Considerations Regarding Animal-Assisted Intervention

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Tip of the Month:
February, 2015

Background Information
The popularity of using animals as a form of therapy for individuals with autism has greatly increased over the past decade. Inclusion of animals in therapeutic activities is known as animal- assisted intervention (AAI) and has been the topic of many studies and articles. It is well documented that in general, animal interactions can improve psychosocial well-being, such as reduced stress, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, reduced loneliness and isolation, increased social interaction and connection, and increased socio-emotional functioning (e.g., Friedmann & Son, 2009; Wells, 2009). Additionally, research shows that children with ASD can display social aversion to humans and tend to prefer pictures of animals over humans or inanimate objects (Celani, 2002; Prothman et. al, 2009). It is not surprising that it would be hypothesized that animals could effectively be used as an intervention for individuals with ASD.

As prevalence rates of autism increase and funding becomes more available, new interventions and therapies continue to appear. However, few of these are research- based. Before trying a new therapy, it is very important to conduct thorough research to discover if the therapy is evidence- based and if you think it would be a good fit for your family. Based on a systematic literature review conducted by O’Haire (2012) of research on using AAI for ASD, many research studies reported positive results, such as increased social interaction and communication, as well as decreased problem behaviours, autistic severity, and stress. Additionally, many anecdotal reports state that AAI can assist individuals with ASD develop sensory and social skills, manage problem behaviours and improve quality of life. However, O’Haire (2012) also found many methodological weaknesses in most of the studies on AAI and ASD and suggests that using AAI for individuals with ASD continues to need more research. Due to the increasing number of interventions available for individuals with ASD, a four- phase model for developing and evaluating interventions has been created. Results from O’Haire’s (2012) review indicate that AAI is still in the first phase and needs to be proven as a “probably efficacious treatment” by using more robust and comprehensive research designs and to be compared against other treatments before it can be moved up to the second phase.

Considerations
If you are considering applying for an Autism Assistance Dog, here are a few questions to consider.

  • Is your child with autism fearful of dogs?
  • Is there a possibility your child with autism could harm the dog in any way?
  • Would your child be able to make the distinction that not all dogs are as helpful and friends as assistance dogs?
  • Would a dog be a welcome member to your family?
  • Would you be able to adequately care for the dog, in addition to all your other ‘life duties’? (Training, feeding, grooming, toileting, exercise)

Potential Benefits

  • Dogs are trained to track the child constantly (both at home and in the community) and to alert parents if something is wrong
  • Bonding between child and dog
  • Dog could serve as a distraction so that problem behaviours decrease (situations that would normally upset a child are less likely to upset him/ her)
  • Dog could prevent child from running away or bolting into traffic
  • Playing with the dog could improve the child’s motor skills (throwing a ball, petting, grooming
  • Dog could act as a social bridge between the child and other people

Overall, an Autism Assistance Dog could be a wonderful addition to your family. However, there are many important aspects to consider before deciding to use one. Generally, anecdotal descriptions by parents living with assistance dogs stated that the presence of the dog had considerably improved the whole family’s quality of life. Ultimately, it is crucial to decide on an intervention that suits your family and the needs of your child. For more information, please review the websites and read the novels listed below.

Websites about Assistance Dogs
http://www.autismcanada.org/treatments/othertherapy/servicedogs.html
http://www.dogguides.com/autism.html
http://www.nsd.on.ca/
http://www.autismdogservices.ca/
http://www.bcguidedog.com/
http://asdfunding.com/autism-support-dogs/
http://www.disabilityalliancebc.org/gada.htm

Books

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Visual Bridges: Improving Home-School Communication

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Visual Bridges: Improving Home-School Communication
Tip of the Month:
January, 2015

Although most parents struggle to receive a detailed account of their child’s school day, this can be a particular obstacle for parents of children with ASD. Children with ASD often experience communication challenges that could make recounting their school day difficult. Therefore, it is important to have strategies in place to facilitate home-school communication.

