The ASD Nest Egg

strategies to support kids on the autism spectrum

Tag: classroom strategies (page 1 of 3)

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 2 of 2)

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 2 of 2)

by Jules Csillag

 

Last week, you read about the reasons to use wordless texts. Today, learn about how to use these texts, and review a few examples.

 

How?

There are many ways to incorporate wordless “texts” into diverse content areas, including ELA, history, science, SDI, and foreign languages. Some sample activities are listed below:

 

  • Inferences: Any time you present a wordless “text,” you can have students make inferences about characters, setting, problem, etc. For specific inferential questions to ask during some of the movies listed below, read this article from Understood.org.
  • Pause & predict: With an image, book, or movie, you can also work on making predictions. With images, you can try guessing what you think would happen next (allowing for multiple responses); with books or movies you would need to pause, and then you could verify answers afterwards (while still acknowledging if other responses could have been logical and relevant).
  • Thought bubbles and/or speech bubbles: Adding thought bubbles and speech bubbles works on cognitive flexibility, nonverbal communication, and inferences. You can add these to images, put them on post-its into books (or scan books and create Powerpoints or Google Slides from them), or print still images from videos. If students are interested in this task, you can even add words to videos (i.e. dub their voices) using iMovie, Quicktime, or this list of free, online video editing tools.

drawing of a thought bubble

  • Be a co-author: for books, in particular, students can take on the role of author to essentially narrate a story, thereby addressing inferences and text structure. If different groups of students work on the same story, it also inherently addresses cognitive flexibility.
  • Connection building, building up themes: Autistic individuals sometimes have challenges in identifying connections between two things, given a difficulty in central coherence. You can compare two silent “texts” and see how they are similar or different (in how they are made, in topics, etc.), or use a silent text as a jumping off point for a new topic (e.g. begin a unit on immigration with The Arrival; use a “What’s Going on this Picture?” to introduce a new place in a Social Studies unit, etc.), and refer back to this as you delve deeper into the novel topic.
  • Citing evidence: With almost any of the above activities, if students are required to explain why they think that, they will be using (visual) evidence to support a position. As students get older, you can link this to the need to cite evidence across subject areas.

 

What?

a camera icon

 

a book icon

  • Wordless books (arranged by books appropriate from youngest -> oldest readers)
    • Mercer Mayer series: stories about a boy, a dog, and often a frog
    • Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola: the story of a woman who is trying to make pancakes for breakfast
    • Wave by Suzy Lee: the story of  girl at the beach
    • Float by Daniel Miyares: the story of a paper boat
    • Journey series (Journey, Quest, Return) by Aaron Becker: a series of stories about a magic marker & a pair of friends
    • Sector 7 by David Weisner: the story of a cloud factory (also enjoy his other wordless books, Tuesday and Flotsam)
    • The Red Book by Barbara Lehman: the story of a magic book & the two kids who found it
    • Zoom by Istvan Banyai: the book can be read backwards or forwards, and contains some interesting shifts in perspective (for upper elementary+)
    • Sidewalk Flowers by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith: the story of a city and its small details (for upper elementary+)
    • The Arrival by Shaun Tan: a long graphic novel about immigration (for middle school+)
    • If you’ll forgive the few words that appear in these books, I’ll also include the minimally verbal books: Blip! by Barnaby Richards and Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

a play button icon to symbolize movies

  • Wordless movies
    • Simon’s Cat series: a series of silent videos of Simon and his trouble-maker cat(s)
    • Oktapodi: an octopus escape/love story
    • Crumbs: a story of two mice trying to get a crumb
    • Snack Attack: a video of an old lady and her snack…with a twist (shout out to SDI Developer Susan Brennan for the recommendation)
    • The Present: a video of a mother, a son, and a present…with a twist (shout out to Jessica Price at PS 165 for the recommendation)
    • Wish Granter: the story of a fountain dweller who grants wishes (shout out to Jessica Arnone at PS 9)
    • Paper Man: a cute NY missed connections story (for older students)
    • Alma: a story of a scary toy store (for older students)
    • Looking for more? Look for Pixar shorts & Oscar-nominated animated films

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 1 of 2)

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 1 of 2)

by Jules Csillag

 

This is the first part of a two-part series on silent books and movies, and pictures. Today, we will look at why to use wordless activities, and next week, learn how to incorporate these into lessons, and read about specific, potential activities.

