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The Autism Spectrum Teacher Podcast
14 minutes | 7 months ago
#12 Understanding Autism and Learning
Well the past few months have been, I don’t know how to describe it… absolutely crazy! It’s been very strange, difficult and challenging. There’s been highs. There’s been lows, but fundamentally, things have changed. Things are different. Things are uncertain. I know that we’ve all had our own experience and our own journey and our own challenges. So I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.If you have your own children, I hope that you are all in one piece and that you have managed to have some kind of quality time together. If you’re a key worker, we love you!Parents, we love you! Teachers, we love you. Thank you to everybody!Now things for myself, and Autism Spectrum Teacher (which is myself!) have been very challenging because like perhaps yourself or others you know, I was without any work. My work before the COVID-19 pandemic was in schools, supporting staff, families, SENCO”S and teachers, developing SEND provision and practice.Of course, then schools closed and I was unable to support the schools, and families in the same way that I would have done before. Now, we’ve all been managing the best that we could from a distance. To a point that’s helping some people, but of course I wanted to do more and essentially, I needed to keep everything that Autism Spectrum Teacher and myself does including all of the projects and this podcast. This is the reason why I’ve had to put the podcast on hold for the past couple of months, because it is fully funded by myself. Without those means of ensuring stability for the podcast, I couldn’t continue it. However, I have some plans and I have put things in motion. I want to tell you all about the future plans!We’ve all had to adapt, right? And to be honest, I’ve been really pleased with how some of the children have adapted! You know, sometimes we really do fear the worst don’t we!? Of course there have been many challenges and a lot more challenges I would say, but we’ve got to stick to the positive here. There have been some children that have really surprised us. Now, this episode and the next seven podcast episodes are going to sound very different to previous episodes.There is a theme that will be running through this and the next seven podcasts. And that is that… I’m very pleased and proud to announce that… I have released a series of online training courses, which gives a lot of concise and digestible information as well as practical strategies and how to apply these in real day life.There’s a lot of information out there, but I’ve designed these courses to give you the key information, how to do different types of strategies in order so that you can go away and apply them straight away, especially because we know how personalised strategies and tailored strategies are really needed as every child is so different.So this is my way right now to be able to support teachers, teaching assistants, SENCO’s, parents, carers, and anyone who is supporting an autistic child. The eight courses are all based around different themes.Over the next seven episodes, I’m going to introduce each course, but of course I want to give you value and I want to give you free information. So you’re going to hear snapshots from the training to give you some information so you can still listen and hopefully take something from it. And of course, if you want to learn more, then I’m going to be directing you to the site courses.autismspectrumteacher.com.I’ve been working really hard on these courses, making sure that they provide really beneficial information in bite-sized presentations, as well as reflection tasks, to help you think about those individuals or children around you, and their own personal abilities and needs.After I’ve gone through this transition period, we’ll get back into those juicy episodes where there are interviews and lots of information, but bear with me while I’m going through this transition period.Enjoy the podcast episode! Online courses you can complete in your own time! Check out my range of online courses, helping schools, educational professionals, parents and carers learn practical knowledge and skills to help autistic children reach their potential Learn More! 4 Reasons Why Your Child's Behaviour is Challenging The post #12 Understanding Autism and Learning appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
44 minutes | 9 months ago
#11 Ideas to help children at home during the COVID-19 crisis
This is a live recording from a Facebook Live I hosted this week. It took place in a group aimed at general support through the Covid-19 Crisis, in the island of Jersey, where I am from.I took this opportunity to talk to parents and carers about potential strategies that could be helpful for families with children with special needs, when spending all day at home. I also answered questions that came up during the Facebook Live. We are living in difficult and unpredictable times. This is very challenging for all of us, most especially those with additional needs.Every family has very different needs, as well as access to different sized space and resources.We all have very different circumstances and therefore we need to think about what is manageable for our unique circumstances.We want to try to avoid becoming stressed.Stressed parents and carers equals stressed children.Recognise how we are modelling being calm and if there is anything we can do further to support the children to be calm. If we show that we are anxious, our children will inevitably also be anxious. Do what is manageable in our own, unique circumstancesGo back over previous advice from professionals, this will be specific to your child’s needs and