A visual bridge is a home- school communication strategy that also facilitates student learning through journaling, reading and writing. A visual bridge is a template on which a student can record the activities they participated in at school. This template can be adapted for students who are beginning readers/ writers or students who require functional opportunities to practice their literacy skills (see examples). If using a visual bridge with picture symbols, it is important to use the same picture symbols as the ones used on the student’s visual schedule. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the visual bridge is developmentally and age appropriate.

Tips for creating a Visual Bridge for a student with emerging literacy skills and/ or lower cognitive skills:

  • Ensure the visual bridge is developmentally and age appropriate
  • Use the same picture symbols used for the student’s visual schedule
  • Provide visuals so that the student can complete as much as possible independently (e.g., writing their name, writing the date, word bank of vocabulary)
  • Provide sentence starters for the student to use to write about his/ her day
  • Include functional communication opportunities (e.g., What was the weather today? What clothes did I need to wear today? How did I feel today? Why did I feel like that?)

Tips for creating a Visual Bridge for a student with higher literacy skills and/ or higher cognitive skills:

  • Ensure the visual bridge is developmentally and age appropriate
  • Provide visual reminders for the student to use when writing (e.g., sentences start with a capital letter, sentences end with a period)
  • Include opportunities for making inferences (e.g., What was the weather today? What clothes did I need to wear today? How did I feel today? Why did I feel like that? What could I have done to change my mood?)
  • Include opportunities for the student to reflect and set some goals (e.g., Why did ____ happen today? How can I change that situation? What do I want to try to do tomorrow?)
  • Provide a space for the student to write about his/ her day
  • Alter the template on a regular basis so that students are focusing on different skills throughout the year

Learn More:

 

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Create Your Own Video Model!

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Tip of the Month:
December, 2014

Video modeling is an effective and innovative way to teach new skills and behaviours to students with ASD. It involves a model (could be a peer, adult or the target student) demonstrating positive examples of a desired behaviour in a video format. It is an evidence- based practice, meaning that it is a strategy or intervention that has led to consistently positive results when experimentally tested (Mesibov & Shea, 2011; Simpson, 2005) and that the experimental measures used to find these results were of a high research quality (Odom, Collet-Klingenberg, Rogers, & Hatton, 2010).

Research has shown that students with ASD learn better when watching a video model than a live model and that the learned skills are better maintained over time (Cohen & Sloan, 2007). Also, video modeling is cited as one of the interventions that successfully increases independence for students with ASD (Hume, Loftin, & Lantz, 2009). With such easy access to technology these days, video models can be made quickly and can be accessible in a variety of situations. Video models are helpful when trying to teach more complex social, communicative, adaptive and play behaviours, such as having a conversation, learning to wait for playground equipment or playing with a toy in a new way. These behaviours would difficult to accurately and explicitly teach using stationary pictures. Video models have also been helpful in reducing problem behaviour, such as crying and transition difficulties. Additionally, video models are beneficial as they can be watched as many times as the student needs, are easily available if the skill needs to be reviewed, and can be made at a very low cost.

Five Steps to Creating a Video Model
Although there are numerous commercially- made video models (see list below), it may be beneficial to create your own so that it can be targeted to a specific behaviour and individualized to your specific student.

Planning Items to Consider BEFORE Creating a Video Model
Decide on a format for your video: 1) Traditional video modeling (peer or adult as the model), video self-modeling (target student as the model) or point-of-view video modeling (target student’s point-of-view, no model needed).
Student’s ability to attend (this will affect the length and complexity of your video). If your target student is not able to attend or is only able to attend for a very short period of time, video modelling may not be appropriate at this time.
Student’s imitation skills. Your student must have imitation skills in order for video modeling to be an effective intervention.
Identify target skill. Consider if the target skill can be modelled appropriately through video modelling and if the target skill is achievable for your student at this time.

Collect baseline data on the target skill before intervention.
Choose a setting. This should be somewhere the student would be expected to display the target behaviour/ skill.
Create a script. The video should not be longer than 3-5 minutes and the content and vocabulary must be aligned with the student’s cognitive level.
Plan for how many instances the targeted behaviour will be displayed. Research has shown positive effects when the target behaviour is displayed between six and fourteen times (MacDonald, Sacramone, Mansfield, Wiltz, & Ahearn, 2009; Reagon, Higbee, & Endicott, 2006).

