Thursday, May 31, 2018

8 common challenging behaviors in Autism 
and some suggested solutions!

 One of the most concerning and stressful features of Autism are the many challenging behaviors that come with the territory and whether you are the teacher or a parent, figuring out how to get rid of them can be a struggle. Some of these behaviors can even be harmful to them self or others.  It is extremely important to recognize that these behaviors are communication.  These kids are not being "naughty"  they are just trying to communicate what they feel, want or need.

I will go through 8 common behaviors that can be challenging within the classroom or home and some suggested solutions.

1. Echolalia : this is the most difficult behavior for me to extinguish or replace because the very nature of them scripting is immediately rewarding and therefore reinforcing.  We practice whisper talking and read social stories about it.  I have had students who script all day long, repeating the smae phrases over and over and it really impacts academics when that is all that they are doing. First thing I teach is appriate times to "turn it on" and when to "turn it out".  IN my classroom, for my students with echolalia, we often talk about "TV land" becasue they script about shows that they have watched.  I made a fake remote control for the TV and I would press the pause buttin and say "TV land is off now"  "First work, then TV land"   This became the language of my classroom and it really helped with the noise volume and engagment increased.

2. Humming (vocalizing): this is another difficult one because it is  immediately reinforcing as the echolalia.  Sometimes students are humming to block out other noise that is bothering them.  Some students have hyper-hearing and the littlest noise can bother them.  Most often than not they will hum to cancel it out.  For this behavior, I have tried the same approach with echolalia.  Making sure that we delineate appropriate times to hum.

3. Eloping: this is when the student runs away from the activity or runs out of the classroom.  Most often then not they are trying to get out of the activity.  Before you figure out how to stop it, here are some things that you can do in the mean time.  Place bells on your door.  I have seen jingle bells used and even an electric doorbell.  Always keep your door closed.  Put a large stop sign on the door as a visual cue.  I have even seen a classroom use a door alarm.  This will at least give you more time to get to them before they get too far.  For this specific behavior, I would teach them to ask for breaks functionally.  Please read HERE about how to teach your student how to functionally protest. 

4. Aggression: Aggression is a big one.  I am not talking about violence, there is a difference.  Violence is when there is an intended target and an intent to harm.  I am talking about students who hurt people trying to communicate their needs or wants.   These behaviors can become out of control and needs to be dealt with immediately.    Keeping track of data using the below ABC chart is the best way to begin with these.  I have had head butters, scratchers, biters, kickers, punchers, desk flippers, material throwers, you name it, I have had them.  Basically you have to know your students triggers.  What is it that is setting them off?  You can read more about that below.  But for now, you can be preventative.  Make sure that they have a visual schedule that you follow consistent.  Create a behavior contingency map for the student, so they have a visual aid to help them get though.   Label their feelings.  Make sure they know the difference between feeling frustrated and feeling angry.  Use a five point scale.  Use other visual aids like, "no biting" "no hitting".   Use a sensory board to help find a way to get it out.  And again, teach them to ask for breaks appropriately.  The below visual aid is find in my Visual Aids Pack in my TpT store and is my second best seller.  It is constantly being updated and added to, you can grab it  HERE>>>>>>>>>
Behavior Contingency Map - you can find this in my TpT store in my Visual Aids Pack
and this one too!!

5. Self-injurious:  this behavior can become very serious very quickly.  I have had head-bangers that would find their way out of their helmet to hit their head on the floor.  I have students who would scratch themselves.  I have had students that would constantly pick at their skin until it bled.  I have had kids that would bit their had until it was raw or even punch their face until their nose bleeds.  They are not doing this for no reason.  They are trying to get something out of it.   The problem is trying figure out what it is that they need.  Collecting data on the behavior should give you a good idea.  Some kids need sensory input, so talk with your Occupational Therapist about setting up a sensory diet.  Some kids are trying to get out of things because they are too difficult or they don't want to do it.  Refer back to the blog about protesting functionally, above.   Teaching a student to ask for a break appropriately is best.

