Monday, July 13, 2015

the sensory friendly birthday party

image is a light blue curtain with some purple and white striped
and polka dotted triangular flags strung in front of it
and some white decorative party lights mixed in as well;
at the bottom of the image is a dark box with words in white
reading 'the sensory friendly birthday party'

Does anyone else find the Birthday Party hard? I do!! Some of my sensory challenges are around balloons, large groups of people and unpredictability. 

My MissG has similar challenges, but she loves balloons. This has made birthday parties hard for her whole life though. Party games are awful for her. Large groups of excited children are fun and completely overwhelming at the same time. 

MissG is Autistic, but Autistic children are not the only ones who can have sensory challenges. As many as one in twenty kids are believed to have "Sensory Processing Disorders" in Australia. The little ones who cover their ears and cry when a balloon pops (this was me.... still is me....) could very well be some of them. The kids who hide in a corner after half an hour and just want to play by themselves could be some of them too. 

Although MissG finds parties hard she still loves them, being the social person she is, and she wants to have her own party each year. In the past I have tried to give her a party that mimics the "normal" birthday party experience, because she has wanted to have games and lots of friends over, and the whole shebang. This has meant that I have spent most of the party at her side, supporting her back from the brink of meltdown after meltdown. It is so hard for her. 

During the past 12 months something new has been happening for MissG around meltdowns. She has started to feel embarrassed by her own meltdowns, especially when people outside her immediate family witness them. Having noticed this, I have become unwilling to put her in situations where she is guaranteed to have a meltdown. I know that as she gets older her tolerances will shift, and she will be able to do some of the things that she can't do now with out melting down. We will work on pushing boundaries and learning tolerances as she grows older and gains skills. 

For now though, so that MissG can have a birthday party she enjoys without experiencing embarrassment, I decided to take a different approach. We did almost nothing in the way a "normal" birthday party would. 
We had no set schedule. 
We had no party games.
We had no loud music. 
We had only 2 guests. 
We kept it short (2 hours was plenty of time).
There were no surprises. MissG chose everything that was going to happen from a set of options I provided her, she saw everything before the party and helped set everything up. 
Every activity had a sensory purpose for MissG. 
All the activities were set up for the whole party at our large dining table, so everyone shared space but could move to a defined section of that space if they needed to. 
Nothing was cleaned up along the way. 
It was more like a "play date" with birthday cake than a birthday party. 
And it was perfect for MissG. 

image: a set of 5 pictures titled 'party activities with a sensory purpose'; activities are explained in the body of text below

We had 5 activities, each chosen because MissG likes them. Drawing and colouring in are relaxing for her, play dough and juggling balls (or stress balls, thinking putty and other similar things) provide an opportunity for stress release as they are squished and manipulated, blowing up balloons and blowing bubbles are good for stress release, the bubbles are just pretty and fun, the little puzzles were bought to fit in with the mermaid theme and for a simple fun game and the small spinning tops are excellent spinny stimmy goodness for anyone!! 

two pictures: on the left a chocolate cake with a 'happy birthday' candle on top
and on the right MissG, smiling slightly and her cake with candles lit
Birthday cake time was approached sensitively. The cake was chosen by MissG, to her exact specifications... a double layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing and jam in the middle. She helped assemble it and placed the candle on top. We had the cake early on in the party, so that it was not something waiting to happen that could cause stress. MissG lit her own candles. I asked if she wanted us to sing to her, and I asked if she wanted us to "hip hip hooray" for her. She blew out the candles, and went back to playing. 

Hunger can be a sensory trigger, so I made sure there was food available during the whole party. MissG chose the food she would like to have, so there were no surprises there either and I knew she would enjoy anything offered.

This party was no more difficult to organise than any other party we've had for any of our kids. It was quiet and simple. MissG enjoyed herself, it was her first meltdown free birthday party, and she had energy and coping skills left over afterward to make a trip to the shops to make a purchase with money she was given for her birthday. Win!

Today, when I asked MissG about her party she said "I had a really fun time" and then instructed me to put it on the blog! So, there you go, with MissG's approval- her sensory friendly birthday party. 






Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Autism Therapy: goals and effects

I published an article this week called Continuing the discussion on inclusion in the classroom.This infographic explores the ideas I discussed in that article. 

There are many therapies and strategies designed to be used with Autistic children. Many of them, including ones like Positive Behaviour Support which is said to be a good method for support children in schools, are mostly just ways to encourage (or force) compliance for the convenience of educators. This is damaging for Autistic students, and many other students as well, and I believe these strategies need to challenged. 

As with all my infographics, the information below is not intended to be seen as an exhaustive list, but as a starting point for conversation. 

I am happy for people to share the image, but please credit me and link back to this article, or to my Facebook page when you do. If you wish to print the image or otherwise reproduce it for your own use, please click here for access to the downloadable PDFs.

There is an image description following the image.

You can click on the image for a better look at it. 





Image title: Autism Therapy: goals and effects 

Copyright statement: 
©Michelle Sutton *www.michellesuttonwrites.blogspot.com.au *Please credit when sharing *Do not reproduce without written permission


The image contains 3 coloured boxes set out as three columns. The box on the left is yellow and is titled "Common goals of Autism Therapies". The box in the middle is blue and is titles "Effect of compliance on the Autistic person". The box on the right is green and is titled "Acceptance based alternative strategy".

Information is set out across the coloured columns as follows:

Goal
eye contact
Effect 
physical pain, inability to concentrate on anything else
Alternative
do not insist on eye contact
if confirmation of listening is essential use a strategy like asking the person in they heard you

Goal
verbal communication
Effect
frustration, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy if language is very difficult for the person, belief that others value the method of communication more than the message being communicated
Alternative
do not insist on verbal communication
accept use of gestures, sign language, AAC devices, typing or drawing pictures and all behaviour as valid forms of communication

Goal
reduce or eliminate stimming
Effect
frustration, anxiety, inability to concentrate, reduced ability to cope with sensory input and build up of stress leading to meltdown or shutdown
Alternative
do not discourage stimming
accept stimming as a useful way of self regulation and expressing oneself

Goal
being still, quiet and "ready to learn"
Effect
frustration, anxiety, inability to concentrate, reduced ability to cope with sensory input and build up of stress leading to meltdown or shutdown
Alternative
do not require stillness or quietness or assume that it is necessary for effective learning
acknowledge that sometimes the best learning happens in noisy, messy environments and make adjustments accordingly

Goal
appearing "normal" or "like other children"
i.e. indistinguishable from peers
Effect
frustration, anxiety, PTSD, feelings of inadequacy, self loathing, reduced ability to cope with sensory input, feeling invalidated and invaluable, bottling up emotions so appear normal and having no 'acceptable' outlet for them
Alternative
do not attempt to teach Autistic people to behave in a less Autistic way
accpet Autistic people as valuable when they behave like Autistic people

Goal
eliminate "problem behaviours"
Effect
bottling up emotions so appear normal and having no 'acceptable' outlet for them, reduced ability to cope with sensory input and other stresses, and build up of stress leading to meltdown or shut down, feeling there no safe place or person to go to when experiencing difficulties
Alternative
accept all behaviour as communication, and look to find the true "cause' or message being conveyed, then provide appropriate support and accommodations

At the bottom of the image is an orange box that contains the words
All children should be allowed to play, learning and progressing at their own pace.
Being Autistic does not mean a child should be subject to hours of therapy a week.
Play and exploring their own interests is the best way for all children to learn.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Continuing the discussion on inclusion in the classroom

Inclusion is a bit of a buzz word, I guess. It is thrown around to assure everyone that schools are supportive and understanding of students with extra support needs. But the reality of attending school as a Neurodivergent person is a bit more complicated than being told you are included.

A persons physical presence in an environment is not actually an indication that they are included in a meaningful way. It is possible for a persons presence in an environment to be treated in such a tokenistic way that being “included” actually makes them more of a victim, and no one notices because it is called “inclusion” and words like “positive” and “support” are used.

