Florida's First Choice for Autism Support

Posts tagged ‘behavior’

A Note to High School Teachers about Autism

It’s no big secret that high school can be a challenge for anyone, not just those on the spectrum, but for many of them, the struggle is greater than any other. They’re still growing up, many have yet to learn any true applicable life skills, and classes can be a challenge if the teacher is incapable of keeping the pace of their lessons at an acceptable level for all of their students. Many go through that phase where everything their parents say is wrong and they’re always right (don’t worry we all do it). These are just some of the many issues which can make high school so difficult. I know for me personally, high school had its ups sure, but on the whole I barely made it through at times, often only passing due to the intervention of my mom or dad chatting with my teachers and getting me back on the right track. Here, I want to discuss some issues facing students with autism in high school, and perhaps some solutions that can help resolve the main issues.

Nowadays, students with ASD participating in general education classrooms is trending. Many are beginning to feel that just because a kid has autism, doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t receive the same knowledge as everyone else. For those who may not be “in-the-know” about what autism is, some of the most common characteristics are difficulty in social situations, an inability to spot sarcasm or tone of voice, repetitious actions, and a general aversion to change. According to Veronica Fleury of UNC’s Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, “Many educators find that they’re not prepared to adapt their instruction methods to meet both state standards and the diverse needs of students with autism.” In a similar study, it was noted that students on the spectrum had a disproportionately high participation in the STEM fields compared to the general populace, regardless of gender or income. If that’s really the case, then it’s apparent that high schools need to prepare these students with the necessary skills for achieving their goals, as STEM fields are some of the most difficult to succeed in.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a teacher, is that a lot of individuals on the spectrum have unique (or at least different) learning styles. When planning for instruction, keep in mind that for the most part, students with ASD are visual learners, literal learners, and require consistency, according to this resource. For example, out-of-nowhere pop quizzes and numerous hands-on activities aren’t going to be very effective for most, as they’ll quickly lose interest and won’t absorb a single word coming out of your mouth. Be forthcoming and explicit with your expectations, don’t leave anything up for interpretation or else the student may not understand what they’re supposed to do in a given situation.

Additionally, try to keep the student engaged with other members of the classroom. If given the chance, many with autism will clam up and not want to socialize at all. This simply isn’t going to cut it in the real world, so try to prepare them by having them participate in group work. If you follow these tips, dealing with your student should be much easier.

> G. Sosso

CARD-USF Launches Autism & Safety Kits


Safety is an important topic for the families CARD supports.  As a result, we launched a campaign to address an array of safety concerns that an individual with an autism spectrum disorder may face.  As a result of a generous donation to our USF Foundation Autism Services Fund, CARD purchased the supplies, created the materials and assembled a kit that is available to eligible individuals at no charge while supplies last.

CARD-USF’s Autism and Safety Kit is designed to provide individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families with tips, information, advice and resources to help those living with ASD stay out of harm’s way.

You may be eligible for a CARD-USF Safety Kit if you…

  • Have a diagnosis of ASD with supporting documentation
  • Have safety concerns around water, elopement, fire, and/or poisoning-the kit includes items that address those safety areas
  • Need assistance from CARD staff to teach safety skills

You will need to register with CARD-USF and provide documentation of an ASD diagnosis and live within our 14 county region.  Please call 1-800-333-4530 to learn more about CARD’s Autism & Safety Kit.  You can also visit our website for additional safety information and resources:  http://card-usf.fmhi.usf.edu/resources/materials/safety.html

If you would like to donate to support special projects, such as the Autism & Safety Kit, please visit our giving page through the USF Foundation http://card-usf.fmhi.usf.edu/community/fundraising.html