there may be helpful strategies that you can implement at home. Everyone’s needs are so different. Creating calm times throughout the dayDo some calming activities together.Examples of calming activities could be: listening to soothing music, massage on hands or feet with cream, sensory play or looking at a book. What are some activities that have a calming effect on your child? Is this something you can do together? Is this something the child prefers to do alone? Can you structure this into the daily routine at specific times, to create a familiar and predictable pattern? Movement activities throughout the dayAlerting and energising movement activities are great to get the body moving, get children exercising and also using any hyperactive energy!It can be helpful to structure in times throughout the day where movement activities take place. At school, I would often structure movement activities before we took part in learning, to get the children’s bodies all warmed up and regulated. This would often get them ready to focus on the learning task. For some children, I would have very regular movement breaks, such as every half an hour. It depends on the needs of the child, but for some very active children, this can be very helpful for them to keep their bodies moving.Ideas for movement breaks include: a circuit or a visual structure of different exercises (such as star jumps and stretches), rolling the ball to each other, a dancing, yoga or exercise video on YouYube.5 minutes movement break examples:Brain Breaks children’s yoga Shake Your Sillies Out dancing song Structure of the dayImplementing a consistent routine can help the children become familiar with what will happen in the day.For example, planning ahead when you and the children will do calming activities and do movement activities.Over time, a predictable routine can help children feel safe and in control, as they know what will be happening.Any school learning that has been planned with your teacher can be timetabled in at a specific time in the day.Break down the tasks that you know will happen in the day. Visual structureIt can really help children to know what they will be doing through visual structure or a ‘visual timetable’. How effective a visual support will be will depend on what meaning a child will take from the pictures (or text).Pictures, images and symbols can be very helpful in giving meaning. Therefore a timetable of pictures can be very supportive.Lets take all of the above information and put it into a visual structure. For example, a following schedule of a session with the following routine:Rolling the ballReading a bookCounting socksHand massageFinding these images on Google, taking photos or even drawing images and putting them in a clear structure, can help the child by showing them what is coming next. Over time you can change these images, as and when necessary. Visual structure helps give the child a clear beginning, ending and helps them to know what they will be doing. Here is a visual schedule I made using images from Google. If a child can read text confidently, a written list of upcoming tasks will support them to have a clear idea of what they will be doing. Perhaps they can tick or cross them off as they move through the activities to clearly show where they are up to.If your child is familiar with using symbols at school, Widgit Online are currently giving free access to their online symbol writing program. The Code is WIDGIT30. A dedicated ‘work’ spaceHaving somewhere in the environment that is dedicated to ‘work’ can be helpful for autistic children by making it clear what will take place there.This could be a desk, a table or a corner of cushions in a specific part of the room.It can be set out in a way to make things clear to the child, showing them what they need to do. For example, having the work task in a basket to the side of the desk.Do what is manageable – you might start with 1 learning task, building up to 2 after a few days and 3 tasks after a week, depending on what is achievable for your child.Don’t be afraid to repeat tasks. Repetition allows a child to become more familiar with the learning activity and over time, build up confidence and enable them to do the task more independently. Practical learning There are lots of opportunities at home for practical learning throughout the day, supporting a child to generalise the learning, to different contexts.Think of any task or activity as a learning opportunity!For example, depending on your child’s learning outcomes, there can be opportunities throughout the day to work towards these learning outcomes.For example: – if turn taking is one of their specified learning outcomes, could they do a turn taking activity with you or their siblings each day?– If they are learnign to count, could you count with them during practical activities such as cooking or gardening?– problem solving and life skills tasks such as pairing socks, folding clothes and cleaning are important skills and sequences with lots of learning opportunities. Question: Any tips for an autistic 7 year old who now won’t leave the house at all?What could be the reasons why they don’t want to leave the house? Understanding the reasons behind a behaviour, can help us know what strategies will be helpful to support the child.Could it be anxiety related to the COVID-19 situation? Is it in understanding what is happening right now? Social Stories can be really helpful in increasing understanding about a specific situation. They can be personalised to the child to further help understanding.Here are some great free Social Stories and resources about the COVID-19 crisis, to help children to understand what is happening and why they cannot do their usual activities or see their friends. Ensure that we are truthfulWe