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Effective Interventions & Strategies with Students on the Autistic Spectrum with SMHAPP Alum Jaclyn Williams: SSWNetwork Chat transcript
Hi SSWNetwork friends–here’s a Saturday LiveChat with Loyola SMHAPP grad and SSW Jaclyn Williams sharing her creative and effective strategies for working with students with autism last February 15, 2020. Great job Jaclyn! Let us know if you’d like us to get back to doing more LiveChats in the new year and here’s hoping that your Fall school semester is winding down well.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15 (SSWNetwork LiveChat)
Jaclyn Williams09:00 amHi everyone! Thanks for joining today to talk more about autism — I figured we’d wait 2-3 more minutes to see if anyone else is logging on to join and then we’ll get started!
Michael Kelly09:01 amHi Jaclyn, yes let’s give ’em a few more minutes. How are you this morning?
Jaclyn Williams09:01 amI’m doing well, how are you?
Michael Kelly09:02 amDoing all right, trying to stay warm. ?
Jaclyn Williams09:02 amOh I know it — it’s been a rough few days with the weather!
Michael Kelly09:03 amFor sure. So let’s get started, shall we?
Jaclyn Williams09:03 amSure!
Michael Kelly09:04 amOk, so welcome everyone to our Saturday LiveChat! My name is Michael Kelly and I’m a Professor at Loyola Chicago SSW and I co-edit/moderate this site and do a bunch of other stuff SSW-related. What I’d like everybody to do is introduce themselves and share a little bit about what brought you to this topic, and then I’ll get us started with the format for today. Jaclyn why don’t you go first?
Jaclyn Williams09:06 amAbsolutely! My name is Jaclyn Williams and I work at SASED STARS autism program — SASED is a special ed cooperative that services DuPage County. I’ve been in their program for 5 years and absolutely love working with the students. I’m here today to help facilitate, share more resources, and learn from you all what you do when working with students with ASD 🙂
Michael Kelly09:06 amAwesome, welcome Jaclyn and thanks for co-leading this with me today. How about you Rosary?
Rosary Smith09:08 amHi I am Rosary Smith I have been a social worker for many years I currently work with students on all levels of the spectrum. I am really looking for resources for non verbal students
Michael Kelly09:08 amAnd you too Elizabeth if you want to start introducing yourself and what brought you to this today?
Elizabeth Calderon09:09 amGood morning, I’m Liz. I’m a school social worker at an elementary school. K-4th grade. It’s my second year so I’m always looking for new ways to help my kiddos in the classroom
Michael Kelly09:09 amGreat, thanks for being here with us today! We’re a cozy group, so we’ll take as much time as seems to fit our needs today within an hour, and we can always keep the conversation going here on SSWNetwork.
Michael Kelly09:10 amThe format we typically do with our LiveChat will involve my reviewing a bit of the content that our “host” for the week (Jaclyn in this case) put up on our sites, asking her to build on that material, and then making sure we allow for lots of time for Q & A and resource sharing. Sound good?
Jaclyn Williams09:10 amSounds good!
Rosary Smith09:11 amSounds good
Elizabeth Calderon09:11 amYes! Thank you
Michael Kelly09:12 amOk, so here goes: the topic of what works with students that are on various parts of the autistic spectrum is always an important one for SSW.
Michael Kelly09:13 amWe know that the ways that these students’ different learning needs, communication capacities, and co-occurring issues (anxiety, sensory integration stuff, depression) can make them very complex kids to work with.
Michael Kelly09:14 amWhat Jaclyn did so well this week over on SSWN was lay out a variety of tools and resources that she has found to be useful in her own work. Before I start noting some of them Jaclyn do you want to say a bit more about how you put that list of resources together?Creative & Effective Ways To Engage Students With Autism: SSWNetwork Forum
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.
Jaclyn Williams09:15 amSure — over the years, I’ve come across so many different SEL programs geared towards gen ed students and students on the spectrum — I’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t really work with my students, and then some things that actually resonated with them. I figured a good “jumping off point” for my SSWN post was to share some of the curriculum I’ve used that has been successful with my students in captivating their attention and helping them learn social skills.
