You may remember my Michael Jackson-loving, big dreamer blog star, H. A quick recap for our viewers at home: H is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and exhibits "classic" symptoms: rote, bookish speech (and hilarious one-liners), poor peer social interactions and a preference for being with adults, resistance to changes in routine, and extreme negative reactions to overstimulating (loud, noisy, busy, overpopulated) environments.
H was a case I looked at due to our ongoing state review, but was one we had already planned to reevaluate. H was receiving Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) services within the general education classroom. When she moved up to first grade, she began having an extremely difficult time maintaining herself in the large classroom, and would shut down for hours at a time when overwhelmed. She would cry, sob, refuse to do work, and “ramble” incoherently. She also was refusing to go into the lunchroom, saying she is “scared” of the noise. She was unable to calm herself independently, a teacher is generally needed to do so, or removal from the overstimulating environment. Crying/shutting down episodes typically happened 2-3 times per half an hour period, and the crying lasted for up to 30 minutes afterwards.
H's special education teacher started interventions at the beginning of the year. Here's a quick list, none of which made a significant impact on her behavior, as little change occurred in her shutting down:
-planned breaks following periods of appropriate work.
-pulled into small groups within the class, to isolate her from the whole class.
-attempts to console, soothe, and calm her within the classroom (almost always had to be removed due to the disruption and intensity).
-given headphones to wear within the classroom to help her block out some of the noise of the other children.
-lunch in my office, outside of the overstimulating lunch room (always a hoot).
-individual counseling on coping, calming down, and problem-solving skills at least 3x/week.
As a result of the reevaluation, we decided to move H to a classroom specifically for students with Autism. It proved to be a fantastic move that all of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) was pleased with (including H, who was reportedly needing "a vacation" from our school). The self-contained classes for students with Autism in our district not only target the academic needs of these students, but also do intense social, problem-solving, and coping skill training. The kiddos get to socialize with students "like them" within a controlled setting, teaching them age-appropriate interactions and helping them to overcome social and emotional deficits inherent in the disorder. They also learn more appropriate ways to cope with frustrations, changes in routine, and other upsets, as the "default" coping mechanism for many students with Autism is to cry/shut down, self-stimulate, or in extreme cases, self-injure (bite, scratch, or head-bang).
H is reportedly doing great over at her new school, and while I will miss my daily lunch buddy and her fantastic (if inadvertent) humor, she's in a much more appropriate educational setting. Enjoy your "vacation," H!
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