 

Aside from reducing your language in your classroom, and the importance of using visuals, there are benefits to using wordless texts (where “texts” can mean anything from images to books to movies) to autistic students.

 

Why?

Wordless texts can be used to address a variety of skills that autistic students typically struggle with, including diverse literacy skills, cognitive flexibility, and nonverbal communication. Removing words and auditory information also supports autistic students since integrating information from multiple senses can take longer in autistic individuals, particularly if this information is linguistic. Removing words can therefore positively influence processing (Boddaert et al, 2004, Stevenson, 2014)

 

Using wordless books or movies can build diverse literacy skills in terms of making inferences, understanding narrative structure, and using evidence to support a claim. All wordless “texts” support individuals’ ability to make inferences, which is helpful since research shows that “students with Asperger syndrome…had challenges in making inferences from the text” (Knight & Sartrini, 2014). Moreover, researchers have found that “similar processes contribute to comprehension of narratives across different media” (Kendeou, P. et al, 2009), meaning that addressing visual inferences can transfer to inferences made during reading. Images and silent books or movies necessarily require students to infer what is happening, who the characters are, etc.

a photograph of a wooden bridge over greenish water

An inference is like a bridge between two ideas.

Wordless books and movies are also an effective way of helping students’ reading and writing by helping them understand text structure, especially narrative text structure, which is the understanding that narratives all have similar structures (e.g. character, setting, problem, resolution). Wordless books and movies are an often fun way of teaching text structure, as well as theme, and these skills are worth teaching as they do not always come naturally to students on the spectrum (Zajic et al., 2014, Gately, 2008). Autistic students may also have difficulty citing evidence to support a position, as that requires perspective taking skills and organization of language, which can both be difficult for them. As with inferences, you can use an image to practice this skill (e.g. “I think it is summer because I see the characters sweating and the trees look really green”).

a purple triangle that demonstrates a plot mountain, with beginning/exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and end/resolution labeled left to right.

A plot mountain is one way to demonstrate story structure (Source: readwritethink)

Given that images and wordless books and movies are open to interpretation, they also build cognitive flexibility, since there can often be multiple, logical ways of “reading” visual narratives. This can be helpful since cognitive flexibility is typically an underlying challenge with students with autism (Van Eylen et al., 2011). Cognitive flexibility is important for social situations (since perspective taking relies on cognitive flexibility), for problem-solving (since sometimes you need to attempt more than one solution), and for understanding any “grey areas” or subjective interpretations of an event or text.

 

Removing words also allows individuals to focus on nonverbal communication more. This has two distinct benefits: for one, it targets an underlying challenge many individuals with autism have in processing nonverbal information, “compared with both typical and atypical groups well matched for cognitive development” (Rogers, 2006). Furthermore, when there is a discrepancy between words and facial expressions, individuals with autism tend to give more weight to the words, so removing words naturally emphasizes the nonverbal communication and can thus put it on students’ radar and teach them its various functions (Watanabe et al., 2012). Emotional thermometers (Wesbty, 2004) to expand emotional vocabulary, and link to context, facial expression, tone of voice (where relevant).

 

Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to use wordlessness, and what tools may work!

Talk Less, Draw More

Talk Less, Draw More

By Brandy Stanfill

 

The mainstream classroom is full of language processing demands that can be challenging for a wide array of students.  Strategies to support comprehension while reducing language processing can benefit English language learners, students with ADHD, autistic students, and students with auditory processing disorders.  Here are a few tricks to try in your classroom:

 

Quick Sketch

During your next read aloud, mini lesson, unit review, or group discussion draw a quick sketch of the contents.  A stick figure labeled Christopher Columbus, a half circle and triangle to represent a boat, and 1492 written beside it can help students hold onto who is under discussion, what the action was, and when the events occurred.  No drawing skill needed!