Creating the Video Model
Choose a recording device. Ensure that this device is able to capture both the picture and sound clearly.
Focus on displaying the target behaviour only. Make the target behaviour within the video very obvious. Eliminate all extraneous details from the video.

Using the Video Model as a Teaching Tool
Review the video to make sure the recording and the audio is of high quality. You do not want students to be distracted by a shaky recording or the sound of a plane overhead.
Identify an appropriate location and time of day for the student to watch the video. This location should be free of distractions and viewing should be scheduled for a time when the student is able to focus well.
Decide on the frequency of viewing. Research shows that repeated viewings; for example two or three times per session, increases the intervention effects for students with ASD (Shukla-Mehta Miller & Callahan, 2010). You may choose to have the student view the video a few times a day at the beginning and gradually fade as the student learns the skill/ behaviour.

Practicing the Skill and Monitoring Progress
Provide powerful reinforcement when the student displays the targeted behaviour.
Collect data on student progress. This could be standardized or non-standardized assessments, behavioural observation or encouraging the student to self-monitor their behaviour (if appropriate).
Monitor and encourage the generalization of the target skill or behaviour to new environments, with new materials and/or with new people.
On-going assessment to monitor if the skill has truly been learned (maintenance).

Additional Considerations
If the video model intervention was successful, you may want to consider adding on to the first skill.
If the student has difficulty generalizing or maintaining the skill, create new videos in different settings, with different materials and/or different people.
Modify the video if the student did not learn the new behaviour. Ensure the behaviour was clearly displayed numerous times and that the video was free from extraneous distractions. Consider adding more or higher level prompts, if needed.

Online Resources/ Commercially-Made Video Models
POPARD's Video Modelling in the West Kootenays: http://www.autismoutreach.ca/elearning/saying-hi-video-modelling-west-ko...
POPARD's How to Create A Self-Modelling Video: http://www.autismoutreach.ca/elearning/how-create-self-modeling-video
Mi-Stories www.mi-stories.org
9th Planet www.9thplanet.org
Model Me Kids www.modelmekids.com
Raising the Bar: Fitness & Movement Exercises for Youth and Adults With Autism www.suzannemgray.com/dvd
Video-Modeling Keys www.SpectrumKeys.com
Watch Me Learn www.watchmelearn.com

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Teaching Students How To End Conversations

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Tip of the Month:
November, 2014

Many students with ASD find social situations, such as conversations with peers or teachers, to be extremely difficult. Students with ASD do not instinctively learn social rules and conventions, as the skills associated with engaging in a conversation are the same skills individuals with ASD often have difficulty with- social communication, social interaction and restrictive interests (Brady, 2012). Therefore, skills such as appropriately initiating, maintaining and ending a conversation may need to be explicitly taught. Generally, a lot of emphasis is placed on initiating conversations, turn taking, responding appropriately, staying on topic and maintaining eye contact. However, it is equally important to learn how to end or leave conservations appropriately.

Ending a Conversation
There are two reasons why someone would want to end a conversation. This could be because the conversation doesn’t interest them, or because they need to leave to go somewhere. It is important to teach individuals that they should provide a clue that the conversation is about to end and not to just end it abruptly. Baker (2003) outlines a plan for ending a conversation that involves:

1) deciding you need to end a conversation,
2) asking one more follow- up question or making one more on- topic comment,
3) choosing an appropriate way to end a conversation (see below) and
4) saying a farewell (see below) and walking away.

Examples of How to End a Conversation
“I have to leave now because I am late.”
“I have to leave now because I have some other things to do.”
“I liked talking to you but I have to go now."

Examples of Farewells
“See you later”
“I have to leave now because I have some other things to do.”
“I liked talking to you but I have to go now."

