Rigorous Research In The Real World
Other studies on this topic have recruited children who are already enrolled in a particular setting and/or compared mainstream and specialised settings offering different intervention programs. So, we cant be sure whether the results are about the type of intervention program, the specific setting, or some other factor.
We wanted a rigorous test of the setting, so we used the gold-standard randomised trial approach. For families keen to be involved, we more-or-less used a coin-toss to decide which children would be in the mainstream or specialised settings.
Implementing evidence-based practice into real-world settings is challenging. This research occurred through genuine collaboration with early childhood educators, G-ESDM specialists, centre managers and researchers as equal partners.
Find Out About Health Coverage
Therapy to help with the symptoms of autism can help kids thrive, but not all are covered by insurance. Coverage depends on your state and it’s not always easy to figure out.
Here are ways to learn what is covered:
- Talk to a social worker on your care team to learn about special programs available to your child.
- Search online for tools that take the guesswork out of health coverage. Some national autism organizations provide helpful quizzes and other tools to learn what’s covered in your state or health care plan.
If you don’t have insurance, your state’s CHIP or Medicaid programs may offer coverage to your child. Medicaid also may be able to offer extra coverage if your health insurance doesn’t cover all expenses. Coverage is based on your child’s disability and need, not on your family’s income.
Quality Early Intervention In Mainstream Settings
Our study engaged 44 young children, each for one year. Half were placed in specialised care and half in mainstream care.
Specialised playrooms included only autistic children, at the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Center . Mainstream playrooms – at the La Trobe University Community Childrens Centre and Gowrie Victoria – included mostly children without autism.
Children received the Group-Early Start Denver Model . This is an intervention developed and evaluated . Each childs personalised learning goals are targeted within natural routines and activities across the childcare day. For example, at snack time staff may help a child develop interest in what peers are doing, practice communication skills such as requesting food, and practice independence skills such as using a spoon and waiting their turn.
We found this specialised intervention could be delivered in mainstream childcare. Educators learned the G-ESDM strategies and used these in everyday playroom activities. On average, the childrens social interaction, imitation, language and independence skills improved across the year. Encouragingly, gains were similar in both settings.
Other researchers – separate from our team, and unaware of what our study was about – rated the educational environment. They reported high quality teaching and learning practices across all playrooms. This suggests our program had no negative impact on the mainstream environments.
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Finding Qualified Child Care Providers
Families can find a break or respite by having a professional come to the home to provide support services or enrolling a child in a day or weekend program. This allows the parents to partake in recreational, social or other important activities with siblings or with each other. Learn more about Easterseals’ respite, recreation and camp programs.
Supporting Children With Autism
Children who are diagnosed with autism or another type of autism spectrum disorder struggle with social relationships, sensory awareness, communication, and behavior challenges. These challenges range from mild to severe and can vary in each child. One child with autism may speak well but will continuously throw tantrums and hit others, for example, while another child with autism may not speak at all and will obsess over certain objects. This can make treating and helping children with autism difficult since there is not a universal treatment and responses are trial and error until what works best for each child is determined.
At Kaplan Early Learning Company, we understand the difficulties parents, educators, and caregivers face as they help children with autism cope with developmental challenges in completing everyday tasks and learning educational material. We offer a variety of materials and resources to support children with special needs. Browse our free resources and tools for more information about autism and ASD.
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Be Clear In Your Instructions
Patience is a real virtue for all teachers of all kids, but also be very clear and concise in your delivery of instructions. For many children with autism, following multiple-step instructions can be overwhelming.
Stick to one or two-step instructions, and be prepared to repeat them calmly if need be. Visual schedules work great to help children learn all the steps of a specific action.
Teach Kids To Ask For Help
The best thing any teacher, educator, parent, or caregiver can do is teach their kids to ask for help. When working with children with autism, they may not always ask for help when they need it. This could be because they dont know they can or they dont know when its okay to talk to a teacher versus when they should be quiet. Social cues and body language are difficult for them to read. But when you explain to them when they can ask for help and give examples of why they should, it will be easier for them to manage in the classroom.
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Why Emotions Are Challenging
High-functioning autism can be very challenging. On the one hand, you have the language and cognitive skills to be placed in a typical environment. On the other hand, you lack the social, communication, and executive functioning skills to function well when a change occurs.
At the same time, you may be coping with sensory dysfunction, anxiety, or other issues that make bright lights, loud noises, and high expectations almost impossible to manage.
