The Seven Keys To Open The World Of An Autistic Child ! Part Two

Part 2:

Key 4:  Effective Communication Approach

Key Five:  Self Regulation and Managing Emotions

Key Six: An Autism Friendly Environment

Key Seven: Managing Change

In the fifth key, you will:

Develop awareness of a range of strategies to enable pupils to self regulate

Identify ‘anxiety triggers’ and develop awareness of strategies  to prevent them

KEY FIVE: Self regulation and managing emotions:

  • Use regular visual prompts such as a mood chart to express feelings on a daily basis or regular times during the day.
  • Use of social stories, comic strips, storyboard with pupils as characters. This approach allows pupils to express their feelings and manage their emotions. This also provides parents and practitioners with valuable feedback on pupils’ anxiety levels and recognise possible anxiety triggers

KEY FIVE: Self Regulation and managing emotions (Practical Tips):

  • Collecting, drawing and keeping a record of pictures and events that show happy, sad, anxious faces are useful ways that enable pupils express their feelings.
  • Keeping a resource box of familiar objects of reference, such as a stress ball, tactile objects, ear defeaners enable pupils to access resources that allow them to self-regulate

Activity 7: Quiz Questions

  • Which visual strategies will you use to assist children in expressing their thoughts and feelings?
  • What strategies will you use to address the specific needs of non verbal children who are sensitive to touch and those who tend to reach out to touch their peers and other adults?

In the sixth key, you will:

Develop awareness of the characteristics of an ‘autistic friendly environment

 Explore how to use special objects of reference to reassure pupils

Consider a range of practical steps to take to remove distractions 

KEY SIX: An autism friendly classroom environment:

Provide plenty of space!

  • Pupils with autism require plenty of space. Consequently, the learning environment must be clutter free. All furniture should be kept to the sides of the room
  • ‘Helpful if furniture is kept to the side of the room and the central space is kept clear (Nguyen 2006)

KEY SIX: An autism friendly classroom environment:

Careful thought must be given to how the resources and equipment in the classroom is laid out

  • Resources- Non distracting
  • Environment/ layout- Simple and spacious
  • Routines and structure- clear navigation
  • Learning expectations-visibly displayed

KEY SIX: An autism friendly classroom environment:

Points to note:

  • Autistic pupils feel safe and secure in familiar environments because they find change difficult. Keeping a selection of familiar objects that reflects each pupil’s background or identity assists pupils in feeling safe
  • As a result, make use of familiar objects or sensorial objects of reference to create a familiar and reassuring feel

KEY SIX: An autism friendly classroom environment (Checklist):

  • Is the quality of lighting subtle to take account of pupils’ sensitivities? Consider the impact of sunlight reflecting through windows in tropical countries or during hot summer months?
  • What are the choice of colours, neutral or vibrant? Plain colours such as cream or magnolia tends to create a calm and relaxing tone
  • Does wall paper, pictures have shapes or patterns that could overstimulate pupils?
  • Have you ensured that adults do not wear badges, jewellery because this is likely to create ongoing distractions?

KEY SIX: An autism friendly classroom environment (Checklist):

  • What is the general noise level in the environment? Will you require soundproofing?
  • Have you taken account of unsettling noises such as traffic noise, noise from a nearby construction site/factory, ticking of a clock, school bells, fire alarms,
  • Have you considered how to manage noise levels? (caused during transitional periods, i.e. start of day, playtime, lunch and end of the day)
  • What systems are in place to avoid disruptions at different times of the day?

Activity 8: Quiz Questions 

  • Using the template in the next slide, list the key areas of need that must be taken into account when organising the classroom environment for Trisha (the girl in the template)

Response to activity 8:

  1. Area for independent work. Stuctured time to enscourage focus
  2. Transition times/toilet breaks
  3. Time out space to avoid dsiruption
  4. Area for group work, circle time
  5. Area for comfort breaks/play/relaxation/provision of snacks
  6. Area for sensory stimulation, special/familiar objects to touch/ visual objects, musical instruments/physical movement session

In the seventh key, you will:

Explore a range of strategies to assist pupils in coping with change

Develop awareness of the benefits of recording  anxiety trigger patterns and possible solutions  

KEY SEVEN: Managing change (Helpful Tips):.

  • Pupils with autism often find it difficult to cope with change. Help them to prepare well for change in advance to reduce their stress and anxiety levels.
  • Undertake prior visits to a new school or and hospital appointment
  • Take photographs and use as prompts for discussions
  • Make use of visual prompts as well as verbal regular reminders of the change such as marking ‘count down’ days on the calendar

KEY SEVEN: Managing change:

  • Keep a diary of situations/incidents that cause anxiety over a period of time and check for any noticeable pattern. This helps in pinpointing the events or situations that cause anxiety and take preventative measures to avoid them
  • Encourage pupils to talk about their feelings after the anxiety episode

KEY SEVEN: Managing change:

Name Date and Time Location Anxiety Symptoms Solution and Impact

Note the date, day of the week/ Note time/ Location/ Anxiety symptoms/who the child was with/symptoms/ how pupils felt. What was said/ identify solutions/action taken (Impact)

Activity 9: Quiz Questions

Use the template in the next slide to note down a range of strategies you will use to:

  • reassure Aisha (the girl in the template)
  • reduce anxiety levels and
  • cope with change

Response to activity 9:

