What specific strategies can improve outcomes for these children?
Page 6: Elementary and Middle School
For Your Information
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), that is with their non-disabled peers to the greatest appropriate extent.
The challenges of providing appropriate school programs for students with ASD change when students make the transition from preschool to elementary school. Regardless, in elementary school and beyond, teachers must ensure that students with ASD have access to the general education curriculum and to the specialized curriculum and instruction necessary to address the core deficits associated with ASD. Planning and inter-disciplinary collaboration are essential to meeting the needs of students with ASD.
When children with ASD enter school, it is important that they have access to the general education curriculum, regardless of whether they are receiving services in a self-contained or inclusive classroom. They should receive instruction and accommodations (e.g., noise-reducing headphones, preferential seating) that specifically address areas identified by the IEP team. When they provide this instruction, teachers should employ evidence-based practices to the greatest extent possible to promote the success of these students.
As we mentioned before, the National Professional Development Center has identified 27 EBPs for students with ASD. Two of these practices will be highlighted on this page: differential reinforcement of alternative, incompatible, or other behavior (DRA, DRI, DRO) and video modeling. In addition to the five foundational practices described earlier, these EBPs have been shown to be effective for improving the outcome of students ages 6–14 across multiple domains.
|Antecedent-based intervention||Arrangement of events or circumstances that precede the occurrence of an interfering behavior and designed to lead to the reduction of the behavior.|
|Cognitive behavioral intervention||Instruction on management or control of cognitive processes that lead to changes in overt behavior.|
|Differential reinforcement of Alternative, Incompatible, or Other Behavior||Provision of positive/desirable consequences for behaviors or their absence that reduce the occurrence of an undesirable behavior. Reinforcement provided: a) when the learner is engaging in a specific desired behavior other than the inappropriate behavior (DRA), b) when the learner is engaging in a behavior that is physically impossible to do while exhibiting the inappropriate behavior (DRI), or c) when the learner is not engaging in the interfering behavior (DRO).|
|Discrete trial teaching||Instructional process usually involving one teacher/service provider and one student/client and designed to teach appropriate behavior or skills. Instruction usually involves massed trials. Each trial consists of the teacher’s instruction/presentation, the child’s response, a carefully planned consequence, and a pause prior to presenting the next instruction.|
|Exercise||Increase in physical exertion as a means of reducing problem behaviors or increasing appropriate behavior.|
|Extinction||Withdrawal or removal of reinforcers of interfering behavior in order to reduce the occurrence of that behavior. Although sometimes used as a single intervention practice, extinction often occurs in combination with functional behavior assessment, functional communication training, and differential reinforcement.|
|Functional behavior assessment (FBA)||Systematic collection of information about an interfering behavior designed to identify functional contingencies that support the behavior. FBA consists of describing the interfering or problem behavior, identifying antecedent or consequent events that control the behavior, developing a hypothesis of the function of the behavior, and/or testing the hypothesis.|
|Functional communication training||Replacement of interfering behavior that has a communication function with more appropriate communication that accomplishes the same function. Functional communication training usually includes FBA, differential reinforcement of alternative behavior, and/ or extinction.|
|Modeling||Demonstration of a desired target behavior that results in imitation of the behavior by the learner and that leads to the acquisition of the imitated behavior. This EBP is often combined with other strategies such as prompting and reinforcement.|
|Naturalistic intervention||Intervention strategies that occur within the typical setting/activities/routines in which the learner participates. Teachers/service providers establish the learner’s interest in a learning event through arrangement of the setting/activity/routine, provide necessary support for the learner to engage in the targeted behavior, elaborate on the behavior when it occurs, and/or arrange natural consequences for the targeted behavior or skills.|
|Parent-implemented intervention||Parents provide individualized intervention to their child to improve/increase a wide variety of skills and/or to reduce interfering behaviors. Parents learn to deliver interventions in their home and/or community through a structured parent training program.|
|Peer-mediated instruction and intervention||Typically developing peers interact with and/or help children and youth with ASD to acquire new behavior, communication, and social skills by increasing social and learning opportunities within natural environments. Teachers/service providers systematically teach peers strategies for engaging children and youth with ASD in positive and extended social interactions in both teacher-directed and learner-initiated activities.|
|Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)||Learners are initially taught to give a picture of a desired item to a communicative partner in exchange for the desired item. PECS consists of six phases which are: (1) “how” to communicate, (2) distance and persistence, (3) picture discrimination, (4) sentence structure, (5) responsive requesting, and (6) commenting.|
|Pivotal response training||Pivotal learning variables (i .e., motivation, responding to multiple cues, self-management, and self-initiations) guide intervention practices that are implemented in settings that build on learner interests and initiative.|