Summer Is Almost Here: Ways To Help Your Child Transition Smoothly

The end of school comes with mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s nice to have a break from the routine that the school year provides and on the other hand, IT’S A BREAK FROM THE ROUTINE THE SCHOOL YEAR PROVIDES! Changes in routines bring positive and negative stress and emotions. How can you help your child smoothly transition into summer?
1. Now is a good time to start talking to your child about the transition into summer time. Perhaps you can start getting their input about what they might like to do over the summer. Giving your child a sense of control is important. Although they cannot make all the decisions for themselves, incorporating their ideas makes them feel supported and validated.
2. It’s helpful to show kids a calendar so they can begin to mark off days until the last day of school. This provides a visual for kids and makes the time left in school easier to understand. They may want to pick a few days on the calendar to do something special for their teacher before the end of the year or plan a small celebration on the last day.
3. Another idea is to allow your child to take some pictures with their teacher, friends, classroom, etc. and make a little photo album to remember this year. They can even make a card for their teacher and put one of the pictures in it.
4. Over the summer, it is best to try to stick to as much of a routine as possible that mimics the school year. If you can continue to help kids stay on their same sleep schedule, even better. Waking and going to sleep at the same time during the summer will make the transition back to school in August that much easier.
5. Try to incorporate some academics over the summer. You can pick up inexpensive workbooks at bookstores or even the library that your child can work on over the summer to keep skills sharp. Make a goal for 1 page per week.
6. If your child has an IEP, pick one or two goals to try to focus on so not too many skills are lost.
7. Don’t assume your child is feeling a certain way about school ending. Talk to them about it. Let them know that however they are feeling (sad, nervous, excited, all of the above) are normal feelings that most kids feel when something is coming to an end and something new is beginning.
Erica DuPont, LCSW
ProTherapyPlus, LLC

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement

This is a topic I’ve always found quite fascinating; which behavioral adjustment method is most effective? To alleviate any confusion for those who may not be familiar with the terminology: positive reinforcement (PR) is learning a behavior in order to get rewarded for it, whereas negative reinforcement (NR) is the opposite: learning a behavior in order to avoid a negative outcome. Together, they are one half of what is known as “Operant Conditioning” in psychology, the others being positive and negative punishment. Note that NR is completely different from punishment. NR is supposed to strengthen good behaviors, while punishments are intended to discourage bad behavior.

To paint a clearer picture, here is an example related to a child’s performance in school that showcases the differences between the four.

PR: doing well in school results in a reward; i.e. getting a new video game. NR: doing well in school means not getting grounded. Positive punishment: doing poorly in school results in getting grounded. Negative punishment: doing poorly in school results in having your video games taken away from you.

Now it would appear to anyone reading that the obvious answer would be PR. I mean, everyone loves being praised and receiving awards when they do good, right? However, the answer is not so simple. Like many things in life, we need to take a deeper look to come to an understanding.

Before I get into the meat of the issue, let me give a bit of background on myself in regards to it. I need PR; for a while during my teenage years, all my parents knew was NR, and our relationship suffered greatly because of it. In addition to constant punishments, both negative and positive, all I was ever told was what would happen to me if I didn’t do what they wanted me to. Not only did this backfire immensely, but it made me want to rebel even further because I felt terribly victimized. Once they changed their approach, my entire disposition changed almost overnight. It was invigorating. I wanted to succeed and do well now, because I sought the pleasure doing so would accrue to me. But that’s only my story; not everyone is the same.

Which method is best depends on the individual. For some, PR will result in complacency and laziness, while that same person will be brought in line by, and respect, the more unforgiving nature of NR. Others, like myself, will see PR as giving us the motivation to work towards a goal (or just generally good behavior), and live in unhealthy terror of the boogey-man that is NR.

Through my many hours of study on the topic, perusing forums and articles, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are 2 main factors to consider when you’re pondering which method to apply to your children. First: their mental/emotional maturity; i.e. age, mental health, disabilities, etc., and second: how far along in the process you are of replacing the bad behavior with the good. When you first set out to eliminate a bad habit, associating unsavory outcomes with said action is a good way to train yourself not to do it, hence why NR is a good starting point.