do not want to give misinformation in uncertain times as this will cause anxiety. Avoid saying anything you are not sure of. For example “we will go back to school in May”. We do not know this, so we must not say this to the children. This would only cause further frustration.We can however say phrases such as “it is ok to feel a bit worried. We are not sure when we will go back to school yet”. Using children’s interests to engage themExcite and motivate children through their interests or favourite toys.For example, if they love playdough, you can do lots of different learning activities through playdough such as counting, making words, size, shape, role play, fine motor skills and so on.Cooking: following a sequence, measurement, counting, fine and gross motor skills, creative decorating and so onGardening: fine and gross motor skills, sequencing, counting, shape, size, colour and so on.It may be they have a favourite character or story that you can use to do different activities with. We do not want a struggle to try to get a child to do a work task that they do not find fun or engaging. Question: Any advice for transitioning from one activity to the other, being indoors a lot?We want to support the child’s understanding of what is coming next and that this activity has finished. Strategies that can help:A sand timer can help to show a child that an activity is coming to an end. When used often, a child becomes familiar with when a sand timer is shown, the activity will soon end. A sand timer also helps a child to visually see the time and when the sand finishes, this is when the activity will finish.A count down from 10 or 5, using words and fingers, gives an extra visual cue that the activity is coming to an end. The more consistent and often this is done, the more effective it becomes. If this strategy is used inconsistently, it will become ineffective as the child will not learn what it means.Model tiding up with the child, so the child sees what to do and if necessary, help them to put at least one thing away. If a child is capable of tidying up themselves, ensure they do so, helping along the way if necessary.Use the object related to the next activity to show the child what the next activity is. For example, after tidying away a puzzle and the next activity is snack; show the child the plate to support that transition. If the next activity is cooking, show them the cooking bowl and picture of what you will be cooking. Question: Do you have any tips on phrases to use or visuals that you recommend?What we are aiming for is come consistency in all of this unpredictability.For the child to know that when you say something, it will happen. So for example, “The puzzle has finished” – if I use this phrase each time, it will support the child’s understanding of what will happen. If I use different phrases, this may not support the child’s understanding. Again this is very dependent on the child’s abilities and needs. Any phrases that you know your child understands or that your teacher has mentioned, it is important to use these same phrases consistently.Consistency in what we do and consistency in what we say, will support the child’s understanding (which should help to reduce frustration and behaviour that challenges). Question: Any activities to wear out a very hyper 4 year old as he is getting super aggressive?It would be good to think about times in the day to implement physical activity, for example, a series of fun exercises. This could be every hour or as often as you feel is necessary. Do it with the child if you can, to model movement, having fun and showing them how to do it.Research shows us that when children are moving and having fun, they learn better.Implement physical activities that include movement throughout the day, such as cooking, gardening, building and making.You can incorporate physical learning activities relating to your child’s learning outcomes.For example: Maths: Jumping whilst counting, adding, multiplication. Run to different numbers to answer the sum. Throwing into different baskets or bins with numbers, letters or words onFun science experiments using hands and arms (fine and gross motor skills).Gardening: digging, planting seeds, watering, learn about the different plants and insects.Also implement calming activities to support their sensory regulation and help to calm their bodies and minds.Strategically implement physical activities and calming activities to support regulation throughout the day. Question: We are struggling to get our child to do anything as his concentration is so poor, developmentally like a 2 year old apart from maths, so love your maths ideas, we also have a 2 year old and baby, so if I do anything with them, he gets aggressive.Is there time where you can have specific time for him and he knows this? Something he loves, he knows he’s got that time with you and this is time he will receive positive attention from you. Can this be visually represented so he knows when this time is coming? Such as a picture timetable of the activities that are coming up.These are some of the challenges that families are facing, so please do only what is manageable, so that it is a calm and fun experience for the child, rather than stressed. This may need careful planning of exactly when this can happen and how often. This may need to be immediately followed by an activity that he can self occupy with so that you have time for your other children. A structured plan may help. A project idea for encouraging communication, talk and recalling past events.Take a photo each day and make a book. This can be printed out if you have printer or made on the computer or phone. You can look at this each day with your child and talk about what is happening in the photo. If it is printed out, the child can make marks or write about what is happening in the photo. This will provide lots of opportunities for learning vocabulary and recalling previous activities. This will also be great to take into school when we go back to school!. You can find the guide I mentioned in the podcast about sensory needs here: ‘Meeting Sensory Needs’. Learn more about supporting the learning of autistic children Knowledge is power! Come and join the online training courses and be equipped with knowledge and practical skills. Learn more! The post #11 Ideas to help children at home during the COVID-19 crisis appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