 

Visual Priming

The next time you are introducing a new activity or procedure show the group pics of the materials they will be using with simple one or two words labels.  These images and labels can help students learn new vocabulary and remember the difference between a beaker and graduated cylinder.  Google images are a teacher’s best friend!

drawing of a thought bubble

 

Thought Bubbles

When discussing characters from books or historical figures thought bubbles with simple phrases or quick sketches in them can help a student to understand the character’s experiences, emotions, goals, and perspective.  A stick figure of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird with a thought bubble that says, “curious about Boo Radley” and a line from stick figure Scout’s eyes to a stick figure of Boo can help a student understand the motivation for Scout’s behavior.  Perspective taking is harder when characters and historical figures are far removed from a student’s life experience.  Use visual supports to highlight universal experiences and motivations like nosiness!

 

 

 

Lessons About Inclusion from Nest (Part 2)

Lessons About Inclusion from Nest (Part 2)

by Lauren Hough Williams

 

In Part 1 of this series, you learned that:

  1. Inclusion works.
  2. The classroom is the therapeutic environment.
  3. School. is. school.

To read about each of these in depth, read  the “Lessons About Inclusion from Nest (Part 1)” post. Read about Lessons #4-6 below:

4. Training is essential.

Inquiries come into the ASD Nest Support Project website everyday from teachers saying, “I have a student with ASD in my classroom. What do I do?” Although autism is more present in mainstream culture, many educators still do not feel qualified to adequately support their students with autism.  New York State has taken steps to address this professional development gap, requiring that all candidates for a classroom teaching certificate in all areas of special education complete coursework or training on the “needs of children with autism.”. However, a three-hour training is not sufficient for educators looking to understand, support, and challenge their autistic students. Also, what about training for the paraprofessionals supporting students with ASD? What about the special area teachers in music and art? What about the school aides, security guards, and administrators who also interact with these students every day? 

ASD Nest professionals receive graduate-level preservice training in the basics of ASD as well as understanding behavior challenges. Too, they participate in on-going professional development on topics such as executive functioning, social development, child development, neurodiversity, and understanding context. Students with ASD have unique social, behavioral, academic, and sensory needs, and professionals supporting them should always be learning and refining their practice.

Are you a NYC DOE teacher looking for training on ASD? Sign up for one of our Autism Institutes HERE. Workshop A explores the basics of ASD and Workshop B delves more deeply into strategies. Each workshop is 2 days.

 

5. The expert is the team.

We have learned that there is no “i” in team. There is no one professional or discipline that has all of the answers. We need teachers, therapists, administrators, parents, and the students themselves thinking and working together to create comprehensive supports for our autistic students. In Nest, this collaboration comes in the form of weekly, inter-professional team meetings where all members of a students’ team meets to discuss how the student is doing, what needs to be changed, and how supports can be provided consistently across individuals and environments. We also encourage push-in by providers into the classroom whenever possible. When occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and social workers push into classrooms, students receive supports in their therapeutic classroom environment, and teachers get the added benefit of “live PD” as they can observe the therapists supporting their students therapeutically.

 

6. It takes a village.

Inclusion is is not a program or a classroom or a specific service or support. It is a mindset, belief, and practice that can lead to a sense of true belonging in our schools. It takes a whole-school approach which includes a committed and active administration, a sharing of best-practices between professionals, and a generalization of supports to avoid the “silo problem”

of academics happening only in the classroom, sensory supports happening only in OT, and language and communication supports only happening during speech. Schools need to work at all levels to create a sense of acceptance and belonging for all of it’s learners. Consider whole-school initiatives that support inclusion, such as “celebrating neurodiversity” or “everyone belongs.”

The ASD Nest Program and it’s model is growing and changing every day, and we do not have it all figured out. We will continue to challenge ourselves to think of new structures, supports, and approaches to help out schools and their students succeed. We will continue to focus on how to create the most inclusive, supporting environments we can in our schools, to help our students feel understood, supported, and, above all, happy.

