Able2learn is working to help struggling parents, teachers and schools – faced with limited budgets – educate children with autism.
The CDC reports autism rates have increased more than 30% over the last ten years. The influx of children entering the school system has been challenging, with many teachers ill-equipped, lacking in training, supports and the proper funding to teach classes effectively hobbling the success of our children.
An American study found the top 10% of teachers impart three times as much as learning as the worst 10% of teachers in a single year. Imagine the possibilities if the best teachers had access to accommodated materials and taught our students, we could see a rise in the rate of achievement.
The issue of educating children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an important one, it can affect the overall quality of life for a child well into the future, affecting postsecondary employment and overall education outcomes.
When examining the education system, it seems everyone is looking for a miracle with no focus on sight. School boards try to minimally invest in special education teacher training.
Special education is usually the first to receive cuts in funding — unions get involved limiting the role of teachers, government policies and new programs are usually directed in the area of private funding, with no real goal or strategic plan for the future.
What everyone is missing, is a laid out standardized curriculum with a focus on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles, early learner skills and alignment to the Education Ministry standard that allows for integration, allows for the development of skills in multiple modalities, is easily accessible, and focuses on the diverse skill set of our kids.
Able2learn was created with the idea of improving access to education materials, strategies, and training on materials to revolutionize the system. The curriculum focuses on early learner skills aligned to academic subjects to allow for integration, behavior management and other supports necessary for our children to be successful in life. Research shows many youths are still living at home (45%) and fewer than 10% have necessary independent day-to-day household skills such as meal preparation, making it imperative to have life skills with goals and testing as a subject. Making life skills a mandatory subject with goals that must be achieved is imperative.
The Able2learn site offers materials to help people with special needs gain these important life skills. Recipes with simple step-by-step pictures and instructions, for example, are available for free and can help students reach personal goals. Here are some tips for teaching someone with autism to prepare food:
1. RECIPES SHOULD BE SIMPLE WITH CLEAR VISUALS:
It is not helpful if the instructions for a recipe are too complicated to follow and the teacher or parent ends up completing the recipe because then the opportunity for learning for the student has been lost. Many students with autism learn when they do a task, see a task, and understand through experience.
2. SHOW A DEMONSTRATION OF THE STEPS AND THE END PRODUCT:
Students are more likely to be successful if they can visually see the steps and the end product before beginning the recipe. Research studies show video modeling of complex skills as well as pictures, have been shown to be an effective way to teach youth with ASD. Able2learn has made a library of free video modeling cooking videos. Use these in the classroom or at home.
3. PLAN COMPLEMENTARY LESSONS AROUND THE RECIPE:
This is a wonderful opportunity to teach your student how to check for missing items, make a grocery list, learn about money, how to put away groceries, the names of items found in a kitchen, safety amongst many other skills. Able2learn step by step recipes comes with a full package: visual recipes using real photographs, grocery list, two sets of comprehension packages, dollar up sheets, and task analysis for easy data collection.
4. USE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENCOURAGE TASTING:
Many children and youths with autism are adverse to food, experiencing food sensitivities. Take the opportunity to encourage tasting of food. If the student is adverse to the food being made, start by having the student touch it, smell it, bring it up their mouth, lick it, take a bit, chew and swallow. The student should only do what they are comfortable with and what is fun, sometimes watching other peers enjoy food can be motivating.
5. PRESENT THE RECIPE IN A MANNER APPROPRIATE FOR THE STUDENT:
Some students may find recipes overwhelming. Pictures can be cut out and presented one at a time. Use assistive technology and augmentative communication tools as required.
6. TEACH social skills:
The students can gather around a table to eat together after completion of the recipe. Students can be encouraged to ask and answer questions appropriate for a meal with peers, tasting and passing food, working on table manners, learning how to set and clear a table.
This article was featured in Issue 51 – School: Preparing Your Child for Transition