- Am I realistic about what behaviour I might encounter tomorrow?
- Am I approaching tomorrow with a positive attitude?
- Have I set priorities and scheduled my time?
- Am I eating well?
- Am I exercising?
- Am I having enough rest?
- Do I have a hobby?
- Am I flexible and adaptable?
- Am I keeping my sense of humour?
- Am I giving myself permission to feel tired/angry/sad/other?
- Have I debriefed with a friend/colleague/partner/parent?
- Have I come up with ways to deal with the cause of my emotion?
- Am I recognising and accepting things I can’t change?
- Do I realise that I am not superwoman/superman?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
- Use visual or written schedules: Calendars help children predict what is coming up, especially if you cross off each day as it passes. Visual schedules for the day's routine, as well as a schedule for an activity, will help children be more confident in what they need to do. When it is holidays, count down on the calendar to when school starts again. Keep as much of the "school routine" at home as possible, or (as one parent suggested) start the routine a couple of weeks before school goes back.
- Clearly identify start and finish points: Use clocks, sounds, verbal and visual warnings to help children count up to starting points and count down to finishing. This applies to individual activities, a session or a new school term.
- Be organised: Use containers, checklists, flow-charts to help children be organised and know what is coming up next.
- Have rules: Display rules that clearly set out your expectations - but don't have too many. Avoid "don't" rules, but use statements that tell children what they should be doing.
- Use photos: Prepare children for important people they will meet or interact with through photos. You might also use video of new settings, people and/or activities.
Monday, March 14, 2011
So... I found after my last post that comments on my Facebook page indicate that if your child struggles to re-adjust to school after the holidays, you are not alone. One parent said that they had to help the children re-adjust every school holidays - not just after the long summer break.
There were also some strategies suggested by families to help their children adjust. They included:
- Playing schools during the school holidays.
- Starting the school routine a few weeks prior to school going back.
- Relaxation therapy prior to and at school - such as deep pressure therapy.
Different things will work for different children/youth. But it helps to understand the type of anxiety your child is feeling.
This is the label I have given to behaviour that comes out due to anxiety in a specific event. For example, something may happen in the classroom, at school or at home that may cause an immediate reaction. Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders often talk about a child screaming or shutting down, chewing clothing, biting others, running away and/or hiding when something occurs to distress them.
Anxiety due to an ongoing activity or trigger
Other behaviours show that the anxiety is due to a repeated event. These behaviours may include moodiness, nightmares, wetting the bed, the need to cling to someone and so on. This usually indicates that there is an ongoing activity that is causing the child anxiety.
If a child is showing signs of constant, ongoing anxiety over a period of 6 months or more, it may be time to consult with a psychologist. Kanakos (2011) provides a brief overview of different types of anxiety disorders. These will need to be dealt with differently than the more transient anxieties mentioned above.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I wanted to put a vote in for the "Ask Amanda" days - this occurred to me last night as I tossed and turned trying to work out how to help my daughter deal with anxiety. She has just started Year 1 and has had a number of wee accidents at school (none over the break) and she wakes up every night and insists on sleeping in our bed - both these behaviours have started with the new term hence I think they may be about her anxiety...would love any advice/tips or simply stories of similar experience...
You have just been invited to a new friend's home for dinner. It will be the first time you have been there.
First, you double check that you have the address right and you are given a description of the place. You might even get someone to drive you past just so you are confident you can get there.
Then you consult Google maps and get a set of written directions, a map and a street view of the place. You are getting even more confident.
On the night you have butterflies in your tummy, but that is expected. Another friend who knows the way offers to come with you. So now you barely worry at all.
With a little anxiety, you get in the car. But because you have someone you trust with you, and you have a written road map, and pictures representing the place, you manage to get there and enjoy the evening - and get home!
But then you don't get invited there for a while. Until one day, a few weeks down the track, you get invited again. Because you have been there before, you don't really worry. You just set off....
Getting there again
But last time you were driving at dusk, so now all the landmarks look different.
And while you thought you could remember all the turns, it turns out that you don't... and you forgot to bring the maps and instructions. And this time you are giving a lift to someone who "sort of" knows the way, but you don't know them well enough to trust them.
You do get there. But by the time you get there you are so anxious it is hard to relax and enjoy the company - all you can think of is having to drive home again.
But you don't really want to tell anyone because you feel like you should know what to do because you know you have done it before.
No, this isn't just a random story :). It is an analogy of how a child may feel as they transition back to school after the school holidays...