Let’s talk about school again for a bit.
image: purple box over a light grey shadow,
with the words "Is that real inclusion?"


The way the school system is set up relies on compliance to work.

Everything is on a schedule, even eating, drinking and bathroom use.

Read for 15 mins, spelling for 15 mins, write for 30 mins. Be quiet, concentrate, keep up. If you don’t, you are “falling behind”. If the pace set is too slow, too bad. Even unstructured time has a structure….. sit here to eat, walk in lines, no running on concrete, only play on the equipment on Tuesday, etc. etc. etc.

If you are a person who finds it difficult or undesirable to comply it is likely that you will do things that will be labelled as “problems” or “defiant” or “troublesome”. You are likely to be subject to a behaviour management technique known as “Positive Behaviour Support”.

PBS is there to encourage compliance.



The teachers track and log “problem behaviours”. They look for patterns, then devise solutions for the kids to comply with. They do sometimes change the environment or schedule (this is when it can work well), by my experience is usually that they “teach” the kids a strategy.

There is a strong emphasis on rewards, which sounds good….. unless what happens in reality is this: The high achieving, already compliant kids get lots of rewards, the kids who draw attention to themselves with “problem behaviour” get lots of rewards for doing little things that everyone else is just expected to do with no reward, and the kids who are “average” or manage to hold it together at school and achieve surface compliance get overlooked.

How does this impact students? Well, high achievers love it, unless they are singled out by other kids and labelled as ‘teachers pets’ or ‘favourites’ and experience shaming or bullying, or unless they just prefer to not be the centre of attention. The “problem behaviour kids” get lots of attention and rewards, leaving other kids (because kids are smart) realising the “problem kids” are being coerced with rewards to do very basic stuff - this often leads to resentment and frustration (eg “Mrs Sutton, I’ve been finishing my spelling test properly every single week, and I find them really hard, but I’ve *never* had a reward for it like {child} does” and “Mrs Sutton, can I please have a turn on the iPad this week, I haven’t had one yet this term because {child} always gets them in free time for not being noisy in maths”- both said to me when working as a relief teacher). The kids in the middle somewhere ….. they start to think that it doesn’t matter what they do they will never be good enough or get noticed. They are probably right.

There are other issues that contribute to the creating of victims within a system of “inclusion”.

If you ask for environmental accommodations, the school is limited in what they can do because of the availability/willingness of staff to supervise and the physical constraints of the existing buildings.

Teachers are not trained to support children with a variety of needs, learning styles, challenges, disabilities, or even really at different stages on the learning continuum. By this I don’t mean that all this is not mentioned at Uni or in classrooms. I mean that it is mentioned…. given lip service to… but ultimately teachers are neither properly trained or properly supported to do these things well.

The assessment system still requires teachers to measure against a standard, so they teach to that standard. Teaching to that standard requires a certain amount of time and paperwork, leaving the teacher tired, stretched beyond one persons mental, emotional and physical resources, and relying on compliance from the kids to get through it all.

So, back to PBS. Evidence based it may be…. just like ABA….. but I’m not convinced it is a good approach in schools because unless the school staff are unusual they are still applying a one solution fits all style of thinking to it. I often say to people…. “yes, ABA works. It does what it says it will do. It eliminates unwanted behaviours, but at what cost? And who gets to decide what behaviours are unwanted?”

PBS identifies unwanted behaviours, and looks at when they are occurring, and tries to look at why. Problem is, what if, for example, the behaviour identified is a coping behaviour? What if it is lashing out at kids in the playground, when usually the child is quiet and “well behaved” in class? The teachers might see that and think because it occurs in the playground it is being caused by something in the playground (reasonably logical assumption for a lot of kids). But what if the real cause is in the classroom and the child involved has been holding it together in the classroom because the rule there is ‘be quiet and concentrate on your work’? The teachers might be insisting on the wrong change. Then when that doesn’t work they slowly but surely revert to strategies like shaming and punishment without looking further. The child becomes overwhelmed then and shuts down. The behaviour stops. The PBS is deemed effective. The child is traumatised, but now there is no behaviour to track, so no one notices or cares. Backs are patted and outcomes are achieved. Inclusion and mainstreaming are deemed successful. Celebrations all around, but what really happened was a child was broken.