When kids with autism, even high functioning kids, become extremely frustrated or angry, they often act out. When they do, they may behave in ways that surprise or shock the people around them. For example, they may:
- Meltdown like a much younger child, with tears and shouting
- Run away from a difficult situation, sometimes putting themselves in danger
- Become aggressive or self-abusive
- Overreact to the situation and be unable to self-calm
- Be unable to process logical information that, in another situation, would help them to calm down
- Become too upset to listen to calming suggestions
- Exhibit self-stimulatory behaviors
Many, if not most, children who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum have difficulty regulating their emotions and maintaining a calm state. They may also be coping with some of the limitations they feel but cannot verbalize or understand in other ways.
The good news is that this can change and you can help. Robert Naseef, Ph.D., and Cindy Ariel, Ph.D. offer the following professional tips.
Make Directions Clear Short And Concrete
For example, if your child is throwing food at the table say, eat your food rather than Be good at the table, Dont throw your food or Would you stop with that! You are always throwing your food. For children with difficulty understanding language, showing them a picture or a visual demonstration of the behavior you want to see, can be helpful.
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Tips For Working With Children With Autism In An Early Childcare Setting
Early childhood and daycare settings are a great way to foster socialization and get kids used to interacting with their peers. However, for children with autism, the experience is not as simple or fun. Working with children with autism requires patience and training, but with the right techniques you can help kids on the spectrum grow and enjoy their time in early childcare programs. Here are a few tips to help.
Child Care Or Kindergarten Support
Each state and territory has various support programs to assist children with autism at mainstream kindergarten. Some states have access to support educators who will work alongside teachers and families to support the needs of the child in the general kindergarten setting.
For further information, contact your state or territory autism association.
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How Learning Links Can Help
Learning Links runs an Excellent rated inclusive preschool, supporting children with diverse needs including Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our experienced professionals run a range of professional development webinars to provide early education professionals with practical strategies to promote inclusion in their early learning settings.
To receive updates on our upcoming Early Childhood webinars, subscribe to our email list.
Techniques For Calming An Upset Child
While it’s great to simply avoid getting upset, real-life can make it impossible. When that happens, these tips for calming may help:
- Recognize signs. Very often, children with autism show signs of distress before they “meltdown” or become very upset. Check to see if your child seems frustrated, angry, anxious, or just over-excited. If she can communicate effectively, she may be able to simply tell you what you need to know.
- Look for environmental issues that could be causing your child’s discomfort. If it’s easy to do so, resolve any problems. For example, close a door, turn off a light, turn down music, etc.
- Leave the space. Often, it’s possible to simply leave the situation for a period of time, allowing your child time and space to calm down. Just walk out the door with your child, staying calm and ensuring their safety.
- Have a “bag of tricks” handy to share with your child. Chewy or sensory toys, favorite books or videos can all defuse a potentially difficult situation. While it’s never ideal to use TV as a babysitter, there are situations in which a favorite video on a smartphone can be a lifesaver.
- Travel with a weighted vest or blanket. If your child does well with these calming tools, bring an extra in the car at all times. If you don’t have weighted items, you might want to consider rolling your child up in a blanket like a burrito. For some autistic children, the pressure can be very calming.
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Some Children Thrive When Given Structured Hands
Many children I have worked with or have observed, did very well when given a hands-on/visual activity. Examples include playing a computer game, sorting objects by color or object type completing a puzzle, constructing a model car, tracing or coloring in a picture, etc. As another example, some teachers of children with autism teach academic skills through sorting tasks. For instance, an activity about learning colors would require the child to put all the yellow chips in a yellow cup, all the blue chips in a blue cup, etc. Keeping a child focused with an activity they do well at is a great way to encourage calm behavior. However, if the child is feeling overwhelmed or frustrated from the activity, allow a break or a change in the task.
Manage Changes And Transitions
Because an autistic childs routine is crucial to their comfort, changes and transitions can be incredibly overwhelming for them. Changes are often unavoidable and even necessary in school, but the good news is that you can alleviate the anxiety they induce by preparing the autistic child beforehand.
For example, if you are planning to change classrooms in a week, take the child to view it a few days in advance. Show and give them pictures of it for them to look at until the day of the change. Attaching some predictability to an unexpected task in this way can help it feel less daunting for the child and gives them time to mentally adjust.
