Autism

Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  Other characteristics associated with autism are:

  • Engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements
  • Resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines
  • Unusual responses to sensory experiences

 

CISD Special Programs Department goals is to teach and facilitate social communication for students with Autism by:

  • Developing appropriate communication skills
  • Maximizing academic success
  • Developing Social Relationships
  • Adapting to new situations, and
  • Developing a variety of interests.
     
Philosophy:
  • All behaviors have a purpose or satisfy a need
  • Individuals grow and change when they are free to experience reasonable, natural, and logical consequences
  • Proactive intervention approaches along with consequences are essential
     
Interventions that detract from the primary goal include:
  • Power struggles
  • Enabling
  • Inconsistency

 

Successful Strategies for the Home:

There is no cure for autism.  But evidence shows that early intervention results in positive outcomes for children with autism, and the earlier the better.  Studies show that those with autism respond well to a highly-structured, specialized education program tailored to their needs. 

Guidelines:

  • Teach desired behaviors directly
  • Try to determine what your child is trying to tell you with her or her behavior
  • Teach transition skills
  • Use positive reinforcement for behaviors that you want to encourage
  • Choose one behavior to reduce or eliminate
  • Explain the behavior using visuals and modeling.  Show your child what to do.
  • Teach positive replacement behaviors.
 
Establish and Teach Routines

Establishing and teaching routines in the home will help your child develop independence and become a more active member of the family.  Routines also help to decrease transition difficulties and behavior problems.

  • Identify daily routines
  • Decide which routines to teach
  • Create a simple plan.  What are the steps?  How will we cue the steps?  Will we use pictures, words, physical help, or gestures?  How will we reinforce the steps.

Sample Routines:

Waking up and getting out of bed
Getting dressed
Eating breakfast
Grooming
Leaving the house
Getting to the car or bus
Putting on the seatbelt and riding in the car
Saying goodbye and leaving
Putting materials away
Playing/Stopping Play

 

Communication

The communication problems of autism vary, depending on the intellectual and social development of the individual.  However, most have difficulty effectively using language.  Some may be able to speak about topics they are interested in such as dinosaurs or railroads, but are unable to engage in an interactive conversation.  Many individuals with autism do not make eye contact and have poor attention spans.

Tips:

  • Use what motivates your child (e.g. toys, favorite foods, physical play).
  • Accept communication in any form (e.g. reading, pointing, gestures)
  • Provide choices between activities, objects, and desires or wants
  • Give your child time to respond
  • Be within three feet of your child and make eye contact whenever possible

 

Structuring the Environment

Children with autism often have difficulty organizing their environment.  Providing the structure will help improve their communication skills, decrease difficulties with transitions, and help the child become more independent.

 Tips:

  • Place visual cues at the child’s eye level
  • Use the same visual tools in all environments
  • Make visuals portable
  • Make sure everyone uses the same visual clues
  • Label drawers and shelves to identify where items belong
  • Place a “stop” sign on the door if your child goes out without an adult
  • Label preferred items in the refrigerator and pantry
  • Create boundaries to visually define what activity is to be done in the area
  • Create a quiet space for when your child needs to calm down
  • Set up a homework area that has as few distractions as possible
  • Put items that you do not want your child to have out of eye sight

 

Transitioning

Students with autism have difficulty with transitions including changing activities, locations, or people.  This may be due to poor communication skills or not knowing what will happen next.  Teaching transition skills prepares your child for these changes, reducing or eliminating problem behaviors and anxiety.

Tips:

  • Tell your child that an activity is about to change
  • Count down from 10 or 5 to help them with the change
  • Use visual schedules and have the child see what is next
  • Use timers
  • Establish routines for everyday activities and be consistent on how your child changes from one activity to the next
  • If there is a change in routine, explain the change to your child simply before the change happens
  • Create a schedule using visuals for your child