Then, because it “worked” for some kids, when it doesn’t work for others (remember the “problem behaviour kids”?) they are labelled as “just disruptive” and the goals for them become condescending things like “doesn’t disrupt others learning”. Their presence is tolerated, but the teachers pretty much give up on them and just want them to not interfere. These are the kids who later on it will be recognised “slipped through the cracks”. We aren’t told the system failed them, because admitting that would mean we’d have to look at the system, and besides…. it worked for everyone else, didn’t it?

The other thing PBS fails to take into account is effort. Teachers assume high achievement equals high effort and low achievement equals low effort. We know this not to be true. In my family I have one son who barely tries and archives top marks, and one who tries so hard he exhausts himself, but still an’t “keep up” with his age peers. PBS requires effort from the kids, but does not acknowledge that high effort can still result in not meeting goals set for you by other people who do not understand the real problem.

One thing I have found over the years is that consistently, when I presented my document about my son to the new years teacher/s, the ones who choose to implement my suggestions have without fail commented to me at some stage in the year that the whole class was benefitting from the changes they made for L. Simple strategies, like those mentioned here, can prevent the “need” for behaviour modification programs.

I also want to say that my Autistic kids aren’t the only ones I feel are failed by PBS. 9 yr old K is happy at school, involved in many extra creative and performing arts activities, and achieving well academically. Last week she said to me “I just don’t get chosen for awards, Mum. I try and try, and I think I’m doing well, but the teachers don’t notice”. I for one would love to see some research done on how kids find PBS, as it is done to them.

I think that is probably the key to why I object to it, actually. It is done *to* the kids and for the benefit of the teachers. Learning should not be done to someone. Teachers are seen as gatekeepers, not partners. If the student does’t do it the teachers way they are “wrong”. The teacher is not seen as having an obligation to figure out how to do it differently to support the child, the child is expected to respond to being shown how to do it the teachers way, then become “successful” using the strategies imposed on them.

In my sons years in school he had one teacher who really understood that. My son flourished in that class. He loved it. It was the best year ever for him, and every year at school after that was a slide further into frustration until we pulled him out last year in favour of homeschooling.

The rub for me is I am a big supporter of both public education and inclusion, but I cannot wait for things to change while my kids attend. It is not safe for them. They are at home, and I continue to advocate for change while people look at me incredulously because "why should you care? your Autistic kids aren't even at school!!" 


The fact is, I care because all children miss out when we fail to approach education from a mindset of inclusion. I have non-Autistic children attending school (because they want to). I want them to be able to attend a school that accepts their siblings and supports them well. That is not going to happen in the next 10 years. The system as it stands is too broken.

For inclusion to be real, and successful, it requires measures to be put in place in the planning phase. Those things need to be physical, structural, environmental, and taken into account when drawing up plans for buildings. They need consider the social, emotional and academic needs of students and be taught to teachers while they are training. They need to be included in policy document and curriculum. 

While inclusion continues to be an afterthought to satisfy policy makers and quiet those who celebrate diversity but are seen as dissenters, the education system will remain a dangerous place for my Autistic children to be. But I will keep speaking out in support of real inclusion and real acceptance of diversity.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Autism and Bullying: Facts and Strategies


Bullying is a big issue for many Autistic people. We've dealt with it in our house, and I know many readers of this blog will have dealt with it too. My Autistic son was bullied at school. By "friends", peers, and even teachers. It was heartbreaking and exhausting for both him and me. Sadly, our society and education system tend to at the very least excuse or minimise bullying, and at worst support the bully by blaming the victim for what happened. 

In this infographic I present some facts about bullying, and some strategies to deal with it. My suggestions are not an exhaustive list by any means. Readers may want to leave their own ideas in the comments. 

I am happy for people to share the image, but please credit me and link back to this article, or to my Facebook page when you do. If you wish to print the image or otherwise reproduce it for your own use, please click here for access to the downloadable PDFs.

