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The Big Six

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By Jeff Stimpson
Autism Asperger’s Digest
| November/December 2009

My son Alex enters sixth grade this fall. He is 11, diagnosed PDD-NOS, and for six years, counting kindergarten, he’s been in the same elementary school. There they taught him to add a number or two, eat the cafeteria chicken, sit through a movie, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, say his name when asked (so they claim – he hasn’t done it for me), and wish a good weekend to classmates on Friday afternoons. Six years. He may never be in one school so long again, and the time has come for him to leave.

I should feel glad. Any grade seemed like a teasing dream 11 years ago, as my wife Jill and I stood in a neonatal ICU and watched Alex, our first child, live in his plastic box. He’d been born almost three months premature, and weighed 21 ounces – about as much as four sticks of butter, as I discovered in a grocery store one night. His arms and legs were as thick as felt markers, about the size of a G.I. Joe’s. Alex lived in an isolette, a breathing tube down his throat, in a room full of other boxes and other preemies, amid the bells and buzzers of life-support gear. Alex would roll his eyes in there, wrinkling his forehead just like my dad used to, clutching at the tube silently with a perfect tiny human hand.

Eventually we got to hold Alex. First time for me he was still ventilated; he sounded like a tiny Darth Vader. Alex was featherweight, devastatingly important.

“Jeff, he doesn’t look at me,” my wife Jill would soon be saying. And he didn’t. His eyes flicked over the walls, over his isolette, at the red numbers behind the bells and buzzers, but rarely on our faces. We knew this meant something, but back then we weren’t sure what.

We brought him home in the summer of 1999, when he was one year and two weeks old. He was a plump thing, fattened on the feeding tube they claimed he needed, his oxygen cannula cord dangling behind. Early intervention therapists came soon after too, for feeding, eating, occupational and physical therapy: Alex qualified for the whole, well, spectrum of therapists. Some therapists he liked. Some he ignored, wobbling like a baby Buddha on our living room floor.

One therapist he loved was Ron. Alex always brightened at Ron, who blew bubbles for Alex, showed him how to use the shape sorter, and taught him to just sit and flip the pages of a book. “Hiya big banana!” Ron would always say. Ron was also first to say that Alex’s skill at the shape-sorter would one day turn into an affinity for letters and the alphabet, which it has. We know this affinity means something (is perhaps some key to how Alex may survive in the world after we’re gone?), but we’re still not sure what.

* * *

At Alex’s last IEP meeting, three weeks ago, his teacher and his therapists (still the full “spectrum”), Jill and I sat in the tiny chairs and talked about Alex’s future, which begins in September. In speech, they want next year’s still-unknown therapists to work on more listening and comprehension, more uttering of sentences that contain a subject, verb, and object, and using more attributions such as sizes, colors, and shapes. In math, his current teacher wants his future teacher to hit the times tables, more telling time and counting money. In OT, the goal is handwriting that actually hits the little blue lines.

“My little man,” his teacher says.

I was hoping Alex’s current school could make an exception and keep him another year. Better to be with the people who’ve taken you from stop-and-stares to the Pledge of Allegiance when funding dries up. And, regarding other possible schools, Jill immediately ignited at a phrase she heard at one middle school: “We have an expectation of college for our students,” the unit teacher told her. We had never heard anyone say anything like that about Alex before; it was like a strong new scent. But that school has no openings for September. Few schools do.

One that does, however, is Ron’s. His school is our first stop for a tour, where today he is the unit teacher.

I round a corner and there he is. He’s greyer (“More dignified,” I tell the man whose business with Alex was once all about bubbles), but otherwise it’s the same spark and firm handshake, the same “big banana!” brand of enthusiasm and professionalism. His school looks a lot like Alex’s current school: the same tiled walls and small-scale bathrooms, the same artwork of construction paper and marker and lurid finger-paint. Alex could fit in here, I think.

