Advice for helping AS children in a Head Start

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RubyWings91
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10 Dec 2023, 6:43 pm

I have recently been hired onto a position that has me working directly with young children who are on the spectrum. In order to do my best by them, I am trying to look for advice from multiple source and I thought that Wrong Planet might be a good place to look. I am not sure if this is the correct forum for this particular topic but it didn't know if it quite fit into either School and College Life or Parent Discussion. Obviously, I haven't listed any names or locations below but I will say that I am in America, as I know that laws and regulations are vary in different countries. I've gone into greater detail about the kids below.

I was recently hired at a head start specifically to provide with one on one care for a boy in a class of seventeen three and four year old's who has been diagnosed as on the spectrum. He is three years old and until recently was believed to be nonverbal, although now his vocabulary is developing quickly. In order to get ideas for how to work with him, I have spoken with multiple parties. This includes, his family, his therapists and the teacher and teacher's aides of his previous class (there is a room for toddlers in the same building where he was before he was old enough to be here).

I have already taken steps to work with him. Since he is used to having toys specifically for his sensory needs, some of which I can provide at my discretion, I have been taking full advantage of this, leaving toys in that he is extremely attached to, while trading out others, both in hopes to learn about his sensory preferences (I've mainly been focusing on tactile and audio sensations, as well as a couple hand-eye coordination developing toys he really likes) and to get him comfortable with small changes. After communicating with his speech therapist, I have also been working with him on spoken words. There is a quiet area in the room which he always has the option to go to if he wants when he is overwhelmed by his surroundings and has a quite, relatively secluded space for his rest time (at this time, he either naps or he plays with the previously mentioned sensory toys). He has also already developed interests which I also try to incorporate, enjoying building toys such as Legos and magnetic tiles as well as insects. He might also be just starting to take one in dinosaurs.

He also has some challenges to overcome. We are also trying to potty train him and have had almost no success and, in fact, at home he is apparent regressing. He has only recently become comfortable enough with name to allow me to change him, rather than a coworker but has to be coaxed into the bathroom most of the time, although he will occasionally ask to be changed.

When his mother drops him off, he also has problems parting with her. If he clings to her she will linger longer, even though she has to leave. He will always be extremely emotionally distressed when she does. The current approach is to distract him when his mother leaves (and there is a disagreement on whether it is best to tell him she is leaving, although I feel that keeping his trust long term is more important than making things easier for a few moments).

His reaction when his mother leaves also leads into another major issue that I'd like to work on; his reaction when he gets upset. he tends to fixate on the cause of his emotions as well as physically lashing out at others around him when he is upset, both children and teachers. He reacts this way for reasons as major as not wanting to be parted from his mother or as simple as not getting a toy that he wants.

In the time since I was hired, another boy was diagnosed and also is expected to be provided one on one care, although none has been provided specifically for that, as of yet. He definitely has a sound sensitivity issue, and when exposed to one that he doesn't like, he covers his ears, runs away and yells for it to stop. He also enjoys a lot of the same sensory toys as the boy that I am working with, so I often share the ones that belong to the head start with him when I can.

Whenever the child I work with primarily is absent or currently spending time with one of the other adults in the classroom, I work with the other students, so I also have plenty of opportunity to interact with them. If either of the other two have interests yet, they are not obvious to me. Although all of these children act out at times, at this point, it is often hard to find the dividing line between the meltdowns and tantrums. There are times when it is clearly one or the other but I honestly think that a lot of the times they act out it is a combination of the two.

There is also a third boy who is currently undiagnosed but shows signs of being on the spectrum and very possibly nonverbal, although he does make noises to express what he wants and how he feels. Unfortunately, I have not gotten to interact with him as much as the other two.

