secondary students and autism

Hi I’d like to talk more about autism and the secondary student I’d like to think about the age ranges of 15 to 22 in this discussion And as a reminder, students can receive IDEA special ed services until they are 21 years old So a lot of times we might make the assumption that students have received an eligibility of autism when they were much younger And ideally that is the goal, to evaluate and gets students started on services as young as possible Around three to four is about the average age But something I want you to know as secondary teachers is that a lot of times students, especially that are high functioning on the autism spectrum, can slip through the cracks And you will have students in your class that are on the spectrum and they don’t have a label They may not have an IEP or a 504 plan And it doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling So a lot of times those kids fall through the cracks and kind of fly under the radar because academically they do well Sometimes they actually exceed expectations They do really well in some academic areas And a lot of times they also don’t have behavioral concerns They’re not getting office referrals But when you think of for students with special ed, you have to have an educational impact So looking beyond just academics, educational impact can also mean social emotional So for them, the struggle is more in the social piece And the struggle is more with relating to peers and partnering and working together and a lot of those soft skills that are important skills for future employment And as we know, IDEA says that one of the purposes of educate– of special education is to prepare them for future employment So if we have a student who aces a geometry quiz but then has a meltdown with their peers, or they’re unable to relate to their peers, then we are not serving them well So just because a student doesn’t have a label doesn’t mean they’re on– that they’re not on the autism spectrum This is particularly uniquely challenging for girls with autism, because as Tony Attwood– Tony Attwood, you could check out his videos on YouTube– describes, girls with autism typically do something called masking And masking is just like what it sounds like It’s hiding your autism A lot of times girls will find ways to script or just kind of fit in just enough to kind of get by where they aren’t really noticed And their autism is oftentimes misdiagnosed as other things that end up manifesting because of the lack of awareness of their autism And those things are anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation So they might actually end up getting a diagnosis of anxiety or depression because the original need of autism was never figured out One way to really figure out if a student, a girl with autism in particular, might be on the spectrum is people with autism have what’s called special interest areas, shortened to SIAs And those girls with autism, the SIA might be something that is age typical, typical to the group of girls that they hang with So for example, their friends might be into horses But what makes them different is the kind of depth and intensity of their obsession, almost, to the SIA So instead of just liking horses and being into them, they know everything about every breed of horse They know statistics about horses They know care, feeding, and handling of horses Their room literally has horse posters and horses all over So that’s how you really know the differences, that the intensity of their obsession of their special interest is much, much deeper So a lot of times with boys with autism, their special interest area is something that’s maybe not age-typical, or it’s not typical of their group It might be something very kind of off the wall and something unique So that’s how you can kind of tell with girls So as a secondary teacher, stay aware Stay alert for kiddos that especially are high-functioning that maybe have slipped through the cracks They don’t necessarily need to get an evaluation per se But if it is having an educational impact,

and that goes beyond academics, then our responsibility as teachers per Child Find is to find and identify students that have special needs So if it is having an impact, you do want to follow through on that and make sure that they are getting the services that they need and the supports that they need Further down the road, the student that isn’t identified, that doesn’t get the support ends up lacking opportunities in employment and social It just kind of continues and it gets worse into the adult years So that is one thing that I want you to consider for secondary students Another thing I want you to be aware of as secondary teachers and working with secondary students is something called the hidden curriculum And I’m going to get this definition from this great textbook that I use, Learners on the Autism Spectrum by Kari Dunn Buron and Pamela Wolfberg So the definition is unspoken social rules or norms that are often missed by individuals with autism So unspoken social rules or norms that are missed So for us, a lot of times for neurotypical folk, a lot of times these things are considered really common-sense things And as neurotypical, we pick them up from our environment naturally It’s what we learn It’s unspoken, right? No one sat down and told us when you walk into a room, don’t immediately rush up to someone and stand within an inch or two of their face, because we just kind of notice other people doing it and notice people keeping kind of a distance And we just followed what they were doing But individuals with autism, I guess when we think of the term common sense, it only becomes a problem, really, when those rules are broken And no one’s taught them, right? No one has taught them explicitly these unspoken rules So that’s when big challenges come in for individuals with autism So as a secondary teacher, one thing you can do to support your students is to make clear and make explicit the hidden curriculum Because as students get older, middle and high school, the social demands increase significantly And those social– those unwritten, unspoken social rules are more and more and more prevalent And students with autism can, without support, fall more and more behind in that social area So look to see what’s happening Find out where the gaps