Recognizing Non-Verbal and Verbal Cues
Since individuals with ASD have a difficult time reading other people's body language, they may not recognize that someone is trying to end a conversation with them. Therefore, it is important to teach individuals with ASD the various non-verbal and verbal cues that indicate that someone is trying to end a conversation. Thankfully, research has shown that individuals with ASD can be taught to read emotions, recognize non-verbal cues and to take other people’s perspectives (Bellini, 2003). It is important that individuals with ASD are given many opportunities, through both role- play and real- life situations, to learn to recognize these cues.

Some examples of non-verbal cues include:
-Taking keys out of a pocket or purse
-Looking at a watch
-Turning body away
-Not asking questions back
-Saying they have something else to do
-Not fully interested in the conversation
-Looking around at other objects
-Walking away
-Yawning

It could also be helpful to teach the individual with ASD to offer their conversational partner an ‘out’ if they are unsure about whether the conversation should continue. For example, they could say, “Do you have time to talk now?” or “Do you have to get going somewhere?”

Assessing Conversation Skills to Target
Collecting data before teaching new skills is always helpful; first to be able to identify which skills need to be taught and then to assess if and when the skill has been learned.
Examples of rating scales and checklists can be found in:
Bellini, S. (2006). Building social relationships: A systematic approach to teaching social interaction skills to children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other social difficulties. Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
Leon-Guerrero, R., Matsumoto, C., & Martin, J. (2011). Show me the data! Data-based instructional decisions made simple and easy. Kansas: AAPC Publishing.
McKinnon, K., & Krempa, J. (2002). Social skills solutions: A hands- on manual for teaching social skills to children with autism. New York: DRL Books, Inc

Strategies to Promote Conversation Skill Acquisition
Understanding and Recognizing Others’ Thoughts, Feelings and Emotions:
Use pictures, video and real- life situations to help individuals recognize the states of mind of other people and how to interpret them. Resources for this include:
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary: Emotions and Non- Verbal Language (LoGiudice & Johnson, 2009)
Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent: Emotions and Non- Verbal Language (LoGiudice & Johnson, 2009)
Building Social Relationships (Bellini, 2006)

Social Narratives:
Social Narratives are written examples of social situations in which a student is having difficulty, or with which they may have difficulty with in the future. They are individualized to the student’s needs and provide written and visual information. Resources include:
The New Social Story Book (Gray, 2010)
Social Narratives http://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/content/social-narratives
Visual Supports for People with Autism (Cohen & Sloan, 2007)

Social Scripts/ Comics:
Social Scripts provide written information about certain things that could be said in specific social situations. They are helpful to provide the student with appropriate ways to communicate. Social Scripts could also be introduced in the form of a comic, if that is more appealing to the student. Resources:
Social Skills Comics (Bennett, 2011)
Comic Strip Conversations (Gray, 1994)

Social Autopsies:
A social autopsy is a strategy that uses a past social faux-pas as a learning strategy to improve social skills. Adults help the student dissect the incident and brainstorm ways to improve for next time. A resource for this is:
http://www.parentprojectmd.org/site/DocServer/Social_Skills_Autopsy_by_R...

Role-Playing:
Use games and real- life role- playing to aid individuals learn to ask questions, take turns during a conversations, recognize non-verbal cues, and to use appropriate conversation enders and farewells.
Building Social Relationships (Bellini, 2006)
Spotlight on Social Skills: Elementary (LoGiudice & Johnson, 2009)
Spotlight on Social Skills: Adolescents (LoGiudice & Johnson, 2009)
Social Skills Training (Baker, 2003)

Video Modeling:
Individuals watch a video demonstration of a target behaviour and then imitate the behaviour they saw. The models can be peers, adults or the individual themselves.
Building Social Relationships (Bellini, 2006)
Model Me Kids http://www.modelmekids.com/
Watch Me Learn http://www.watchmelearn.com/

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Communication Temptations

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Communication Temptations
Communication Temptations
Tip of the Month:
October, 2014

Do you have a student with autism who has limited communication skills? Do you have a student who speaks but seldom approaches you to make a request or ask a question? Do you have a student who is very passive or prompt dependent?

