activities throughout the day.
  • Sand timers, to visually prepare a child for the ending of a task. I’d say one of the most important transition supports that indicates the ending of a task and when used consistently, ensures the child understands the task is coming to an end and when.

I provide further information on visual timetables in my blog post ‘Visual timetables for children with autism’.

9. Structure lessons and tasks visually

Providing a visual structure to lessons and tasks supports children to understand the different parts of the task and what is expected to take place before the lesson ends. An example of this is using pictures or symbols of the different parts of the task. I will discuss why this is important and how to implement this in your classroom or service.

I provide further information about lesson structure in my blog post ‘The importance of using a visual lesson schedule for children with autism’ and ‘How to structure a lesson or activity for pupils with autism’.

10. Make learning engaging and motivating

Grab children’s focus and attention by using exciting and engaging resources and lesson themes. Using the child’s interests or favourite characters in learning tasks can really help engage the child in the learning. I discuss a few ideas of how to do this.

There is more information about making learning engaging in my blog post ‘Attention Autism stage 1: attention bucket video and comments from creator Gina Davies’ and ‘Personalised learning: Using children’s interests to motivate them!’

11. Model how to do something

It is more effective to model or show a child how to do something, rather than relying on just telling them. When giving an instruction to a child or introducing a lesson, always model or show the child how to do it. I will discuss how this can really promote independence.

I hope you found the podcast useful!

Please share the podcast to share understanding and subscribe to the podcast using the following links:

iTunes | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Blubrry | Stitcher

The post AST 1: Successful teaching and support strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but ALL children!) appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.

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