A number of the Talking Matters team attended a workshop recently with Sue Larkey titled "Making it a Success". Sue is a dynamic speaker with lots of great practical and hands on ideas for working with kids with autism and Asperger's syndrome. She believes that with the right understanding and strategies it is possible to help kids succeed at home, in the classroom and in therapy. Here are a few of her key points:
1. Students with ASD don't have to look at you all of the time.
- Kids with ASD often find eye contact stressful
- Kids with ASD may find it hard to integrate visual and auditory information at the same time so if they are looking at you they may not be listening.
- Just because they are not looking at you does not mean they are not listening.
- When giving instructions or information cue kids to "listen" rather than to "look at me"
2. Give time to answer questions
- Kids vary in the time they need to process information and with some kids it may be up to 30 seconds
- Be aware of how long each child needs to respond and wait for them to answer
- Reduce time needed to process by using the child's name and by using visuals
3. If kids feel pressured they will answer with stock standard answers
- If a kid says "don't know", "yes", "maybe" or "can't remember" this may not be their true answer.
- Give time to respond and support with visuals if possible and you may get a more accurate response.
4. Kids with ASD don't "generalise" between different situations and people.
- Information needs to be very clear and specific
- Skills need to be taught and practiced in different settings
- Supports such as visuals need to be as close as possible to the situation where they will be
5. They find organisation of their school equipment very difficult
- Everything in one folder may be best for
- Personal items on their desk rather than shared items such as pencil tins may be best for younger kids
- Upright boxes for books work better than a pile. Boxes can be moved to lockers later on.
6. Limit choices and be very specific with choices.
- Too many choices can be overwhelming
- Make choices very clear and specific
7. Be as clear, concise and concrete as possible
- Reduce verbal information to the most important key words
- Be clear and use concrete words
- Tell what to do not what not to do
- Don't use the word "no" unless you never, ever want the child to do that
8. Avoid verbal overload
- Kids with ASD are visual learners
- Keep verbal information to a minimum
- Support verbal information with visuals
- Allow more time to process verbal information
9. Avoid verbal arguements
- Kids with high functioning autism and Asperger's enjoy arguments and can keep this up for a long time
- Avoid getting drawn into long discussions
- Redirect the child to what you want them to do
10. People with ASD need positive feedback to know they are on the right track
- They often fear failure and want to be perfect
- Positive feedback can include concrete rewards linked to special interests as this is highly motivating
Some other points from Sue to remember:
To "know someone with autism" is not to "know autism". Every person on the autism spectrum is an individual with their own personality, strengths, weakness and experiences.
Strategies wear out and not every strategy works for every person.
Sue Larkey's website has a wealth of information for families, teachers and therapists including tipsheets, resources and podcasts. Her workshops are well worth attending if you have the opportunity and dates are listed on her website.
Talking Matters provides assessment, diagnosis, therapy and support for children on the autism spectrum and their families. Our website as a range of downloadable information sheets, printable activities and useful links. We are providers under the FAHCSIA helping children with autism early intervention package and we are also happy to accept medicare plans for older children with ASD. To find out more about our services and our team visit our website. To connect with our community of families, therapists and educators join us on Facebook, twitter and pintrest.
We hope you experience success with the person in your life with ASD.
Talking Matters Team