Performance deficits in the area of communication and initiation are common in students with ASD. Some have the ability to say words and even answer questions, but seldom use words appropriately to express their wants and needs.

If the student in your class meets this description, you can create opportunities to initiate communication by using a technique often called “communication temptations”.

Creating “communication temptations” are procedures that have been described by Wetherby and Prizant (1989). Many authors in the areas of early childhood development and autism advocate these procedures as a means of encouraging children to communicate with others.

Communication Temptations are designed to

  • Increase the student’s desire to communicate
  • Make communication fun and interesting for the student
  • Show the student the power of communication
  • Increase opportunities for spontaneous (unprompted) use of language
  • Help students understand when and where they can communicate
  • Note: Communication temptations should never be used in ways in which they might provoke extreme distress or a “melt down”.

    Try the following communication temptations with your student. Don’t forget to help him at first, so he knows what you expect him to do!

    Give a little
    Instead of giving the child a lot of what he wants, only give a little. This encourages language such as more, again, want ______, etc.

    Control accessibility
    If the child can't access the item he wants independently, it encourages him to use words like help, please, open, want _____, etc.

    Create an oversight
    Hand the child one sock instead of two, forget the spoon he needs to eat his soup. This tempts use of the appropriate labels and even questions, such as where spoon?, need sock, etc.

    Create novelty
    Surprise or humour can often encourage language. Put a sock on a hand instead of a foot, call things by incorrect labels... the child is tempted to correct you with language like not my hand, or need mitt!

    Use the power of the pause
    Books with repeated lines are a great way to have kids learn to use words... pause just before you read the repeated phrase to encourage the child to say it. Or point to pictures in a book and say, "I see a ________ " to encourage labelling.

    The key to using communication temptations well, is to know what your student likes! The more opportunities you can provide for him to practice specific words (e.g., “more” (cookies, tickles, juice, stories, etc.) the better the chances of success!

    For more information on techniques you can use to improve a child's motivation to communicate, check out the following books:

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    Re-Setting Emotions… Calming the Student with ASD

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    Tip of the Month:
    August, 2014

    There is a change in the schedule… the student with ASD gets up and starts to pace while moaning “no! no! no!". The student with ASD accidentally breaks his pencil … he pushes all his work off his desk and yells “I hate my life!”, then puts his head down on his desk. The lunch monitor fails to deliver the item that the student with ASD requested… she sobs inconsolably.

    Despite our best efforts, students with ASD can become overwhelmed and have a huge emotional reaction to an event that, in our eyes, might seem inconsequential. There is increasing research that suggests that their emotional volatility is strongly related to the neuro-biological differences that make up the disorder. Although prevention is always the best strategy (e.g., eliminating the things that tend to trigger a “melt down”), at the moment of the emotional reaction, it’s important to have some effective strategies at your finger tips that can help the student regain emotional control with dignity.

    Here are some tips to consider:

    deal with the emotion rather than the behaviour

    Attempting corrective actions for the behaviour the child is displaying while he is emotionally upset will generally be ineffective and may escalate the situation. Responding to the emotion with supportive strategies will usually “calm” the situation more quickly.

    respond calmly

    An emotional reaction on your part is more likely to escalate the situation than it is to soothe or calm. As well, other students may become more concerned if you react strongly to the emotion the child displays… i.e., it may increase their worry or their potentially negative judgement of the student. Sometimes standing by the student while you continue with the lesson at hand can let the student know you’re concerned and that someone safe is close by to help.

    avoid any attempt to talk to the student about his feelings or behaviour when he is upset

    There is evidence that strong emotions can preclude the ability to process spoken information. Trying to talk to a student about his reaction when he is still upset is more likely to hinder than help his recovery.

    distract if possible

    If you have an object or activity that the student usually finds calming, provide the object or try to direct them to the activity. Continue in a matter of fact manner with whatever you were doing. Let the student know you can help him shortly.

