Developing positive relationships between adult - student, and student - student is extremely important. However this may need explicit teaching and support for students with ASD.
Knowing the student's individual preferences and motivators is paramount to the development of a successful teaching and learning relationship.
Individual preferences may include:
- what the student likes and dislikes
- interests and strengths (past and present)
- fascinations which may be used to motivate and engage the student
- fascinations which may cause distress or overly distract the student
- learning preferences
- successful routines and patterns
- interactions that are successful for the student
- activities, objects and interactions used successfully to motivate the student.
Tools used to gather information about the student at the beginning of the
transition process and for the development of curriculum access plans and goals can be useful to record individual preferences.
Tips for developing relationships provides further suggestions for identifying and incorporating students' individual preferences and strengths when developing positive teacher/students relationships.
It is inevitable that conflicts and issues arise at times for students. The following points may help to minimise, avoid or manage conflict within the Prep learning environment and assist the student with ASD to focus on developing positive relationships:
Explicitly teach, explain and practise the rules necessary for the learning environment.
Teach the unwritten or hidden rules such as:
- how to win and lose games
- how to share
- how to wait
- how to request items or a turn from others
- how to wait when you put your hand up for help
- what quiet work means.
Visually present this information, such as a 'who is waiting chart', cue cards to prompt requesting or a 'waiting hand' to prompt waiting.
Use visual representations to support comprehension of verbal instructions.
Schedules, lists, cue cards and models all increase predictability and certainty, thus reducing anxiety and stress. Holding up a hat (real object) to indicate the student may go outside for a break is clear, concise and very concrete.
Teach the student to take a break before issues arise or become overwhelming. Short breaks help the student maintain composure for longer in the classroom and support the development of independent stress management techniques.
- Learn your student's stress triggers or 'heat sources'. Consistent issues or misunderstanding in set activities, routines or interactions may be minimised by increasing the structure and predictability. Add rules, manage the group size, alter the environment, provide cues of where to wait etc.
- Minimise the social demands of difficult situations by managing the group size, providing rules or sequences to follow, altering or adapting expectations, and limiting verbal instructions.
- Identify the support systems and resources available, such as who may be called to offer support while in the playground, how to contact a buddy teacher, what helps calm the student when he or she is very stressed and how the environment may be manipulated or changed to ensure safety.
- Maintain calm at all times to avoid escalating the issues. Keep interactions with an overly stressed or anxious student to a minimum. If in doubt, say nothing until the situation is calm.
Restoring and repairing relationships
Inevitably incidents may occur which can challenge the teacher - student relationship, student - peer relationship or a range of other adults - students relationships.
It is the ability of the teacher to manage and address incidents and issues that determines the likelihood of a successful outcome. It is important to try to 'finish' incidents or misunderstandings by fixing the broken relationship and helping the student to move on successfully.
The use of restitution or 'fixing up' is a concept that can be taught to young students. For example, if you spill something, you clean it up, if you hurt someone, you say sorry and do something nice for them to fix the hurt.
Developing language, routines and activities for repairing relationships and fixing up incidents and issues supports the development of a positive learning environment for all. This is a very important skill for students with ASD to learn.
Tips for restoring and repairing relationships provides further information you may find useful.