Choose your challenge. Set your priority.



Balanced Energy
   Balanced Energy

           TOOLS & TIPS (AUTISM, ADHD)



Make a list with things that take away the anxiety or hyperactivity!

Ask the parents and previous educators on what calms down your student: Allow fidgets and chewers over the day. Provide weighted vests for 20 minutes (to avoid adapting).

Reason: Well, it is simple, do you want to help your student to focus? The autism world and the ADHD world are a completely different experience from how our works. You should help the child needs to be able to rid tension, manage hyperactivity and sensory needs or cognitive overload.


Plan small chunks of work and allow many breaks.

Your should not count on that your student has the ability to focus more than 10-20 minutes. It could be less for energy draining tasks. Divide assignments into smaller ones. Then it is time for a short break! 


Get to know your balance and imbalance!

Register your student’s (and maybe yours) balance over the day for 1-2 weeks. Use your child’s schedule for the day or a separate day planner where you write down activities and color mark them. Red = Overloaded. Yellow = Manageable. Green = Balanced. What did you learn? How long can your student keep focus on a good day? On a bad?


Alternate draining and energizing activities!

Examples of draining activities are those with demands on multiple weak skills (motor/planning/remembering), or having to face change, distracting environment or sensory overload... Energy and balance can be restored through solitude, interests, resting or exercising. Or the opposite is true!


Add short bursts of physical activity!

Integrate motion into everything you can to manage hyperactivity. Exercise can also manage high stress levels in or between low-energy lessons or distressing tasks. Just handing out papers, jumping out with your arms and legs, or running to fetch a thing might do. 



Expectations in Advance
   Expectations in Advance



Make clear Rule Cards.

Create Rule Cards with pictures of activities and three simple rules on (in pictures or text) that explain how school or kindergarten works. Make it clear. 'Bring toys' is not as clear as 'bring 1-5 toys'. Adjust details to the needs of your student and never assume they know the obvious.


Rule Card - Play in sandbox


Make your own Rule Cards with pictograms from Sclera.




Write Social Stories to explain how and why you act in different situations!

For example how do you behave in a lunch line? The stories should be encouraging and clear and adjusted to your child’s communication skills.

Reason: Autistic children have limited understanding of social skills and how the world works.

 Adrian  Super-ASocial Story - Getting Angry and Sharing - Natural Learning

Prepare any changes to routines carefully and in advance!

Focus on the positive aspect that also come with the change and on resolutions to issues that your child might have.



Make points and make new rules … but always with focus on the next time!

Either bring your point up only just BEFORE the next time you expect the same problem, or do it now in a positive way: “You did good bringing out the milk. Next time, remember to hold it straight, then you won’t spill.” Or back down from a demand to avert a crisis: “Today you did not put your shoes in place. Tomorrow I want you to do that. It is your job, and I know you can do it!”


Model right behavior.

Use prompting and point out what others are doing and why: “I see Andrew is putting his gloves on. That’s good – now he will not get cold.” You can model the behavior yourself and use the prompting so your student can cue in on what is essential. Model proper classroom behavior, like raising hands, or standing in the lunch line or how to initiate play and what to do if someone says ‘no’ to you.

Reason: Autistic children have limited understanding of social skills and how the world works.




My Way Out
   My Way Out



Use your own secret language.

Establish signals between you as a class teacher and the child. You could give a discrete signal to an interrupting child. Or teach your child a signal code or exit phrase when he is approaching his limit, like “Leave!” or clap. Don’t overdo the politeness, it is a crisis code when angry. Model it yourself or use role play to introduce it.

Reason: Signals will have minimal effect on self-esteem. And they offer a way out for what you might call “bad behavior”, but what really are core issues with autism or ADHD, like impulse control or sensory overload.  


Write a Crisis Plan!

Include your child’s behavior in pictures or writing & show what your response to throwing or hitting will be. Let your child know (when calm) that this is what will happen.


WHY does your child want his or her way?

Listen to your child, mirror what he is saying, figure out why he wants his way – it may not be the reason you assume. Describe why you want your way. You can picture your two different views on paper. Compromise with the focus on how you can achieve the whys. (Reed about this Plan B in Ross Greene’s The Explosive child.)

The Explosive Child - Ross Greene

Provide a safe corner and toys or activities that distress.

Have a safe place - a corner, a sofa, beanbag or a room, maybe with a book.


Take charge; gently guide your child through the meltdown.

Be your student’s rails: “I will give you this again when you are calm. I am just keeping it safe (from breaking) for you.”


Ignore spitting and throwing, or try introducing a replacement behavior!