Ron presents his staff. I start from square one with people who’ve never met Alex, telling them all the clever cute stuff he does. How he tricked me out of the boys’ bedroom so he could get the cat off Ned’s bed. How he tricked Jill into taking her hand off a doorknob once, because he wanted to make a break for it. How he sometimes bolts, and catching him on the run inCentral Parkis like trying to catch a dragonfly. How he now says clearly, “I want cookies please!”

More similarities, this time among the students: some rocking, some stimming, wheelchairs parked in the halls. Classrooms sport Velcro schedules (“sweeping”; “work time”; “clean up”). Alex will recognize those, I think.

The classrooms are smaller than in Alex’s current school. In one, colored cloth covers the fluorescent overheads to cut down on distraction. In another, students use a computer to read and relate the life cycle of the butterfly. “Science class,” says Ron. Wow – science class!

The tone is quieter, the books thicker, and it seems to me students are expected to keep their noses closer to the grindstone. “We’d be happy to have him,” Ron says. Before we leave, he shows us a notebook with a checklist of jobs the older students here perform at a local golf course: pick up trash, clean tables, stock storerooms. A notebook of expectations.

Alex could fit in here.



Jeff Stimpson is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He and Jill podcast about parenting a special-needs son at http://jillandjeff.podbean.com, and blog at AutismVox (blisstree.com/autismvox).

Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2009. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print means prohibited without written permission of publisher.

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The Army of Survivors

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by Amy Parham
Autism Asperger’s Digest
| January/February 2013

We are in fact a lot like an army. We are united by the love that we have for our children on the spectrum.

Recently I was asked to be the grand marshal for a walk sponsored by the South Carolina Autism Society. Before the walk began they asked me to say a few words to rally the crowd of parents and their children who had come out that sunny spring morning to support a cause that was dear to their hearts. Since being a contestant on NBC’s Biggest Loser, I have had many opportunities to participate in events like this. I have spoken at American Heart Association luncheons and done bikes races with the American Diabetes Association. I have done 5K races for the American Cancer Society, Goodwill Industries, and various other charities and organizations.

Every time I am asked to be involved in events, I feel honored and blessed. However, after you do anything many times it becomes a little routine. To be completely honest with you, this race was just another thing to mark off my to-do list that day.

But I soon realized that this particular morning was going to be glaringly different. As I stepped up to grab the microphone, I paused a moment and looked around into the eyes of the people in front of me. As my gaze passed over these people, I was struck with an unexpected and almost debilitating wave of emotion. Looking into the faces of these moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, teachers and friends, I saw wounded soldiers staring back at me, war-torn faces of people who had fought against the enemy of autism and came back from battle with the scars from the fight. This hit home hard to me because I know that look all too well. I see it in my own reflection in the mirror every day.

I, too, was suddenly and without warning thrown into that war when my son Rhett was diagnosed with autism at age four. We were told he was just a quiet child and that “his brothers must be doing all the talking for him.” We fought to get the proper diagnosis and agonized in that space where you want to know what’s wrong with your child but are terrified to hear that it’s autism. I mourned silently as relatives and friends made statements like “he will grow out of it” when I knew there was no cure.

So that morning I knew that these people “got it.” With one look in their eyes, I knew we were brothers and sisters that had suffered through delays in getting appointments with developmental pediatricians. We all knew what it was like to learn a whole new secret language with terms such as on the spectrum, high-functioning, and early interventionist. We had memorized all the “T’s”—ABT (applied behavioral therapy), AIT (auditory integration therapy), OT (occupational therapy), and PT (physical therapy).

These people in front of me knew what it felt like to be in the middle of the mall when their child decides to have a meltdown. They knew about the dreaded IEP (individualized education plan) meetings. They had experienced the screaming, the flapping, and the other forms of stimming. We had all mourned the loss of the dreams we had for our children when we realized that they may never graduate from college, get married, or in some cases never tell us they love us. We shared a bond that people who aren’t affected by autism in a deeply personal way would never have to grasp. And like soldiers, we would gather that day and share our “war stories.” All of them were different, but we shared that common thread of familiarity that ties us all together.

