The ASD Nest Program
Lord and McGee (2001) believe that education is still the primary form of treatment for children with ASD, parents and teachers. The classroom has the potential to impact the lives of children with ASD. The ASD Nest Program was developed to help higher functioning ASD children learn how to socially and academically function in school and their community.
The idea of the "nest" provides the children with supportive structure in a nurturing environment. The Nest Program typically starts in kindergarten and moves the children throuhg the grade levels. The Nest Program utilizes the required support systems for the child to function successfully. Teams are set up within the classroom to meet the complex needs of the child. Strategies are then employed by the therapists and teachers to modify the enviroment so the child can excel within the classroom. The strategies are research based and consist of positive behaviour support and social stories, relationship based strategies and other social cognitive strategies.
Basic instructional supports include:
* Daily class schedule
* Visual aids
* Choice making opportunities
* Role playing
* Classroom environmental modifications
* "Catch them being good"
The Key Elements of the Program:
1. Class Size:
2. Co-teaching model:
3. Targeted Goal Areas:
4. Social Developmental Curriculum:
5. Home School Connection:
6. Specialized preservice training:
8. Ongoing site support:
9. Additional Learning Opportunities: Peer Supports
Organization of the Classroom Environment: (Children with ASD have difficulty with sensory processing and can become overloaded. Ensure classroom is not overwhelming)
* Display only those materials that are being used in a lesson or that are needed for ongoing reference. Put them out of sight when they are no longer useful.
* Use drop cloths to cover shelves holding play items that may be distracting when they are not being used.
* Reserve on particular bulletin board or area of the room to display children's work and only display items that are relevant to current learning.
* Be mindful of the child's visual point of view. Children should be able to easily view relevant material.
* Clearly mark areas used for group and individual work, including learning centers.
* Set a quiet area with a bean bag chair and tools for self calming such as headphones for listening and manipulatives.
* Avoid the clutter that may be created by unnecessary furniture and materials or poorly organized materials.
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT INTERVENTION
1. Experience Sharing: Promote engagement and interaction: Build a "we-fort" Assign roles that together are needed to complete the structure, thereby encouraging communication. Creating a shared memory.
2. Language Comprehension: Become aware of pragmatic language weaknesses as well as the use of educator language. "Person of the Week" (Winner, 2005). Tell the children to find out as much as they can about a peer. Collect information througout the week and put it on a tree or friendship file. Encourage questioning techniques and information gathering.
3. Problem Solving: Promote flexibility in problem solving both in the academic and social domains.
4. Social Cognition or Social Thinking: Encourage social thinking through the use of vocabulary and model situations that require us to think about others. "Social Detective Agency" Students study photograph, illustrations from familiar literature and movie clips collecting clues to make "smart guesses" as to what the character may be thinking, feeling and planning. Have studens look at non verbal clues in order to assess a situation.
5. Flexibility/Self Regulation: Model flexible thinking and encourage the use of flexible vocabulary. "Identify Your Team of Unthinkables" Help the children identify their unthinkables, the characters that get in the way of being good social thinkers. The Unthinkables are enemies of Superflex, or Rockbrain that we can defeat if we train ourselves to recognize when we are being inflexible.
6. Incorporating Strengths and Preferred Interests: Capitalize on preferred interests to help with the student's thinking.
As the authors of this article state there can be many barriers to implementing a best practice program. Funding, inappropriate staff, and a lack of dedicaiton or motivation to find news ways to help children with ASD. The Nest Program tiries to address these issues as a team and is supportive of everyone involved. Maybe worth looking at!!
Bleiweiss, J., Brennan, S., Cohen, S., Koenig, K., & Siegel, D.,(2009); A model for inclusive public education for students with autism spectrum disorders. The ASD Nest Program. Teaching Exceptional Children, 6-13