Case study on Class/Homework
C. is a twelve year old boy with a diagnosis of autism. He has a high IQ and recently has transitioned to secondary school. He is academically able and finished second in his year in the Christmas exams.
C. is a twelve year old boy with a diagnosis of autism. He has a high IQ and recently has transitioned to secondary school. He is academically able and finished second in his year in the Christmas exams. He has many strengths and talents. He is a pleasant young man with a sense of humour. He is sensitive to the needs of others’ and will ‘look out’ for his peers who are vulnerable in the playground. He shows a passion for animals and would like to be a Zoo Keeper. He is a talented rugby player and enjoys being part of a team.
C.’s previous placement broke down and he spent the last academic term at home. He engaged in self-injurious behaviour, aggression towards others’ and ‘bolting’ from the classroom. He does not like his diagnosis of autism and would not engage in any strategies that made him look ‘different’ from his peers. This resulted in a high level of anxiety as he would not take sensory breaks, ask for help or use a visual schedule. His levels of anxiety continued to increase to a level that he could not cope with going back to school.
In consultation with parents the following triggers were identified.
- When asked to engage in strategies that made him look different from his peers – due to his dislike of his autism diagnosis
- Not recognising the need for sensory breaks
- Not asking for help and getting frustrated at not being able to complete work
- Using a visual schedule as this made him look different from his peers
In his current placement the following strategies are working to enable C. to access class and homework successfully.
- Desire to change: instrumental to the success of the following strategies was C.’s desire to change. He recognised and expressed that his previous strategies were not working for him and that he was willing to work alongside staff and his parents to change
- Discreet: C has difficulty accepting his diagnosis and prefers the strategies to be discreet
- Class timetable: C’s timetable is colour coded by subject
- Initially C. carried all of his books to school and would have difficulty finding the correct book. His parents’ taught him how to colour code his books to correspond to his timetable. They also spent time teaching him how to pack his back in sequential order of the lessons
- ‘I want help’- Initially he would drop his pen onto the floor as an indicator to staff that he needs help. He will now signal to staff that he needs help by using a blue pen
- ‘I want a break’- he avails of a break from the classroom by exchanging an orange Postit note that he keeps in his blazer pocket
- Sensory processing: C. benefits from movement breaks and heavy work activities so when he is dysregulated staff will ask him to ‘help’ by carrying books or moving a table. Frequent transitions between classes with a heavy school bag also helps to regulate him as it provides deep pressure input
- Whilst most instructions are delivered verbally, staff reinforce this by writing the key points on the board or by providing a worksheet
- The classroom assistant carries blue Postit notes to clarify the ‘unwritten’ class rules that he may not pick up on (see examples below)
- Homework is written on the board and time is set aside to write it down at the start of class. At home, there is time is set aside each day to complete homework. C.’s homework diary is colour coded e.g. yellow- complete on a Monday
- C.’s environment is structured to ensure success with homework. The dining room table is cleared and the homework to be completed is on the left and when finished C. moves the books to the right. This provides visual clarity over how much he has to do and gives him a sense of accomplishment. The teacher provided him with an email address that he could avail of if he has difficulty with a particular homework or if it is taking too much time. He is able to email his teacher and instead of ruminating he is comfortable that it will be dealt with the next morning
- Troubleshooting guide: staff compiled a list of common problems and solutions that C. may experience in class or when completing homework, for example, what I can do if I forget my P.E. kit. C. keeps the guide in his blazer pocket, reducing his anxiety and enabling him to problem solve