31 minutes | 10 months ago
#10 Learning through technology with Zafer Elcik Co-Founder of Otsimo
Zafer Elcik is the Co Founder of the Otsimo app, which has over 100 educational games created specifically with the needs of autistic learners in mind. It was great to speak to Zafer as my special guest in this episode of the podcast, and hear about the story of Otsimo!Zafer works alongside educators, speech and language therapists and families to develop educational games aimed at learning different concepts, as well as a free open source AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) tool for nonverbal children, in Turkish and English. Zafer is from Ankara, Turkey, where it is estimated that 90% of autistic children do not get an education. The Turkish government offers children with special needs only 12 hours of education per month.When Zafer got his first smartphone, his autistic brother Alper took a special interest and quickly learnt to navigate the phone. Zafer realised that this was an excellent opportunity to use the smartphone to teach his brother.At the time, Alper was 6 years old, non verbal and could not read or write, however he could find pictures on the smart phone to communicate. There wasn’t many apps which focused on the learning priorities of children with special needs in mind. For example, they had too much information, animation or colours on the screen, which can be visually overwhelming and cause distraction.Alongside his university friend and Alper’s teacher, Zafer created simple educational games. The first game he made was aimed at teaching colours and he was so impressed with how Alper learnt through the app, where other methods had not seemed successful. More educational games followed with concepts such as money, reading, mark making, shapes and Social Stories. Otsimo also now has a free AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app to help non verbal individuals to communicate.A lot of children are really motivated by the cause and effect elements of using tablet and smartphone apps and this can be really engaging for them.Otsimo wants to give families an opportunity to be part of teaching concepts through the use of the app. Supporting families to be part and sharing the educational journey with giving a framework of teaching concepts, social skills and communication.The app also aim to tech vocabulary can then be further taught and extended in practical contexts, which will help children to understand and generalise vocabulary.Zafer is working with the Ministry of Education in Turkey, trying to close the gap by giving a tool to support teaching using the app. Watch Zafer and Alper in the BBC world hacks video BBC World Hacks ‘How brotherly love led to an app to help thousands of autistic children’ I hope you enjoyed this episode of the podcast!For more information about Otsimo, visit: A personal message about tablet and smart phone use:With the ever increasing concerns over the amount of screen time children are having, it is important to note that the use of smart phone or tablet apps must be controlled and structured.There is a big difference between using educational apps for learning and apps for entertainment. At school, we must ensure that tablet apps have a learning purpose and most importantly, that children are accessing a range of different practical learning experiences to support generalisation of learning.Steph Reed Learn more about supporting the learning of autistic children Knowledge is power! Come and join the online training courses and be equipped with knowledge and practical skills. Learn more! The post #10 Learning through technology with Zafer Elcik Co-Founder of Otsimo appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
21 minutes | a year ago
#9 The need to chew! Supporting sensory needs with Jenny McLaughlan, founder of Chewigem
In this episode of the podcast, it was a pleasure to speak with Jenny McLaughlan, the founder of Chewigem.As well as being a support community for different sensory needs, Chewigem have designed and created a range of chewing, fidget and sensory aids for children and adults. Sensory needsOur brain processes the sensory information around us; what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch, as well as how it makes us feel; temperature, balance and pain. Some people, including many autistic individuals, may experience extremely heightened senses where sensory input is exceptionally amplified, or on the other hand, barely registered. This differs from person to person and presents differently in each individual. Sensory seekingFor individuals with under sensitive senses, they may seek out different sensations in order to get the sensory feedback.Examples of sensory seeking behaviours include chewing or repeatedly seeking out sensations such as smells or touch through hugs, tight clothing or feeling specific textures. ChewigemIn the podcast episode, Jenny tells us the story behind Chewigem. How it started as a baby chew and expanded to support people of all ages.