"Landmarks" change, "supports" are different or fewer. And the expectations are different. For children with developmental disabilities, add to this a difficulty with problem-solving and analysing your environment, and it is no wonder that the transition back to school after the holidays is a very anxious time.
So what can we do?
I will take a little time this month to talk about what can be done. But if anyone reading this blog has a story or some advice to offer, please post a comment here.
Friday, February 18, 2011
I know it is a bit late to be talking about New Years, but for me it feels like the year has only just begun as I wind down from wedding plans, the wedding and honeymoon. I don't know what it has brought for you, but for me 2011 has seen me gain a husband, a new extended family and a new home. All this has meant that Learn to be Buddies has been very quiet for a while.
But now it is time to get back into things... so I thought I would share a few things that will be happening this year.
Autism Awareness Month
Hopefully you will all be aware of Autism Awareness Month, which happens in April. Last year I interviewed a series of parents, who told their children's stories here to help build awareness. I also wrote a series of posts on Autism. You can browse last year's posts on this link. I hope to do something similar this year, so sign up to our newsletter, "like" our Facebook Fanpage or follow this blog if you want to be involved.
Learn to be Buddies will also be a sponsor of Autism Rainbow Day on the 1st of April. To find out about what happened on Rainbow Day last year, visit the Rainbowland Autism Services website. You also can follow what is happening on the day through Facebook.
Workshops and conferences
Last year we began running workshops for parents and teachers, as well as activity days and book readings for schools and preschools. The primary theme for these workshops was bullying. You can find out more, and purchase notes from these workshops, on our website.
A few bookings have been made for 2011, but there are available days if you think you would like for me to run a workshop for you or your school. Fill in our inquiry form with an expression of interest, or contact us via email.
I will get back into writing blogs about behavioural issues and practical strategies in March. While many of the behaviours addressed will be relevant to children with Autism, the posts will be relevant to parents and teachers of children with other diagnoses as well. The posts may also help parents/teachers of children with no diagnoses as they support their children in the challenges they face in the classroom and in social interaction.
However, I want to make sure that I am writing on topics that my readers are interested in or need information about. So is there anything that you are struggling with at the moment? Or a topic you want to know more about? Please ask a question or suggest a topic here or privately through our enquiry form.
Just note that I am not the final authority on Autism or behavioural issues, nor am I a trained medical practitioner. I am a special education teacher and researcher. I will help you find reliable information. however, any information I provide here should not replace consultation or therapy with relevant, trained professionals.
Learn to be Buddies Resources
We will be getting back to developing more Learn to be Buddies resources this year. We were not able to publish Why Don't You Share? last year as planned, so this is the first goal for 2011. We will also be developing a new series of DVDs, resources, games and a book based on a story addressing the issue of following instructions.
We will also get back into publishing further information sheets. These will be made available in our online store, or for free on our website as we find sponsors.
We will begin getting the monthly Learn to be Buddies newsletters out again beginning in March. These will keep you up to date with events, information, blog themes, products and competitions to win our resources. You can subscribe to our newsletter on our website.
I am looking forward to getting back into this important work again....
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
An important factor in the ability to “bounce back” in difficult circumstances is the ability to use effective problem-solving strategies. There are many factors that can effect how a child approaches a problem.
The cognitive problem-solving process
Problem-solving happens in our heads. We either consciously or unconsciously work through the issue. Some of us do it very rapidly, others take longer. The bigger the problem, or the bigger the problem seems, the longer it may take.
However, successful problem-solving usually involves self-talk. And it usually goes something like this:
1. Whoa! I’m feeling really angry/upset/frustrated/etc!
2. I better take a deep breath and relax!
3. I am angry/upset/frustrated/etc because….
4. But I am good at… or I think I may need some help with …
5. What I could do is…, but if I do that … will happen. Can I live with that?
6. Yep, I can live with that. Here goes…
7. Well, that didn’t work…. but that worked well… I might do …. next time
8. But I did a good job just having a go!
An unsuccessful problem-solving event may go something like this:
1. I’m feeling really angry/upset/frustrated/etc!
2. I better take a deep breath and relax!
3. I am angry/upset/frustrated/etc because….
4. But I am no good at anything. I need help. I can’t do anything …
Skills and strategies to help with problem-solving
Step One: Identifying your emotions
When a child is on the edge of a melt-down or explosion it is not a time to be trying to discuss what is happening.
Anxiety or any other strong emotion can interfere with the cognitive processes that are involved in the problem-solving. Children may not be calm enough to find the words they need. Or they may not be able identify or express with words exactly how they are feeling. Or they may feel that words are inadequate.
