Strategies that promote independence
Activity schedules usually consist of visualisation of sequential activities for the whole day or steps within an activity. They can be very simple such as using laminated papers or can be sent to students via technologies such as the use of mobile phones or tablets and can be made using apps for scheduling activities. They can provide prompts for transition, give graduated support for completing tasks, and reward progress on tasks and combined with tactile prompting such as vibrating beepers. Students can be taught in using such schedules beginning with most to least prompts and gradually decreasing support – the ultimate goal should be to reduce adult prompting.
Tactile prompts using a specific device or mobile phone can help a student do something, which the student knows how to do and needs to be done at certain fixed intervals (returning to the task at hand or making a verbal initiation in a play setting). Making a response can be taught to a student with the help of decreasing prompts and rewards. It can help reduce input from a paraprofessional, decreasing the level of close support required, and the stigma that goes with it.
Peers can provide social and academic support through tutoring, mediation, and cooperative learning. It can be useful in a variety of settings such as conversations, learning and cooperative sharing during social and play activities. Peers provide support by asking and reminding, rewarding good behaviour, adapting activities, and creating a positive social environment. the teachers task shifts from prompting the student with autism to rewarding and guiding the peer. Peer support can come from one individual or from a pair of rotating buddies. Peers are natural support that may increase the social-communicative skills of the student with autism.
When individuals self-monitor, they notice certain aspects of behaviour on which they would otherwise not focus. a person can be taught to self-monitor to increase the desired behaviour or to decrease an unwanted behaviour. Self-monitoring behaviours are usually taught in four steps: defining the target behaviour, identifying reinforces, designing or choosing a device or a method, and teaching the individual to self-monitor. Self-monitoring can help in reducing stereotypic behaviour, increase appropriate play, increase use of daily living skills in the absence of an adult, increase on-task behaviour and increase pro-social behaviour. Self-monitoring has been combined with support from peers and siblings and has been successfully paired with video modelling.
A behaviour or a target skill is first chosen for video recording. Either a professional or appear or in some situations, the child with ASD themselves can serve as a model on the video. Prompts may need to be given when the video is being recorded but these can be edited out of the video. The video should usually be two to four minutes in length and are washed by the person with ASD, often repetitively. the child is then encouraged to imitate the skill observed on the video in a real-life context.
Many people with ASD are better able to remember visual information they’ve seen on a video. Children with autism may also be able to focus better where the camera is focusing. Video modelling can be successfully combined with other approaches such a self-monitoring and practising. It has the potential to promote independent behaviours and can reduce the over-reliance on prompts from other people.
Individual work systems
The four major components of an individual work system are the physical structure or the organisation of the classroom, visual schedules, a visual information system informing the student what to do while in a work area and visually clear information on what the learning task is about.
A work system communicates four pieces of information to the child:
- the task that is required to be done
- how much work there is to be completed
- how the student knows the work is finished or how much progress they have made, and
- what to do when the work is finished.
Many children with autism spectrum disorders who have reasonable verbal and cognitive abilities continue to find it challenging to understand others’ thoughts desires and intentions. Social stories (Gray & Garand, 1993; Gray, 1997) have emerged as an effective intervention in helping please children overcome such difficulties.
A social story provides information about a chosen situation. It tells the reader or the listener what people in that situation may be doing, thinking or feeling and about the sequence of events happening in that situation. Depending on the need and ability of the child, the story can be tailored to include further details of social cues and their meaning.
A social story can be constructed by the family, often with the involvement of the child, and include recent situations and events. such social stories used my families have proven to be effective in improving the social understanding and behaviour of children with autism spectrum disorders. They can also increase pro-social or socially acceptable behaviour And social flexibility in children.
Social stories can be combined with other with of helping the child such as creating video feedback or video modelling, and in fact such combined ways of helping have proven to be more effective than any one single type of intervention.
How are social stories written?
Gray (1998, 2000) advises using more descriptive or affirmative sentences than controlling or directing language or sentences in a story. Swaggart et al. (1995) have provided guidance on useful steps for creating a social story:
- Decide the behaviour that you want to change as the result of reading or listening to this story
- Gather information about what is currently happening with that behaviour so that one can compare and see whether any change is happening or not.
- Write a short story, yes, keep it short. keep your language mainly descriptive and use very few directive or control sentences.
- Make use of photographs or drawings and try not writing more than three to four lines per page.
- Make this story interesting, motivate the child to read it with you or with others creating an enjoyable environment while doing so.
- if possible, discuss the story with the child encouraging the child to talk about what has happened in this story. Try to show and share interest rather than behave like a teacher.
- Revise the story with time adding new elements to it, involve the child in making it more interesting and relevant.
- If possible, make an audio or video recording of the story that the child can listen to or watch.
Gray, C.A. (1997). Social stories and comic strip conversations: Unique methods to improve social understanding. Paper presented at the Autism 1997 Conference of Future Horizons, Inc., Athens, GA. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATION Vol 21 No.3 2006 173
Gray, C.A. (1998). Social stories and comic strip conversations with students with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. In E. Schopler, G.B. Mesibov, & L.J. Kunce (Eds.), Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism (pp. 167-198)? New York: Plenum Press.
Gray, C.A. (2000). The new social story book. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Gray, C.A., &Garand, J.D. (1993). Social stories: Improving responses of students with autism with accurate social information. Focus on Autistic Behavior, 8(1), 1-10.
Swaggart, B.L., Gagnon, E., Bock, S.J., Earles, T.L., Quinn, C., & Myles, B.S., et al. (1995). Using social stories to teach social and behavioral skills to children with autism. Focus on Autistic Behavior, 10(1), 1-15.