Taking this caution into account, visual supports are very useful and can be employed to: • organize the student’s activity—daily schedules, mini-schedules, activity checklists, calendars, choice boards • provide directions or instructions for the student—visual display of classroom assignments, file cards with directions for specific tasks and activities, pictographs and written instructions for learning new information • assist the student in understanding the organization of the envi- ronment—labelling of objects, containers, signs, lists, charts, and messages • support appropriate behaviour—posted rules and representations to signal steps of routines • teach social skills—pictorial representations of social stories depicting a social situation with the social cues and appropriate responses, developed for a specific situation for the individual student (for further information on social stories, see the section in this chapter on strategies for teaching social skills) • teach self-control—pictographs, which provide a cue for behaviour expectations The key question to ask when planning an activity or giving an instruction is: how can this information be presented in a simple visual format? Choose visual aids on the basis of an understanding of the student and her or his abilities and responses. ! Quill, K. A. “Visually cued instructions for children with autism and perva- sive developmental disor- ders,” Focus on Autistic Behaviour , 10(3), 1995. Hogdon, L. A., Visual Strategies for Improving Communication, Volume 1: Practical Supports for School and Home , 1995. T E A C H I N G S T U D E N T S W I T H A U T I S M Chapter Four
Other approaches Provide precise, positive praise while the student is learning Give students precise information about what they do right or well; for example, “great colouring,” or “good finishing of that math problem.” Generalized praise may result in unintended learning that is hard to reverse. Students with autism may learn on one trial, so directing the praise to the very specific behaviour is important: “Sal, you are doing very well at multiplying these numbers.” Superstitious learning can occur if students mistakenly connect something they are doing with the praise. Saying “Sal, you are doing very well” when Sal is also swinging his feet while he does the math assignment might connect the feet swinging with the general praise. Use meaningful reinforcements Reinforcers can be anything from praise to tangible objects that increase the behaviour the student is to learn. Students with autism may not be motivated by common reinforcers that work with other students. They might prefer some time spent alone, time to talk to a preferred staff member, a trip to the cafeteria, an exercise routine (such as going for a walk), time to play with a desired object, music, playing in water, getting to perform a favourite routine, items that provide specific sensory stimulation, or sitting at the window.
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