‘Chewies’, ‘chew toys’ or sensory supports can help those to receive sensory input, in a safe way. For example, I have taught children who will chew on their clothes, toys or anything around them.Jenny explains how Chewigem is supporting the community by providing supports that have been purposely made for the function of giving sensory feedback, such as wearable chewing resources such as these: Previous Next Chewigem also provides support to help those needing advice on how to find the right supports for individual sensory needs on their website and Facebook group.Jenny describes how a lot of people find Chewigem by searching ‘how to stop chewing’. When people learn that chewing has a sensory function and begin to accept chewing, there are different types of chew supports available that can help. When chewing is managed in a safe and controlled manner, this can support someone to focus and be better regulated. This can therefore have a positive impact on learning, confidence and wellbeing. Jenny tells us some very positive success stories! Chewigem are supporting the community to embrace their needs, not feel bad about it and instead, feel confident in talking about it. Video with my three favourite Chewigem chew supports coming soon. Subscribe to PodcastApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsAndroidby EmailRSS The post #9 The need to chew! Supporting sensory needs with Jenny McLaughlan, founder of Chewigem appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
28 minutes | a year ago
#8 Enhancing communication opportunities: Autism and learning disabilities
How can we ensure we provide lots of opportunities for communication!? The environment Total Communication encompasses all the different ways we can communicate: speech, body language, gesture, eye contact, Makaton sign, body sign, symbols, pictures, photos, words, facial expressions, tone of voice etc.A Total Communication approach should be used at all times, giving as much opportunity for individuals to communicate and to understand your communication.Ensuring an individuals preferred means of communication is encouraged and they have access to the needed resources at all times.Knowing the communication behind the behaviour of our children and young people is essential to support their communication.It is also important to understand how much meaning the individual is taking from communication supports around them, for example, do they recognise a symbol or photo. Would an object have more meaning to them? Examples of personalised communication supports easily accessible on the table Enhancing communication by adapting the environmentClassroom/ homeThink about the individuals access to needed communication supports (i.e. visual prompts for physical needs such as ‘toilet’ and ‘drink’. These need to be placed in accessible places such as on the wall and on the child’s table for easy access.Encouraging the individual to want to communicate through highly stimulating and engaging resources and toys.Providing choice i.e. giving a choice of 2 objects or a choice board of a selection of resources.Ensuring there is an element of choice in each lesson for those learners who are able to make choices or learning to make choices.Using dedicated spaces in the environment to communicate what happens there (i.e. a calm space with bean bag or work space with table.Visual structured systems that communicate a message i.e. a numbered system that an individual works through numbered activities 1 – 4 at the table or 3 cups in the bathroom with the sequence of resources such as toothbrush, toothpaste and flannel. Maybe its a photo of the individual on a chair showing that it is their chair or a circle on the floor showing where to sit. Playground/ gardenDoes the individual have access to needed visual communication supports? Do we need to put laminated photos or pictures outside as visual prompts or an outside vocabulary board to support communication?Are the resources outside stimulating and engaging? Do the individuals want to communicate or request for specific resources?Intensive Interaction: an approach to developing early fundamentals of communication through interactions with individuals at their level of communication. Engaging in an interaction following the lead of the individual and taking turns in playful exchanges for example, joining the actions, sounds of the individual, playfully imitating them in a communicative exchange.I have written more about Intensive Interaction here.You can find further information about this highly effective approach to early communication development for autistic individuals or those with complex needs at the Intensive Interaction website. Relaxing timeChoice of relaxing or sensory resources or trays to request. Perhaps choice of activity such as doing stretches or jumping on the trampette. This can be presented visually for learners who can access this type of communication.Massage on a choice of body parts for example leg or fingers. This could be presented using photos or symbols perhaps. Story timeMaking the story come to life with different multi-sensory props. Having the opportunity to request for these probs and interact with them.Using switches, photo, picture or object boards to interact with different parts of the story and support in answering questions. Think about the individuals you support and how the environment or our teaching approach can be adapted to further enhance communication and interaction. The post #8 Enhancing communication opportunities: Autism and learning disabilities appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
17 minutes | a year ago
#7 Supporting reading with Angela Charalambous from the Workshop Reading Centre
