Last week I described what I believe to be the tenacious and creative genius of students and children with autism. It has been my experience to witness my own autistic son and my students persistently sift through an assortment of behaviours that have proven successful in gaining a desired response from us at some time or other. I am convinced that a hidden Roloadex of behavioural responses keeps us on our toes and accountable for hearing the message being communicated! When one action doesn’t garner our attention then there are many more to choose from!
So what does this mean for those of us trying desperately to hear the message that behaviour is communicating?
It means that we need to be sure we do our homework.
We may need to conduct the appropriate Functional Behaviour Assessments to figure out what the behaviour is telling us. Does the child want to get something tangible? Does he want your attention? Is she trying to avoid something? Why? Is the task too hard? Too easy? Unmotivating? Is there a sensory problem that we cannot recognize?
Then it is our job to attend to the message. We may need to:
Replace less desirable behaviours with a positive response that will produce the same result the child was seeking. Perhaps, we could teach the student to request a time out or break using a card or signal rather than cursing when he is feeling overwhelmed.
Establish motivation for the individual (threats are NOT motivating). Perhaps, using the individual’s interest in the materials for teaching would increase attention and ‘buy in’ to the task? Provide an opportunity for the student to share his knowledge of an interest in
Teach new skills such as how to choose a reinforcer from a choice board and how to use relaxation strategies to self -calm. Use video modelling to teach individuals with autism how to participate in group work. Perhaps a prerequisite math skill needs to be reviewed individually before a new concept is introduced to the class.
Make the environment more autism friendly by providing a quiet work area or dimming the lights. Indicate in a checklist each step of a task and what reward will occur as a consequence of task completion. Provide short breaks and show these to the individual on a checklist or schedule. Organize space or tasks with labels and cues (and practice) so that it is clear what happens when and where things belong.
Kids with autism do not need their parents or teachers to be autism experts. They need compassionate humans who are genuinely keen to ‘hear’ what their actions say and respond in ways that promote intellectual, emotional and social learning.
Copyright 2014 Autism Aspirations
Disheartened. Discouraged. The dark settles in and infiltrates every aspect of our day. Why can’t it be easy? Why is there always something that goes wrong? When will things change? As sure as we have a heartbeat we will struggle. Others will hurt us, disappoint us and leave us feeling hopeless. Decisions that are far beyond our control will impact us in ways that are totally unjust. Exhaustion takes its toll on us emotionally and physically. How are we supposed to give and serve when we are empty?
In spite of it all, I choose hope. I have come to expect struggle. My resilience has been strengthened because of it. I will not fight. Fighting exhausts me. It steals my inner strength and joy. No. I will take the next step even if I am incapable of seeing where the path leads. I will take account of what is right and good in my life. I will be sure to let my gratitude be reflected in my demeanor and my interactions with others. I will speak kindly to myself. I will choose to focus on actions I am able to take rather than those beyond my control. I will not allow my thoughts to stew over what is done or what is not right. I recognize my automatic negative thoughts and I respond with a more productive counter thought. I seek wisdom, strength and courage from a higher source. I will not be trapped by the darkness.
I look back. I see that in spite of every setback and every tragedy, something good was raised. Sadness ultimately turned to joy. Pain produced something beautiful. Disappointments lead to new opportunities. Forgiveness freed love. Struggle cultivated resilience. Loss nurtured gratitude. Heartbreak fostered empathy and compassion.
Never give up hope. Focus on the light and the darkness will never win. Trust the journey and choose to accept the struggle that is inherent in living. Pure love always disperses the darkness. Good Friday always leads to Easter Sunday. Hope reigns supreme.
Wishing you a hope filled and blessed Easter!
Human are results driven. We do what works. When one way doesn’t get us what we want, we persevere. Smart people try a new approach if they are not succeeding. We celebrate that kind of tenacity. As a society we tend to ridicule people who keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Remember Albert Einstein and the whole ‘insanity’ insight?
Kids with autism are tenacious. I mean that as a compliment. They are very creative when it comes to producing results. I am convinced that kids with autism (and even those without) carry a carefully hidden Rolodex. On each card is a behavioural response that has at some time or other yielded the desired result. Perhaps failing to complete a task has convinced the teacher to use a visual schedule. Maybe big sister has caved and bought dollar store toy when the child refused to move from the floor of the store.
The more years I spend in education the more I marvel at what students with autism will do to get their message heard. Behavioural responses may start out quite typical: a short temper flare up, work refusal or whimpering. But the slower we are to figure out the message or the longer we ignore the message, the more marked the reactions can become. I am sure I am not the only one who has witnessed clothes come off, obscenities being screeched and entire rooms being cleared of furniture! On many an occasion (after a child and I are both exhausted) I marvel at the sheer tenacity of our kids who live with autism.
They must get so exasperated with us! We scratch our heads and think: “Why won’t he stop doing that? Is he being a brat? Wow, she IS stubborn!”
Meanwhile, the kid must be thinking: “Why are YOU so slow? Am I NOT being clear? I keep trying to tell you, but you won’t listen to me!”
If you as the adult keep seeing a challenging behaviour, it is you that is not clear on the message being delivered. Individuals with autism will win the persistence contest. They will outwit, outplay and out last you for sure. They will continue to use the Roladex to find a behaviour that gets the results they are looking for. The trick for our survival is to be just as tenacious when it comes to identifying what function the behaviour is serving and replacing the individual’s Rolodex with our own!
Stay tuned as we dig a little deeper to ensure that everyone keeps their clothes on and their sanity in check…
Until then, enjoy the journey (mostly) 😛
Copyright 2014 Jennifer Krumins
Today I wear blue. Today I join the world as it aims a spotlight on Autism. In my family and in my work, autism is a part of everyday existence. I love my child with Autism and I love my students with autism. But today I stand in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of people (maybe more) in sharing what we know and what we have yet to know about Autism.
Today I celebrate the fact that we are talking: talking in our homes, communities, work places and schools. We are talking about autism all over the world. I celebrate the fact that since 2007 Autism is talked about openly at a global level and in places where it was never acknowledged or where it was considered shameful.
I celebrate the fact that when I explain a seemingly odd behaviour that might be construed as ‘bratty ’is actually autism, the look I get in response is not ALWAYS a confused stare. More and more people have heard of autism. That’s a start.
I celebrate the fact that families in other countries who experience Autism do not stand alone. In spite of the fact that progress is slow, awareness is increasing; communities and governments are taking notice.
When the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. I rejoiced. As a global society we NEED to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the disorder so they can lead full and meaningful lives.
In his message for the World Autism Awareness Day 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it best: “World Autism Awareness Day is about more than generating understanding; it is a call to action. I urge all concerned to take part in fostering progress by supporting education programmes, employment opportunities and other measures that help realize our shared vision of a more inclusive world,”
Today we celebrate the individuals who live with autism. We celebrate those who are learning one step at a time how to raise them, how to educate them and most importantly how to include them in authentic, relevant and loving ways into our society.
One step at a time, we are growing and developing because Autism has touched our lives.
Copyright 2014 Jennifer Krumins