10 tips from Sue Larkey’s seminar.

I recently attended Sue Larkey’s seminar on Teaching Strategies and Behaviour Support. Here are 10 tips that she covered in the seminar:

1. Not all strategies work for every child, and not all strategies work all of the time. If it’s not working, move on and try something else

2. No=never. The word “no” can trigger a meltdown. If you say no, and you mean not now, don’t say no. You say no, they hear “never”. A day after the seminar my son illustrated this very point. He was writing his grandad’s birthday card. He couldn’t fit the whole of a word on one line so I told him that he could use a hyphen and finish the word on the next line. He got very upset and wanted to scribble the word out and start again. When I asked him why he told me his teacher said that he wasn’t allowed to split the word up. So he applied that rule to all situations.

3. You cannot stop a behaviour. Each behaviour serves a function, so replace the behaviour with another behaviour. For instance if a child constantly chews their clothes, replace this with a sensory toy designed for chewing. This will help the child stay calm and concentrate. To just stop them without replacing the behaviour with an alternative will cause the child anxiety and make matters worse.

4. A sensory meltdown is different to a behaviour meltdown. There is no warning and it strongly triggers the fight or flight mechanism in the brain. It is a catastrophic reaction to social or sensory experiences. If they run and don’t look back it is sensory and no amount of rewards or bribery will work with them. They need comforting or solitude until they calm down. Don’t tell them to calm down as the meltdown may escalate, or ask them what’s wrong as they can’t tell you. A behaviour meltdown is different as it is a response to frustration, and will often end with emotional blackmail (!). The child is assertive and calm during this time. If you are unsure of difference, Sue says, look in their eyes.

5. Children on the spectrum are often multisensory or kinaesthetic learners (also called tactile learners) and respond to multisensory and hands on learning. They often concentrate better while playing with a fidget toy or moving around. They also respond better to rote and repetitive learning, and not problem solving learning, which schools have been moving towards.

6. Their intellect is their vanity. They may have the ideas and have done the work in their head, but may be slow to put onto paper. Do not humiliate them by telling them they have done no work. Get someone else to be their scribe or use Dragon software

7. Some children with ASD have a “veneer of coping” during school or social events. They are exhausted trying to be good, social and jovial, but when they get home they just want to relax and unwind. If any demands are put on them during this time, they may go into meltdown. This can be a problem when homework is expected.

8. During school, their should be a ratio of 25 minutes schoolwork, 5 minutes of special interest. This will serve as a reward, but also allows them to relax and refresh before moving on to further school work. At home, home is for relaxation so the ratio should be 25 minutes relaxation to 5 minutes work or chores. But for those children who have a veneer of coping, homework may be a step too far, so maybe an arrangement can be made where they do homework at school.

9. When children know the routine and are relaxed, you don’t always need to continue using all strategies all the time. Use common sense when to use and when not to.

10. Consequences do not work for children on the spectrum.

Synaesthesia

Glowing Green Bubbles Water Drops by Madartists! Dreamstime.com

It seems my extreme empathy may be down to a condition called Synaesthesia, and more specifically something called Mirror Touch Synaesthesia. Before I go into this in more detail I would like to talk a little more about Synaesthesia in general. Synaesthesia is a cross processing of the senses. Although it can affect neurotypicals, a great many people on the autism spectrum have it. Many great composers and artists, wine tasters and memory champions often have it and it gives them a unique talent not shared by everyone. It seems, as with autism, that there are a few different genes that could be responsible and it will often run in families. See link

In addition to the extreme empathy, my own Synaesthesia manifests itself in a couple of ways, I hear colours (which I also associate with words) and when I feel textures it has a strong emotional influence on me, see Tactile Emotion Synaesthesia.

I hear colours in music which does a lot to dictate my musical tastes. I love orchestral heavy metal as it has lots of warm vibrant colours, whereas Rn’B leaves me cold as it is full of insipid blues and greys. Words and letters bring up colours in my head, which helps my memory, especially for spelling. For instance, A is yellow, B is blue, C is red, D is orange, E is green etc. Words containing those letters may have associated colours, but do not always take the colour of the first letter. “Everybody” and “Everyday” are green, probably because of the dominance of the letter E, whereas “Day” is yellow because of the A and “Dog” is yellow and white, mainly because of the O and G sound. Monday is white, Tuesday is yellow, Wednesday is orange, Thursday is navy blue, Friday is black etc. I remember the day of a meeting or appointment by recalling the colour associated with it.

