Friends just happen, don't they?

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Tip of the Month:
May, 2010

Friends just happen, don’t they? Any parent or instructor of a student with ASD knows that unfortunately this is not often true. Making sure the student with ASD feels accepted by and connected with the peers they see everyday can be challenging. Bridging peer connections over the summer break can often be difficult.

Here are some things we’ve seen talented teachers and parents do that can make a positive difference:


  • Have all the students in the class fill out an “about me” chart to post and share. Give them the job of finding a peer with whom they have something in common. Have students develop their own business cards. With parent's permission, allow students to trade business cards (includes name and phone number) with other students in class.
  • Create class groups that allow the student with ASD to show one of their strengths (create the art, read the directions out loud to the others, use their area of special interest).
  • Educate peers about the learning strengths and weaknesses of everyone! Encourage students to recognize that everyone is different in one way or another.
  • Teach students specifics… telling them to be kind is usually too vague! How do you help someone who is shy? How can you play with someone who doesn’t talk? How do you figure out what your friend likes and doesn’t like?


  • Be proactive. Talk to the teacher about who in the class seems to enjoy spending time with your son or daughter. Who might they have something in common with? Set up play dates in your home with activities you know your son or daughter enjoys. Keep play dates short and structured especially at first.
  • Check out local community offerings. In British Columbia, ACT BC’s website contains links to organizations that provide summer camps and other activities geared especially for those who are challenged by ASD.
  • Create an “About Me” scrap book highlighting your child’s strengths and interests. Let him bring it to school and share it with others.

You may find the following resources useful in helping your child or student develop and maintain friendships:

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Behaviour Gets Attention... but not in a good way!

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Tip of the Month:
April, 2010

So, he’s not trying to get attention, but that behaviour sure manages to get everyone’s attention… and not always in a good way!

Challenging behaviours can disrupt learning environments, embarrass the student, his teachers or parents and restrict individuals from participating in many activities. Last month, we provided some tips to help you discover why your child or student may be repeating behaviours that create more problems than they solve. This month we will provide some tips to help deal with and hopefully prevent some of the behaviours you are most concerned about.

Tip 1, REASON: Remember that there is always a reason for the behaviour you see, even if you don’t know what it is. As well, the same behaviour may occur for a variety of reasons. When responding to a challenging behaviour it’s critical to consider why the individual is exhibiting that behaviour at that time. You would not deal with a tantrum caused by f ear or pain in the same way you would respond to the tantrum that happens when the child isn’t getting a chocolate bar he wants!

Tip 2, PREVENTION: It is almost always better to set up situations that are least likely to result in a challenging behaviour than to have to respond to the behaviour afterwards. In other words, if you know the factors that tend to precipitate a challenging behaviour, try to alter the situation so the child doesn’t need to use a challenging behaviour to get his needs met. Small alterations can make a difference! Provide additional time or choices for the student who becomes stressed under time constraints or for whom personal control is important. Allow work to be done in a quieter or less stimulating environment if the student has issues with noise or distractibility. When the student learns that we respect his needs, he will be more likely to learn what we teach… that is, new ways of responding.

Tip 3, REPLACEMENT: Remember that students with ASD may not always be able to communicate their wants and needs, particularly when under stress. We need to consider how we can systematically teach them another way to communicate their needs or concerns. Even though a student may have speech or another form of communication, he may not be able to remember the words he needs when he is upset. Use visual supports to cue him as to what he might say or do when a situation is difficult for him. Picture symbols for requesting “help” or a “break” may be useful. Problem solving cards are another strategy that can be used. When teaching the student a more appropriate way (than using a problem behaviour) to get his needs met, remember that the “new” way of communication must be as efficient (fast and easy) and effective (people will listen and honor the communication) as the challenging behaviour.

  • For more information on building a supportive environment that prevents and helps deal with challenging behaviours, check out our eLearning lessons: Understanding Challenging Behaviour, Part III
  • You may also enjoy Jed Baker’s book No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Dealing with and Preventing Out-Of-Control Behavior:

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Attention Seeking Behaviours... Maybe?