Eventually, however, the seeds of rebellion will be planted. You’ll start resenting the constant threat of punishment looming over your head if you don’t perform the behavior. From the previous example, if a child comes to associate doing well in school with not being grounded, eventually they’re going to get fed up with never having any tangible rewards and rebel against you out of spite. They may not necessarily want to fail in school, but it’s their only way of showing that they need some sort of recognition for their good deeds.

This is where PR comes into play. Once the child has been conditioned to believe that doing well in school is generally a good thing, then change your approach a bit to help him/her maintain that behavior. Start taking your kid out for ice cream whenever they get an A on their test or something similar. Then they’ll come to associate success in school (and eventually, work) with success in life.

Once again, every child is different, and PR and NR don’t just apply to them. We’re constantly readjusting our own behaviors in life well into adulthood. I hope that this little piece has helped you gain a better understanding of the pros and cons of both approaches, and that you can make a more informed decision while choosing which to pursue.

Gage Sosso


Writer’s Bio

Why Would I Have my Child “Tested”?

I’m sure over the years you have been asked by either professionals, doctors or even the school if your child has ever been ‘tested’? What does this mean anyway and why would you want to have your child tested?
In the mental health world, undergoing testing usually refers to psychological testing or evaluations. These tests can be very comprehensive and can be a road map for treatment. Many therapists can give screeners, questionnaires and other types of evaluations but a psychologist is the doctor of choice to perform psychological testing.

Here are some reasons why psychological testing may benefit your child:
1. You have been in counseling for some time and little progress is being made.
2. You are not quite sure exactly what is going on with your child but you know something is just not right.
3. You have been given so many different diagnoses and just want to know, once and for all, what you and your child are dealing with.
4. You would like to formulate a treatment plan based specifically on your child’s needs and the areas that they are struggling.
5. You want to rule out a learning disability or uncover why your child is struggling in school.
6. Medication is not working and you are concerned that doctors are “missing something”.
7. You are curious if your child has an underlying disability or area of difficulty that has not been identified.
8. You are looking for an official diagnosis.
9. You would like to know how your child learns best.
10. You would like to rule out any areas of concern that may run in your family.

Psychological testing is able to assess many areas, some of which include:
*IQ testing/Cognitive delays
*Processing speed
*Short and long term memory
*Word Retrieval
*Personality features and types
*Learning styles/learning disabilities
*Mental health

In addition to psychological testing, the ADOS test is also a formal evaluation that can be given to people of all ages to diagnosis Autism. This very comprehensive test is considered the gold standard for diagnosing Autism and uses different modules to determine if a person is on the spectrum.

After testing, of any type, is completed, you should be provided a very detailed report with graphs and charts to show testing results as well as a detailed summary of what the testing reveals. A good psychological report should include:
*Background information
*Testing procedures and results
*Detailed summary
*Detailed recommendations

Written by Erica DuPont, LCSW


Early Childhood Training Series

We have had great success with our “Early Childhood Training Series”. We originally geared this training for new parents of children diagnosed with autism, but we have had numerous professionals and parents join us. Participants joined us from CARD-USF’s 14-county region as well as from various other regions in Florida and even from other states! Our topics have included
“Positive Collaborations with Schools”, “Addressing Challenging Behavior”, and “Enhancing Communication”. Coming up next on our list of topics are “Creating Visuals”, “Addressing Feeding Issues”, “Addressing Sleep Issues”, and “Preparing for Summer”.
These trainings run on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. To participate online via adobe connect visit http://usf.adobeconnect.com/card_ect at 5:45pm on the night of the training. Or you can join us in person. Please RSVP beverlyking@usf.edu one week before the date of the training as space is limited. We look forward to keeping this project an ongoing opportunity and welcome all feedback. If there are other topics of interest that you would like to see in the future please let us know.
Your Early Childhood Team

5th Annual Autism Health & Wellness Symposium

2014 CARD's Autism Health and Wellness Symposium Save the Date


Register today for this FREE one day conference packed with education, resources and screenings.

Saturday, November 1st 12-4pm

Tampa, FL

For more information and to register click here



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