This day as I looked at my brothers and sisters there, I also realized that we were the survivors. We had come out of the fight stronger. Every great war has not only stories of tragedy but also those of victory: mountains that were climbed and hills that were taken. I heard the phrase repeated often that day, “We were told he would never [fill in the blank], but he is doing it now!” I know from my own experience because I was told that my son would never be able to read phonetically and now he reads everything!

That day I heard stories of therapies that produced amazing results, diets that had helped behaviors, and teachers that went above and beyond the call of duty. As we shared these notes we shared something bigger. Something that would help us have the strength to fight another day. Through those stories and our mutual experiences, we shared hope. Hope that there may be a way our child could do something that we had believed was impossible. Hope that maybe our child’s future wasn’t so bleak.

That day was a special day. I realized that we are not alone. We are in fact a lot like an army. We are united by the love that we have for our children on the spectrum. That love that inspires us to fight and hope—laugh and imagine big dreams for our children’s futures.

When Rhett was diagnosed it was one of the darkest times in my life. I was devastated and embarrassed by his behaviors. I was angry at God, the doctors, and the people in stores who would stare and whisper. But on this day through my tears, I said a little prayer. I thanked God for allowing me to be Rhett’s mom. I was honored to be a part of this chosen few. This group of soldiers—this army of survivors.

Amy Parham and her husband Phillip were on Season 6 of NBC’s Biggest Loser when America was introduced firsthand to their family, including their son Rhett who has autism.


Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print is prohibited without written permission of publisher.

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The 3 R’s for Bullying Prevention

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by Lori Ernsperger, PhD
Autism Asperger’s Digest | November/December 2011

Bullying in the United States was once a silent epidemic endured by millions of children on a daily basis. The attitude “kids will be kids” was just part of normal childhood development. Many parents and professionals did not recognize the implications of bullying, the long term impact on childhood victims, and the overall negative impact on the school environment. Today, bullying in schools is being recognized as a national problem for all students including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Fortunately for students like Luke Jackson, the U.S. Department of Education views bullying as a national public safety issue and has increased its efforts in addressing it in schools. For parents and school personnel to create a safe educational environment and follow the legal requirements set out by the federal government, they must recognize, respond and report bullying in schools.

Recognizing the startling national statistics on bullying in schools is the first step in an anti-bullying program. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 32% of all middle school and high school students are bullied in school. In addition, it has been reported that 60% of children with disabilities are bullied in schools (Ability Path, 2011). A study of students with physical disabilities demonstrated that they were more likely to be called names and excluded from activities (Olweus, 1993). A report from the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (Ability Path, 2011) surveyed 400 parents of children with ASD and found that nearly 88% of parents reported their child had been bullied in school. According to Dr. Kowalski, a professor at Clemson University, “Because of difficulty with social interactions and the inability to read social cues, children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome have higher rates of peer rejection and higher frequencies of verbal and physical attacks.” (Ability Path, 2011) These startling statistics of reported bullying in schools support the need for a comprehensive anti-bullying program for individuals with disabilities including students with ASD.

In addition to recognizing the prevalence of bullying in schools, parents and school professionals must recognize the complexities and various forms of bullying. Bullying is not only direct contact or physical assault but can take milder more indirect forms such as repeated mild teasing, subtle insults, and spreading rumors about other students. Adults must recognize that laughter at another person’s expense is a form of bullying and should be immediately addressed. Social exclusion and gossiping can lead to more direct forms of bullying. It is no longer acceptable to ignore on-going teasing and rumors as normal childhood behaviors. All forms of bullying should be recognized as a significant educational problem that must be addressed by all school professionals and parents.