    have a plan

    If the student has a history of large emotional reactions, create a plan that everyone is aware of that will be most effective in helping the student regain emotional control with dignity. Consider the negative impact his emotional reaction might have on his relationships with peers. Perhaps it would be wise to assign the peers a task outside the classroom until the student is calmer. Include the student in the development of the plan. He won’t be able to make good decisions when he is upset, but if you’ve talked about and rehearsed the plan with him prior to an emotional event, he will be better able to do what is needed. A plan might include providing him with a break or a bathroom card when he is upset to cue him to leave the class to go to an agreed upon calm down area.

    de-brief

    If a student has had an emotional incident and has recovered, he may experience fatique, remorse or anxiety. When he is ready, talk to him about strategies he could use to deal with the events that can trigger his emotions. Be calm, practical, supportive and non-judgemental

    remember

    Students with ASD seldom have huge emotional reactions on purpose. They lack the strategies to manage their feelings in age appropriate ways and during the emotional episode may have little awareness of the impact their behaviour has on others. Nonetheless, whether the student recognizes it or not, huge emotional reactions will impact how others perceive him, and can contribute to poor social relationships. As adults we need to teach strategies and model caring and understanding to counteract the negative effects that can result from emotional disregulation

    resources

    No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out of Control Behaviour by Jed Baker provides many practical examples and strategies for dealing with “out of control” emotions in young people with ASD at home and at school.
    Exploring Feelings: Cognitive Behavoiur Therapy to Manage Anxiety by Dr. Tony Attwood helps kids build a toolkit to manage the feeling of anxiety. A partner book on Managing Anger is also available.
    The Incredible 5 Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis helps students identify levels of emotions and focuses on teaching strategies to defuse negative emotions.
    Comic Strip Conversations by Carol Gray is designed to help teach conversational skills to students, but the techniques described in her book are also quite useful for de-briefing students who have difficulty understanding the perspective of others and react in ways that others don’t expect.

    We found quite a comprehensive website from Australia called Kid’s Health: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicCategories.aspx?p=287
    Although it is not designed for individuals with ASD, it is written at a primary or early intermediate level and provides information and activities on a variety of topics related to feelings, including a section on Managing Your Feelings. We recommend parental guidance or adult supervision when accessing this website as there are sections which discuss sensitive topics such as suicide.

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    Planning for successful transitions year-to-year

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    Tip of the Month:
    June, 2014

    As the school year draws to a close, many school-based teams are busy conducting IEP meetings to review student progress toward educational goals and to set objectives for next year. Additionally, for students with ASD, a focus of these meetings likely also involves transition planning to ensure a successful start to the new school year in September. With regard to transitions to new schools, classrooms, and teachers we often recommend creating a one page summary as a means of sharing information across educational environments. Summary sheets are ideally filled out during end of year IEP meetings so that parents, teachers, and case managers all have the opportunity to provide input and determine the key information to be shared. Depending on his or her age, the student may also wish to contribute to the discussion about what classroom supports are needed.

    We suggest including information such as:

    • Student strengths and interests
    • A brief biography
    • Stressors and a description of behaviours that can indicate stress or anxiety
    • Adaptations or accommodations that support learning, social success, and self-regulation

    One page summaries are a great resource for teachers who may not be able to review all files and IEPs for their students with special needs prior to the first week of school. They provide snapshots of the students walking into the classroom and support teachers in building positive relationships with their students by detailing interests and strengths and in avoiding unexpected behaviours by communicating triggers and stressors. For example, by noting that a student experiences a great deal of anxiety when seated at the front of the classroom, new teachers can ensure that they assign a desk at the back of the room for that student. In addition being a supportive tool when first meeting the student, summary pages are a wonderful resource to have on hand throughout the school year as a quick reference for materials to increase motivation or ideas about why a student exhibited a particular behaviour or became anxious in a particular situation. It is important to keep summary pages up to date as student interests and triggers change across the school year.

    Below we have included samples of what a one page summary might look like. Of course, we encourage schools to alter the information included based on what works for them. Remember that the information shared on these pages is confidential and should be shared in confidence between those assigned to work with the student and kept in a secure place in the classroom.