are in the hidden– their hidden curriculum And try to help them Kind of old-school social skills curriculum, really like Second Steps, for example, which is great But it would teach students a script like what to say, how to act, what to do But one thing we have learned over time– and Michelle Garcia Winner has amazing curriculum– is that we have to teach students to take the perspective of other people as well and be able to kind of read the room, like we talked about, and be able to read that person’s facial expressions, their body language, take all of that into consideration So instead of just using that old kind of script model of you’re at a birthday party, here’s what you say, you have to really be able to take other people’s perspective in social situations more and more And that’s where the success lies in teaching social skills And for secondary teachers, I want to talk about sensory, supporting sensory needs, because this is a perfect visual Educators, we love our pyramids and our triangles for some reason So here’s another one This comes from The Ziggurat Model, which is by Dr. Aspy and Barry Grossman I hope I’m saying those right But yes, they created The Ziggurat Model And I hope I’m saying Ziggurat correctly Sometimes I don’t exactly know But this is a pyramid model showing that the base layer of support for students with autism– and this is to integrate and include students to the maximum extent possible– this is a model to support that We have to address sensory and biological needs first and foremost before we are getting to this top of the pyramid of cognitive skills to teach So sometimes we just start here and say OK, I’m a math teacher I’m a social studies teacher I need to teach my content area But for students on the spectrum, we absolutely have to start here Does this remind you at all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Because I really hope it does, because as we remember from Maslow’s, the bottom of that pyramid is physiological needs Have they eaten? Have they slept? Look, here’s appetite, hunger Activity level– are they tired? Are they hyper? Posture movement, medical needs, like are they sick? Sometimes kids will show up sick And that’s not– we’re not actually going to teach anything that day So an idea is to provide what’s called a sensory diet Monitor and address environmental stressors as well So this is a huge one that you can control as a secondary teacher Are the lights in your classroom buzzing? Are the other students around the student with autism being extremely loud or getting in their space? Do they have the ability to move around or are they fixed in one spot? So absolutely, this is a huge thing that you can do as a secondary teacher that absolutely needs to be addressed Just think about when you’re about to study or get some work done, you probably kind of control your environment and take care of your sensory biological needs, right? You might go to the bathroom first You might grab a drink of water to have close to you or a snack Make sure you’re not hungry before you write that big paper I do want to point out that reinforcement is next This is something that is often overlooked You want to make sure that there is motivation, that the student is being reinforced and motivated Just like all of us, we all are working for something It might be the graduation, like the light at the end of the tunnel It might be a paycheck It might be a grade All of us are working for something There is something motivating all of us So those are a couple of things, actually, that you can take into consideration for secondary students that will go a long way in making sure that you are actually able to deliver that content at the top of that pyramid OK, when we think about evidence-based practices for autism, this is a matrix And it shows all of the evidence-based practices that have enough research to support their use in schools They show that students make improvements, that it actually supports students in various areas You can see the different domains at the top of what it supports And as public school teachers, we can only use evidence-based practices in the public school setting So this is a very good guide for us to see what exactly we can use with students with autism This is based on a massive review by the N– National– I’ll just say the full term– the National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder It comes out of North Carolina And what they did is they basically went through all the research and they tried to figure out what actually is helpful and what we can use with students So the first one I want to draw your attention to is– actually, before I do that, I do want to point out, I think sometimes secondary teachers feel a little frustrated because they’re a little left out And there is a huge lack of research to support interventions for that 15 to 22 year age range So what you can see here, when you see the pink– so the yellow means that there is research to support this intervention This one is antecedent-based intervention There’s research to support its use for the zero to five population So it’s filled in yellow For the 6 to 14, that’s that kind of blue turquoise And then 15 to 20 And it helps support in the domain of social So as you can see from this chart– I’m going to scroll up a little bit– there is a lot less pink than there is blue and yellow Most of the research, for whatever reason, is dedicated to the youngins– the zero to five group, that six to fourteen So when I went to– I actually presented as a presenter at the national conference for Council for Exceptional Children this last winter And I actually got to meet Dr. Sam Odom, who is one of the doctors that ran this study And I wasn’t the one who asked, but someone asked him, why is there a lack of research in that older population? And he admitted that it’s a problem, that there is less research to kind of support the interventions being used on that population And they actually are coming out with an updated review So stay tuned This list will be expanded Oh, here we are There’s the Professional Development Center that I mentioned So Dr. Sam Odom said that there’s going to be an update So what we will end up seeing is more interventions So there’s going to be more interventions added here

