Children with autism often show an obsessive need for sameness.
They may spend hours arranging toys and materials in specific ways, watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object.
They usually have difficulty when classroom routines are changed, possibly throwing huge tantrums.
Transitions are often a challenge.
They may insist upon having everything in the same place all the time and get very upset if anything is moved.
In the classroom, they find it difficult to correct the mistakes they make even when pointed to them because they cannot think of alternatives. They are inflexible in using the solutions they know even if they fail over and over because they can't think of how to change the only way they know how to do arrive at a solution of how to write a word.
Showing attachment to unusual objects such as keys or rubber bands is not unusual.
** IMPLICATIONS FOR LEARNING **
1. Predictability:Children with ASD depend on predictability to understand the world around them.
They often want to play with toys that work predictably.
They like to interact with the same people.
They can watch the same videos and play with the same computer games because they can predict what is going to happen next.
2. Adherence to routines may lead to some anxiety if changes are made without forewarning. Many children with autism insist on maintaining certain routines and/or rituals that seem to outsiders to have no purpose.
Some examples of this include drinking only one type of drink from a specific cup, needing to have three spoons set at their place at the table despite only using one or having to follow a particular route to certain places.
There is often an associated resistance to change in routine or the environment so that the child may become extremely distressed if, for example, a new route is taken going to school, the furniture in the classroom is rearranged, or the child is asked to try a new activity.
3. Restricted interests:Many children with autism have unusual preoccupations that they follow to the exclusion of other activities.
Pre-schoolers may have fixations on certain toys or characters, such as Thomas the Tank Engine or Buzz Lightyear and simply manipulate these toys or watch TV or videos about them even though many other toys or videos are available.If access to the favored toy or video is restricted or removed the child may become very distressed.
In middle to late childhood, verbal children with autism are more likely to have a fascination with a particular subject, such as train timetables or the Titanic.The child may collect information and talk incessantly to others about this topic or may repeatedly ask questions about it.
Many children with autism are more interested in parts of objects rather than the object as a whole.For example, they may be fascinated with the wheels on toy cars and may spin them but may not play with the car in any other way.There is often a fascination with movement of objects and children with autism may spin objects such as plates, balls or wheels.They may also closely watch a spinning fan. Visual scrutiny of the fine detail of an object such as the edge of a table, or pattern of spokes on a wheel is also common, as is the collection of objects, such as buttons or twigs. Preoccupation with objects can border on perseveration that can lead to the inability to shift focus from that object. Behavior problems can arise around obsessions and routines when there is an attempt to quickly alter behavior, change routines and schedules on short notice, and remove objects of obsession.
** STRATEGIES **
Educators who understand the child's need for predictability can use it to help the child learn new language skills, new social skills, and new academic skills.They will also know how to avoid inadvertently teaching the child to use unproductive behaviors in order to meet his or her need for predictability.
1. Maintain structure and routine. 2. Help children cope with changes to this routine by:
The use of visual schedules can be very helpful in this regard because it can help prepare the child for deviations from the normal routine.
Maintain a variety of activities in a variety of environments.
Alter routines slightly so that the child can slowly built better tolerance for variation in the schedule.
Use visual metaphors. For instance, a friend may be very nice one day, and not so friendly the next. A child can visualize white and black paint being mixed together. On the day when the friend was nice, the paint was nearly white. On the not so nice day, the paint was dark gray.
Show that categories can change. Children with autism may put something in one group, and not be cognizant that it can also belong with another group. For instance, a blue cup may be used for drinking in the kitchen. However, it can also be used in the bath to rinse shampoo out of hair. In another situation the same blue cup might be used outside in the sand box as a toy. If a child with autism thinks a blue cup belongs only in the kitchen, she may become confused or upset if she sees it in a different environment.
3. The need for predictability is evident in the toys and passionate interests that children with ASD choose.Visual shapes that are seen over and over in the world around us, things that operate the same way every time - these are the prerequisites for interest.The following can be used to help teach language, social skills, and academic skills:
doors that open and close
balls and other things that kids can drop
vehicles, especially cars and trains
letters and numbers
bridges and tunnels
4. Every game is a routine, a sequence of predictable elements of movement, materials and/or language.The predictability of the game can be the "hook" to use to get a child to willingly come and play.The child comes because of the predictable pattern of movement, materials, and language.
Once the child has come to participate in the game, you can include new element in the game that will teach the child a new communication or social interaction skill.
The game, is only there to provide a predictable framework in which new elements are noticed and not ignored.
Using predictability as your hook, you can create many new games that will entice your child to play with you.
5. When learning new games, a child will need to understand the routine first and then be given an opportunity to participate in order to keep the game going.Video models of new games can often shorten the learning time and get the child learning more quickly but demonstration of a clear sequence or routine will often work as well.