Rosary Smith09:16 amThat would be awesome
Jaclyn Williams09:16 amI also am planning on writing another SSWN post with more information specifically on video modeling programs for students with ASD– as video modeling is a great strategy to help them learn. But the post I put on SSWN was looking specifically at general SEL skills and anxiety-focused programming.
Michael Kelly09:17 amAnd in your work Jaclyn with this diverse population, what are some things that you look for when selecting interventions and/or strategies?
Jaclyn Williams09:18 amWhen looking at interventions, I like to make sure it has a variety of ways to teach students and keep them captivated — I have found that digital / video based curricula really keep my students’ attention and help them learn. I also like curricula (like Superheroes Social Skills) that include other paper-based or role-play based activities to help students learn in other formats as well.
Michael Kelly09:19 amThanks for that, I’m wondering too what others’ experiences are with this idea of what keeps your ASD student clients “captivated?”
Elizabeth Calderon09:21 amI forgot to add that I work with pre-K too and I run their circle time once a week and I do notice that students on the Autism spectrum are able to pay more attention when I play them videos
Rosary Smith09:21 amI have a group of 2nd and 3rd graders who are somewhat verbal but they lack basic social skills I have been trying different programs but none really make an impact. What are you using
Rosary Smith09:22 amIs superheros free or paid?
Jaclyn Williams09:22 amElizabeth — I agree videos really do help keep kid’s attention! Especially animated videos for younger students.
Rosary- I’m not sure what your school’s budget is for SW programs, but for younger kids I’ve used TeachTown Social Skills and Model Me Kids (DVDs with video models and a workbook).
Michael Kelly09:22 amthese are great points (and such cool practice experiences people have here in our chat so far) Gaby I see you’re in the chat too (hi!) so feel free to chime in on what you use and what you’re seeing as what “works” for your students with autism.
Jaclyn Williams09:24 amSuperheroes social skills is a paid curriculum — it’s on the expensive side – I think $895. We got it 2 years ago and I use it as a tier 1 intervention for students. Another video based curriculum I LOVE is Everyday Speech Social Skills. I think it’s about $30 a month, but you can try if for free for 30 days. They have videos, worksheets, and games for students K-high school.
Rosary Smith09:24 amI have used TeachTown but not model me Kids. Some of my kids skills are too low for teachtown
Gabriela Ibarra Ramirez09:25 amHi everyone! Currently, I’m not using a specific program and that’s why I’m so interested in these resources. I feel like I could be doing so much more for these students.
Rosary Smith09:25 amI will have to look into Superheros. I have used Everyday Speech in the past
Michael Kelly09:26 amGood added details for us Jaclyn, thank you! One question I have (please keep the questions coming too) is about implementation of programs and curriculum. When you settle on using one of these programs, have you been able to get it into the classroom and get teacher buy-in, or is it mostly programs you do in your own SSW time?
Michael Kelly09:27 amI ask because all the evidence for kids on the spectrum is that there need to be all the adults (parents too) hopefully offering similar supports and messages to kids with these issues…
Jaclyn Williams09:28 amIn my program, I am the one implementing the curriculum at all tiers. I have 3 classrooms on my caseload and I go into each classroom multiple times a week- I do two tier 1 full groups in each classroom, “centers” in each classroom and then pull out 1:1 for students with BIPs and other needs as well.
Jaclyn Williams09:29 amI will say based on the nature of my program – and that we are small but mighty and service only ASD – the teachers are usually on board with my programs and will use the language I use from my lessons when helping kiddos with social / emotional concerns throughout the week. I’m lucky in that regard!
Elizabeth Calderon09:29 amDo you have any recommendations for pre-k? I have the most difficulty with our EC class because most of the students in that class are non-verbal
Michael Kelly09:30 amThat’s a tough population to figure out how to get started with Elizabeth for sure.
Gabriela Ibarra Ramirez09:30 amI also work with pre-k. Very challenging when they are non-verbal.
