Tips for School

I went to seminar given by Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett, presented by Sue Larkey. They had some great tips to help children at school, so I thought I’d share them for any teachers or aides, or even parents whose children may be finding school a challenge. This may also help them with homework as well as in the classroom.

It is often difficult for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and Aspergers to start a task and they often can’t finish it in time. To assist them in this, allow them to mark the questions that they can do in green, the ones they need help with in orange, and the ones to leave for later in red. This way they can start the task with the questions that they find easiest and gain momentum. Often they will feel compelled to finish the whole task. In fact, they may get distressed if they haven’t finished the task they are on before it is time to move on. In this case Sue Larkey advised to put in a marked box for completion later if they run out of time. Designate another 10 minutes later for them to finish.

Tony and Michelle talked about errorless learning. Children with ASD and Aspergers are perfectionists – they want to not make errors and will often get upset or have a meltdown if they make a mistake. Understanding this can help them. Set a realistic task they are likely to complete. Help them finish. Maybe do half each e.g. you read one page, get the child to read the next.

Some days are worse than others. On a bad day give revision rather than new material, Make it achievable. Tony and Michelle said that Aspergers behaviour is often cyclical. i.e. bad days may be predictable to a certain extent. For this they suggested keeping a diary to see if a pattern emerges.

Praise success, focus on when the child is correct. If they struggle, move on to next question or task and try again. Work on gaining a momentum of learning and success. They thrive on success. Always be positive.

Their primary motivator is not pleasing the teacher or their parents, although they will often get upset after the fact if they have let them down. Encourage their intellectual vanity. They take pride in their intelligence!

Use their special interest in the classroom to teach a range of things. For instance, if a child’s special interest is trains, this can be used to teach geography, history, science, maths etc. Children with ASD like to collect facts, so this is a useful resource to tap into. Solitude and special interests are the “cure for Asperger’s”. These children will often engage more, have better social skills and more frequent eye contact when exploring their special interest.

Focus on relaxation and pleasure. These can lead to an economy in teaching, extending their special interest. If special interest goes dark however (eg an interest in weapons), this may be sign of depression.

Create a “workstation” – a distraction free zone, that anybody can use so the child with ASD isn’t singled out, but they have somewhere to go if it all gets too much and they can’t concentrate.

Teach them how to use lists.

Use visual timetables and schedules to help with their organisation skills (see do2learn)

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.

Auditory Processing Disorder

CUTE TODDLER © Beatricekillam | Dreamstime.com

Many people with Aspergers have difficulty with auditory processing, including myself. A child may appear not to hear parts of a conversation or remember instructions, or they may seem to be ignoring someone talking, even if they are close by. They may appear deaf – but this is nothing to do with hearing, and the child may indeed have normal, or even more sensitive than normal, hearing. Difficulties with auditory processing stem from a malfunction in the transfer of audio signals from the ear to the brain. The Listen and Learn Centre in Melbourne define APD as “a problem in the decoding of language”.

www.auditoryprocessing.com.au  defines APD as follows:

“People who have normal hearing actually hear far more than they perceive. Where hearing is a function of the ear, auditory processing – listening – is a function of the brain. Auditory processing describes the way the brain assigns significance and meaning to the sounds in the environment. Effective auditory processing involves a relatively high speed of information transfer. It also requires a good attention span, a well-functioning memory, and sensitivity to the many subtleties of sound. When parts of this complex system break down or don’t operate efficiently, listening is compromised. All the ensuing problems are collectively known as Auditory Processing Disorders (APD).”

It can mean the child doesn’t always register speech, or that they sometimes misunderstand or misremember something that is being said. It can adversely affect their memory of oral information, which can cause frustration as the child is convinced they have remembered something right when it is wrong, or they may have no glimmer of recollection of something they have been told.

APD affects around 5% of school-aged children, and is often worse in loud environments, for instance at school, as the child has difficulty differentiating what is being said from the background noise. This can lead to difficulties with their schoolwork, and their grades may suffer as a result.

The Listen and Learn Centre also note that APD can lead to the “deterioration of behaviour as a result of poor expressive and receptive communication. As children experience the discouragement of being misunderstood and the frustration of misunderstanding others, they become more disconnected from their environment and the people around them”. The child may learn coping strategies such as lip-reading, but this doesn’t always help them in all cases. It could also be the reason why some people with Aspergers may not be able to detect humour. The Neurosensory Unit has this to say:

“It [the central auditory system] helps us to identify the non-linguistic elements of speech and communication, such as rhythm, timing and pitch that assist in interpreting humour and sarcasm, as well as intent of communication.”

APD can be another reason, in addition to sensory overload, that can cause a child to withdraw from social situations. In fact, it seems that sensory overload can also occur with APD, according to the Listen and Learn Centre:

“The term ‘auditory overload’ is often used to describe what happens to people who have APD. Auditory overload is a sense of being overwhelmed and relates to features of the information being received. If information is highly specific, spoken quickly, lacking in contextual cues, described in unfamiliar language or presented in a noisy environment, it will be very difficult for someone with APD to comprehend the message or follow through with instructions.”

Some children with APD may be seem to have very sensitive hearing, and could hear a pin drop in a quiet room. The team at the Listen and Learn Centre have a theory about this:

“Some children are more attentive to bone conducted sounds. They primarily listen with their body instead of with their ears. These individuals have difficulties in dampening the sound intensity and to filter out irrelevant sounds. This may be one of the reasons why individuals are hyper sensitive to sound as they may have lost the ability to focus and tune out extraneous background noise. In this situation, every noise has the same amount of importance. Capturing a word may be difficult as ambient noise distracts from focusing. As a result, the child misses part of the conversation or instruction being given.”

There is no relationship between intelligence and APD; a very bright child may be having difficulty at school and poor marks, which could puzzle parents or teachers.

In this case changes to the teaching style could help, with more emphasis on visual learning strategies.

There is no cure for APD, but it can be treated with speech therapy, reading recovery or through an Auditory Integration Listening Program

kidshealth.org have some tips and strategies for teaching a child with APD: Strategies