Sweet Sixteen Principles for All Activities
I can't make you sixteen again but I can give you sixteen principles you need to use with any activity when working with children through adults with autism/ASD. These principles span all environments and apply to professionals as well as to parents/caregivers.
Many people on the autism spectrum teach themselves. In other words, they know WHAT to learn. What they are lacking, misunderstanding, or just do not glean like typical people do, is HOW to learn.
As SLPs, we all know children on the autism spectrum who are very bright. Their cookie jar is filled with information but they don't know what to do with it. They don't know how to put it into social settings and make it functional. People with autism don't know HOW to use all of this information that is locked inside.
Kathie's Sweet Sixteen
I would like to think that my Sweet Sixteen would cure this HOW to Learn gap in people with autism but cure and autism should not be used in the same sentence. I do know that if all of these Sweet Sixteen principles are applied to every activity and across environments, they will help the person with autism in the following ways:
- Expressive language
- Receptive language
- Social language
- Improved eye contact
- Eliminating undesirable behaviors
- Theory of Mind (understanding emotions of others)
- Anxiety reduction
These principles are not only good for children with autism; they are beneficial for all children. Let your common sense, not any one program, drive each activity you do with a child.
- keep the child interactive within each environment to gain independence
- use turn taking
- many activities should be done simultaneously to enhance each other and overall effectiveness of communication skills
- use positive, tangible, and/or verbal reinforcement
- find the child's reinforcement preferences and use them for motivation
- use a combination of visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation
- focus the activities toward the student's ability to self-monitor
- any activity is only as good as the amount of enthusiasm and anticipation the speaker (SLP) brings
- find and build on the child's strengths
- move the activity from individual to small group with typical peers as soon as possible
- share successful activities/strategies between the home and school
- maintain a structured, predictable, and routine setting
- offer choices very early (start with two items and add more slowly)
- maintain a highly verbal environment using self and parallel talk (statements not questions)
- the child needs an investment in all activities: holding, coloring, counting, cutting, manipulating, choosing, drawing, writing, selecting
- vary the activity while keeping the goal the same ~ use a variety of stimuli to maintain interest
"Speech pathologists make good things happen."