There is an image description following the image.

You can click on the image for a better look at it. 






Image title: Autism and Bullying: Facts and Strategies

Copyright statement: 

©Michelle Sutton *www.michellesuttonwrites.blogspot.com.au *Please credit when sharing *Do not reproduce without written permission

In a yellow box at the top left of the image:
Definition of bullying:
Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons….
Bullying can involve humiliation, domination, intimidation, victimisation and all forms of harassment…
source: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/studentsupport/bullying/definition/

In a blue box in the top middle of the image:
Facts:
In Australia 62% of Autistic students report being bullied once a week or more.
In contrast, around 20% of students without disabilities report being bullied once a week or more.
Bullying affects a persons mental health and wellbeing. People who are seen as being different are often targets of bullies.
source: https://www.qld.gov.au/disability/children-young-people/bullying-disability-mental-health/

Below the blue box is a diagram with 10 figures representing people. 6 of them are highlighted purple. This image represents the 62% of Autistic students who report being bullied at school.

In a green box in the left and middle of the image:
What to do:
Listen! If someone tells you they are being bullied, do not brush off their feelings or concerns. Take them seriously. Write down what they tell you in as much detail as possible.
Comfort and reassure! If someone is being bullied, they are likely very upset by the experience, even if they do not express this in a way you would expect. Reassure and comfort them. Tell them you care and you will get them help.
Get help! Find out who can help, tell them what is happening and ask them to help.
Help looks like: confronting a bully and letting them know their behaviour is not OK, removing a bully from the situation so they no longer have access to their target, being with the victim to provide moral support until they feel confident again, educating all members of the community about the value of diversity and difference, teaching all members of the community how to stand up to a bully both for themselves and in support of others.

In a red box down the right hand side of the image:
Do not:
encourage the use of “social skills training” for the Autistic person as the solution to them being bullied
assume the Autistic person is over-reacting or just upset because they aren’t able to “interpret social situations”
say things like “just because you didn’t like what they did does not make it bullying”, “if you didn’t react they would stop”, and “that’s just life, you need to toughen up and get used to it”
All these things are victim blaming
Do not:
be satisfied with signing a petition or pledge or statement against bullying. Social media activism has it’s place, but “awareness raising” is not a suitable stand alone strategy to deal with bullying

In an orange box along the bottom of the image:
Remember: People who are bullied are victims.
No one “asks” to be bullied. No one deserves to be bullied.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What Autistic children learn from adult responses

This post is a follow on from my article "Every moment is a learning moment". I have tried to summarise the ideas I wrote about in a clear and succinct way. As with my other infographics, this is not an exhaustive list. 

I am happy for people to share the image, but please credit me and link back to this article, or to my Facebook page when you do. If you wish to print the image or otherwise reproduce it for your own use, please click here for access to the downloadable PDFs. 


There is an image description following the image.

You can click on the image for a better look at it.





Image title: What Autistic children learn from adult responses
Copyright statement: 
©Michelle Sutton *www.michellesuttonwrites.blogspot.com.au *Please credit when sharing *Do not reproduce without written permission

There are three coloured boxes on the page. From left to right blue with the heading "Child does", light red with the heading "Adult responds", then purple with the heading "Child learns". In each square there are 3 sections going down the pageant each section spans the width of the page, so goes over each colour. 

Information presented in each section reads as follows

Child does 
Meltdown 
looks like: crying, yelling, hitting, kicking, 
can be caused by: sensory overload, environmental stress, social stress, anxiety, tiredness, lack of ability to process information
Adult responds
Raises voice, shames child (e.g. “how rude!”), excludes child, states “you can come back when you are calm”
Child learns
I am only acceptable when I do not express my feelings
Adult responds
Stays calm, acknowledges child is having a hard time, states “I am here. I will help you once I know what you need”
Child learns 
My feelings are valid and I am acceptable even when I am overwhelmed and struggle to stay calm