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How To Support Socialisation
What I also observed, however, was that when the autistic children were able to focus on what interested them an issue already understood as crucial in terms of the cognition and well-being of autistic people they needed much less input from a teaching assistant. And as the teaching assistant faded back, other children tended to come forward, keen to get to know this child who was usually monopolised by an adult.
Similarly, some of the autistic adults also explained how they had gained a sense of belonging when they joined groups or clubs aligned to their interests making them feel more accepted, and less stigmatised.
My study also showed how crucial it is to understand and respect the social preferences of individual children. For some, friendships were important for others, they were not. Some preferred to have one or two friends, rather than a large social circle.
So while it might be the case that some autistic children need support to socialise in schools, this doesnt mean its the same for all. Contradictory social rules can be opaque and perhaps need to be explained, but this is not going to be helped by unnecessary segregation being velcroed to the teaching assistant, and setting the child up as being different from the others.
In fact, it may well be that some children, who can be easily distracted by chatting to their friends in class, stand to learn a lot from autistic children, who might be more focused on their work instead.
Autism In The Early Learning And Care Environment
This month we took the opportunity to learn more about ASD and to see how early learning and care providers can support autistic children and work collaboratively with their families to support the development and wellbeing of autistic children.We spoke to Kristy Capes, Centre Manager at La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre, an early learning service which offers specialised support to children with autism spectrum disorders, and she was kind enough to share her expertise and autism insights with us.
As a starting point, what is autism?Autism Spectrum Disorder describes a group of developmental disorders in which people diagnosed with ASD demonstrate difficulties across three core areas:
- Social skills
- Repetitive behaviour
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or later
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures, like pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No meaningful, two-word phrases by 24 months
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
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Common Signs Of Asd In Preschoolers
With some children, the signs of autism might not become entirely obvious until they reach preschool , when suddenly the developmental gap between them and their peers becomes more pronounced.In addition to the signs for babies/toddlers, here are some of the more common ways ASD might present itself in a preschool-aged child.
Social communication red flags
- The child generally does not point to or share observations or experiences with others
- The child tends not to look directly at other people in a social way. This is sometimes referred to as a lack of eye contact
- There may be an absence of speech, or unusual speech patterns such as repeating words and phrases , failure to use âIâ, âmeâ, and âyouâ, or reversal of these pronouns
- Unusual responses to other people. A child may show no desire to be cuddled, have a strong preference for familiar people and may appear to treat people as objects rather than a source of comfort
- The child may appear to avoid social situations, preferring to be alone
- There is limited development of play activities, particularly imaginative play
- There may be constant crying or there may be an unusual absence of crying
Behavioural red flags
âShe was so distant from us we found it hard to engage her. We would have to say her name at least six times before she would acknowledge us, often staring into space as if in a trance. We put this down to a hearing problem but test results showed otherwise.â
Physical Activities Sometimes Help To Ease The Tension
One way to keep excess energy from escalating into an anger situation is to burn it off with physical activity. Find an activity your child enjoys doing such as dancing, exercising, walking, running or even just playful wrestling.
This physical activity actually causes the brain to produce endorphins, which can lead to feelings of euphoria and well-being. Maybe they would enjoy going on a nature walk or taking a trip to the neighborhood playground.
Signs Of Asd Primary School Aged Children
Children are often diagnosed with autism once they get to school, when their social communication and behavioural characteristics mark their development out as different to their peers.
- Issues with conversation, perhaps dominating conversations with their favourite topic and not knowing how to take turns.
- Not being able to interpret the non-verbal communication of peers and adults.
- Unusual speech patterns, a monotonous tone or an old fashioned way of talking.
- Seeking solitude, and finding being with others very stressful and exhausting
- Being rigid in following rules at school and in sport and games
- Finding it hard to read social cues and the unwritten rules of friendship
- Having unusual interests and obsessions, no breadth of interests
- Sometimes there are unusual physical movements, such as touching, biting, rocking or finger flicking
- Having sensory issues, either heightened or lack of sense of smell, touch, taste, sound and vision
- Need to follow routines to feel secure, become very upset when expected routines change
- Having few or no real friends
- Aggression is sometimes seen, usually as a way of avoiding overwhelming situations
- Anxiety is also common, especially as children enter the teenager years
âReally didnât know until it was suggested to us by the school counsellor who recommended we have our child assessed.â