Last Thursday evening, Ben, Ash and I dropped Eli off at a friend’s house, and then we headed to Lancaster and the Ohio University Lancaster Campus for an autism seminar. I have been loving the seminars I’ve been attending, and I feel very strongly that Ash and Ben really need to be hearing and learning the things I am so we can all be on the same page. So I drug them off to this seminar, and I came away with some awesome ideas!
One of the things the speaker said which really stuck with me is that 80% of what we are trying to teach our kids with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) should be visual. 80%! That’s practically everything!
She did a little exercise with us. On a slide projected at the front of the room she had the following:
1. Your name
2. Favorite ice cream
3. Favorite pet
4. Favorite book
She said, “Okay, I want you to write down your answers to these questions on a piece of paper. Go!” After about 15 seconds she said, “Okay stop. Do you all realize what every single one of you were doing?”
It turns out that every single one of us were continually looking up to the slide to see what the next question was. They weren’t hard questions. They were fairly easy to remember. She’d repeated them several times. But we all still kept looking up over and over for that visual reminder.
And we’re neuro-typical!
If we needed the comfort of having a visual reminder, think how much more our ASD kids need them! Think of how much we could reduce our kids’ anxiety by having visuals for them readily available and able to be referred to as many times as they want to!
One way to do this is through storyboards.
So far I have created two, but plan to make many more, for any and all things that cause Eli anxiety.
The first one I made for Eli was how to pack his lunch, because even after two years he still stresses out horribly about making his sandwich. The rest of packing the lunch is fine, but every day he is still screaming about making his sandwich.
I just created it on a word document and inserted pictures from Google Images. I have my page layout as Landscape and put the images side by side, but I couldn’t get it to happen the same way in this blog post. But you’ll get the idea. It goes something like this:
I printed it out in color and it now hangs on the pantry door in the kitchen so Eli can refer to it as many times as he wants to. He doesn’t have to keep having verbal instructions given to him over and over. That only increases his anxiety. We – as parents or teachers – will go over the storyboard with the child until he (or she) is able to handle it on his own, and then allow him to get to it.
*Storyboards can also help non-verbal children with communication.*
Similarly, PRIMING works along the same lines by using storyboards to prepare a child for what will happen when they are going out into public or for an “event” of any kind.
Eli has been really struggling with the first part of church service for the past month or so. He loves to go downstairs to Kid’s Church, but up until it is time to go down, he has been struggling with high amounts of anxiety. It’s making my worship time very stressful and is probably affecting people around us as well.
So I have made a storyboard for church and will work at Priming Eli to prepare him for what to expect. THEN…I will allow him to take the storyboard with him to church and keep it in his pocket. He can take it out if he needs to do so, to remind himself where we are in the process of going to church, what’s going to happen next. He can use it to watch our progress.
I found an actual picture online of our church (from years ago…before renovations) and a recent picture online of the inside of the church, from a recent service. The more often you can find true visuals the better, I think. But drawn pictures are just fine too! The church storyboard I will use for priming goes something like this:
I plan to go over this with him now, and then again Saturday evening, and then again Sunday morning and I will allow him to take the page with him. We will repeat the going over process until he is able to handle church on his own without me having to go over it with him at all. He can, of course, continue to bring the storyboard with him as long as he needs it.
Get creative! Make storyboards for your kids! Going to Grandma’s house. Going to the grocery store! Putting toys away. One that explains techniques to calm down. (That one would be gone over and over when the child is calm…NOT when he’s in the throes of a meltdown. But – having gone over it, you could provide directives when his anxiety level does soar.)
Anything and everything your child is struggling with and freaking out about. I feel Priming and Storyboards would work for any child, to help prepare them for what to expect. Add in a reward for a good job at the end, if you feel it would help. At the end of the event the last picture could be something like “Then we will get ice cream.” It sets a goal to work toward.
USE THESE! Steal these ideas! I hope they help!
Reply and share your own experiences with Priming and Storyboards. Put a creative spin on them. Tell me about it!
**Note: Please reply in the comments section of the blog below, so others can benefit from your experience as well. This is a community and not everyone can see comments left on Facebook. :) Thanks!**