6. Repetitive behaviors: (clapping, flapping, rocking) These behaviors aren't really that challenging, but can become very disruptive to learning if we let it.   There are so many different types of repetitive behaviors and most of them are really harmless, but as they get older, they may want to seem more "typical" so teaching them replacement behaviors while they are young, can actually go a long way.  For example, if my student is biting their hands, depending on the function of the behavior, I would try and use a chew necklace, or something else to get the oral need met.  If they are biting their hand because they want something, then I would teach them to use their words and to communicate.  If they are biting their hand because they are trying to get out of something, then teach them to ask to take a break.

7. Anxiety: Soooo many students with Autism struggle with anxiety.  These are the kids that are very rigid with their schedules and like everything in order.  Students like things are certain way and sometimes this can become very problematic and challenging if the anxiety gets so bad that it has a negative impact on their learning.  For these kiddos, I like to change up thier schedule every so often, or maybe change up thier seating.  Sometimes, Ill change who they are working with, or Ill work in a different location for Math today with them.  If they get stuck in a routine that they like and are comfortable in, they will have complete meltdowns if it is ever different.  We have to prepare them for the real world and we have to teach them to be flexible.  I have had students that medication was the only option for the anxiety, and that is okay too.

8. Sensory issues: Some kids are hypersensative and other kids can be hyposenstaive.  These behaviors that are caused by sensory issues can be an easy fix.  Please see below to read all about some suggested triggers and how best to deal with them.

This behavior chart is yours for free, just click the picture or click HERE!

How can I go about changing the behavior of the child?  You need to first understand what is causing the behavior and what the child is getting out of it.   Taking data using a simple ABC chart and/or scatterplot will help you decipher what the environmental triggers are and what the student is getting out of it.  You can download this free ABC chart HERE and start tracking data today.   A scatterplot chart is another way to tally data on whether or not the time of day or day of the week is a factor in the child's challenging behavior.  For example, if every time I took Sally into the bathroom to brush her teeth, she has a meltdown, we can track that on the scatterplot chart and easily see that everyday at 8am and 8pm she has an outburst.

Now we have to figure out what are the possible triggers.  Here are a few examples of what it could be?

Routines: students on the spectrum live by their schedules and routines.  Throwing an interruption into the schedule can really make a child with Autism lose their mind.  For example, if you come into school in the morning and you find out library was cancelled.  You know this will set Johnny off.  What do you do?  A good way to get your student to accept change is by building purposefully, planned interruptions into their schedules and practice how we should react.  Also, before changing the schedule on the student, change the schedule together and even use a "change in schedule" visual aid.  This alleviates anxiety and they like to be a part of changing the schedule.   Another good suggestion would be to use social stories.   I have a student who I started reading a social story when I knew that we would have a fire drill.  I would have her read the story a few times before the alarm would go off.  Her behaviors decreased.  What was great, was when we had our 5th firs drill of the year, she no longer needed the social story, she would just script the story out loud, which was very comforting to her.

Transitions: transitions are one of those things that students on the spectrum have the most difficulty with, especially when they are transitioning from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity.  The best way to prepare for transitions is to have a good visual schedule, use a timer and have a "check schedule" card.   One of the things I have learned over the years is to make sure you give them a visual card when you say "check your schedule" or if the timer goes off.  Their auditory input in much weaker and need the visual support.  You will be amazed at how this will change some transition behaviors.
use visual cue cards to hand them when you say check your schedule. 

Hyposensative - sometimes a child with Autism can be hyposenitive to the world and need extra sensory input to hear, feel and see the world around them.  They are sensory seekers and will often rock back and forth, wave their hand in their faces or even hum loudly.   These types of sensory seeking behaviors needs to be addressed because they can be intrusive to learning.  Replacement behaviors can be taught or by providing good sensory input throughout the day may eliminate most of these behaviors.   Some of my sensory seekers are on a rigid sensory diet, that includes lots of vestibular and proprioceptive input throughout the ENTIRE day.