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Tip of the Month:
March, 2010

John is 9 and has a diagnosis of ASD with sensory integrative dysfunction. In class, he frequently runs around the room and squeals, calls out during lessons, hums loudly and grabs things from other students. He is academically capable. His teacher feels many of his behaviours are “attention seeking” and unrelated to his ASD. At another school Sam, aged 8, who also has ASD and average intellectual abilities frequently “steals” and then “lies”, fabricates stories and runs away when confronted. Like John, Sam’s teachers and the school administrator tend to see his behaviours as “attention seeking” at best, “manipulative and deceitful” at worst.

This month’s tip provides some guidelines for figuring out why John, Sam and students like them may be engaging in these behaviours. Next month, we’ll provide tips for reducing these challenging behaviours and developing more positive behaviours.

Tip 1: Look for patterns. Collect information on where, when and with whom the “attention seeking” behaviours occur. Do they occur more frequently during certain activities or when certain tasks are required?

Tip 2: Assess the demands that may be part of activities or situations in which the behaviours are more likely to occur. Remember that for students with ASD the social complexities of a situation may be more demanding for them than the academic learning. Situations with a lot of sensory stimulation can also be quite demanding for some of our students.

Tip 3: Analyze the resulting behaviours of others when the student engages in the challenging behaviours. Do his actions tend to result in a consistent type of response (e.g. time out, removal of privileges, increased one to one support or supervision).

Tip 4: If your “gut” says the behaviours are related to a desire for attention, ask yourself if the student gets enough positive attention from others, including peers, during his day.

Although a Functional Behaviour Assessment may be necessary to help figure out what is going on with students with significant, long standing challenging behaviours, sometimes the answers to why a student is seeking attention in ways we feel are inappropriate can be ascertained by collecting some data and answering a few simple questions.

For more information on understanding challenging behaviours and how ASD differences can contribute to the development of these behaviours, check out the following elearning lessons on our website:

The website developed by the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice provides a 15 question profile that teachers can download to help in determining whether a problem behaviour is likely to be more related to a desire for attention, escape from non- preferred tasks or a setting event. The sample and blank copies of the questionnaire can be found at the appendix on their site.

You may also find the following books helpful:

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The Picky Eater

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tools you can use
Tip of the Month:
February, 2010

Many children with ASD develop “picky” eating habits which can be a challenge at home. Eating issues can create challenges at school as well.

Consider the student who will only eat peanut butter and crackers but attends school in a “peanut-free" classroom due to another student with a life-threatening allergy to peanuts.

Or, the student who eats only “junk” food in a school that has adopted a school wide policy for healthy eating.

Or the student who eats so slowly that he either goes hungry or misses important social and exercise opportunities at recess and lunch.

If your child or a student in your classroom has difficulty with some aspect of eating at school, consider the following tips:

  • Deal with the issue as a team. Often there are very specific reasons why a student with ASD has developed picky eating habits including strong sensory sensitivities to the tastes, temperature or textures of certain foods. Families may have already tried a number of strategies to expand their child’s food repertoire. Before developing a plan, it is important to understand the history of the problem and to come to agreement as to how to approach the problem.
  • If it has not already been done, seek assessments by medical and dental professionals to ensure there is not an underlying health problem that may be related to the eating issue (cavities, swallowing difficulties, food allergies).
  • If you decide to embark on a plan to improve healthy eating habits, don’t bite off more than you can chew (pun intended!).

The following guidelines may help:

  • Introduce one new food at a time… start with something that has a similar taste or texture to something the student already likes.
  • Introduce the new food slowly, start by having someone else eat the food in the student’s vicinity while telling the student how yummy it is.
  • From here, reinforce the student for allowing the new food to be on his plate and for touching it and tasting it before you get him to actually eat it. This may need to be done over several days.
  • Encourage the student by motivating him… it's okay to use rewards!
  • Once the student is tolerating the new food, continue to provide it on a regular basis… at least every couple of days.
  • Repeat the process with each new food.