The Tactile Emotion Synaesthesia influences the clothes that I prefer to wear and means that I am very uncomfortable in certain clothes. This makes clothes shopping difficult and time-consuming and I can only do it when I am relaxed.

Mirror Touch Synaesthesia can be a blessing and a curse. In some respects I can imagine what a particular thing must feel like so it keeps me away from dangerous situations. It allows me to imagine what someone must feel like, allowing me to put myself in their shoes. This could be the basis of the Intense World Theory. This would be a fantastic advantage for an actor and it is possible that some of the most charismatic actors may indeed have this ability. But it also means that when someone hurts themselves I flinch, rather than speeding into action to help them. It paralyses me for a few seconds and I have to force the feeling out of my mind.

There are many kinds of Synaesthesia and researchers believe that many of us have it to a certain extent, but to some it governs their lives, in both positive and negative ways. I love having Synaesthesia, but it means that I can be very  inflexible, and also respond differently in traumatic or emotionally charged situations . One of the leading researchers in Synaesthesia is Simon Baron Cohen from the Autism Research Centre, Oxford, UK, the man behind the AQ test.

See also link

Post Script: since I wrote this I have also noticed that certain colours make me feel cold.

Asperger’s… What Does it Mean to Me?

If you only buy one book on Aspergers, let this be it.  It is an invaluable workbook which enables you to learn all about your child and your child to learn all about themselves, and what it means to have Aspergers Syndrome or High Functioning Autism.

It is well set out and separated into distinct sections. Each section has information for parents and teachers, and a section to be filled in by the child.

It covers a great many aspects of the child’s life, from styles of learning, schedules and routines, sensory sensitivites, their interests and talents, understanding people and friendships, hopes and fears, thoughts and feelings and much much more. It has simple multi-choice questions and places for your child to write their own answers, as well as easy to understand text for children, explaining many of the issues associated with Aspergers Syndrome.

You can sit down and work through it with your child. It allows you to tailor your child’s home and school life to enable your child to reach their full potential.

Sue Larkey’s tips

Today I signed up to Sue Larkey’s website and received these great tips in my inbox:

10 Essential tips for Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

1.      ASD students don’t have to look at you all the time.
o        Reason: They find looking and listening at the same time
hard to do.

2.      Give them time to answer any of your questions.
o            Reason: They have slower processing time. Sometimes it
can take them up to a minute to formulate the answer in the correct
sequence.

3.      If they feel pressured they will answer with stock standard
answers.
o      Reason: They know it will get them out of trouble quickly.
This may include: “I don’t know”, “yes”, “maybe” and often this
isn’t their true answer!!

4.      They often don’t “generalise” information between people
and places.
o          Reason: Homework for teacher ‘x’ is in the yellow basket
but for teacher ‘y’ it’s to be placed in the green basket.

5.      They find organisation of their school equipment very
difficult.
o          Reason: They are best with one folder with everything
inside. Limit the number of pencils, pens etc.

6.      Limit their choices and be very specific with choices.
o          Reason: They find choices overwhelming and are often
concerned with making wrong choice due to their difficulty with
problem solving.

7.      Be as clear, concise and concrete as possible.
o      Reason: People with ASD have difficulty with abstract
thinking.

8.      Avoid verbal overload.
o          Reason: They are visual learners and verbal information
takes them longer to process and retain.

9.      Avoid verbal arguments by redirecting them to what they
should be doing. Eg “Start your work”.
o      Reason: They often enjoy verbal arguments.

10.  Asperger people need positive feedback to know they are on the
right track.
o      Reason: Because of their fear of failure and they want to
be Mr Perfect.

On Empathy

THE COMFORT © Marshhawk | Dreamstime.com

 

I was just about to write a post about my views on empathy, and I came across an article that totally supports my view. Before I share it, I would like to talk about my own experiences, having Aspergers myself. I was thinking about whether my ability to feel empathy was due to a coping mechanism I had developed, but I doubted that this was the case and so I thought back upon my early life… Read more of this post

Sensory Overload

GRADUATION? © Socrates | Dreamstime.com

 

Many children with Aspergers may be over- or under-sensitive to certain sensory simuli, for instance sound, cold, touch or light. Over-sensitivity can lead to sensory overload and the Aspie child will do all they can to block out the sensations. This can lead them to be more wary of particular environments or want to avoid social gatherings. This may also cause them to become anxious or angry. Read more of this post