swing and noise cancelling headphones

Hypersensitive - at times a child with Autism can be hypersensitive and do not like all the sensory input that the world is giving them.  They can see, hear and smell very well.  Loud sounds bother them.   They avoid strong smells and bright lights.  There are things that we can do to make students with hypersensitivity deal with the world a little bit better.   I make sure that we have lots of tools on hand to offer students with this sensitivity.  Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs are a great tool for auditory sensitivity.  I make sure that my florescent lights are covered with light covers, and I also unscrew ever other bulb (I had the custodians do that for me), I also bring in lamps to provide a warm light.  I keep my blinds down as well.  As far as students with a smell sensitivity, we try and minimize staff wearing perfume and also using fragrance free soaps.  Some students are even sensitive to tactile things such as play dough, or touching soil, we use gloves or long sticks to help with this as well.

Tired - I work in the high school and my students need to be in school by 7:10.  My teenagers are very tired.  For a student with autism, being tired only exacerbates challenging behaviors.  Having great communication with parents is KEY to helping this problem.  I use an app called Remind, that I talk with my parents everyday.  They let me know if my students have had a rough night, or if they went to bed really late or if they woke up really early.   If I know my student is tried, I let my staff know that the demands of the day need to be lowered to make sure that we are preventing a possible crisis situation.  Also, I have allowed for some rest or even some sleep time during the school day.  I would rather have the student get some sleep then struggling on the floor with tears.

Discomfort or in pain - there are many times when students with Autism are in pain or are in discomfort and are unable to tell us.  Especially, those who are non-verbal. Even some of our students who have words, may not know the correct words to use when they have a headache, when their stomach feels off, or if their ears hurt. The best way to deal with this, is to teach them the words.  I typically will start with simple feelings words like hurt and sad and pair them with pictures.  Then we read stories about not feeling well, or read social stories or show them flashcards with someone holding their head with their hands and squinting and teaching them what a headache is.  It is really important for kids to know the vocabulary to use and for them to have access to it, whether it is in their PECS book. or their AAC device, it should be accessible.  Next time they don't feel well, they will have the words to let you know.

Environment - this is the easiest setting condition to change.  For many students with Autism, the environment is the biggest trigger for them.  It could be a student is banging their pencil on the desk, or the lights flickering, or the sun is singing to brightly on their desk.  Or maybe the teacher is wearing their hair differently that day.  Maybe they can smell lunch cooking all the way down the hallway.  It could be that, the boy sitting next to them never took a bath and smells funny, maybe the white board markers are squeaking and its bothering them.  There are so many different triggering events that could happen within the setting that it may be hard to even pin point an antecedent.  But believe me, there is one.  Remember all behavior is communication.   So use the ABC charts about to figure out what it is that is bothering them.  Sometimes, if I cant figure it out after a few weeks, I will have people come into observe, because there are times when I totally miss something that a new set of eyes can see.   Sometimes, what often gets over looked is a mess, chaotic classroom.  Kids with Autism tend to be OCD and like a neat and organized space.

Delayed response to an earlier trigger - Sometimes, there is something that we forget to take into account and that is a delayed response to a trigger.  There can be times where something can happen in the morning before getting to school, or even the night before, and the student wont show any behaviors until later that day.  It seems to sit with them until they blow up later.  Again, this can be dealt with by having clear and consistent communication from home.  I know that some of you may have a hard time with parents who are hard to get a hold of, but be persistent and don't give up.

Thats all I have for now.   Do you have anything to add?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Why should I use them?

 Adapted books have really changed how I deliver instruction for some of my groups.  Adapted books can be totally time consuming to prep, but the benefits FAR outweigh the cons and they last a really long time.   I have been using them a lot in my classroom this year.  I have made some guided reading adapted book units and some specific content area adapted books that my kiddos have fallen in LOVE with! I have used some from other teacher authors as well and they are just so easy and fun to use.   Adapted books promote independence, vocabulary development, pre-reading skills, and sight word recognition!
Most students on the Autism spectrum do not hear verbal directions and have a hard time following along to stories being read to them or even when they read text themselves.  Providing them with interactive pieces allows the students to attend to the story in a way that they haven’t before.  The interactive pieces provide sensory input and allows them to follow along and feel successful.   These students are now sustaining enough attention that they are retaining information that they read. They are discriminating between other pieces and making decisions on what interactive piece finishes the sentences.    I had a student in September, that was UNABLE to attend to anything, let alone a story, and adapted books have changed that for him.  He is now LOOKING at the story and is able to find a match.  This is HUGE progress for my little guy and his parents are super proud!

