Individualized Learning Plan
By Rachel Bartlett
Ava is a healthy 5-year-old kindergarten student who was recently diagnosed with autism. She attended preschool last year in a public school setting where it was noted that she was a wanderer, had difficulty making eye contact when speaking with other people, and frequently jumped in circles and flapped her hands. Within the past year there has been a huge improvement on these behaviors. Mom says that Ava has meltdowns at home, but they have become less in frequency over the past year and it has not been an issue at school. Ava is currently in her second year of speech therapy and while she has made great progress, still has a long way to go. At this point Ava’s lack of social skills seems to be her area of need within a school setting. She appears to enjoy being around the other children but mostly follows them around and doesn’t always interact with them. Ava appears to be a visual and kinetic learner. Ava thrives on structure and knowing her schedule and what to expect next. She is very empathetic and likes to try to take care of classmates who are upset or hurt. Ava is a collector and tends to become obsessed with one type of item for a period of time until she finds something else then moves on. She currently is obsessively collecting Lego Friends. She enjoys reading, painting, and drawing. Her favorite shows to watch are Daniel Tiger, Curious George, and Lego Friends.
What is Autism?
- When speaking to Ava, keep language simple and concrete, getting the point across in as few words as possible. Avoid sarcasm and using idioms such as "put your listening ears on" or "put your thinking cap on." These type of expressions can cause confusion.
- Take the time to know Ava's interests and hobbies. By having that knowledge about the things that she cares about you have a small foothold into her world.
- Be near Ava when giving directions and ask her to repeat them back. Be prepared to provide verbal and visual reminders of directions frequently.
- Focus on Ava's strengths and positive behaviors and praise them rather then dwelling on the negative behaviors.
- Keep Ava in an accessible area for frequent monitoring of understanding.
Building student-to-student connections
- All students in the classroom will be paired off into a buddy system that will change quarterly. Buddies will help each other if the other has question or is having trouble with an assignment. This will give students an opportunity to form closer connections while helping each other and the rotation will ensure that they get that chance to connect with multiple classmates. Since Ava loves to be around other children but struggles with social interaction, the buddy system will be helpful in building her social skills.
- At the beginning of the school year, have a discussion and allow each student to share what they think makes them special and share their interests. Use this time to express to students that although everyone has differences, there are many ways we are the same. This exercise will give students the opportunity to find those common interests and connect through them. Although students will notice that Ava is different, through this exercise they will learn about accepting differences while looking for things in common. A great tool in this exercise would be the episode from Daniel Tiger where Daniel and his friends have a new friend who has to use crutches, so they talk about how many things they have in common despite this difference.
Have the students help create their own constitution, including class rules, acceptance of differences their friends may have, and how friends and teachers should be treated. Each student will sign the finished project and then it will be posted on the wall to be kept up all school year as a visual reminder that students can refer back to.
Motivational Strategies for Ava
- . Ava thrives on routine and knowing exactly what to expect. Making the classroom expectations positive, clear, and concise from the beginning and having them posted on the wall as a visual reminder will help promote good behavior in Ava and help her perform to her fullest potential. Posting the classroom schedule will also be helpful in promoting good behavior for her as she tends to become anxious and even agitated if she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do next.
- Set goals and offer praise and reward when goals are met. Ava responds very positively to being rewarded both for completing her assignments and good behavior. Nonverbal rewards like high fives and thumbs up are very encouraging to her, as are verbal praises for doing something well. She has a very good understanding of the concept of working and earning. A great way to keep her motivated would be to offer her stickers or stamps on a chart and when she has reached a certain number, allowing her to have a prize or do an activity she enjoys, such as painting or playing with Legos.
- Build motivational momentum with Ava by beginning with success guaranteed tasks (things she prefers doing) and then alternate with more challenging and less preferred tasks throughout the day. This gets her excited about beginning her day and gives her something to look forward to when she has to do the tasks she doesn't like as much.
Teaching Methods for Ava
When learning sight/vocabulary words, spell the word, make the correct letter sounds, spell the word again as you write it out, say it again, hide the word and try to spell it without looking. The repetition and variety of methods will help the information sink in and make it easier to recall later.
One of Ava’s favorite things is Legos. This can be incorporated into the classroom by using the Legos as manipulatives in math.
Autistic students like Ava learn better with a multi-sensory approach. Using visuals such as films or an object that goes with a lesson, reading out loud, singing, using Legos, or drawing a picture are different sensory activities that can allow Ava to actively participate in the learning experience.
Since Ava's lack of social skills is sometimes a problem in the classroom, gentle one-on-one coaching in a fun context, such as telling a story involving a situation she may have encountered in the class, would be helpful in teaching Ava how to handle herself in social situations.
Ava has been provided with a rocker chair to sit at her desk with. This allows her to move around while being in place so that she is not a distraction to the other students and can continue working as she moves. She has done very well with her chair.
Assessment techniques for Ava
- When assessing Ava's skills, use various different types of sensory outlets such (visual, audio, touch, etc) and take note of which methods she responds to the best.
- Ava is a sensory seeker and likes to touch things so using manipulatives to assess her math skills would appeal to her seeker nature.
- Ava enjoys using computers and would respond well to having her reading skills assessed while using some type of phonics awareness program.
Modifying to Include the Entire Class
- Using the Legos as manipulatives for math is something that can be used and would be enjoyable for the entire classroom.
- A rewards system based on academic and behavior would be beneficial for all of the students.
- Using simple language to present instructions would benefit all the students. It would involved less confusion and less time spent having to explains things multiple times because students either didn't understand or can't remember.
- The buddy system is meant to help Ava be included in the classroom but it really allows that same opportunity for all the other students as well.
- Using multi-sensory activities in the classroom is effective in the inclusive classroom and all students can benefit from it. Each individual student processes information differently so appealing to all the senses is a fantastic way to ensure that you are in some way getting through to each and every student.