Jaclyn Williams09:30 amPre-K is tough, I have worked with that group a few years back in STARS. Depending on the kiddos’ level I have used We Thinkers! from Social Thinking (Elizabeth — I am thinking this might be something you look into, too, if you haven’t already for your students). I also used TeachTown but REALLY adapted it out with a SmartBoard presentation for each skill.
Gabriela Ibarra Ramirez09:31 amI will look into TeachTown
Elizabeth Calderon09:31 amThank you!
Jaclyn Williams09:31 amAt the end of this, I’d love to get your email addresses to send a sample lesson I used with Pre-K using SmartBoard — I essentially make a very basic social story on the SmartBoard, use YES/NO questions and guided students to answer them, and then use the TeachTown video.
Elizabeth Calderon09:32 amThat would be great!
Michael Kelly09:32 amIt would be cool someday to have you Jaclyn (and maybe the rest of this group too) to have that information shared with this group as well as on our sites as well–we almost have 2,300 of us on this site now, and I know that lots of people would be interested!
Jaclyn Williams09:33 amOh! I almost forgot — 2 other great resources for animated videos that may work for younger kiddos is WonderGrove Kids and Social Express Central Station.Absolutely Dr. Kelly- that sounds great!
Rosary Smith09:34 amI really like the WonderGrove Kids
Jaclyn Williams09:34 amYes- it is great. I love that they offer a variety of videos with different adaptations including PECs symbols and sign language.
Michael Kelly09:34 amWhat do you like about that program, Rosary?
Rosary Smith09:36 amThe videos are very engaging for kids. I know that other social workers in my district use WonderGrove also. The problem that we are having if we want to purchase materials we have to make sure that it is research based.
Sean Delaney09:36 amAwesome resources! So helpful even for those of us who may not be in direct practice with this population but need to keep skills sharp and resources on deckand/or provide support to colleagues and co-teachers!
Michael Kelly09:37 am
So one of the other things I want to make sure we cover is this cool poll that Jaclyn put together (and that I re-posted a pic of earlier in the chat). She asked us, “what is your biggest challenge in working with students with autism?” And here again is what SSWNetwork folks shared:
Michael Kelly09:38 amIf it’s all right Jaclyn, I’d like to go through each of the responses and get your further take on them as well as the group…first response was “Finding appropriate resources and curr.” which I think we’ve made a good start on today. One added question I would ask you and the group Jaclyn is where do you typically go to find the resources you use for this special population?
Jaclyn Williams09:39 amTruly for me it has been a mix of researching curriculum to use with students with ASD, using the CASEL SEL curriculum list, and trial and error to see what is most effective for my students. What are other people’s experiences?
Michael Kelly09:40 amI love it, “Trial & error” is a big part of this work, and definitely was when I was full-time in practice.
Rosary Smith09:41 amI have done a lot of trial and error also. I am glad I am not alone
Elizabeth Calderon09:41 amI have also looked into the CASEL list as well as suggestions from other SSW groups
Michael Kelly09:42 amA 2nd answer people gave (actually the widest response) was “Adapting curr. to meet student needs.” This again feels like it could be a great “Part 2” to this conversation, where we invite all of you and others to share what they do to create & adapt things to their kids’ specific needs.
Jaclyn Williams09:44 amYes — this could be a larger conversation for sure! A LOT of my time is spent adapting curriculum – because no box set really works for students on the spectrum (in my experience). I find that I need to often make SmartBoard / PowerPoint adaptations of curriculum, scan books into SmartBoard and break them down into smaller text/pages, and create comprehension worksheets or role-play cards for students for each lesson I teach. I’ve started to build a bank of adapted curriculum over the years, but it definitely takes time and is very important when working with students with ASD.I also break down comprehension worksheets and role play cards into 2 groups – for students with high language skills and lower language skills within a lesson as well.
Michael Kelly09:45 amThe 3rd response didn’t garner as many 1st choices, but it still seems important to put out there: the challenge of “Building rapport and a relationship” with these kids given their myriad social and communication challenges. I wonder what the group has found as some “go-to” strategies to build that rapport and relationship?