In my small group lessons, I often give my higher functioning students a copy of the black and white version which is included in every adapted book unit that I have.  For my lower kiddos, they receive a copy of the adapted book for them to participate with.   This provides students with an inclusive opportunity that may not have been able to be offered before.  Students with disabilities are now able to join these groups and participate appropriately. 
Adapted books, can also be used in a book boxes for students to read independently, when they couldn’t do this before.  This provides students with an opportunity for independence in the classroom.  Students should learn when it’s time for independent reading, to go to their book boxes and grab these adapted books, all on their own.

having the matching pictures in place that doesn't move or need to be hidden is key, students can see when they are finished.

If I am working with a student one on one, I may use adapted books to teach basic matching skills and receptive language or just attending to a story.   I also can use it to introduce or increase new vocabulary.   I also use adapted books for generalization.  Many students struggle with carrying skills over to new places and these books provide students with extra practice on a skill outside their typical teaching environment.   Most adapted books are repetitive which helps increase student participation and repetition helps with retention of new information. 

And lastly, adapted books provide students with the ability to access the general curriculum using these interactive books.  Students with special needs want to feel included and want to learn what their peers are learning.  What better way to include them, making some adapted books? 

However, when looking for different types of adapted books, I was looking for more of a comprehensive unit to supplement whatever skills we were learning that day.  So I started making my own that included a variety of other different resources as well.  I needed something that was the same format so that my kiddos new what to expect and could start doing  the work more independently.  So here are some extras that my Adapted Book Units come with. 

1. RUNNING RECORD: Each book come with a running record with the text already written in.  This provided excellent data to be used in their IEP's or when admin asks you for it!

2. Graphic Organizers: Each book comes with 3 different versions of a graphic organizers.  One with lines, one cut and paste with pictures and one with a word bank. Also comes with a blank KWL chart, a cut and paste sorting mat, and a  First, next, Then, Last graphic organizer.  I find my kids work better with a place to organizer their thoughts.  

3.  Writing Prompts:  This is writing prompt number one, Opinion Writing.  There are three different versions of this one!!  one with two choices, one with 8 choices and one with a word bank at the bottom.  

This is writing prompt number 2, Narrative writing, with and without a word bank

This is writing prompt number 4, Informational Writing, 3 different versions, including a cut and paste. 

4.  Vocabulary Cards:  each book comes with 2-3 different versions of vocabulary cards.  Most come with both a real photo and clip art version of the vocabulary.  They come in this square look or I have even added rectangular ones made just for hanging charts. 

5.  Comprehension Quiz:  Whether you have non-verbal students or not, you can test their comprehension skills after they read the stories.  I have included two different versions of the paper version; one with pictures and one without.  I also have included a 4 question quiz that is read by the assessor, and the child is given an field of three to four picture cards (also included in this unit)  Teacher records student answers on the paper.  This is GREAT information for the IEP's as well and for parental information.  I struggled for the looooongest time to figure out ways to test my non-verbal students and this WORKS!!

6.  A lesson Guideline:  I have included a guideline with all of my Adapted Book Units as an at-a-glance view of what the unit includes.

7.  Black and White copies of the books!   

8.  An Adapted Book This is the most important part!!!!!!

Aghhhhhhhhh  so that's it!    This is my LOVE for all things adapted.  My students love using adapted books because they feel independent and they are engaged.  Take a look at some awesome adapted books that I use all of the time. 

Currently, I have about 10 different books in my TpT shop and working on about 74,368 (hahaha)  Let me know in the comments what time of Adapted books you would like to see and maybe Ill work on that next.  I am going to be working very hard this summer on an ADAPTED BOOK UNIT for FREE just for you guys!!!   

