Friday, August 31, 2012

Teaching Strategy 3: Flexibility

As a teacher in an autism classroom, it is hard to figure out when you need should be flexible and when you need to ensure that students are following the rules.  It is hard to know when a student pops out of their desk and runs around the room in the middle of a lesson, if that student is trying to escape the activity or if they need to go to the bathroom, but can't find a way to communicate that to you.  This is where flexibility comes in.  If a student jumps up, before reprimanding or redirecting, you may want to give them 30 seconds to explore what the function of this behavior could be.  Show them visuals of bathroom/water fountain or remind them that when they finish their work, they will have a break/earn a preferred item. 

Also, with some of our more fidgety students, we may have to give up some traditional school rules.  For instance, allowing students to stand while they work, chew gum to keep their mouth busy, or allowing frequent breaks during an activity.

Another important part about being flexible as an autism teacher is to remember to give choices as often as possible.  You DO NOT have to give the child full reign of their day/education.  You can just throw in some options along the way and still get the same work done you had planned.  For instance, if you want a child to complete 3 worksheets during science time:
*Give them 4 choices and let them pick 3 they want to do. 
 *Offer to let them pick which to do first, second, and third.  
*Let them choose their favorite color pencil/marker to work with.
*Let them choose a reward to work for (5 minute of computer/ipad, one gummy bear/access to a preferred toy).
*Give them the opportunity to request one break during the activity.

When giving choices, you need to explicitly state the options.  It is often helpful to use visuals to back up choice making.  For instance "do you want red or green marker?" while holding out the two choices in front of the student.  (For a higher functioning student, you may be able to just say "What color?" and offer them a pack of markers to choose from).

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