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    Academic Adaptations: What are they and why are they important?

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    Tip of the Month:
    May, 2014

    As explained in the BC Ministry of Education’s A Guide to Adaptations and Modifications, adaptations are teaching and assessment strategies designed to accommodate individual learning needs to enable students to meet the learning outcomes and demonstrate mastery (BC Ministry of Education, 2012). When planning for student adaptations, adjustments may be made to the way the student will gain access to the learning situation, the way the student will ‘show what he or she knows’, or the way teachers will assess what a student knows. Students whose education programs include adaptations will generally be working toward graduating with a Dogwood Diploma (BC Ministry of Education, 2012).

    Types of adaptations
    Adaptations can involve accommodations with regard to the following four areas: environment and materials, instruction, form of assessment, or content or Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs; Delta School District, 2012).

    Common adaptations include, but are not limited to:

    • strategic seating arrangements or a quiet work space
    • audio books, electronic texts, or a reader
    • access to a computer for written assignments, which might include use of word prediction software or voice-to-text software
    • access to a calculator
    • alternative ways of demonstrating knowledge in place of written assignments
    • alternative materials (e.g., information presented at a lower reading level)
    • copies of notes, or graphic organizers to assist with following classroom instruction
    • extended time to complete assignments or tests
    • reduced quantity of work or homework to be completed
    • one-to-one support to develop and practice study skills; for example, in a learning assistance block
    • working on provincial learning outcomes from a lower grade level

    The adaptations used with any particular student should be determined through assessment of student needs and detailed in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). When reporting student outcomes, no adjustments to student grades should be made because of the use of adaptions. If the learning outcomes that a student is working toward are below grade level, this should be noted in the student’s IEP as well as in the body of the student’s progress report (Ministry of Education, 2009).

    Why are they important?
    A common misconception is that adaptations provide unfair advantages to students. In fact, as noted in the A Guide to Adaptations and Modifications, without appropriate adaptations students may be unfairly penalized for their individual learning differences. As stated by Stainback and Stainback in their book, Support Networks for Inclusive Schooling: Interdependent Integrated Education,“the focus is not exclusively on how to help students…fit into the existing, standard curriculum in the school. Rather the curriculum in the regular education class is adapted, when necessary, to meet the needs of any student for whom the standard curriculum is inappropriate.”

    Adaptations encourage the inclusion of all students by addressing individual learning styles and needs. This promotes diversity within the school environments and enables all students to feel successful in school.

    References
    BC Ministry of Education (2009). A Guide to Adaptations and Modifications, available at http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/docs/adaptations_and_modifications_g...
    Delta School District (2012). Adapting and Modifying: Guidelines for Intermediate Grades.
    Stainback, W.C., & Stainback, S.B. (1990). Support Networks for Inclusive Schooling: Interdependent Integrated Education. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, ISBN: 1557660417

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    Visual Supports to Foster Independence

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    Visual Supports to Foster Independence
    Tip of the Month:
    April, 2014

    This month’s Tip focuses on the benefit of visual supports for facilitating student independence.

    Why use visual supports?
    Typically, visual supports are put into place to support student understanding of transient auditory messages.

    To understand auditory messages, the listener must:

    • Understand the level of language used to communicate the message,
    • Attend to the speaker at the time the message was communicated, and
    • Process and retain the message.

    With visual supports, auditory messages remain fixed for as long as the listener needs, which enables the listener to refer back to the visual support as often as necessary. Additionally, visuals help highlight key points as they eliminate extraneous information often added to spoken messages. As such, visual help provide students with structure and clarity. They also increase predictability and reduce student anxiety when provided in advance of a particular activity.

    Won’t students become dependent on visuals?

    It is important to remember that we all use and rely on visual supports on a daily basis. Many of us keep calendars to keep track of social engagements or upcoming deadlines, or make checklists to prioritize what we will do in a day and ensure that nothing is forgotten. Using these visuals enables us to get our work done efficiently without having to spend time thinking about what to do next. In new environments, such as airports, we all rely on familiar signs and symbols to help us find our way and get to where we have to be on time. With visuals, we are able to navigate environments in which the language or procedures might feel overwhelming or confusing. For our students, we want to have visual supports available so they too can manage their own productivity and navigate their learning environments without adult directives. Over time, we want our students to learn how to set up these visual independently, which will require explicit teaching and practice.