Here are a few of my best SELLERS!

That's all for now :)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Literally, HP's insta ink saved my life.  As a special education teacher, all I was ever doing every day is printing visuals, printing task cards, printing adapted books, printing schedule, printing PECS symbols  .....  PRINTING .... PRINTING.... and MORE PRINTING!!!   Working in a low economic school district colored ink was hard to come by and I found myself spending over $400 a year on colored ink out of my own pocket, especially in the beginning of the school year.  I cant even tell you how many times I would run out of ink and would put off going to the store for WEEKS with the stupid cartridges to make sure I got the right one and the right size.   UGHHH  what a pain in the butt.   So one day while I was at the TEACCH conference in North Carolina, I was with a group of teachers that were talking about how great Insta-ink was and I decided to do some research.    

Ok, so what is HP Insta-Ink?   Insta-ink is a subscription based program for ink replacement cartridges.   You need to have a HP Instant Ink eligible printer to be eligible to enroll in a plan.  The plan charges a fee based on the number of pages you print each month. The printer sends ink level information to HP, and when the printer runs low on ink, replacement ink cartridges are shipped to you. You do not need to purchase replacement ink cartridges from retail stores when you are enrolled in HP Instant Ink.

So why do I love it so much!!   Here are some reasons you need to switch to insta-ink today!

1. Delivery - who doesnt love getting packages!  You dont ever have to go to the store to purchase more ink or to fill your cartrdiges.  The ink comes right to your door whenever you need it.  

2.  Automation - you never have to check to see if you are low on ink.  Your printer will keep track of the ink levels for you and order the ink when you start running low.  I always have new ink on my doorstep before I EVER run out.

3.  Set price-  you get to pick the plan that you are comfortable with.  Some people dont print very often and others may print more than they need.  Based on the plan you choose, you will get billed monthly at a low cost.  As  I have said before, I was spending over $400 on ink a year, I now pay $9.99 a month.    ***TEACHER HACK****  if you think you would print more than the 300 allotted pages a month, there is a $15.99 a month plan that they do not advertise that will get you 500 pages a month.

Image result for hp instant ink plans

4.  Flexibility -  you are never locked into a plan, you can drop down or bump up your plan whenever you would like, penalty free.   I typically like to bump up my plan to the secret teacher 500 pages at BACK TO SCHOOL time because there is so much prepping I do for the beginning of the year.

5. Rollover - If you do not use all your plan pages in a month, the unused pages will be kept in your account as rollover pages. Your rollover pages are available as long as you are enrolled in HP Instant Ink.  You can only rollover the allotted amount that you have.  So if you are in the 100 page plan, you can store that many pages in your rollover account.   **The caveat that if you print more than your allotted pages, you will be charged $1 for each additional 10-20 pages depending on your plan. **

Image result for rollover pages for instant ink

6.  High Quality Ink- this isn't some cheaper version of ink, it isn't watered down.  This is HP printer ink, they truly create a great product and can even print great quality pictures of my own family and it looks great!

7.  Lots of Printers- Hp Insta Ink works with a variety of printers.   I didn't have a compatible printer when I first signed up and was really hesitant on buying ANOTHER printer, but I actually ended up purchasing one through Best Buy during their Christmas in July sale for under $70 dollars and it came with a year free of insta ink, it was a great deal and bought it on the spot.  

Image result for hp 5741
 HP OfficeJet 5741 All-in-One Wireless Printer with Mobile Printing (this is the one that I bought in 2016)
8.  NO contract - Hp Insta ink is a month to month subscription service, you never have to ever sign a contract.  You can cancel at anytime. 

9.  Referrals -  You can even earn one free month of FREE ink, if you refer a friend and they sign up you BOTH get ONE MONTH FOR FREE !  If you would like to try Insta-Ink you can use my referral code HERE!

Click the picture and use my referral code to try out Insta Ink today

These codes used to work for free months, you can try them and see!!
CODE: fGR8C (my referral code will get you one month for free)

Well that is all for today, did I miss anything?  Tell me in the comments if you already have it and love it as much as I do!