Child does
Shutdown
looks like: not speaking, not making eye contact, hiding, running away
can be caused by: sensory overload, environmental stress, social stress, anxiety, tiredness, lack of ability to process information
Adult responds 
Raises voice, shames child (e.g. “don’t be such a baby”), excludes child, states “if you want help you have to use your words”
Child learns
I am not acceptable when I cannot express my feelings
Adult responds
Stays calm, acknowledges child is having a hard time, states “I am here. I will help you once I know what you need”
Child learns
My feelings are valid and I am acceptable even when I am overwhelmed and struggle to express myself

Child does
Lash Out (“Aggressive”)
looks like: may hurt others physically, throw things or say hurtful things
can be caused by: sensory overload, environmental stress, social stress, anxiety, tiredness, lack of ability to process information
Adult responds
Raises voice, shames child (e.g. “how dare you?”), excludes child, states “That is naughty! You need to use self control”
Child learns
I am only acceptable when I do not make mistakes
Adult responds
Stays calm, acknowledges child is having a hard time, states “I can see you are feeling bad, but it is not OK to hurt people. Let’s find another way to help you feel better ”
Child learns
My feelings are valid and I am acceptable even when I make mistakes and struggle to stay calm

In an orange box across the bottom of the page are the words
Every moment is a learning moment. 

What are you teaching Autistic children?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Every moment is a learning moment

People learn all the time. 

Think about it. We are all always learning. 
Drink the last of the juice, it is gone. Lesson learned.
Throw a ball inside, things get knocked over. Lesson learned.
Give a compliment, get a smile. Lesson learned.
Don't study, get a poor mark. Lesson learned.
Forget to wash your clothes, nothing clean to wear. Lesson learned.
Plant a seed, grow a plant. Lesson learned.
On and on.
Every day. 

Communication is a skill we must learn.

My typically developing two year old is currently having a language explosion. Multiple new words every day. He's been watching us since he was born. He is good at reading non-verbal cues and at mimicking verbal communication. This week alone he has acquired the all important skills of using the phrases "but, Muumuum...", "not fair!" (complete with foot stamp), and "that's mine!". He has six older siblings to learn from. He has also learned "yes, please", "bless you", thanks Mum", "I love it", "what happened?", "Are you OK?" and "Go Swannies!", among other things. We support his developing language as best we can by encouraging, modelling and interacting with him. 

My Autistic son at the same age was still pretty much non verbal. He said Mum and Dad and babbled a few other phrases, but that was about it. He did communicate though. He had been watching us since he was born. He used a complex system of hand gestures (some his approximations of the sign language we had taught him, some his own), verbal utterances, and sound effects. He was communicating, and we understood him fine. We had to interpret for him to be understood by people outside the immediate family, but he was communicating. By the time he was six he was talking, but still difficult to understand. He now uses spoken language, but feels like it is very hard work and it costs him a lot of energy. We support him as best we can by encouraging, modelling and interacting with him.  

My Autistic daughter 'spoke well' from a young age. She had been watching us since she was born.  The words came, but she had a lot of trouble communicating her needs. The slightest stress and she did, and still does, find speech very difficult. She will stop speaking, or say things she doesn't mean to, or just yell and scream. She finds this incredibly embarrassing. Her meltdowns are a way she communicates with us that she is not coping. There are signs before the meltdown too, hints in her posture, her tone of voice, the words she uses. We support her as best we can by encouraging, modelling and interacting with her.  

Every time my kids interact with me, communicating in their own ways, they learn something. When I respond to 2 year old R's approximations at verbal communication with respect and encouragement, he learns that I value him and his communication attempts. When I respond to 16 year old L's efforts at verbal communication with respect and encouragement, he learns that I value him and his communication attempts. When I respond to 8 year old G's meltdowns with respect and encouragement, she learns that I value her and her communication attempts.

Every time we respond and react to our children's communications they learn something. 

So, it bears thinking about what we want them to learn.

When our children are working hard to learn, but finding it frustrating, do we want them to learn that their behaviour makes us uncomfortable enough that we will punish them for trying to communicate their feelings and frustrations? 

