Regardless if we are in a traditional classroom or in the gym there are a few things that are needed in order to set the students up for success.
1) Paraprofessionals nare very important to students’ success. Para for short know the students the best. They understand the students’ education plans, what motivates them and what triggers their behaviors. It’s the para’s responsibility to engage the students and get them to actively participate in the class to the best of their ability. Para to student ratios are also important; these will vary depending on abilities and needs of the student. Ratios can be 1 to 1, 1 to 2, 1 to 3 and 1 to 4.
2) Class Sizes are small to maximize learning potential. Ratios should never be more than 1 to 4.
3) Breaks are essential for the students, they may request breaks whenever needed.
4) We also work on Award System. Students can participate in class and earn stars toward something they would like, whether it’s the iPad, computer time, a favorite snack or etc. Whatever motivates the student the para will make sure the student is working towards their goal in a manner that allows the student to be successful.
5) Visuals are very important for autistic student, because they struggle with expressive and receptive language abilities. Visuals can include but are not limited to:
- classroom set up
- color coordination
- physical demonstrations.
Diagrams help students understand their environment. Some visual diagrams we use are:
- equipment we will use
- exercises that will be done
- areas of the classroom
For example our dynamic warm-up has a picture for each exercise done.
Physical Demonstrations are very important as well. For each new exercise introduced this is done. Each exercise can be progressive or regressive. Meaning the difficulty can be increased or decreased depending on the ability of the student. Therefore every student has the opportunity to grow and progress forward, regardless of where they start.
Schedules are important tools to guide the students through the class. It’s lets students know where they need to be and when. This should be prepared before each class so once the students are divided into their groups they can be given their schedule. This lets them know where there are expected to be.
Classroom Set Up is another part of visuals. Each area should have the equipment that is needed to do the station, diagrams of exercises and even color coordination. Each level of class is organized differently to meet the needs of the students. High functioning students will have a 4 station ration where as our lower functioning students will have a 2 station rotation. (See diagram below).
Other factors that are key to students’ success are:
Clear Instructions. When the students are first introduced into the environment the setup, equipment and colors can be overwhelming or exciting for the students so you can try
a) Having the students wait outside the classroom in a line, asking for a quiet mouth and calm body is important. This will give the students a chance to gather themselves and prepare for instructions.
b) Once this is achieved to the best of the students’ ability you will give the instructions on how to enter the classroom. Be short and straight to the point. Tell the students to enter the classroom find a colored floor circle and stand on it. Do not touch any equipment and wait for the next instructions. If students are fidgety have them sit, if they can handle standing allow them to stand.
(Note: For the higher functioning students this should be able to be executed on their own. For students who are 1 to 1, the para should help guide them to the designated area. Once the students are on the colored circle you can have them continue to stand or sit down.)
c) Explain the stations and then divide the students into group (as many groups as stations). For the higher functioning students they should be able to go through the stations without much teacher assistance. Be willing to repeat instructions or clarify things. Reiterate the diagrams on the wall incase students forget what is supposed to be done. For the lower functioning students it is important to have at least one para per group to help guide them through the exercises.
It is important to give an Appropriate Time for each station depending on the classes overall attention span. Remember students can request breaks if they become fatigued or overwhelmed.
a) Give them a two minute break and see if they are ready to continue if not give 1 more minutes, then encourage the student to return to class. Remind them that they can work for an additional break.
b) Each rotation should be anywhere from 3 -10 minutes in length. Make sure it is consistent throughout the class. Breaks should be incorporated into class. A structured break should happen either between rotations if the activities are physical or mentally demanding. The alternative is to have a structured break half way through the rotation or after a full completed cycle of stations.
Breaks can be:
- a dance break
- a fun group game
- a quick water break.
As an instructor use your discretion on deciding what type of break to use. If the students seemed fatigued a water and rest break would be more appropriate than a dance break. If the students seem to still have extra energy give a short water break then do a dance break, playing a popular and appropriate song then can dance to.
A class favorite for our higher functioning students is freeze dance. As the music plays the instructor will stop the music and yell freeze and the students will freeze in whatever position they are in until the music begins again, then they may continue to dance.
Once everything listed above is put into place, you have given your students the best opportunity for success. The next thing to do is execute your lesson plan. There will be good days and some days that are challenging but the best thing to do is collect data. Collect the data of things that work well for your classes and things that do not. That way each lesson created can be tailored to fit each class’s specific needs and successes. This will also reduce the failures by finding ways to increase your students’ success.
For more information on P.H.A.S.E. 1's Autism Fitness contact us directly at admin@phase1athletics or call (480)235-9954.