    Independence in Action

    At first, the visual shown at the top of this page was shown to him by his mother, who modelled how to use it. He was taught how to set a timer for work and break times and directed to move the paper clip across the strip as he worked. Now, this student sits down at his desk, set his timers, and moves through 75 minutes of homework independently, occasionally stopping to ask for help with the work when needed. He no longer needs adult prompting or redirection to stay on task.

    For more information on using visual supports, see the following eLearning videos:

    Asperger Syndrome, Visually Supported Messages

    Asperger Syndrome, Visual Supports

    Click here to view our archived tips of the month.

    Enabling Conversation: Using Visual Supports to Support Social-Communication Skills

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    Conversation Starter set
    Talking Sticks
    Tip of the Month:
    March, 2014

    Social-communication difficulties are a hallmark of Autism Spectrum Disorders. One significant area impacted by social-communication challenges is students’ conversation skills.
    Aspects of conversations that students might need support include:

    • Starting a conversation
    • Engaging in an appropriate topic for conversation
    • Maintaining a topic and switching topics
    • Showing interest in others
    • Turn taking
    • Ending a conversation

    To help students participate in successful two-way conversations with peers, try the following strategies for supporting conversation skills.

    Conversation Starters and Talking Sticks
    Conversation Starters and Talking Sticks are visual strategies that provide students with written questions with which to generate conversation. With these tools, students learn to initiate conversation as well as answer typical conversational questions. Most significantly, they learn to stay on topic by practicing generating their own responses and asking follow-up questions.

    Each set includes six different topics with a yellow card signifying the start of each new topic for immediate access. Conversation Starters cue cards are available at www.nlconcepts.com

    The Talking Sticks strategy is adapted from the resource From Tutor Scripts to Talking Sticks: 100 Ways to Differentiate Instruction in k-12 Inclusive Classrooms by Paula Kluth and Shiela Danaher. Questions with which to start conversations are written on popsicle sticks that students draw from a cup. This strategy can be used in a classroom, with a small group, or during one-to-one social skills intervention. See this month's Task of the Month to learn more about developing this strategy for your students!

    Conversation Books

    Conversation Books is an idea adapted from Linda Hodgon’s Six Tips for Teaching Conversation Skills with Visual Strategies: Working with Autism Spectrum Disorders & Related Communication & Social Skill Challenges. This strategy involves creating a wallet or pocket-sized photo album that student can carry with them. It should include photos of people, activities, and recent events in their lives as reminders for what to talk about. The books also help communication partners by providing cues for what to ask about.

    People Books

    Hodgon also discusses the use of People Books, in which each person has their own page. Choose individuals with whom the student interacts regularly; include facts about that person, such as interests and hobbies, as well as questions to ask that person. People Books can be used to prime students about what to say prior to starting a conversation with someone, or as support during a conversation when practicing conversation skills.

    Take home message

    Using visual supports for conversations, such as those described above, will enable students with ASD to engage in conversations with peers independently!

    POPARD eLearnings
    For more ideas about facilitating students’ conversation skills, check out the following elearning videos:
    Circle Time Conversation
    Conversation and topic maintenance
    Sharing information during conversations

    References
    Check out these references for information about the visual strategies described above:

    Hodgon, L.A. (2007). Six Tips for Teaching Conversation Skills with Visual Strategies: Working with Autism Spectrum Disorders & Related Communication & Social Skill Challenges

    http://sharepoint.leon.k12.fl.us/fdlrsaten/wakulla/Shared%20Documents/Si...

    Kluth, P. & Danaher. S. (2010) From Tutor Scripts to Talking Sticks: 100 Ways to Differentiate Instruction in K-12 Classrooms. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

    Click here to view our archived tips of the month.