And hopefully there’s going to be more pink on this– on the new updated version of this So I do want to talk about antecedent-based intervention It’s one of my absolute favorites It’s one of the ones that has quite a few pink on here So it supports in the area of social, communication, behavior, and– let’s see here– academic Yes, this is why I’m pulling this one for you– academic So we’re going to talk about antecedent-based intervention a little bit more But if you’re interested in this chart, I can send it to you It is a good one, because you don’t ever want to say, oh, I really want to do– let’s say, for example, say you’re a high school math teacher You want to improve academics for your students And you’re like I want to do PRT But then oops, double check It’s really for the youngins It does not support academics So you want to make sure you’re doing an intervention that actually supports the age of the student and the domain that you want it to address So antecedent-based intervention– you can see here the working definition of it– shortened to ABI, arrangement of events or circumstances that proceeds the occurrence of an interfering behavior and designed to lead to the reduction of the behavior So proceeds the occurrence– so you’re being proactive You’re not being reactive And as you can see, this is the empirical support to support this intervention It’s based off of– it pulled 32 single case studies from the research And it’s interesting, because in the world of autism, you start to realize that there is a lot more single-case designs than group designs, because students with autism, it’s very, very hard to find a group of students that are exactly the same for a research study So what does antecedent-based intervention look like in the classroom? This is a table that shows common antecedent-based interventions in the classroom And when you go through this, you realize this is a lot– there’s a lot of overlap and similarities to UDL, Universal Design for Learning, which we talked about before And no one’s actually ever pointed that out to me But I just kind of made the connection myself And you’ll see as we go through this So here’s the strategy– using learner preferences Again, remember, UDL talks about using preferences Everyone wants to learn more when they get to choose what they are actually learning So especially with students with autism, if you’re incorporating their special interest area, their preference, they will bend over backwards and they will learn so much more than if you tell them what the subject is they’re going to focus on Altering the environment– so thinking about changing seating, changing lineup procedures, providing activities during waiting time That’s a big one, especially for younger kids Sorry, secondary teachers But provide snack after non-preferred activity I kind of consider that almost like a reinforcer, personally Providing space– so you’re thinking about the environment Kind of like we talked about the sensory piece, you’re really looking at the environment And is it working or is it not working? And what can you actually change? We do have a lot of control over that So these are antecedent things that happen before the behavior happens So instead of waiting for kids to be too close together and the kid with autism to freak out, you’re kind of rearranging things ahead of time You’re being proactive Implementing pre-activity interventions– my favorite thing in this one is thinking of priming a student So it’s not really pre-teaching You’re just giving them a heads up Everyone wants a heads up of what’s going to happen Again, if there’s going to be a schedule change, you’ve got to let your student know with autism what’s going to happen Like if they were planning to go on a field trip or if it’s a student that does vocational ed or community-based learning and that’s been canceled, you’ve got to let them know Using an activity schedule is huge That could also be considered a task analysis, where you’re breaking down skills Using choice making– again, very much universal design for learning So allowing them to have a choice of where they’re sitting, what they’re doing, toy– that’s for younger kids– but choosing whether to write or type it out Those are awesome choices Altering how the instruction is delivered– very UDL– providing written rather than verbal instructions You are just being flexible in the way you’re delivering your content You’re making sure you’re reaching all your learners This is good for all of your students There are multiple intelligences in your room as well Some are auditory Some are visual Just make sure you’re delivering that content in multiple different ways And then enriching the environment– it says here providing a rocking chair Allow quiet play Allow chewing gum

So just be flexible This is so much– that’s such a UDL strategy as well Just be a flexible teacher The more flexible you can be and the less rigid you can be, the better– the better for all of your students, but especially kids with autism Because it just may be that one change that you make, that one antecedent intervention that you do that makes the difference for them to be able to stay in your class or not Like gum, right? Would you let them chew gum? Would you let them be flexible? Would you let them stand up and go to a different place to work? All those things are things to consider Being able to listen to music while they’re doing their work in high school– think of that And you can keep them in your classroom and learning in the least restrictive environment So hopefully that’s been helpful Antecedent-based intervention is one of my absolute favorites It’s often something that we already do that we just now have a fancy term that goes with it So you can just impress people and say I’m using antecedent-based intervention And they’ll say, oh, you mean you just gave them– the student a choice of what they want to do? And you say yeah It’s called antecedent-based intervention So anyway, it makes you sound smart It makes you sound like you know what you’re doing And drop those type of things in your interview, and it’ll make you sound really great Anyway, I hope this has been helpful And please reach out to me if you ever have questions about autism I wish I could go through all 27 of those antecedent– of all those evidence-based practices But I can’t But please reach out if you have questions about autism