Recognizing the signs of bullying is an important step in an effective anti-bullying program. Research shows that bullying can adversely affects a victim’s mental health. Mary Wakefield from the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that bullying can leave lasting emotional consequences. Students who are bullied may demonstrate significant levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and may experience physical ailments (Buhs & de Guzman, 2007). Children who are bullied may refuse to go to school and often have a severe dislike of going to school. Given the high rates of bullying on children with disabilities, it is critically important that special education professionals are keenly aware of the signs of bullying and the long term impact.  Bullying and disability harassment can seriously interfere with the ability of students with disabilities “to receive the education critical to their advancement” (OCR, 2000).
Recognizing the legal requirements for school district personnel is also part of a comprehensive anti-bullying program. Bullying and disability harassment may result in violating state and federal laws. Parents and school personnel must recognize that educational institutions are held legally accountable to provide an educational environment that ensures equal educational opportunities for all students (OCR, 2010). As will be discussed later in this article, the Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education have established legal requirements of educational institutions to provide an environment that allows students to benefit from a free and appropriate public education free of disability harassment.

“School was hell wrapped in a hot winter fur. This one girl at school never wanted anything to do with me. All of my attempts to play with her resulted in rejection. As the school year progressed, my peers started to use my idiosyncrasies against me for their own fun.” Rosemarie, Girls Under the Umbrella of ASD

To formulate a viable response to the bullying epidemic, parents and professionals must develop a comprehensive anti-bullying plan which responds to the bully, bystanders, and victims of bullies. When responding to bullies, adults must first understand that there is no single profile of a “typical” bully. The prototype of a young male bully who is rough, strong and aggressive is not supported by the research. According to Dr. Susan Swearer, an expert on bullying in schools, bullies can be almost anyone given the right environmental conditions (2010). Bullies can come from different cultures and can be seen as “regular” kids. Not only does bullying occur with a variety of children it occurs in all areas of the school campus and across settings. School personnel must be cognizant that bullying often occurs in unstructured school areas including playgrounds, hallways, cafeteria and the school bus. Bullying can also occur at other educational sponsored events, such as field trips, school assemblies, and athletic events, where the school district is obligated to create a safe and bully free environment.

All school personnel must respond to bullies immediately and consistently. Ignoring even mild repeated teasing from a bully can quickly escalate to more direct physical bullying or assault. Dr. Swearer adds: “If left untreated, children who learn that bullying is an effective way to get what they want are likely to continue bullying behavior into adulthood. Thus, it is critical to intervene and stop bullying during the school age years,” A quick response to bullying includes separating the bully and victim to insure the victim’s safety. Tell the bully directly he has violated school rules and report the incident to school administrators. Adult responses to bullies should be swift, direct, and send a clear message of zero tolerance.

Bystanders are those, such as peers and adults, who watch bullying happen and may feel powerless to stop the bully. Bystanders to bullying in schools are a key prevention technique for decreasing the intensity and duration of bullying. Recent research has found that educating bystanders to safely intervene on behalf of a victim can greatly decrease bullying toward  children with disabilities. According to Dr. Michele Borba (2001), bystanders can be the “ultimate arbitrators” in bullying situations. Parents and school personnel should develop specific strategies for educating bystanders on disability awareness which creates acceptance for all students. The goal of peer education is to value diversity in schools. Because adults in schools may not always be available to supervise the educational setting, it is important to educate and empower bystanders to intervene and diffuse a bullying situation.

Responding directly to bullies and educating bystanders is part of a comprehensive anti-bullying program. Parents and school professionals must also directly respond to the victims of bullying. Students with ASD, who statistically are often victims of bullies, must be taught adaptive skills for addressing a bully. The school team, including the parents, should identify and then directly teach necessary skills to help the student prevent such incidents and when unavoidable, confront bullies successfully. These educational and interpersonal skills may be written into the student’s individualized education program (IEP). The goals and benchmarks would include social skills, speech and language skills, and self-advocacy skills.

Students with ASD will require an educational approach that is concrete and sends a positive message on addressing bullies. Dr. Michelle Borba (2001) has designed an anti-bullying program with straightforward rules and simple steps that can easily be taught to students with ASD. The CALM approach describes plainly how a student should respond to a bully.