There is also a fourth child in a different room who I have worked with as a one on one for a day and will probably see again on days when I get transferred over if the boy I usually work with is absent. He is also nonverbal and requires one on one care. He often likes to play alone. He seeks out physical sensations, especially enjoying playing in the water or in a tub of corn kernels and also likes organizing things, to the point where he will make messes just so that he can pick them up. He is also very interested in physical interaction; wanting to be held, lying on his back so that we can move his feet like he's running on air and sitting in our laps. I have found a few toys for him since, both sensory toys and one that might hold his interest for dumping out and picking up pieces, which his usual staff stated he really enjoyed.

I want to do what I can to help these kids succeed as much as possible. Thus, I came here, hoping that some of you might have advice for me to help them out. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.



Fenn
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10 Dec 2023, 7:59 pm

Hi, RubyWings91,
One thing I notice is that you are very focused on behavior, so I guess you may have some training from a behavioralist point of view. You might consider how empathy and perspective-taking may play a role in your work.
You mentioned special interests and sensory differences. Lego specifically. As you may know these are common for kids on the spectrum. You do not say if you yourself are on the spectrum or how you came to your current job.
I, for one would like to hear more about those two things.
One thing about movement. Many educators and leaders try to get unwanted behavior to stop (like hitting or ramming). I often find redirecting better. Movement allows for internal sensory re-balancing, and self soothing. Also, a. Behavior that is not repeated cannot become a habit.


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RDOS scores - Aspie score 131/200 - neurotypical score 69/200 - very likely Aspie


RubyWings91
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10 Dec 2023, 8:19 pm

Fenn wrote:
Hi, welcome to Wrongplanet.
One thing I notice is that you are very focused on behavior, so I guess you may have some training from a behavioralist point of view. You might consider how empathy and perspective-taking may play a role in your work.
You mentioned special interests and sensory differences. Lego specifically. As you may know these are common for kids on the spectrum. You do not say if you yourself are on the spectrum or how you came to your current job.
I, for one would like to hear more about those two things.
One thing about movement. Many educators and leaders try to get unwanted behavior to stop (like hitting or ramming). I often find redirecting better. Movement allows for internal sensory re-balancing, and self soothing. Also, a. Behavior that is not repeated cannot become a habit.
Again, welcome.



I am actually someone who joined WP a long time ago. I just have periods where I am on the site followed with lots of periods where I lose interest. I have Asperger's Syndrome. I don't actually have very much training f rom a behavioralist perspective but I have experience working both with people who have various disabilities and children of all ages.

I got this job by applying to the position online. I also had advocates to help me. When I came to the interview, I actually discussed both this experience and that I was high functioning, stating that I could use my own experience to consider the child I would be working with. I even gave examples of things I'd consider, including sensory stimuli, indicating a few that were in the interview room for examples. Furthermore, I made it clear that I legitimately wanted to help the kid that I would be working with. There was also a trial session where I met with the child and followed him and his previous One on One for a few hours. He was having a bad day, so I saw him at his most emotional and still wasn't discouraged. They must have liked what they saw, since they hired me as soon as possible, afterward.

I definitely try to apply empathy and consider perspective when I can, although I think I need to work on it. I will often be looking around for things that might be affecting them and behaviors that I recognize from myself: for example, the possibility that the reason a child is staring at the ceiling could be exploring the pattern of spots or the diamond pattern surface the florescent lights travel through or I'll see one of them rocking like I do sometimes when I'm overstimulated and try to help them relax. Although I want to redirect, I am still trying to learn how. What are some methods you use?



Fenn
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10 Dec 2023, 8:52 pm

RubyWings91 wrote:
Fenn wrote:
Hi, welcome to Wrongplanet.
[ . . . ]



I am actually someone who joined WP a long time ago.



Sorry, my mistake.

I have a son on the spectrum and I am recently diagnosed myself.

I have also been a volunteer youth leader.

Sounds like what you are doing already is in the right direction.


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RDOS scores - Aspie score 131/200 - neurotypical score 69/200 - very likely Aspie


RubyWings91
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10 Dec 2023, 9:13 pm

There's nothing to apologize for. It's been a really long time since I have been on here.