|Prompting||Verbal, gestural, or physical assistance given to learners to assist them in acquiring or engaging in a targeted behavior or skill. Prompts are generally given by an adult or peer before or as a learner attempts to use a skill.|
|Reinforcement||An event, activity, or other circumstance occurring after a learner engages in a desired behavior that leads to the increased occurrence of the behavior in the future.|
|Response interruption/ redirection||Introduction of a prompt, comment, or other distracters when an interfering behavior is occurring that is designed to divert the learner’s attention away from the interfering behavior and results in its reduction.|
|Scripting||A verbal and/or written description about a specific skill or situation that serves as a model for the learner. Scripts are usually practiced repeatedly before the skill is used in the actual situation|
|Self-management||Instruction focusing on learners discriminating between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, accurately monitoring and recording their own behaviors, and rewarding themselves for behaving appropriately.|
|Social narratives||Narratives that describe social situations in some detail by highlighting relevant cues and offering examples of appropriate responding. Social narratives are individualized according to learner needs and typically are quite short, perhaps including pictures or other visual aids.|
|Social skills training||Group or individual instruction designed to teach learners with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) ways to appropriately interact with peers, adults, and other individuals. Most social skill meetings include instruction on basic concepts, role-playing or practice, and feedback to help learners with ASD acquire and practice communication, play, or social skills to promote positive interactions with peers.|
|Structured play group||Small group activities characterized by their occurrences in a defined area and with a defined activity, the specific selection of typically developing peers to be in the group, a clear delineation of theme and roles by adult leading, prompting, or scaffolding as needed to support students’ performance related to the goals of the activity.|
|Task analysis||A process in which an activity or behavior is divided into small, manageable steps in order to assess and teach the skill. Other practices, such as reinforcement, video modeling, or time delay, are often used to facilitate acquisition of the smaller steps.|
|Technology-aided instruction and intervention (TAII)||Instruction or interventions in which technology (e.g., tablet, computer, computer program, online activity) is used to increase or maintain functional skills and behaviors.|
|Time delay||In a setting or activity in which a learner should engage in a behavior or skill, a brief delay occurs between the opportunity to use the skill and any additional instructions or prompts. The purpose of the time delay is to allow the learner to respond without having to receive a prompt and thus focuses on fading the use of prompts during instructional activities .|
|Video modeling||A visual model of the targeted behavior or skill (typically in the behavior, communication, play, or social domains), provided via video recording and display equipment to assist learning in or engaging in a desired behavior or skill .|
|Visual support||Any visual display that supports the learner engaging in a desired behavior or skills independent of prompts. Examples of visual supports include pictures, written words, objects within the environment, arrangement of the environment or visual boundaries, schedules, maps, labels, organization systems, and timelines.|
Adapted from Wong, Odom, Hume, Cox, Fettig, Kucharczyk, Brock, Plavnick, Fleury & Schultz, 2014. Retrieved from https://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/sites/autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/files/imce/documents/table7_working_definition_ebp.pdf
Differential Reinforcement of Alternative, Incompatible, or Other Behavior
Differential reinforcement involves providing a positive consequence (i.e., reinforce) for a desired behavior in an effort to reduce or eliminate an undesired or inappropriate behavior. This strategy can be used to address numerous areas of development: social, communication, joint attention, behavior, school readiness, play, motor, adaptive, and academic. Differential reinforcement has also been found to be effective for young children to address social, behavior, and school readiness. It has also been demonstrated to be effective for youth ages 15–22 when behavior concerns or adaptive skills need to be addressed. Three types of differential reinforcement are highlighted in the table below.
Reinforcement is delivered when the student engages in a desired or appropriate behavior. The main goal is to increase the occurrence of a desired behavior while decreasing that of an undesired behavior.
Jaquese’s teacher gives him a break card to use when he becomes overwhelmed by his classwork. His teacher rewards him when he uses the break card instead of yelling out a superhero catch-phrase (e.g., “Shazam!”).
Reinforcement is delivered when the student engages in a behavior that is incompatible with (or cannot occur at the same time as) the undesired behavior. The main goal is to substitute a desired behavior for an undesired behavior.
Michelle is rewarded when she stands at least 1½ feet away from a peer when talking to them (instead of violating the peer’s personal space).
Reinforcement is delivered when the student engages in any behavior except the undesired behavior. The main goal is to reduce or eliminate an undesired behavior.
Jaquese receives a positive reinforcer (e.g., a high-five from the teacher or, preferably, the peer) for talking to his friends about any topic other than comic book superheroes.
In video modeling, a student watches a brief recorded demonstration of a behavior or skill being performed correctly before engaging in that specific behavior or skill. This practice is easy to implement and requires few resources. First, the teacher records one or more examples of a correctly performed behavior using one of three methods. These methods are described in the table below. Each is accompanied by an example video that was created to help Emma transition from one class to another.