It is very challenging to deal with aggressions. Remember they are not personal. Your child is talking to you in the way he or she can at that moment. Ignore or say “I can tell you are very upset with me. I will listen to what you want when you talk and don’t spit.” Try giving in to your child’s wishes for period of time and see if this reinforces a resolving attitude and decreases the aggressive behavior. Try introducing a replacement behavior (going to room, clapping, stomping, pointing tongue) that you prefer and reinforce it by rewards or praising your child for remembering that behavior instead of spitting/hitting. Just make sure it is a behavior your child accepts in anger. Never raise to the anger - it is counter productive. (Reed about the Low Arousal Approach in Bo Hejlskov Elven's book.)

 No fighting biting hitting - Bo Hejlskov Elven

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Your Patience and Acceptance
   Your Patience & Acceptance



Understanding and accepting the diagnosis (cars vs. trains).

If you do not believe in diagnoses, you should not teach the child. These students need teachers who accept and adjust to both the diagnose and the child. You are their way to the future! If you struggle with thougths like "but I know he can do it if only he sets his mind to it (he could for ten minutes yesterday" then the train analogy might help you. Especially high-functioning kids with autism may leave you lost around  the demands and the support needed – at moments they seem like any kid out there, and then their whole world falls apart for an hour because your hair accidentally touched them or something you didn't even get.

So what support do they need from you? They need you laying out the rails! Comparing them with trains will help you understanding them. Unlike a Car-kid, they have a much harder time to start moving, come to a stop or change directions. Like any train, they need their rails to function. The Train-kids will only work while on track, with a clear destination and on their own time table. They also have a need to stop at their regular stations, and to do things the same way each time they do it. If they are pushed outside of the rails in another direction, or ahead of their own schedule, they will, of course, become a train wreck.


Try out different learning styles.

Some ADHD students can keep it together better in front of a teacher who adjusts his or her volume and speed. The autistic student may want you to talk less. Only tell essentials, and if you can't stop talking... find ways to point to the key sentences - with pictures, objects or written instructions. Don't be afraid to use the same setup for each class - you will not bore your student, you will make him or her feel secure in the familiarity.   


Be the calm mirror no matter what!

Whatever your student does and no matter the state he or she is in - be calm. Be calm, move calm and talk calm (or keep quiet). If the child has a full-blown meltdown, you need to be the calm mirror. Picture yourself as a tree or whatever helps – move back and don’t add gasoline to the fire – use the Low arousal approach. If you want to tell you are angry, this is not the time!



Be on his side and make friends before points.

Would you rather do as you are told by someone you like and are convinced wants your best, or someone you intensly hate (for the moment) and who you are sure only wants to have it their way?


Nurture the strength, help your student feel successful. Catch your child doing something right.

If you do not find anything to praise or to build on, then you really need to sit down with a pen and paper, or someone who does. Decide which sucesses you want to start with and make them happen.





Removed Triggers
   Removed Triggers

           TOOLS & TIPS (AUTISM, ADHD)



Remove Choices – BUT leave two and build them into your student's day.

Don’t: “What do you want to read today?” Do:

  • read one chapter or two?
  • work alone or with a friend
  • use a pencil or computer
  • what topic...  in what room

Reason: Choice will give your student a feeling of control, and you the opportunity to learn about their autsim or ADHD, to undestand their learning preferences - where, how what and when.


Remove classroom distractions and sensory overload!

Pad sounds, dim lights, handle smell (perfumes, outdoor), support children wearing comfortable cloth & footear (or none), head phones or ear plugs (with music), a cap or sun-glasses. Some children can both see the light flicker and hear it, some cannot stand seeing patterns or shiny metal, some do not like the smell of “outdoors”. Also think of what you can hear from the outside in and noises or movements that may interrupt.

Links Out:

Respecting Sensory Issues (video).

Adjust the environment for hyperactive or hypoactive children!

Explore diverse sensory environments to see which one is most favorable for learning – silence or music, near-darkness or window seat, inflatable cushion or swinging... Add a rocking chair, beanbag or raised table. Help to focus – with stress ball to squeeze or chewing gum while listening. Reason: The sensory environment will interfere with learning, comfort and stress levels. Sitting still can be a trigger for hyperactive children. Some children learn better when moving and some autistic children will respond and communicate better if you interact with them while they are swinging or rolled up in a mat.

 Chew Sticks

Remove impulse triggers.

Hide things from sight: distracting toys, your cell phone or anything that will create an impulse behavior.


Find ways to replace impulsive or compulsory behaviors!

Have chewing gum to prevent from putting things in mouth, a beanbag to prevent getting up...






Added Structure
   Added Structure & Daily Sameness




Create schedules for each day (or shorter periods)!

Use picture schedules or text, display time if it helps. Make the schedules as same as possible. Reuse them – always have the same schedule on the same weekday or for an activity like “Going to visit grandma: Take on shirt (or not), comb hair (or not), get in car (yes) …” Look at old ones that worked when doing new ones.


Use boxes or folders to mask differences and to create sameness.

