AMC’s sensory friendly films provides a sensory friendly atmosphere to allow the whole family a chance to enjoy current movies. One time per month participating theaters show a film with the lights turned up and the sound turned down. Singing and dancing during the movie is also encouraged. This month’s movie: Gnomeo & Juliet will be playing on Saturday February 12, 2011.
Javamo coffee’s Art for Autism foundation partners with Mercedes Benz of Tampa Bay to open the Artistas Cafe. Artistas Cafe is a coffee shop located inside the Mercedes dealership in Tampa, Florida. Similar to other local coffee shops they serve cappuccino’s, latte’s, mocha’s, tea’s and cocoas. The main difference between Artistas and the other local coffee establishments - the employees or “artista’s” (as they are called) are young adults with Autsm. Artistas cafe currently employs four coffee artista’s, who are responsible for greeting customers, taking orders, preparing drinks for customers, and handling payments. “Working in the Artistas Café is a great way for people on the autism spectrum to gain on–the-job training and to learn and practice social skills,” said Art for Autism’s founder Vicky Westra. Frank Cuteri, general manager of Mercedes Benz of Tampa, orginally considered opening a Starbucks inside the dealership, but changed his mind when approached by Javamo coffee and the Art for Autism foundation, and he saw an opportunity to give back to the community. Everyone involved hopes that this partnership will allow the community and other businesses to better understand the contribution that people with Autism and other developmental disabilities can make to the community and to businesses.
Although I am asked to observe and consult for students with autism for a variety of reasons, one of the most common reasons is the demonstration of challenging behaviors during instruction.
Generally speaking, challenging behaviors can be driven by several functions that include sensory, tangible, attention, or escape and may often need to be addressed through a functional behavior assessment and behavior intervention plan.
That being said, when challenging behavior is occurring during periods of instruction, I believe that there is an easy to implement, often overlooked “intervention” that can be used quite effectively: offer choices.
Often, as I observe students with autism in the educational environment, I am struck by how rarely they are given the opportunity to make choices or indicate personal preference.
Now, I know first hand that structure is the key to effective programing for students with autism; but often times, the result of this structure is that there are few, if any, opportunities for students to make choices during the school day. This systematic elimination of choice in a student’s day tends to lead to behaviors that are seen by staff as being “challenging” or “non-compliant”. I believe that the reality is, many of these students are simply indicating their preference regarding the only two choices they view to be available: work or not work.
Fortunately, I also know first hand that providing students with the ability to make choices, allows them to feel empowered and in control of their environment. Time and time again, I have found that offering students simple choices throughout the school day, can not only eliminate many challenging behaviors, but can also facilitate class participation and the completion of work tasks. Sometimes, it’s the choices that seem the simplest that hold the most power for students.
A few examples of the simple choices that every autism educator can offer include:
Choice of work location (table, desk, floor)
Choice of materials (colored pencil, scented marker, blue paper, dry erase board)
Choice of work order (number 10 first, number 1 first) (math first, reading first)
Choice to sit or stand while working
Choice of reinforcer/ reward (computer time or homework pass)
Have doubts? Try it. I think you’ll not only see some of the benefits mentioned above, but will be pleasantly surprised by how little preparation and planning is needed to implement this effective strategy!