Modeling by Another Person
An adult or peer models the behavior, although note that the selection of a peer is optimal, when possible. Watch the video below to see an example of modeling by another person (time: 1:13).
Teacher: Okay, I need to pack up my things so that I can go to my next class. First, I’ll put my homework in the homework bin.
[The teacher puts her papers into the homework bin.]
Next, I’ll write down my homework assignment in my planner.
[The teacher opens her planner and writes down her assignments in it.]
Okay, then I’ll pack up my binder.
[The teacher unzips her binder, places her planner inside it, and zips the binder up again.]
Put the rest of the things in my backpack.
[The teacher places some books into her backpack and zips it up.]
Okay, then look around for my personal items, so I’ll take my water bottle and my jacket.
[The teacher collects her water bottle and then her jacket. She pushes her desk chair neatly under her desk.]
And I’m ready to go.
The student serves as the model; this method requires leading the student through the behavior by providing prompts and subsequently editing the video so that it shows the student performing the behavior independently. Watch the video below to see an example of self-modeling (time:1:12).
Emma: I need to get ready to move to my next class. First, I need to turn in my classwork to the bin.
[Emma places her homework into a nearby homework bin.]
Next, I need to write my homework assignment in my agenda.
[Emma opens her agenda and writes down her assignments in it.]
After that, I have to pack up my binder and my backpack with all the things I need.
[Emma packs some papers into her binder and zips it up. She then places some books into her backpack and closes it.]
Lastly, I have to check for my personal belongings like my water bottle and my jacket.
[Emma collects her water bottle and then her jacket. She pushes her desk chair neatly under her desk.]
Now I’m ready to move to my next class.
The video is filmed from the perspective of whomever is engaged in the behavior or skill. Watch the video below to see an example of point-of-view modeling (time: 1:18).
Teacher: Okay, I’m getting ready to transition to my next class. The first thing I need to do is, I need to turn in my classwork.
[The teacher puts her papers into a bin labeled “Classwork.”]
Now I need to write down my homework assignment.
[The teacher returns to her desk, opens her planner, and writes her homework assignments down in it.]
Next, I need to pack my things away in my binder.
[The teacher places her planner and some of her other belongings into a binder and then zips it up.]
Then I need to get my backpack and put books in there.
[The teacher opens her backpack and places her books inside it. She then zips the backpack up.]
Then I just need to grab my water bottle and my jacket.
[The teacher collects her water bottle and her jacket.]
And I’m ready to go.
Next, the teacher provides a means for the student to view the video of the modeled behaviors (e.g., smartphone, tablet) that can easily be transported to different settings. The video can also be viewed on stationary platforms such as computers and smartboards. The video below demonstrates Emma using a tablet to watch herself model transitioning procedures (time: 2:21).
This practice can be used to teach students skills or behaviors in a variety of domains (e.g., social, communication, behavior, vocational, academic, adaptive). These skills range from functional life skills such as putting on a coat or preparing a meal to socially interacting and communicating with peers. Video modeling has also been demonstrated to be effective for students ages 3–5 and 15–22.
TIPS: Engaging and Supporting Elementary and Middle School Students
Many of the tips for young children found on Perspectives & Resources Page 4 will also prove useful among elementary and middle school students. In addition, teachers should consider the steps outlined below to further help students in these age groups to experience more success in the classroom.
Create a Safe and Structured Classroom and Learning Environment
- Create a place where students can go for brief periods when they need a break from academic or social demands.
- Help students find a space that works best for them (e.g., a desk close to the door that makes it easier and less distracting to take a break; a space away from distractions, such as windows or pencil sharpeners; a desk near a familiar student) and help them keep that space for the school year.
- Provide an advance organizer outlining main topics or assignments.
- Listen to a student’s concerns and help brainstorm strategies that will allow success in the classroom.
- Schedule trips to community-based programs, parks, and museums when they offer “sensory friendly” days—that is, days when the environment is especially accessible to individuals with specific needs.
Create Opportunities for Peer Interactions
- Provide opportunities for students to access their peers in a social context. If children are not placed in an inclusive setting, it is important to seek additional opportunities to work on developing relationships with typical peers.
- Ensure that children have the opportunity to engage in learning activities with peers (e.g., work groups in which the student with ASD will be valued for his or her detailed knowledge in a specific area).
Promote Generalization of Skills
- Create opportunities for students to use skills in an appropriate manner across activities, settings, and people (i.e., generalize skills). Once a student begins learning a new skill at school, it is a great idea to to try to generalize these skills to the home environment. For instance, a teacher can collaborate with the parent of a child who is just beginning to learn words to describe colors and shapes and suggest that the parent point out and encourage conversation and play that involve or have to do with colors and shapes. It is also important for teachers and parents to collaborate so that skills learned at home can be generalized to the school setting.