Jaclyn Williams09:47 amI like to make sure the first few sessions with a kiddo are focused on getting to know them – I usually figure out their special interest from parents beforehand and ask questions or incorporate that into our conversations. For lower language kids, I like to give a lot of positive feedback, play games, and follow their lead during play to build rapport. What do others do?
Michael Kelly09:48 amGreat stuff–anybody else have engagement strategies that they want to share?
Rosary Smith09:49 amI have a non verbal student who has a very difficult time bonding with anyone I found that singing to her a very simple song like if your happy and you know it clap your hands. She would then take my hands and start clapping when I would see her
Michael Kelly09:50 amAnd the final part of the poll (and the part that I wrote my response to) was “Other” and most of those were organized around the challenges of helping kids with ASD navigate social relationships with peers and adults, and helping the adults (parents & teachers) understand/accept/work with kids with ASD. Do those points resonate for folks here, and if so, how do you address them?
Jaclyn Williams09:50 amI think it’s important – especially with middle school / high school high functioning ASD students – to engage with them about their special interest(s). I’ve had a lot of students who have been shut down by peers and adults about their (sometimes odd) special interests – and when you take the time to listen and ask questions, they feel safe and comfortable. I have to say – I have learned A LOT about airplane models and airports … box fans … and vacuums, but it makes kids feel safe an like they are able to talk to you.
Michael Kelly09:51 am(I really like your singing strategy Rosary, and she’s lucky to have you as her SSW) ?
Rosary Smith09:51 amThank you
Michael Kelly09:52 amand yes Jaclyn, appliances and models, I remember those days (also a lot of younger kids with dinosaurs and weather too for some reason…)
Elizabeth Calderon09:52 amAnd school buses!
Michael Kelly09:52 amyes, I think there’s an overall fixation on transportation that I’ve observed a lot…lol
Jaclyn Williams09:52 amCircling back to Dr. Kelly’s point — what have you all done to work with students to navigate social relationships AND to help other adults understand and accept students with ASD?
Michael Kelly09:53 amFor me as a comic book/pop culture geek, the older kids and their preoccupations with those things was easier for me to relate to :)Thanks Jaclyn for taking us back to that point, as we wind things up today: how do we build that empathy and understanding for these kids and their issues with peers, teachers, and parents?
Jaclyn Williams09:54 amI have found that meeting with other teachers / admin at the beginning of the year to talk about students with ASD and using strengths based language has been really helpful in building a positive climate. Especially for my students who access general education classes for part of their day.
Michael Kelly09:55 amI LOVE it, Jaclyn–meet early, speak from a strengths perspective. Great way to frame this process.
Michael Kelly09:56 amOk, we’re almost at our time for today–Elizabeth and Rosary, any last questions you would like to ask us?
Jaclyn Williams09:56 amWe also do a lot of activities in our host schools during April – Autism Awareness month. We make bulletin boards, announcements, host a luncheon for staff, and make a lesson plan about ASD for gen ed students.
Elizabeth Calderon09:57 amNo more questions from me. This was so helpful. Thank you so much !
Michael Kelly09:58 amI agree Elizabeth, we are so fortunate to have Jaclyn with us sharing this expertise and I look forward to continuing to work with you in our SMHAPP certificate and in future years. A big thank-you to Jaclyn and all of you for being here today–we’ll save the chat and post it soon as well, and we’ll be back here again in future Saturdays–keep a look out for us!
Jaclyn Williams09:59 amThank you everyone!
Rosary Smith09:59 amI am not sure if anyone is familiar with the Autism Educator and File Folder Heaven they have some great resources for feeling identification social stories and much moreThis has been great
Jaclyn Williams10:00 amI’ll have to check that out Rosary – thank you!
Michael Kelly10:00 amThanks for sharing those resources, I will check into them and make sure they’re added to the chat mix. Thanks everybody and have a great rest of the day–reminder to send me your e-mail to [email protected] so Jaclyn can send you more stuff. Take care!