Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Saving the Summer

Summer is a great time! It's the season for family vacations, summertime activities, and a break from school. Most students look forward to this break all year, but for children with autism summer may be a set back in their educational and therapeutic progress. Don't let summer melt away all your student has learned this year. Here are a few tips from ATC's Rachel Adams, BCBA, to help save the summer. Learn about strategies, techniques, and programs to maintain all the skills your child worked so hard all year to learn.

Identify possible challenges for your student - sensory aversions (sand, lights, loud noises, or sounds) - and plan now!—
  • Teach alternative behaviors/plan for alternative activities.
  • Shape tolerance - Shaping is a tool used in Behavior Analysis that involves reinforcing your child for engaging in behaviors closer and closer to the final behavior you want to see. For example, if your child has a hard time with sand but you would like to take a family trip to the beach, begin by having your him or her play in a bucket of rice- run their fingers through the rice, make colored rice, etc. Next mix a small amount of sand into the rice and add toys your child can find by moving the rice/sand mixture around. Slowly reduce the amount of rice until your child is digging in just the sand. 
  • Make visuals - You can make a visual of new places you are going to go to let your student see the location before he/she gets there. For example, if you are planning a trip to the zoo, print out or look up pictures of the particular zoo you will be visiting. Make a visual schedule of what will happen the day you go to the zoo.
  • Keep it simple - Remember to keep it simple, your vacation does not have to be packed full every moment in order for you and your child to have fun.
  • —Bring reinforcers - Always, always, always bring items, food, and activities your child enjoys. You may feel like the beach is a huge reinforcer and preferred item in itself, however, this doesn’t mean your child feels the same way. Therefore, you need to reinforce appropriate behavior your child is exhibiting when they are in a new situation.
  • Maintain a routine - can be a loose routine. It may be summer but that doesn’t mean you need to change everything. Keep some things the same to help your child have predictability in their day.

Continue their education. 
Look at school books and the topics they have learned this year and incorporate that into events/activities. Take pictures your student can look at later as a connecting point for when they have experienced something before. Make learning fun! Play games like a memory matching game. Know what your child's strengths and weaknesses are (ex: social skills, turn taking, reading), and continue working on those areas throughout the summer.

Set realistic goals and be specific.
For example: Johnny will learn color blue and yellow. He will be able to ask for his blue or yellow duck and car.
  • Set guidelines for the goals, such as: I will work with my child on math for 10 minutes twice a day after lunch and before dinner. 
  • Plan out actions to achieve goals- set alarm on your phone, write note on fridge, etc. Share goals with others so they can cheer you on, keep you motivated, and accountable. —
  • Examples of goals to set: Academic goals, —Self-help goals, —Language goals, —Behavior goals, —Social goals, —Peer goals, —Siblings goals.

Determine a schedule, and stick to it.
When working with your student make a schedule. For example, we will work for 15 minutes every day after breakfast. It is also helpful to make a schedule of the activities you will be working on. A visual work schedule can help your child know what is coming next and provide predictability for them.

Be sure to track progress.
Develop a schedule for making notes and measuring achievements. Keeping a record of work throughout the summer will allow you to view the progress your student has made, and see the areas that may need more focus. Share these with your child's teacher at the beginning of the next school year.

Teaching tips.
  • Give instructions that you can follow through on. —Giving an instruction and NOT following through is worse than not giving the instruction at all.
  • —Maintain behavioral expectations that have been in place all year. Summertime is often a time to loosen up and relax., but maintaining consistency is the key with behavior.
  • —Any instructional time that helps maintain your child's ability to follow directions and continue the routine will help.

Prepare your child for outings.

You may have to make multiple trips and reinforce small steps to activities that are more difficult for your student. For example, going to a movie - going first to door then leaving, going to candy counter and getting snack, sitting in theater for 5 minutes and taking breaks. —
  • Set your child up for success, practice activities at home.
  • Create visuals and prepare your child for changes. 
  • Use reinforcers. 
  • Use first/then language (First walk in, then sit).
  • —Praise accomplishments.
  • Take small steps.
  • Activities to try: —IMAX, bowling, movies (call to see if they offer sensory friendly shows), —Children Museum, 
  • —YMCA camps, call local universities to see if they will be having camps/festivals/activities, Swim Lessons 

  • —Have Fun With Your Son/Daughter 
  • BE PATIENT - You are both learning 
  • —Perfection is not necessary. 
  • Celebrate the Successes-Throw A Party!

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