  • Cool down. Teach students to recognize stress signals and learn calming strategies. Deep breathing and positive value statements can be practiced with the student.
  • Assert yourself.  Part of the social skills curriculum for students with ASD should include teaching assertive body language. Role playing and video modeling can assist in teaching non-verbal body language that can deflect and detour bullying attempts.
  • Look them in the eye. Although eye contact can be difficult for some students with ASD, parents and school professionals should teach students how to face a bully and look them in the eye. Visual supports and a social story may be beneficial in teaching eye contact during a bullying attempt.
  • Mean it. The speech and language therapist and school team should work directly with the victim of bullying on specific language scripts for responding to a bully. Students should learn a non-confrontational script such as “stop that,” “leave me alone,” “you are being a bully,” or “get away from me now.”

In conjunction with the CALM approach, parents and the school team should teach self-advocacy skills as part of the IEP goals and benchmarks. Self-advocacy skills help students with ASD better understand their disability. Each step of the CALM approach can be taught discretely or with a combination of social and communication skills. Social narratives, role-playing, and direct instruction are effective educational methods for teaching a student with ASD how to respond to a bully. It is also important that parents and school professionals practice each step of the CALM program repeatedly and throughout the school age years as bullying can change from year to year.

“If you fit in, life is easy. If you don’t, that’s when all the teasing and bullying starts. For kids on the spectrum, it can be pure hell.”
Temple Grandin, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships (2005)

It is not enough just to recognize and respond to bullying in schools. To eliminate bullying and create a safe learning environment, parents and professionals must systematically report bullying to school officials. According to the federal government run website Stopbullying.gov, all school personnel including paraprofessionals, office assistants, transportation staff, coaches, and school monitors should be thoroughly trained in reporting and tracking all bullying experiences. Without quantitative bullying data, school districts will be ineffectual in designing interventions that are individualized and target the serious nature of the problem. According to Dr. Swearer (2010), school district personnel must document any observed bullying behaviors and report them to the district to generate more comprehensive data on bullying experiences school wide. Currently, there is only sporadic and intermittent reporting of bullying in schools. Parents can play an important role in insisting that school district personnel adopt policies and procedures for reporting and tracking bullying school-wide.

Federal, state and school level officials must adopt reporting methods to adequately address bullying. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 45 states currently have passed laws that address bullying and disability harassment. Although the legal regulations surrounding bullying can be quite rigorous, state level educational agencies and local school districts have not consistently adopted systematic reporting school wide. A failure to report or thoroughly investigate bullying in schools can be illegal under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (OCR, 2010). School districts have repeatedly failed to recognize and report bullying activities and disability harassment which limits students’ ability to benefit fully from their educational program. The Office of Civil Rights and judicial decisions have made it clear to school districts that they must implement a comprehensive approach that eliminates a hostile bullying environment. The approach must include disciplining the bullies, training staff, and monitoring that the bullying does not resume.

In the past, playground bullies and teasing has been minimized and accepted in schools as a rite of passage. But due to national media attention of severe and egregious bullying incidents taking place in schools, it has been moved to the forefront of educational forums and discussions. According to U. S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “bullying is finally being recognized as a school safety issue.” Parents and school personnel can effectively work together to address this serious issue by following the 3 R’s: Recognize, Respond, and Report.

Abilitypath (2011). Walk a mile in their shoes. Retrieved April 2011, from AbilityPath
Borba, M. (2001). Bully-proofing our kids. Retrieved May 2011, from Michele Borba
Buhs, E., & de Guzman, M. (2007). Bullying and victimization: What adults can do to help. Retrieved May 2011, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Olweus, D. (1993). Olweus bullying prevention program. Retrieved April 2011, from Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
Swearer, S. (2010). Bullying: What parents, teachers can do to stop it. Retrieved April 2011, from American Psychological Association (APA)
U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (July 25, 2000). Prohibited Disability Harassment Guidance Letter. Retrieved April 2011, from U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (October 26, 2010).  Harassment and Bullying Guidance Letter. Retrieved April, 2011, from U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Lori Ernsperger is an internationally recognized author and speaker who provides parents and school district personnel with practical strategies for teaching individuals with ASD. Contact Dr. Lori.