To learn more about the ASD Nest Support Project, check out our website here.

 

Lessons About Inclusion From Nest (Part 1)

Lessons About Inclusion From Nest (Part 1)

by Lauren Hough Williams

 

The ASD Nest Support Project and its Nest Model have developed over the past 15 years after a “lightening strikes” realization on a Colorado road at the foot of the Rockies.  Dorothy Siegel, one of the founders of the ASD Nest Program, realized while reading Temple Grandin’s book, Thinking in Pictures, that there needed to be a fundamental shift in how we think about educating students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Pulling together a think tank of leaders in the NYC education space, this group began to outline an innovative model for inclusion where students with ASD were supported in their own, local, neighborhood schools.  This would happen in inclusive classrooms with trained professionals who work in inter-professional teams creating therapeutic classrooms where students with ASD could succeed alongside their neurotypical general education peers. This was the beginning of the ASD Nest Model.

Fifteen years later, the ASD Nest model is now in 43 school across all 5 boroughs in New York City and in 270 co-taught inclusive classes, supporting 1200 students with autism in kindergarten through 12th grade alongside over 4000 general education peers.  Co-teachers teach the general education curriculum, using specialized supports drawn from evidence-based and promising practices, helping students develop competence in their social and behavioral functioning, in order to ultimately realize their full, unique potential as independent and happy adults.

We have learned a lot in the past 15 years, and we continue to learn more about what it takes to build an inclusion program and create inclusive learning environments, where students with ASD can thrive.  Here are 6 lessons from Nest that we want to share with other schools and districts looking to build and improve their inclusive practices:

  1. Inclusion works

Research shows that both students with special needs, and their general education peers, benefit from learning in inclusive environments. Studies have shown that students with special needs in inclusive classrooms benefit academically, develop more positive peer relationships, and show decreases in problem behaviors.  General education peers in inclusion classes have also been shown to benefit both academically and socially, and also show an improved self-concept.  Want to learn more: check out this report presenting evidence for inclusive education. Also, check out Julie Causton’s WONDERFUL resources.

 

2. The classroom is the therapeutic environment.

Students spend the majority of their learning time at elementary school in their home classroom. Therefore, it is that environment that must provide the needed supports. We cannot rely on supports existing only at the other end of the hallway in the speech, occupational therapy, and AIS rooms. Too, we need to focus on providing class-wide supports. These universal supports are easier for teachers to implement consistently, they are accessible to all learners, and they do not single out individual students. Teachers should consider how to following supports can be implemented in their classrooms at a class-wide level:

  • Using a variety of co-teaching models for differentiation
  • Providing visual supports for routines, academic concepts, and directions
  • Incorporating sensory and self-regulation strategies (such as whole-class movement breaks using GoNoodle)
  • Using whole-class positive behavior supports
  • Incorporating student interests
  • and providing strategic social supports (like role cards for the different roles students could take on in a group activity: “timekeeper,” “materials manager,” “recorder,” and “talk/time tracker”).

Looking for more ideas, check out our Pinterest site which has examples of all kinds of whole-class supports.

3. School.  is.  social.

Student no longer learn in silent rows, plowing through workbook pages while teachers sit off to the side looking over their reading classes. Today’s student is asked to learn in a group on the rug, surrounded by classmates. Students constantly have to share space and air-time, not to mention their thoughts and opinions!  Group work is oftentimes the rule, rather than the exception, and students with social learning differences like ASD, who may not struggle with the academic content, can be tripped up by the social navigation demands of the activity. What we cannot do is assume that every student has what Michelle Garcia Winner terms a fully “social software package.”  Teachers need to consider the social demands of an activity, and not just the academic skill required. We cannot assume that every student can problem solve, ask for help, negotiate with peers, easily come to a consensus, change their plan on-the-go, and handle differences of opinion with peers. These “social skills” need to be acknowledged and explored explicitly for some students, so they they can successfully engage with their peers and succeed academically.

For more information on Social Thinking, read this.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

 

 

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