Creative & Effective Ways To Engage Students With Autism: SSWNetwork Forum
Hello SSWN friends: This project has been in the works here at SSWN and our SSWNetwork for a while now, and I’m so excited to share more of it with you again. Starting in December and into 2020, all of our current Loyola School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program (SMHAPP) students will be “hosting” a week on our site, sharing information about their SMHAPP project work and responding to critical issues impacting K-12 schools and school mental health practice. We’ ve had some awesome resources and practice wisdom shared already from our SMHAPP students, and we’re keeping it going this week with another crucial population–students on our caseload with autism.
As we move into the first few weeks of February, I’m proud to welcome Jaclyn Williams, a member of the 3rd Loyola SMHAPP cohort, who will be leading discussion and sharing resources on the topic of how school clinicians can provide effective creative interventions for students with autism. Just as we’ve done before, Jaclyn will help us end the week over at SSWNetwork with a LiveChat February 15th from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. central time where we’ll come together to discuss what we learned over the past week. Here in their own words is what she’s going to be doing this week in this “SMHAPP SSWNetwork Forum,” along with her biographical information. Take it away, Jaclyn, and we hope to see all of you on Saturday morning for our LiveChat!
Hi everyone! My name is Jaclyn Williams and I’m a school social worker for a special education cooperative in DuPage County. I graduated from the University of Chicago in 2015 and I’ve worked as a social worker for 5 years in a program for students with autism spectrum disorders. This week on SSWN, I’ll be focusing on all things autism! I’m very passionate about working with this population of students. Currently I work with K-8th graders who have a primary diagnosis of autism. Most of my students also have a secondary diagnosis of anxiety or another related mental health concern. Over the years, I’ve curated different resources and adapted visuals to help meet the needs of my students. I’m excited to share that with you this week!
What is your biggest challenge in working with students with autism? Go to our SSWNetwork site and answer our poll and join the conversation–the poll is up there now and it’s always free to join SSWNetwork here.
When I first got hired to work in the STARS autism program, I have to admit I was overwhelmed and questioned my ability to impact students with autism. I hadn’t had much prior experience working with autism, and I wanted to best prepare myself to be an effective social worker. I spent a lot of time researching autism and school-based strategies in the summer prior to starting the school year. In that time, I came across a TED talk that really helped me to get an “inside look” into the mind of someone with autism and think of things through a different lens.
This is a TED Talk presented by Temple Grandin in 2010. She was diagnosed with autism as a young child and now works as a professor as well as gives talks and presentations to groups about autism.
I’ve worked as a social worker for 6 years in a program for students with autism spectrum disorders Currently I work with K-8th graders who have a primary diagnosis of autism. Most of my students also have a secondary diagnosis of anxiety or another related mental health concern. Over the years, I’ve curated different resources and adapted visuals to help meet the needs of my students. I have found that using multi-modal approaches (e.g. computer-based, worksheets, games, etc.) is the best way to capture the attention of students and sneak some learning in there at the same time! Here are some helpful resources and curriculum I use to work with my students.
General Social Skills:
- Superflex & The Unthinkables: This is a book-based curriculum that helps teach children with autism emotion management, self-control, and self-awareness. https://www.socialthinking.com/Products/superflex-superhero-social-thinking-curriculum
- Superheroes Social Skills: This is a multi-modal curriculum set that helps teach children with autism a variety of skills including identifying emotions, using communication to express their wants and needs, and joint attention skills. I have used this successfully in 1:1, small group, and as a whole group. https://www.ancorapublishing.com/product/superheroes-social-skills/
- Centervention: This is a computer game based social skills program. They offer multiple different programs for different grade levels and teach basic social interaction skills. I have used this successfully in 1:1, small group, and as a whole group. https://www.centervention.com/
- Everfi: This is a free computer-based program that offers courses in a variety of topics to a variety of grade levels, including: character development, empathy/compassion, and healthy life skills. I have used this successfully in 1:1, small group, and as a whole group. https://everfi.com/
- Everyday Speech Social Skills: This is a video modeling program that has therapy guides to teach social pragmatic skills such as: reciprocal conversations, nonverbal communication skills, and identifying emotions in self and others. I have used this successfully in 1:1, small group, and as a whole group. https://slp.everydayspeech.com/
- Go Zen: This is an online program that has videos based in cognitive behavioral therapy to teach kids about anxiety and symptom management. The Go Zen creators also have many other program options that address a variety of emotion management skills. They have programs targeting panic, OCD, general social skills, anxiety, and mindfulness. Visit their website for more information: https://gozen.com/
- Cool Kids: This is an evidence-based curriculum for children with autism and anxiety. It’s an Australian based program and offers curriculum materials (in print) for young children (Pre-K) and elementary aged children. My cooperative reached out to the creators via email to ask how to purchase the curriculum. I have used this successful in a 1:1 and small group environment. https://www.mq.edu.au/about/campus-services-and-facilities/hospital-and-clinics/centre-for-emotional-health-clinic/cool-kids-anxiety-program-for-professionals
- Camp Cope-A-Lot: This is a computer-based version of Coping Cat. It helps students use cognitive behavioral therapy methods in a fun, interactive way to tackle anxiety. I have used this successfully in a 1:1 environment. https://campcopealot.com/