This episode of the podcast is all about supporting children with reading and my special guest is Angela Charalambous, a reading specilaist from the Workshop Reading Centre in Johannesburg. A child’s reading ability will have a huge impact on all areas of learning. Angela discusses different strategies to support a child to enjoy reading and feel more confident! Classroom strategies to support children who have reading difficulties Making learning multisensory Using visual supports such as pictures and objects Enabling children to present their work in different formats Using the child's interests Accommodating sensory needs and ensuring child is comfortable Breaking down work into manageable chunks Revisiting learning Giving an outline of lesson and tasks Giving explicit instructions Maintain a love of reading Read with the child in 3 different areas: Easy material for the child such as a simple book below age level, in order to boost confidence Reading age appropriate material Reading at a challenging or above age level, perhaps in the child’s area of interest to ensure their motivation Parents and carers, continue reading with your child as long as you can, especially themes that are of interest to the child. Spending time reading with parents supports to manifest a love of reading. Ensuring children’s confidence in their reading is key Thank you Angela! Visit the Workshop Reading Centre website to find out more information about the assessments, dyslexia screening, Cellfield intervention and workshops for parents and teachers that Angela mentioned in the podcast episode. The post #7 Supporting reading with Angela Charalambous from the Workshop Reading Centre appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
44 minutes | a year ago
#6 Anxiety in autism with Jane Crawford and Helen Cottell
In this episode of the podcast, it was such a pleasure to speak with Jane Crawford and Helen Cottell from the West Sussex County Council Autism and Social Communication Team. They have recently put together an evidence based guide to anxiety in autism with Sebastian Gaigg from the Autism Research Group at City University of London. The guide gives a brilliant summary of what is currently understood about anxiety in autism. One of the key and significant findings is that “anxiety disorder is not simply a part of autism, but an independent co-occurring disorder that can be addressed and treated in its own right”.It can be difficult to identify anxiety disorder in autism, as it will often present in an ‘unusual’ way. For example, social anxiety may manifest not because the autistic individual is worried about being embarrassed in a social situation, but because they may find it difficult to navigate a social situation. The statistics: The research shows that while 10 to 15% of the general population will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their life 40% of autistic children Adolescents and adults are thought to have at least one and often more anxiety disorders.Anxiety disorder is clearly more prevalent in the autism population. It is however ‘not part of autism’ and therefore needs to be treated as a separate entity.Neurotypicals can often generalise strategies to help anxiety, whereas autistic individuals may find it difficult to generalise and therefore may need support to learn a new strategy for a new situation. Possible causes of anxiety in autism:Alexithymia: difficulties in understanding ones own emotionsIntolerance of uncertainty: as a result of sensory processing differences leads to unpredictability. At a basic level, ‘intolerance of uncertainty’ + ‘alexithymia’ = anxiety in autism. However it is more complex than that.The sensory processing differences which are part of the autistic condition, will often contribute to the intolerance of uncertainty. For example, a difficulty with or not being able to predict how the sensory system will respond next.What the City, University of London describe as as ‘maladaptive emotional regulation’ which is the difficulty to self-regulate emotionally. A difficulty we often see in the pupils we work with, where they may overreact, or sometimes under react to situations (for example, when they get feedback on their school work). This is clearly affected by alexithymia (the difficulty in understanding one’s own emotions) which is in turn impacted by the interoceptive sense (internal processes such as emotional feelings, temperature and pain) which links back to sensory processing differences/ difficulties. Individuals may have difficulties both understanding their emotions, which may then make it difficult for them to effectively regulate their emotions.The final part of the model identified by City University of London is repetitive behaviours. These may help to reduce the intolerance of uncertainty as they are under the control of the individual and are therefore more predictable and so may contribute to reducing anxiety. Some effective strategies to help reduce and manage anxiety (which are explained further in the guide):‘Intolerance of uncertainty’: Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations plus the Zones of Regulation program, introduces a holistic approach working on all the elements that support effective self-regulation.Sensory processing: Working with the individual to develop their own sensory profile (which may change over time) then introduce preventative supports and activities such as Sensory Circuits as well as reactive sensory supports and activities. Alexithymia: Many autistic individuals (50%) have difficulties identifying and describing their own emotions. Mindfulness can have an impact as individuals begin to listen and learn to the internal messages their body is giving, supporting their interoceptive sense development. City University of London research suggests that mindfulness cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) programme had the most impact for the most sustained amount of time. Having a good understanding