I write through the eyes of a teacher who taught general education and Early Intervention to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder for many of my 17 years. While I do not have a child with Autism at home nor do I claim to be an expert in special education, I do have a great deal of experience in co-teaching and small group learning as well as implementing interventions and accommodations.
We must be willing to teach strategies to control anxiety and frustration to our children, as strictly teaching core academics will not promote success in the long run. Though there is a difference between our children becoming frustrated because we have surpassed their developmental capabilities and them becoming frustrated due to their lack of enjoyment, we must become aware of the antecedents to their behavior to promote change. The following teaching strategies worked well for my students and me.
Strategies for Success
1. Teach Learning Behaviors
I am a big fan of Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Book. There is a whole section dedicated to kid-friendly anchor charts that support speaking, listening, and deepening comprehension. Teach “Listen with Your Whole Body” and “How to Listen and Respond.” A few students and I made this drawing together. I posted it as a reminder and referred to it only when necessary, which typically was during direct instruction of new concepts.
2. Take Brain Breaks
My students really enjoyed GoNoodle brain breaks. We used them to get moving and to transition between learning topics. The article, How Exercise Affects your Brain, explains how movement positively impacts brain function.
In GoNoodle, there are many categories to choose from: catchy dance breaks in Noodle Television, Empower Tools, exercises and many more! Take a brain break with your kids by streaming right in your learning space. These breaks only take a few minutes!
3. Use Positive Reinforcement
Because some educators and homeschool parents are not in favor of tangible rewards, check out our blog post, Keeping the Balance, which contains our editable checklist to positively foster independence of learning. Another option is Class Dojo, an effective app and website that both my students and own children enjoy because they earn points in different categories, such as helping others, on task, teamwork, and many others. If your child is challenged by rules or boundaries, you can also use this tracker for consequences. Class Dojo creates a visual reminder for children who need it.
4. Teach Self-Regulation
The 5 Point Scale is my favorite. I use this with my child. Our goal is always to validate emotions rather than stifle them or allow them to deflect from the learning process. And if emotions do become overwhelming, we regroup with calming strategies such as Brain Break and Vagus Nerve before returning to the task. There are many variations of this intervention out there that you can tailor to your child. Author Kari Dunn Buron provides many resources on her site, including her book on video that explains the 5 Point Scale to kids!
5. Provide Sensory Materials
These secrets for success are from Summer Cox, an experienced homeschooling mom of two children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Offer sensory bins; PreK Pages includes some suggestions for varied types. When learning is required to take place at a desk or computer, provide a ball chair and sensory materials.
Remember, the goal is to level the playing field. Over-accommodating is just as detrimental as under-supporting our children with disabilities.
While I imagine that full-day digital homeschooling is an adequate fit for many of my former students, it may be a struggle for others. Our Guided Homeschool Program at Kids Connected provides a perfect mix of homeschool, private school, and online learning with national standards-based instruction and only one class (focus) per day four days a week. The 5th day is enrichment or remediation based on your child’s needs from previously taught concepts. Whether you have chosen digital or homeschool, we hope this resource is helpful. I am sure you know, you are not alone. Let us know how we can help!
- Lori Moore – M.Ed. – Elementary and Middle Grades Education