When our children are overwhelmed, do we want them to learn that we are not interested in helping them unless they express their overwhelm in a way we find acceptable? 

When our children are doing their best, but their best doesn't look like what we expected, do we want to tell them that their best is not good enough for us? 

Because those things are what happen when we expect Autistic children to communicate in the same way as non-Autistic children. Those things are what happen when we expect Autistic children to respond the same way to a classroom environment as a non-Autistic child. Those things are what Autistic children learn when we respond to their communications with admonitions, rebukes and corrections. 

Every moment is a learning moment. 
image: a toddler climbing a set of concrete stairs
words: fb/amazingadvanturesautism
"every moment is a learning moment"

With every reaction, every response, we give the child information about what we think of them, and how much we value them. 

Is having things done the way we expect, the way we prefer, the way we are most comfortable with, worth telling our children they are not good enough? 

Every moment is a learning moment. 

What are you teaching your children? 









Friday, June 5, 2015

How to support an Autistic child in the classroom

In my article "Barriers to learning for Autistic people and how you can help", I talked about the ways in which classrooms can inhibit learning for Autistic people, and some of the ways we can help.

Today I'd like us to think about more general ways we can support Autistic children in classrooms. This involves challenging some of the assumptions we make about behaviour and the motivations behind it. It also involves teachers learning to be mindful of their reactions to behaviours they find challenging and often label as disruptive, aggressive, unresponsive and demanding. 

The information in this infographic is by no means exhaustive. It is intended only to be a starting point in identifying ways teachers may need to alter their thinking and approach. 

I am happy for people to share the image, but please credit me and link back to this article, or to my Facebook page when you do. If you wish to print the image or otherwise reproduce it for your own use, please click here for access to the downloadable PDFs.

There is an image description following the image.

You can click on the image for a better look at it. 





Image title: How to support an Autistic child in the classroom
Copyright statement: 
©Michelle Sutton *www.michellesuttonwrites.blogspot.com.au *Please credit when sharing *Do not reproduce without written permission

Classrooms are very difficult places for Autistic children. They are bright, noisy, uncomfortable and full of expectations.
In a yellow box:
Child may
"be disruptive": fidget, walk around, clap their hands, stamp their feet, vocalise loudly, hum, whistle, ask lots of questions, talk loudly to classmates, talk to themselves aloud
"be aggressive": lash out at others, throw things, yell
"be unresponsive": not answer when spoken to, hide, avoid eye contact, refuse to do assigned work
"be demanding": tell others what to do, insist on having things their way, expect things to be done a certain way every time

In a blue box:
Things you can do
*be gentle and patient
*explain to other students that the child is having a hard time
*ask other students to be gentle and patient
*reduce audio, tactile, visual and smell distractions in the classroom
*use quit and calm times to talk to the child about behaviours that are unsafe for the classroom (lashing out, throwing, etc.)
*use visuals to communicate things the child needs help remembering (e.g. class expectations, daily schedule)
*provide ear defenders and fidget toys
*not expect the child to always respond immediately
*regularly offer breaks to destress, eat and use the bathroom
*allow fidgeting and doodling

In a green box
Things you can say
"I can see you are having a hard time"
"How can I help?"
"It's OK. I understand. I am here for you."
"Don't worry, we will work it out"
"Do you need a break?"
"What do you need right now?"

In a red box
You should not
*label the child as 'naughty' or 'a trouble maker'
*raise your voice
*say anything to shame the child (i.e. "how dare you", "you should know better", "even the little  kids don't do that", "you are being naughty/rude/disruptive")
*punish the child for doing things they need to do to cope
*belittle the child if they need lots of support and encouragement
*rush the child to complete tasks or move on to the next activity
*attempt to force the child to do things

In an orange box at the bottom of the page
Remember: The child is not giving you a hard time-
the child is having a hard time and needs your help and support

In the middle of the page is an image of 4 basic person outlines, each head has a brain inside it and is a different colour, The larger person representing the teacher has a blue head. The three smaller people representing students have heads that are yellow, orange and red.