of autism is probably the most important factor in developing strategies and putting support in place for an autistic pupil with anxiety.A lack of understanding may be the biggest contributor to an autistic individuals intolerance of uncertainty.Understanding the social and sensory differences of an individual will help indicate what may constitute their intolerance of uncertainty and what the impact of their sensory processing difference might be on them. A huge thank you to Jane and Helen for your time recording this podcast and for all of this really helpful information!In the ‘Evidence Based Guide to Anxiety in Autism’ find further information about:What causes anxiety in autismSensory processing differencesAlexithymiaAnxiety treatment approachesTools to support anxiety managementEmotional awareness toolsIntolerance of uncertainty tools The post #6 Anxiety in autism with Jane Crawford and Helen Cottell appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
32 minutes | a year ago
#5: Autism and early intervention with Haia Ironside
I have a brilliant guest and former colleague of mine, Haia Ironside! She has over 10 years’ experience working in education. Haia is a qualified teacher I has taught in both mainstream and special schools in the UK as well as an an integration specialist based in Germany. Haia has a Masters in Autism Studies from the University of Kent. Haia has a particular interest in early intervention and spent three years teaching in the early years at a special school for children with a diagnosis of autism in London. This makes her a great guest to speak on the subject of early intervention!In this episode, myself and Haia discuss:There are many different autism interventions and approaches. It can often be overwhelming and confusing for parents and carers. Each child needs their individual needs and context to be considered before trialling and finding effective interventions.A combined approachThe importance of a multidisciplinary team Intervention which is not directly targeted at the child but in the form of supporting parents, families and educational settings.Ensuring effective monitoring and evaluation process is in place to review impactHighlighting the question “what are we intervening for and why?”The importance of effective home and school partnership where all information is being sharedThe SCERTS approach –Being informed about specific interventionsMost importantly, acting in the child’s best interestsFamily supportFamily engagementKnowing what support is available and support groups. Links mentioned in the podcast:Research Autism list of interventionsNICE Autism GuidelinesThe Guardian Video: Meet Saffron: inside the colourful mind of a girl with autism My Facebook support group ‘Autism and inclusive teaching ideas’, come and join! Haia Ironside:“As we are increasingly able to diagnose children as autistic at a very young age, we are able to explore and identify interventions to support their development. I define early intervention as simply trying to do something as early as possible to support a child’s development. There are now numerous different programs. If your child is diagnosed as autistic, you are likely to go down a rabbit hole into a wonderland of different options.Ultimately, I believe that the outcome of any intervention depends on the context of the child and the therapy. Let’s take two examples, child A and child B and describe two different successful outcomes. Child A was diagnosed as autistic at 4 years old with relatively mild symptoms so parents decided to send them to a mainstream school. Child A receives regular speech and language therapy input, sessions which are designed around their interests and are therefore extremely motivating! Their guardian also integrates some of the strategies into the home environment. Over a period of time, there is a decrease in Child A’s linguistic and communication deficit. In this instance, both the context around the child and the particular therapy worked towards a positive outcome. Child B is nonverbal and attends a special school. Child B was diagnosed at 5 years old. Child B has been engaging in daily Intensive Interaction sessions and staff and parents are increasingly aware of various different attempts at communication, therefore able to understand and respond to reinforce the behaviour. Child B is increasingly initiating communication! Again, both the context around Child B and the particular intervention are working towards a positive outcome. These two examples have several things in common. Firstly, both children have a diagnosis which gives them and their families access to further support. Secondly both children are participating happily in different forms of intervention to support their development. Thirdly, the interventions are being effectively conducted by trained professionals. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, the strategies are being integrated into the home environment! Some important issues to consider with regards to early intervention: Firstly, whilst many interventions are supposedly evidence based, I would caution that the evidence tends to have been collected by the people who designed the program and the robustness of the research is often quite questionable. I have asked Steph to include a link to the Research Autism website which lists over 100 interventions alongside details of the research evidence. Secondly, there is an important ethical question around consent to participate in a particular program. I hope we all agree that any intervention should always be conducted in the interests of the individual. It is also generally quite easy to see if someone is motivated to participate in an activity or absolutely hating the experience.Thirdly, it is important to consider