  1. Build in regular routines to talk about how you are feeling today, facilitated by visual prompts, feely charts followed by discussions, time to talk about books, experiences during visits
  2. Use action songs, puppets and props to retell stories. Explore a range of soft, loud, slow, fast music and talk about how it makes  them feel
  3. Support children in making a personal profile in visual format using family photographs as prompts for discussion. Link personal details, things they like or dislike
  4. Incorporate regular movement breaks. This could be musical movement sessions facilitated with music. Games such as using bean bags and  hoops to explore number sequence or model positional language in front of/beside/on top of’
  5. Explore a range of smells such as different spices, fruits, perfume, vegetables
  6. Inform children well in advance about changes to daily routine such as new learning experiences, activities, visits visitors, off site activity


  • Schools should implement a consistent whole school system for addressing the needs of autistic pupils
  • Provide specialist autism training for all staff, including Personal Learning support staff
  • External agency involvement and coordination of specialist support from Autism Specialists, Educational Psychologists, Speech Therapists, Psychologists, parents/carers and pupils is vital to success
  • Active parental involvement autism ensures continuity of care and education between home and school
  • A personalised curriculum system and specialist support is required to ensure that each pupil’s unique needs are effectively addressed


In the fourth key, you will:

Explore a range of effective communication approaches for pupils with autism

Increase awareness of the benefits of  a consistent visual communication system

Develop how to use a  visual system to facilitate smooth transition between activities 

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

  • Pupils with autism require a range of communication approaches in order to address their pupils needs effectively
  • Communication through visual resources is the most effective way of communicating with pupils
  • Range of communication strategies include Picture Exchange System (PECS), Treatment and Education of Autistic and related communication Handicapped Children (TEEACH), Social communication emotional regulation Transaction SCERTS, and Widgit, Communication in print

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

Details of the different communication approaches

  • PECS involves the use of pictures and symbols for communication which enables a pupil to express their thoughts, feelings and make choices
  • The TEEACH approach involves a structured teaching programme which focuses on the pupils’ skills, interests and needs.
  • SCERTS approach focuses on building competence in Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional
  • Widgit symbols provide a clear structured language through the use of symbols to facilitate communication and learning

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

  • Most pupils with autism find it difficult to follow instructions.
  • Careful use of visual resources through approaches such as PECS and SCERTS assists pupils in developing comprehension skills and avoids frustrations and loss of interest
  • Ensuring their active engagement in learning results in skills progression and promotes independence.
  • Provide pupils with opportunities to explain how they solve a problem, find out things or themselves
  • Learning through discovery ensures meaningful learning experiences which can be used to use language within context

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

Points to note:

  • Each child’s unique needs must be incorporated into their individualized visual time table.
  • The visual timetable should be used at home and at school to ensure a consistent approach.
  • The personalized information communicated through a visual system is crucial in assisting the child to make sense of each day’s structure and sequence of events

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

  • Effective use of visual resources assists pupils to develop comprehension skills, access learning and avoid frustration and loss of interest
  • Established daily routines supported by an individualized visual time table informs pupils about ‘what is happening next’. This allows pupils to process information and anticipate ‘what comes next’ which ensures smooth transition between activities.

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

A visual schedule will give the child the following information:

  • Current event
  • What is happening next (‘Now’ and Next)
  • When the activity is over (Finished)
  • When it is time to move into the next activity in a sequence (such as lunch time)

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach

  • Pupils with autism find change difficult, therefore, making transitions from one activity to another needs requires careful planning.
  • Having a visual prompt card with a ‘Now’ and ‘Next’ laminated Symbol and a ‘Start’ and ‘Finish’ laminated symbol enables pupils to prepare for, and anticipate what comes next.

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach (Helpful Tips)

  • Call pupils by their names and make sure they are paying attention prior to giving instructions or when asking a question
  • Use simple words because this enables pupils to understand what is required of them and avoids confusion.
  • Use the same words and keep instructions simple, using simple and clear positive language
  • Use symbols and pictures to illustrate a sentence or to sequence information in a logical manner
  • Allow time for pupils to respond before repeating instruction or giving another instruction.
  • Reward and praise pupils when things work well as this increases the chance of a ‘repeated effort’

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach (Consistent Daily Routines)

  • Autistic pupils find it difficult to follow instructions, therefore, a practical step by step guide to prepare them for their day helps!
  • Ensure that each day starts in the same environment such as the classroom or an assembly hall. This ensures that pupils could promptly settle into a distraction free environment
  • Establish a relaxing ‘start of the day’ daily routine /welcome session: facilitated by songs, handshakes, identification of names badges and self-registration
  • Ensure routines that follow the same sequence such as self-registration, hanging up coats and bags to encourage independence

KEY FOUR: Effective communication Approach (Tips)

  • Use plenty of visual prompts, pictures and symbols to support communication and instructions.
  • A simple visual time table must be displayed in an accessible part of the room. This reduces anxiety and enables pupils to process information and anticipate what comes ‘next’
  • Pupils with autism maintain focus for longer when activities are supported with visual learning resources.

Activity 6: Quiz Questions

Taking into account the brief background information about the children in the next slide, use the template in the next slide to identify

  • a range of visual prompts you will use to communicating effectively with the three children in the picture to:
  • Manage behaviour
  • Facilitate transition
  • Express feelings

Sample PECs communication symbols to help motivate change(manage behaviour)

Sample PECs communication symbols to help motivate change(‘start and end’ of activity)

What session breakers could you use to manage change?

Take into account the pupil’s needs and interests, you could suggest a:

  • Music break
  • Sensory break
  • Comfort break
  • Movement break
  • Relaxation break
  • Drinks, snack break

Thank you!

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