Thursday, October 27, 2011

Functional Routines

Here at school, we spend a lot of time discrete teaching functional routines. Brain research indicates that individuals with Autism tend to naturally learn in routines, and when one is not taught, they will often create their own. Sometimes this is great, other times our student might add or omit steps that make the routine less functional. Based on this information, in the structured routine center, we try to teach students routines for areas in life that can be appropriately generalized to help them lead happier, easier lives.
Each day we teach and practice skills in a variety of settings taught through functional routines. With instruction though, comes prompting, and assistance. But if we’re pushing our students to be independent in routines, how to we gauge their growth, and thus know when to pull back? Once a week, we completely pull back from these targeted routines, and watch and take data on the level of independence the student has on each step. Then we are able to reassess our prompt level.  By doing this, we will sometimes find that maybe we have been prompting more than necessary, and can allow the student to be more independent in the future.
I encourage you to try this at home sometimes as well. You might find your child has become more independent in certain areas!

Some especially tough steps in functional routines:
Zipping up a coat: This is a tough skill! Now that coat weather is upon us, maybe take a step back and see how much help your student truly needs. This is a great way to target functional communication too!
Opening containers: There are some tough toy packages and milk cartons out there!
Problem Solving: The paper towel dispenser is jammed! Oh no! Our students are expected to at least try to fix it when this happened at school. Maybe see if they can do this in the grocery store too!