outcomes. Some people believe that the optimal outcome of an early intervention program is if the autistic child loses some of their traits such as linguistic, social or cognitive deficits. Whilst you might agree with this, I encourage listeners to go away and learn more about the debate which is concerned with whether the autistic person should become less autistic or society should become more understanding of neurodiversity. Here is a brilliant video from The Guardian showcasing nine year old Saffron and her family celebrating her autistic traits and personality.Finally, a slightly depressing point about resources. You as a parent or guardian may have done your research, decided on a particular form of intervention, evaluated whether your child will be inherently motivated to partake, fully understood and support the expected outcomes so you decided to try to make it happen. Unfortunately, it might not be available in your region or you are going to need to sell your house to pay for it. I am aware that this is painting quite a bleak picture but I think that this is the reality for many autistic people and their families, friends and carers. For a comprehensive guide to the process of diagnosis in the UK and access to further support, I recommend taking a look at the NICE guidelines which cover diagnosis of autism as well as referral from birth to 19 years old. There is also a separate version for adults. The guidelines are written by experts.A combined approach both myself and Steph promote and have experience in implementing within the school context is SCERTS:SCERTS stands for Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support. In its current form, the SCERTS program was developed in 2007. Numerous studies have been conducted to explore the efficacy of this approach. SCERTS is centred on the child and aims to combine elements of many different programs such as speech and language therapy and social activities into one model. The key idea is to support the autistic child to become a confident communicator without problems that could interfere in their learning or development of positive relationships. ConclusionThere is not necessarily a right intervention. However, families and professionals can work with children to support them to learn, understand and be able to process the world around them in a variety of different ways. Haia’s advice:Do the research, understand what an intervention is about and what it intends to do Seek professional advice Seek extra support in the form of support groups and respite, this will be so beneficial for you and for your child as burn out is a real riskDon’t give up hope. Your child is a unique individual and you should be proud of their neurodiversity.” Haia Ironside The post #5: Autism and early intervention with Haia Ironside appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
23 minutes | 2 years ago
#4: Success Stories: The impact of visual resources for autistic children
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 #4: Success Stories: The impact of visual resources for autistic children appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
34 minutes | 2 years ago
#3: All aboard! Autism and special interests with Richard Semmens and the Engine Shed
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. You can find The Engine Shed here:Website: http://www.theengineshed.org.uk/Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/engineshedsouthlondonTwitter: https://twitter.com/engineshedsw16 The post #3: All aboard! Autism and special interests with Richard Semmens and the Engine Shed appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
38 minutes | 2 years ago
#2: Emotional regulation, behaviour and autism with Adem Cetindemar
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. Questions covered in this episode: What is emotional regulation?What are emotional regulating strategies? We also discuss practical ideas for understanding and supporting emotional regulation development including:Knowing your studentsControlling environmental factorsSensory sensitivitiesConsistencyUnderstanding function of behaviourImplementing functional communication supportsTeaching a functional regulating strategy to replace a harmful strategyBreaking down an activity into stepsLanguage strategiesPlanning strategiesThe usefulness of filming a lesson or activityGiving time to yourself as a parent of teacher to reflectEnjoying 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 #2: Emotional regulation, behaviour and autism with Adem Cetindemar appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
46 minutes | 2 years ago
#1: Inclusive teaching and support strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but all children!)
Here is the first episode of the Autism Spectrum Teacher Podcast #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! #1: Inclusive teaching and support strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but all children!)1. Always think about the sensory input in the environmentThe 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 communicationA 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 consistentConsistency 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 organisedOrganisation 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 regulationEmotion 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 interactionIt 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 behaviourBehaviour 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 visuallyProviding 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 #1: Inclusive teaching and support strategies (that will not just benefit autistic children, but all children!) appeared first on Autism Spectrum Teacher.
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