One strategy that is used is a feeling’s thermometer. There are many versions out there, but follow these links to find a few I like:
Or find Paul Stallard’s book, Think Good Feel Good. Chapter 10 has a great thermometer.
But I would prefer to use one that has some strategies for the child. This means it is not just about identifying emotions, but about managing them as well. This is my version:
Step two: Controlling your emotions
I talked about the Stop, Think, Do program by Lindy Petersen in a previous post. This can be a very effective tool in helping children relax and more effectively work through the problem-solving process.
More coming soon….
References and resources to follow up:
Alabama Federation Council for Exceptional Children (nd). Tips for Teachers: Managing Students' Behaviours: Fostering Independent Learners through Self-management Strategies. Online at:
Barrett, P. (2005). Friends for life. Queensland: Australian Academic Press
Find out more at http://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/programs-guide/friends
Stallard, P. (2002). Think Good- Feel Good. John Wiley & Sons: Australia
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
If you have read it before, I hope you find something new. If you haven't read it before, I hope it has something for you....
This is called functional literacy (Mercer & Mercer, 2001).
Why we read
Reading is usually done for a purpose. You may read to entertain yourself, to find out information or to find out how to make something. Knowing this purpose is an important first step in reading. This means that the emotional experience of reading is usually defined by the reader's ability to achieve that purpose.
So if you sit down in a restaurant and pick up the menu for the purpose of ordering your meal, and you find you can't read it due to unfamiliar words or poor presentation, you are likely to find it a very frustrating experience - and one which you will not be in a hurry to repeat.
Choosing and adapting texts
To ensure that we don't put children or youth into the position of feeling this frustration, and doing everything they can to avoid the reading experience, we need to make sure they know why they are reading and that they can achieve this purpose. As Dyck and Pemberton (2002) suggest, when giving a student a text to read - whether it is a novel, a text book or anything else they will need to read on their own in order to succeed with a task - the first thing we should ask ourselves is whether the student can read the text with enough speed and understanding to use it. We should be aiming to ensure that they have an equal opportunity to achieve in the task they have been given.
To get a sense of whether the student will be able to read the text, you could do one of two things:
- Circle every word you think they may find difficult. If this indicates that they cannot read the majority of the text without your help, then you need to adapt the text.
- Get them to read a small section of the text. Again, if this indicates that they cannot read the majority of the text without your help, then you need to adapt the text.
Ways we can adapt any tasks involving reading and writing
Dyck and Pemberton (2002) discuss a range of ways we can adapt literacy tasks. These are discussed below:
- Using alternative texts: Support groups such as SPELD NSW can help provide information and catalogues of books that are described as "high interest, low ability." These books are written with simpler language, and use age appropriate images and content especially for older primary school students.
- By-passing reading: In some cases it is more important for students to be able to learn content and display their knowledge than struggling to read and/or write. For this reason, students with significant literacy difficulties are eligible for readers and scribes in formal exam situations. By-passing reading in class can be done through buddy reading, using audio books and text to speech technology which is becoming more and more freely available in schools.
- Decreasing reading: In other cases students can achieve the purpose of a task through the reduction of reading/writing demands. For example, copying notes off the board can be one of the most demoralising and meaningless experiences for a student struggling with literacy. Instead, the student could have a fill-in-the-blank worksheet which helps them become familiar with key terms. Using mind maps, cartoon strips and a whole range of other advanced organisers can also be of great help for a student to learn rather than struggle through trying to read.
- Supporting reading: The use of glossaries, personal dictionaries, notes in margins, colour-coding, images, diagrams and so on are great ways to help struggling readers focus on the key points of a text and achieve the purpose of an activity rather than being bogged down in decoding words on a page.
- Organise reading: Organising the information on the page differently can help students who are struggling to read. For example, using dot points instead of lengthy paragraphs. Enlarging the font, using numbering or a flow chart to clarify a sequence, and adding any images will help the student again focus on the content of the text.
- Guided reading: Reading a text together is a good way of helping a student focus on meaning. This can be done at home, or through small group reading in class. It could also involve choral reading, where everyone in a class reads along with the teacher.
Dyck, N. & Pemberton, J.B. (2002). A model for making decisions about text adaptations. Intervention in School and Clinic, 38(1), pp28-35.
Mercer, C.D., Mercer, A.R. (2001). Teaching Students with Learning Problems. Ohio: Prentice Hall.