Replace a complicated school schedule – use a red folder each morning no matter what subject it is and place task instructions + the school book inside; after recess always use a blue … Use a green container for any paper crafting, yellow can be used for game/puzzle time, pink …


Take charge. Lay out the rails and gently push your kid in the right direction.

Just make sure there are enough rails to support your kid’s needs. Break down isntructions and add reinforcers where necessary for the steps. Instructions should be extremely brief, visible and allowing the child to do one step and then come back to find out what they should do next. Some children will want detailed instructions, some just an overview, some want all at once and others need information in portions. Most will need more details in unfamiliar tasks. Guide along the way as needed.

Keep instructions clear and same!

Use the same phrasing/pictures over times, and adjust the level of detail to your child’s needs. Don’t overload.


Visualize the destination!

If you are going to an outing, show a photo. If you are making a Christmas card, show a ready one.


Stick to classroom routines.

Use the same classroom greeting, a special starter activity, transition cues and wrap-ups. Schedule meal times and breaks to be the same every day.

Reason: All children appreciate routines. Routines are necessary to make the autistic child feel secure, and the ADHD child organized. Understand that for some children even the slightest disruption in schedule can cause a meltdown.





   Interacting on My Own Terms




Use the right way to communicate.

Find what works the best: sign language, laminated pictures, Apps, written instructions. Use the appropriate level of details. If a child is a visual thinker, then use images. Other may need sign language and some will prefer typing instead of talking to you, yet others will prefer to always give answers orally. Also try lightly colored paper for children with visual processing problems to make it easier to read. You can practice communication for non-verbal kids using the Rapid Prompting Method.

Reason: Visual thinkers need visual communication because sounds may require a completely different level of effort.



The Rapid Prompting Method


Let your child interact with friends (who share a special interest), social events and in activities – but on their own terms.

This might mean five minutes, playing computer games together or interacting online. It is not what makes You happy. Understand that "fun celebrations" might be full of sensory overloads and changes to the familiar - they may not be so fun for the autistic child, have a backup plan.


Make communication fun!

Play games together, talk about what interests your student, and use the computer for education.


Use prompting to create emotion awareness.

“Tony must be hurting because…, I feel sad for her.”


Use the appropriate technology!

Use appropriate technology. Use appropriate technology. Use appropriate technology... Got it? Use mobile Apps or encourage use of the computer and keyboard to improve communication, writing skills and language.

Reason: Imagine if you had to spend your whole day saying or writing words backwards. This is the effort you force upon a child with motor difficulties when writing with a pen. Decide if you are practicing writing with a pencil, or if it says something else on the schedule - then use another method for your student to give answers.





Laughing and motivating
   Laughing through it & Motivation

           TOOLS & TIPS (AUTISM, ADHD)



How can YOU add the fun?

Have a problem? Don’t think about how to change the behavior. Think how you can add some fun? Tickle, sing, scream, run, make it a challenge …


Always practice skills training in the most enjoyable way for your student.

You do not need a pen and paper to practice hand writing: sow cross stitches, place small stickers on a row, draw letters in sand or in a tray with bath foam… or use as spinning top to practice that pencil grip.


Spin to writing (video)

Use short-term rewards or short fun activities as a break from “work”!

Give a sticker, a game card, blow bubbles, spin a wheel, or play hoops with the hyperactive kid. How often does your child need a break? Do you need a timer for work time or for break time... or for both?

 Sensory timer

Use (laminated) progress cards and tick of tasks for an activity.

Set a sticker or draw a favorite thing when the whole activity is completed.


Getting it right? Give a smile and a thumbs-up!

Rewards do not need to be things.


Find their thing!

Use your student’s special interests or talents to connect with the child, to motivate them, to improve learning and attention. If your student’s thing is trains, then read about trains, learn time tables and distances with trains, and let wagons come with the teaching material.



Some More Time
   Some more Time




Give your child a few more minutes than you would want.

Identify when your student has a need for some more time and give it. This can be anything from the time to answer a question, to wrap-up, to get dressed or tasks requiring other cognitive or motor skills like writing with a pencil or grasping the meaning of a text.

Reason: Your child is a special needs kid, and one of the special needs is some more time! Your student will keep their self-control and not trying to get out of trouble by giving up or answering “I don’t know” or “maybe”. Some more time can be the difference between success or failure.


Visualize time!

Remove the minute hand on a clock and let the hour hand point to pictures of activities you place on it. 



Visual Timers

Use countdowns!

Give a warning 5 minutes before (use traffic lights or Apps).



Build new around the sameness!

Find the day activities that remain the same, like food time. Display these clearly on whatever aid you use. Relate to them for new or changing activities, such as math is right AFTER lunch.


Let your kid feel finished!

Find ways to time activities to suit with your class activities and schedule. Maybe send the rest of the class to recess, and let your autistic child focus on getting done on his or her own. Also encourage the child with ADHD to finish, a skill they need.




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