How Choice Boards and “Wait Supports” Can Be Used To Support Students With Autism In Classrooms.

“Choice Boards” are a type of environmental support that really should often be used. A Choice Board is an important form of a visual support for many students with ASD. As much as possible, choices should be incorporated into as many activities as possible as choice Boards provide students with decision-making opportunities. As such, it can display the object, picture, icons, or words that would represent a menu of activities or reinforcers. Again, they can easily be made with supplies such as poster paper, card stock, and white boards or on any surface that you can attach or write on. Choice boards can be placed next to a student’s daily schedule, and when a designated time arrives, students simply select a preferred activity from the board. And finally, choice boards with preferred activities can be placed near the free time or break time area of the room, and provides a stimulus for independent selection of an activity.

Similar to choice boards, ‘Waiting Supports’ are another visual strategy, or tool that can be incorporated throughout the school day. As we know, waiting is a difficult skill for many children to learn with or without it disabilities. But for students with autism in particular, waiting frequently presents problems because they have limited ability to delay gratification and just don’t understand the concept of waiting. And we know that if a student is waiting too long or it is not engaged in some type of activity even if it’s a simple activity putting a back pack away or clearing a desk, more than likely unwanted behaviors will occur. Therefore, students with ASD will most likely require specific instructions to develop appropriate waiting behaviors. When you are developing waiting supports, we need to determine if the student has the prerequisite skills that are necessary to engage in waiting behaviors. This is easy to do. First, role-play and practice waiting using different instructions and in different settings when you want to identify this skill. Keep in mind that when you are practicing ‘learning to wait’ with your students, make sure it’s authentic and in an actual setting where you would expect the student needs to use this skill. Again, be sure to teach waiting skills across a variety of settings to increase the likelihood of generalization. Even using a peer model or a peer buddy during waiting times can offer support for desired behaviors, and specific ‘physical supports’ such as chairs near the waiting area, setting a timer, or a holding a picture representing “wait” can also help a student learn this concept.

As you know for any kind of learning to take place, it’s essential for students to have active involvement with their teachers, peers, and the curriculum. Students with autism tend to be passive learners. It is extremely necessary to plan activities that require students to become active participants. Creating opportunities for students to respond is a high instructional priority. Research supports a functional relationship between academic performance and how often a student is able to respond. But even more, the more a student participates in an activity, the more off task and disruptive behaviors will decrease.

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