Prepare your learners and their caregivers
Many of our learners may be struggling at this time during remote learning, a hybrid model, or even an in person model. Any model that a school district may be following includes more and more changes. I am beginning to see regression in my learners. Whether it be academic, functional, emotional, or behavior. My district is full remote right now and will continue to be until the data shows that it is safe to go back with an in-person model in any form. Some of my learners are beginning to increase the frequency of biting, hitting, running away, crying, laying on the floor, pressing the end button on the iPad to leave a meeting, dropping, or their closing eyes. We have sent home a daily schedule visual as well as visuals to help the adults give directions in the home. My two paraprofessionals are THE best at taking data while I am running programs and lessons during large group or 1:1 time. They are a huge part of my team meeting conversations and we are all seeing a decrease in attention to the devices. We are being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to any sort of behaviors or regression we might be seeing in our learners. In part 1 of proactive strategies, I will share the first 3 supports and strategies we are using!
Preference Assessments and Behavior Data
The first thing we do is find out what will motivate our learners. We do this when we get a new student, and occasionally each week. Reinforcers can change quickly. When we find that a current reinforcer isn’t doing what a reinforcer should be doing, we find new ones using the preference assessment. In the remote setting, my team and I are relying on our learner’s families to carry out the use of reinforcers, AND share with us what are true motivators for their child. Following The Autism Helper preference assessment with families (as often as we need to) is a great way to keep students engaged and pair ourselves on the screen with their reinforcers.
If families voice concerns about the decrease in positive behaviors, or the increase in negative behaviors, we want to help them right away. When we were in the classroom, I would be able to share videos, pictures, and send home visuals and other strategies that have been working in the classroom to help carryover the positive behaviors in the home. In the virtual setting, I am now using The Autism Helper’s behavior definition worksheet to help. This is our second strategy! I am able to use my 1:1 scheduled time or my office hours to meet with families and go over their concerns. We fill out the worksheet together and I help coach them through the steps of carrying over the strategies in the home. There are two main ways that I am coaching my families right now;
1. Sharing videos of my son engaging in similar behaviors. This is a great way for me to model the expectations of the adults and caregivers. Families can also see how using these strategies may decrease the behaviors and how much time it might actually take. Having the pre-recorded videos of my son and I is a quick way for me to share my screen on a video call. I can play, pause, and talk through what I am doing, why I am doing it, and what my son is doing.
2. The second way is working on managing behaviors. It is stressful for us to be on the other side of the screen when we can see the frustration in our parents and our learners. When we get on a video call, we start work right away. The families have their reinforcers and any supports we have sent home. When a student starts engaging in behaviors, or if we see their frustration tolerance decreasing, we stop the program or lesson, and now it is time to coach the families through the behaviors. When a behavior is all done, we of course try again. Just like we would in person with our learners, we stay calm, use minimal vocal language, encourage, and wait for the families to follow through.
The third strategy we use are token boards. After finding out what reinforcers are right for your learners, the next step is using a token board. I have two sets of token boards in the remote setting. The first one is a physical token board that I have created and sent home. While I am working with a student, the families are in control of the token board with my support and prompts on when to give the student a star and when they have access to the reinforcer. Another token board I have is a virtual token board. This one I created in google slides and I am able to share my screen while on a video call with the student. The remote control access over the video call does not always work, which at that point I will put the star on the board for the learner.
A few things to remember about token boards:
- Does the learner require a quicker reinforcer? In this case you might give them a star after each follow through of a direction. For example; if they clap their hands after you say “clap hands”, give them a star to put on and say “clapping hands”.
- Can the learner delay gratification? This is the student who is able to get through an entire program before earning a star
- Is the student still learning how to use a token board? For this student, you may want to start by having them earn 1 star and then getting the reinforcer. In this case you will have 4 stars on the token board, they earn 1 and get to 5.
- Is the skill of using a token board mastered? This student will be able to delay gratification between each star earned and they will be able to earn 5 stars in total before getting access to the reinforcer.
I have a few students in between as well!
Check back at TheAutismHelper.com for part 2 of my proactive strategies! I will continue the list of supports my team and I are using with caregivers, parents, and our learners. All of the strategies we are using in a full remote setting right now, however, they will be carried over to a hybrid model and a full in-person model! We are setting our students and their families up for success and independence!