Note: As we go to press, a NY judge has ruled in a precedent setting case regarding bullying and harassment for students receiving special education services (T.K. v New York Department of Education, 2011). A 12 year old girl with autism and her parents had repeatedly complained to the principal of bullying in school. The school did not take adequate steps to investigate and prevent future bullying. The district court ruled in favor of the parents that their daughter was denied a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) based largely on the Office of Civil Rights Harassment and Bullying Guidance Letter (2010). Although the NY district court case cannot be applied at a national level, the ruling demonstrates the strict duties of school personnel to take prompt and appropriate action when bullying occurs to students with special needs.

Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print is prohibited without written permission of publisher.


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Testing Index 2013

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Teaching Children to Understand Changes in Routines

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by Andy Bondy, PhD and Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP
Autism Asperger’s Digest
| May/June 2012

“Twelve-year-old Zena was terrific at using her daily picture schedule. She came into class each morning and immediately checked to see what her first activity was and whom she would be working with. However, her teacher found that there was one major problem.
If something did not go exactly as scheduled, Zena would get very upset and usually would not proceed with her schedule. While the teacher was happy that Zena had gained some independence, she was not pleased that Zena could not tolerate any change at all. It is one thing to try to perfectly control everything in the life of a three-year-old, but it is impossible to do so with a teenager. The teacher realized that no one had taught Zena to tolerate the changes that occur in all our lives”  (Bondy and Frost 2011, p. 122).

When working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is often recommended that we try to keep everything highly structured and systematic because they don’t like to deal with change—they prefer to preserve sameness. The danger of this approach is that it can lead to substantially bigger problems when changes do occur, as they inevitably will! Should we wait until we see major behavior problems arise in reaction to change? We think that all children should be inoculated against inescapable variations in what life presents.

So, how can we teach individuals with ASD to tolerate change? By introducing it systematically rather than waiting for it to haphazardly take place. Rather than trying to create a fixed schedule suggesting we promise that everything we plan for will indeed occur, we introduce “surprise” lessons within the daily routine.

The first of such surprises should involve changes to an event or activity that are highly motivating. For example, the first surprise for Zena might be to go from doing a math lesson
to watching her favorite DVD or listening to her favorite music. To help make surprise part of a schedule, a special card or picture can be placed on a schedule or simply shown by the teacher. It is likely that Zena at first may not be pleased, but as the movie or music is played, she is likely to join in with the other students.

At this point all surprises should involve fun things to do. Of course, the teacher should also provide lots of praise for Zena’s new skill!

Over time, and as Zena reacts more calmly to these surprises, her teacher begins to introduce changes that are more neutral in outcome—perhaps Zena is surprised that she’ll work with Ms. Jones rather than with Ms. Hayes, or that English will be worked on before math, or she’ll be working on the table near the window rather than by the wall. During this time some surprises should be fun while others are simply “such a bother,” though not threatening or scary. It will be helpful to add some extra rewards each time the student tolerates changes—perhaps accumulating a series of stickers to be traded in for something special.

It is important to avoid using the same surprise at the same time in the schedule. If there is any ritual built into how this lesson is done, the very purpose of it will be undermined!

Finally, some of the changes should reflect the unpleasant parts of life that few of us truly enjoy: “Surprise! Your favorite toy doesn’t work.” “Another child is riding the only bicycle we have!” “There is no more popcorn.” “We must go to the dentist,” and so forth. Here, too, it will be important to provide other types of rewards for tolerating these changes as long as they are not giving in to the child’s dislike for the lesson. Along with these unfortunate surprises, the teacher must still remember to mix in some happy and neutral surprises—less surprise comes to mean “bad things are coming.” Over time a well-prepared teacher would never be without a handy Surprise! card so that when the office calls and says, “Sorry, your class can’t go to the gym—it flooded again!” you can simply turn to the class, take out the magic card and announce, “Surprise!”

