Children with Autism: Gummy Bears, Chewing Gum and Classroom Tricks (Part 2)

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In my last blog, I discussed a few classroom tricks to help keep your child in an inclusive classroom. I mentioned how our child chews gummy bears or chewing gum for oral issues and there are various ways of helping him sit through an assembly.

Our child’s problem with sitting also extends to sitting on a chair. He has always had problems with chairs and sitting on hard floors.

How did we help our child sit in a chair?

We provided the classroom with a seat cushion. Typically, I send two or three different options for him to try and the aide sends home the one(s) he doesn’t like.

Because our growing child’s needs change from year to year, the seat cushions have changed according to how they’ve felt on his body. It took our son and the aide about a week to decide which one worked better.

How else did we do to help our son?

Our son has a container of water on his desk. We provided the container because at one point he got into the habit of asking to go to the drinking fountain multiple times during the school day.

Additionally, we had to provide a water bottle that did NOT make “that noise” when the bottle gets squeezed. Our son loved to make “that noise,” but his teacher refused we replace it since she felt it was too disruptive.

Our son is also allowed to occasionally take a lap around the classroom if he feels it can help to calm his body. We noticed that his requests to take this lap typically happened before a time period when he was expected to be seated. Apparently, since he knew he’d have to be seated for a long period of time, he felt his body needed to move a bit beforehand.

Is there anything else?

I have known parents who have provided a yoga ball or a bean bag chair to their child’s classroom. The items were for the child’s use, but other children were allowed to use them.

What happens if nothing seems to be working?

It happens.

Fortunately for us, our child’s aide knows how to handle most of our child’s issues and/or she does an excellent job of communicating his needs with us. Since she has been with our child for four years, she knows him (and us) very well.

A big issue with our son is when he says his “engine is running high.”

This phrase is OT code (if you will) that our child learned long ago that helps him tell an adult that he feels his body engine is running high and he will have trouble sitting still.

Our child is expected to try to stay in the classroom and is only supposed to say that his engine is too high when the other classroom tricks aren’t working. This communication is supposed to mean that our child really needs a break from the classroom environment.

Does it always work?

Not always.

For my child, the phrase, “My engine is running high,” has evolved over the years into having two potential meanings.

One way he uses it is to try to get out of the classroom because he doesn’t feel like being there. (Yep, he can be a bit of a manipulator). These times typically happen during subjects that don’t interest him (language arts).

We all have days like these, by the way, and our son is no exception. On some days, he just doesn’t feel like sitting still in a crowded classroom listening to a teacher.

Plus, our son knows that he gets special treatment. For example, he has an aide while the other kids in his class don’t. And, he does get to leave the room for special reasons.

What happens when he’s simply trying to get out?

The aide, with the help of the teacher, will read our child’s body language. Sometimes, his body looks calm, his volume is good, and he often he’s just returned from a recess. He looks and his body says his engine is NOT running high.

In this case, they will challenge our son.

How do they challenge him?

They give him a time limit and tell him that he has to try to stay in the classroom. For example, they’ll ask him to try to stay for fifteen minutes, and at the end of the fifteen minutes, they’ll ask him if his engine has gotten better or worse.

This approach has worked with our son. I’ve used it myself.

What if it doesn’t work or your child really does need a break?

In that case, the aide will remove him from the classroom and take him outside for a few minutes. They will do exercises and then return to the classroom.

What exercises?

Running, holding onto the monkey bars, jumping jacks, pushing a wall, walking backwards, or doing brain yoga (criss cross your arms, grab the opposite ear, hold, and do squats).

Usually, after three or four minutes of exercises, our child is able to return to the classroom.

By the way, all of the accommodations I discussed in my last two blogs are informal, they are NOT written into our son’s IEP. They are simply tricks that have developed over the years.

You can formally add these to your child’s IEP, you can ask to put almost anything in there that will help your child get through a typical school day. If you feel you need to add any tricks or accommodations to your child’s IEP, then by all means do so.

In my opinion, you should have informal tricks or formal IEP accommodations always available. Your goal is to help your child get through a school day. And, you should try to do this with a full arsenal for you, your child’s aide, and your child’s teacher. Anything to help them.

To Find Kimberly Kaplan:

www.kimberlykaplan.com
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”
Twitter: @tipsautismmom

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