Thursday, February 11, 2010

Superior Schools Workshop Handout

We Create the Windows for Learning

What do I do professionally?
I teach children through playful interactions with significant people.
Research strongly suggests that play is the “just right” combination of emotion, language, movement, and context for learning

What can you do to open windows of learning for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders?
1.     Understand ASD
2.     Foster Genuine Relationships
3.     Support Attention
4.     Show, Don’t Tell
5.     Anticipate Problem Behavior

Understand the Disorder
A Rose By Any Other Name…
u An Educational Diagnosis
u A Medical Diagnosis
u Common source: DSM-4 –a manual that Psychologist put together
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) This Year
Other names:
Asperger Syndrome

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is a neurological disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder ranges from mild to severe
Mild Autism means average intelligence or better and good language skills.  It does not mean that the student can control or overcome the neurological differences

If Your Brain works Differently,
The World Looks Different

Core Learning Issues
Attending to the social world
Sharing emotions
Shifting attention between people and objects
Social referencing

The Whale Story—This child has good language skills but finds it very difficult to attend to social signals and so he retells whole books or movies and can only engage in conversation with support.  I support him by focusing his attention on the question that another child asks him.  I act as a social translator by helping him focus on what is going on in his social world.

Princess T is playing a hide and find game with me.  I am exaggerating the emotion sharing aspect of this interaction by being quite animated and playful.  She remains stoic but I assume this indicates her difficulty with nonverbal aspects of communication like facial expression and laughter.  She is also working hard in the game as she shifts attention back and forth between my face and the hiding toy.  She is learning to point—which is also awkward and difficult for her but she is highly engaged in this game and enjoying it—which I know because like every game we play at the clinic, it is voluntary.  Play is a voluntary pleasurable activity and part of the potency of play is that the child knows he or she can stop at any time.

Do You Want…?
In this game, the child is answering his mother’s questions about what part he next wants as he builds a toy.  He falls into a memorized pattern of saying “no” to her and says “no” even when he actually does want a particular piece.  I support him first by playing this game with the roles reversed.  He asks his mother what she wants and she replies and gradually builds the toy.  He is swinging between each turn because the work of sustaining this much back and forth interaction is hard and the swinging helps him stay focused and rewards him for effort.  In the clip you are watching, this child can stay with the activity partly because I am holding him in my lap.  I am acting as a social translator between him and his mother in the game.

Up Step.  In this game, the child is learning to shift his attention repeatedly back and forth between what he is doing, going up the steps, and the back and forth social interaction between himself and his mother. The game is structured to help him know when to pay attention to his play partner.  He shifts roles while playing this game, sometimes being the “Teller” and sometimes being the “listener”.  He needs a  lot of practice in order to understand when he is suppose to be listening and following directions and when he is suppose to be giving directions.  These roles shifts in communication are very hard for children with ASD to learn.

That’s Terrible!  Stage Play Acting Class.  This young actor is learning to shift his attention first to the teacher, then to another child across the room who is playing “director” and then to his fellow actor in the scene.  Every aspect of the interaction is scripted to help him know what to do and when to do it.  The young actors see these scenes prior to class on Video Models.  They see other actors, young teenage volunteers, do the scene first.  They hear what they are suppose to do.  What is interesting is that with this much support, we start to see, often for the first time, true expressions of pretend play—where the child is both pretending and making up new ideas as he or she pretends.  We were astonished at the amount of creativity that began to emerge in Stage Play.

What is Different in the Brain? 
Information does not move rapidly between various areas of the brain

Fostering a Genuine Relationship encourages children with ASD to try despite formidable neurological obstacles.
No Need for Language
Going Places Together
Just Hanging Out is Pretty Wonderful

Supporting a Child’s attention to people rather than objects is quite difficult.  We spend a lot of time practicing shifting attention back and forth between people and toys.  In this clip, you see me using an simple predictable game “No, no, no, Yes!” but that is not enough.  You see me using an exaggerated vocal intonation.  That is not enough.  You see me putting toys up by my face.  That is not enough to support this child in learning to attend to the social aspect of our interaction.  He does not shift attention between the toy and my face.  So, I give up on the toy and become a simple cause/effect toy.  I do something funny and predictable each time he makes a noise with a duck.  Finally, I have found a game that is both simple enough and enjoyable enough that he is able to enage in face –to-face interaction.

Students attend to the wrong things.  Your job is to gently help the student (if possible) attend to what is most important in each situation.  In your role in the school, you might find that one of these things helps a student attend to the relevant social information:
Less Language
More Visual Information
More Structure
More Explicit Instruction
More Time To Watch
Things that Help
Social Translator
Video Modeling
Animated Facial Expressions
Key Phrases
Show, Don’t Tell
Visual, Visual, Visual

We can Anticipate Problem Behaviors because we know what goes wrong for these students.  No one should be surprised when a student is confused about what is being said, what is expected, how to do what is expected, why to do what is expected—these are all social concepts.  The disorder causes even highly verbal students with autism to be quite confused.  Problem behaviors are the socially inappropriate ways that a student copes with confusion. 

Problem Behaviors occur because student is:
Trying to escape
Trying to communicate a need for something
Seeking a Predictable Reaction
Satisfying a sensory need

Behavior problems happen when…
Student does not understand your words…… your meaning…….the situation…the reason something is happening…how to do what you said… your role– or even the social hierarchy which gives you the right to tell the student what to do.
All this information is social and this is what students with ASD have difficulty understanding.

Treat Problem Behaviors As
Communication: “You don’t know how to do this problem.  Tap the table three times when the problem is too hard.”

Confusion:  “Just watch, I will show you how to do this.”

A memorized pattern: “I will write you a story so you can see how to as Anna to play.”

Teach New Skills
Rather than reacting to problem behavior by scolding and correcting, ask yourself, “What skill does this student need in order to be successful here?”  When you scold and correct, you often increase the likelihood that the problem behavior will be repeated.  When you teach the child what to do instead in this situation, you are less likely to have a problem.  Figuring out exactly what you expect the child to do is your job, not the child’s job.

ASD is a Diagnosis not a Prognosis
None of us know how well any particular student will do because the child has some serious neurological barriers to learning but also has a lot of capacity.

The window of opportunity for learning is a lifetime.
Small increments of learning for a youngster is like small investments in a retirement account—put in early, the payoff is huge..
Students with ASD routinely surprise and delight us with the things they learn and do.

Children with ASD Thrive in an Environment of Acceptance