These “schedule surprise” lessons should be combined with other strategies such as teaching “waiting” by gradually increasing the delay between the student requesting an item and actually receiving it. Another strategy that can be combined with a schedule involves teaching “later.” For example, although a child has requested playing on the swing, the teacher can add an icon of that on an existing schedule after completing several activities, thus implying “later” rather than “never.” A different strategy involves teaching children to make choices within a schedule. For example, the schedule can include a blue box or a green box. Each colored box is associated with a set of activities from which the child can select and put on the schedule. Perhaps blue activities involve literature and the child can choose to read a book or listen to an audio book. Green activities could involve a selection of art activities.

Each of the strategies in this article is designed to help individuals make choices and tolerate delays. Children and teens on the spectrum can learn to accept that while the world is not always completely predictable, there are many rewarding activities and events available.

Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech/language pathologist and Andy Bondy, PhD, is a behavior analyst. They co-founded Pyramid Educational Consultants, Inc. They also co-authored the PECS Training Manual, 2nd ed.; A Picture’s Worth: PECS and Other Visual Communication Strategies in Autism, 2nd ed.; and Autism 24/7. Both travel extensively to train parents and professionals about PECS and the Pyramid Approach to Education.

Bondy, A., and L. Frost. 2011. A Picture’s Worth: PECS and Other Visual Communication Strategies in Autism, 2nd ed. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.


Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print is prohibited without written permission of publisher.

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Teachers We Love!

Deborah Moeller, A Dream Come True
By Patricia Obenour

Do you have a grade school child with Asperger’s Syndrome? Perhaps you can identify with my son’s early school experience: a different school every year from preschool through first grade; some very nice school experiences along with some midyear withdrawals from schools that weren’t meeting his needs; recesses and lunch periods spent walking around alone talking to himself; ostracism and teasing from fellow students; a decline in self-confidence. If this sounds even vaguely familiar, you can imagine the relief and cautious optimism I felt when I first visited a special day class designed to handle kids with a variety of skills and needs, including children on the autism spectrum. Let me introduce Mrs. Moeller, the teacher of this wonderful class.

When you first walk into Mrs. Moeller’s classroom, you know something is different. You see a detailed schedule for the day on the blackboard. You notice a slanted board for writing, a copy of Handwriting Without Tears, and a keyboard program. You see that each child has a notebook binder containing directions to the bathroom, a homework log, a weekly social skills project, and loose-leaf sheets of paper for parent-teacher communication.

You turn your attention to the students and observe nine children facing the front of the room and participating in a social skills lesson. You look to the front of the room to see how the teacher is managing to hold the attention of this group of children. You observe Mrs. Moeller in action as she works the room – calling a child’s name here, touching a shoulder there, gently lifting a chin, doing whatever is needed to get every child involved.

Later in the day, you observe a supervised recess period. Today the kids are playing board games together or working on an Oregon Trail trek cooperatively. Mrs. Moeller and her aide, Mrs. Chang, monitor the play period, stepping in when necessary and letting the children work out their differences by themselves when possible. If you had visited on another day, you might have seen the kids participating in a game of kickball supervised by Mrs. Moeller.

Not only does Mrs. Moeller spend each recess with her kids, she eats her lunch with them as well. With no teacher breaks at lunch or recess, you ask her how she gets through what looks like a very demanding day. She says that, even though she does get tired, she chooses to spend her entire day with her kids because her number one priority is keeping them safe. If your child has ever been persistently teased or bullied, you know that this is music to a parent’s ears.

To the parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, this teacher and this class are a dream come true. With a high degree of structure, continual coaching in social skills, accommodations for those with handwriting difficulties, and constant, firm and loving guidance, this class is tailor made for kids

Read the rest of this article in this months issue.

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What Do Federal Laws Say about Bullying?

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Tony Attwood

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Adolescent Issues for Individuals with AS

October 28, 2013  /  Comments Off on Adolescent Issues for Individuals with AS

Girls with Asperger’s Syndrome: Early Diagnosis Is Critical

April 19, 2013  /  2 Comments ››



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Tom Fields-Meyer

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All-Star Autism Dads

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August 27, 2012  /  Comments Off