If all else fails, there are lots of ways to “hide” nutritious foods in other items: finely chopped carrots are invisible in spaghetti sauce, muffins can incorporate a multitude of vegetables, and fruits can be delivered as smoothies.

For more information, click on the attachment below for a list of books and other resources. Other information is available at the Indiana Resource Center for Autism

List of books and images you can use48.07 KB

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Need to Move

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Need to Move
Tip of the Month:
January, 2010

Teaching the Child who Can’t Sit Still
Many children with ASD seem to need to move their bodies constantly. This can be distracting to others although for the student with ASD it may help them concentrate.

Try the following:
  • Provide frequent, purposeful movement breaks, such as wiping off the blackboard, handing out supplies, running an errand to the office.
  • Try having the child sit on a “wiggle” cushion or an exercise ball. This can help meet their movement needs while still getting their work done.
  • Allow some activities to be done standing up, such as drawing or writing.
  • Give the student adequate space so his movements don’t encroach on another’s personal space. He may have difficulty monitoring personal space issues.
  • Monitor productivity and attention. Although it may not look like it, some children show good listening comprehension when they are moving.

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Trouble with Transitions?

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Trouble with Transitions?
Tip of the Month:
November, 2009

Trouble with Transitions?

Children with ASD often have difficulty changing from one activity to another because they have:

  • a poor sense or understanding of time
  • difficulty switching mental “sets”, or
  • difficulty being asked to move from a preferred to a non-preferred activity.

Try the following:

  • Give plenty of warning when a transition is coming up. Making it visual helps. Try the first/then card or countdown strip shown below.
  • Wait calmly, but expectantly for the child to begin the process of transition. Avoid repeated reminders or prolonged explanations.
  • Provide positive feedback to the child when he begins to transition.
  • If moving from a preferred to a non-preferred task, use a visual schedule (shown below) to show him when he can do the preferred task again.
  • For more information on taking the “trouble” out of transitions see the elearning module on Transitions in our Classroom Strategies section and the Transition Strategies booklet in the POPARD Handout Series.

    Click the photo to enlarge

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Secret Pen Pals

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Secret Pen Pals
Tip of the Month:
October, 2009

from Veronika Kurucz, Sooke School District
Secret Pen Pals
Extend the “Friendship Files” strategy from Michelle Garcia Winner’s 'Think Social' curriculum by using Secret Pen Pals.

In order to help students from a social thinking group practice asking questions about topics that might interest a peer, have their classroom teachers identify a peer who would be interested in taking part. Then have the students in the ST group think of three questions to ask the peer. These questions are written down and placed in an envelope to be delivered to the peer. The peer responds in writing to the questions, asks three questions of their own and seals the envelope to be given to the group member. This is repeated three times over a period of a few weeks, slowing down the social interaction and giving time during group sessions for rehearsal of possible conversations.

The Social Thinking Group then plans a “Reveal Party” and invites their Secret Pen Pals to attend. The information from the questions asked and answered is written on the board to act as a visual cue for conversation topics. A good time is had by all.

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Welcoming Your New Student with ASD

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Visual Schedule

Visual Schedules can help students with ASD transition into a daily classroom routine

Tip of the Month:
September, 2009

Here are a few ideas you can use to prepare your team and your classroom to welcome a new student with ASD:

  • Prepare several preferred activities for the first few days. To discover these preferred activities, read the student’s file thoroughly, paying attention to likes and dislikes.
  • Transitions and changes are difficult for students with ASD. Watch for increases in problem behaviour which may indicate that the student is experiencing anxiety.
  • Create a story to help introduce the ASD student to the rest of the class.
  • Consider a whole class approach to emotional regulation. Watch these eLearning lessons with grade 4 teacher, Wendy Moret, for ideas on how to put this idea into practice:
    Emotional Regulation in the Classroom Part I

    Emotional Regulation in the Classroom Part II

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