Work 50/50 with ASD

Last weekend a number of the Talking Matters team as well as some of our families were lucky enough to see Sue Larkey speak about "Making it a success for children on the autism spectrum".

Sue is an amazingly knowledgeable and inspiring educator and author. She is such a dynamic speaker that she had the whole room of several hundred people on their feet and doing the chicken dance. Sue helped us all to see a little clearer what life is like for kids with ASD and presented a huge range of strategies to make life at home, school and in therapy more successful for these kids. Watch for more information from Sue's presentation in coming blogs.

Children with ASD benefit greatly from supports put in place by adults to help them manage learning, behaviour and emotions. Sometimes however adults may become frustrated that the child does not seem to make use of the strategies which have been put in place. Todays' information is about how to help kids use the strategies we put in place successfully and comes from a newsletter Sue put out late last year.

Sue's newsletter (term 3 2011) talked about the need for adults including parents and teachers to use a 50/50 approach to help children with ASD. She reported that the adults 50% is the effort needed to teach the child to use the strategies which have been put in place. The student’s efforts to use the strategies and manage their own behaviour is their 50% contribution. She reported that parents and teachers often just expect that the child will know what to do with the strategies that have been put in place and use them all by themselves straight away. Instead she says that students need to be taught by the adults how to use the strategies.

There are two types of strategies. Strategies that adults can use to manage the child’s behaviour and strategies for the child to use to manage their own behaviour. In the beginning it may seem like the adult is doing all the work but as the student learns to work with the strategies provided the adult will gradually need to do less and less until eventually the effort is about 50/50.

Sue writes that some of the actions which may be needed at both home and school to help students learn how to use the strategies include the following:

  • Modelling

  • Practice

  • Persistence

  • Small steps

  • Consistency

  • Repetition

  • A range of strategies

  • Rewards for using strategies independently

  • Social stories

  • Timers

  • Visuals

Here are some examples of how the 50-50 idea works:

Visuals. Visuals can help the student to understand what is going on around them which reduces anxiety and increases independence. The adults role is to provide a range of visuals to support the child’s understanding. This may include the use of symbols, schedules or photographs or even written words depending on the student’s ability. The adult would then be required to model the use of visuals, help the student practice using the visuals, use the visuals consistently and provide opportunities for repetition. The child’s role would then be to learn how to use the visuals, to understand any changes that are occurring and to manage their anxiety when these changes occur. Click here for more on visuals for preschool and visuals for school aged kids.

Using timers. Timers help a child understand how long they are able or need to do a task or activity. The adult’s role is to provide the timer and pre-warn the student about how it will be used. The adult would then help the student via modelling, practice, persistence, consistency and repetition to understand the use of the timer. The student’s responsibility is then to understand the time limits and to start and finish the tasks or activities as agreed.

Using break times. The adult’s role is to notice signs of anxiety in the student and to provide a place where the student can have a break as well as some calming activities for the child to do during their break. This may be a quiet place with some sensory toys or a calming favourite activity. The adult’s role is then to use consistency and repetition to help a student understand how to use their break time. They may also need to provide some visuals or timers to manage the break time. The student’s responsibility is to request a break before their behaviour becomes unmanageable. It is also their responsibility to rejoin the group after they are feeling calm.

Using organisational supports. ASD students often struggle with organisation but can be helped with the use of organisational aides such as dairies, schedules and colour coded books. It is the adult’s responsibility to help set up organisational supports such as colour coding of books and setting up visuals such as timetables and lists for managing equipment such as things to be placed on the desk, things for home work and the content of the student’s bag. The adult would then use modelling, practice, persistence, visuals and possibly social stories to help the student understand how to use the supports. The student’s responsibility is to use the organisational supports independently.

By working alongside the student, not only providing the resources they need but also providing the modelling, practice, teaching, consistency and repetition needed to learn to use these strategies, the adult can help the student move to a more independent management of their own behaviour. In the long term this will reduce the amount of time and effort needed by the adult. For school students parents and teachers need to work together to provide the consistency needed for the student to develop independence.

To learn more about supporting students with ASD visit Sue’s website. She has a wealth of knowledge and has a regular newsletter as well as downloadable tip sheets, books, resources and workshops available.

Talking Matters provides a range of services to children on the autism spectrum with autism, Asperger's syndrome and PDD-NOS, including diagnostic assessments, speech and language assessments, therapy, school visits and tutoring. We are providers under the FAHCSIA "Helping children with autism" early intervention package and also provide services to older children under the medicare rebate program for children with autism. We have a range of free information and resources available to download from our website and useful links on our pintrest and Facebook pages to other useful sites.

We hope you find it a valuable and rewarding experience to work together with the special child in your life.

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