Collaborate Problem-Solving Approach

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Tip of the Month:
June, 2018

The Collaborative Problem-Solving Approach is an approach developed by Ross Greene and J. Stuart Ablon that is aimed to reduce adversarial relationship between adults and students.

The approach views problem behaviours as an attempt by the student to solve a problem in the face of missing skills, such as social skills, executive skills, language skills, and other skills.

When a student presents a challenging behaviour towards an expectation given by an adult, there are three ways an adult can react to it.

Plan A:

Continue to impose adult will and expectations: “You must do it!”, “Stop it!”, “Because I said so!”

• Continue to pursue adult expectations

• Does NOT decrease problem behaviour
• Does NOT teach missing skills
• Does NOT result in lasting solution to the problem
• Does NOT create a ‘positive’ relationship between adult & student

Plan B:

Collaborative problem-solving approach
Mutually satisfactory & realistic solution to both parties

• Continue to pursue adult expectations
• Decreases problem behaviour
• Creates a ‘positive’ relationship between adult & student
• Teaches missing skills to the students
• Results in a durable solution to the problem


Plan C

Drop the expectation for the time being

“You can do it later”, “You don’t have to do it”

• Decreases problem behaviour
• Creates a ‘positive’ relationship between adult & student

• Expectations are NOT met
• Does NOT teach missing skills
• Does NOT result in a lasting solution to the problem

As you can see from the chart above, the Plan B approach results in the best outcome for both the student and the adult involved in the situation.

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Reinforcer or Break

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Tip of the Month:
May, 2018

Often, we look at reinforcer (or reward) and break as the same thing where in reality they serve different purposes.

A break is an activity that helps a person bring themselves back into a zone where they are at their optimal condition for participating and engaging in an activity. A break:
· Is something that everyone needs throughout the day
· Is typically short in duration (5 minutes or less)
· Should always ends with the student returning to the current task
· Is NOT something that the student needs to earn
· Is NOT access to preferred item/activity

A reinforcer is a preferred item or activity that the student receives contingent on the student completing a given task or instruction. A reinforcer:
· Uses a preferred item or activity based from a completed preference profile (see Resources for example)
· Can only be accessed by completing a given task or instruction
· Is typically short in duration (5 minutes or less)

To review, a break is a self-regulation activity designed to help a student stay engaged throughout the day, while a reinforcer is an item or activity that helps motivate a student to complete a given task or instruction.


GoNoodle, Inc. (2015). Press play on movement and mindfulness. Retrieved from
CosmicKids. (2018). Welcome to Cosmic Kids!. Retrieved from

Your Kids OT. (2016). Brain breaks to help concentration in the classroom!. Retrieved from

AFIRM Team. (2015). R+ reinforcer selection list in PDF. Chapel Hill, NC: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina. Retrieved from

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Writing an Effective Individual Education Plan

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Tip of the Month:
April, 2018

An individual education plan (IEP) is the foundation for a student’s instructional program. Both school and home (and sometimes students) should be closely involved in developing and revising the student’s IEP over the school year and across grades. Many teachers and parents believe that longer, more detailed IEPs translate into better learning for the student. However, “less is more” may be the ideal approach when determining what skills and behaviours to target.

First, identify the long-term goals for the student. What goals would be most meaningful and functional for the student? What goals can the team select to focus on both immediate and long-term success? Example goals include “big picture” skills like communication, self-regulation, or numeracy.

Next, determine short-term objectives that will help the student reach the goals. Objectives should be written in clear, concrete language. They should be observable and measurable; if there is no reliable way to measure the student’s progress, the objectives may remain stagnant throughout the school year. Objectives should also be achievable and realistic so that the student experiences ongoing successes at the appropriate level.

In addition to clearly specifying the target skill or behaviour, objectives should outline the context (e.g., where and when) and criterion for mastery (e.g., 80% accuracy). Although data collection can seem daunting to school teams, there are various tricks for making this kind of progress monitoring more feasible. Instead of collecting data all day long for every objective, consider taking probe data only once or twice a week during specific subjects. This may be all that is necessary to monitor progress.

Overall, clearly defining and measuring fewer skills should be more successful than attempting to teach a laundry list of objectives. In focusing on greater quality of instruction for fewer skills, teams may see greater student successes. Similarly, the team should also find this process rewarding and be encouraged to continue creating meaningful yet feasible goals for students.

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Sticky Notes

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Sticky Notes
Sticky Notes
Sticky Notes
Sticky Notes
Sticky Notes
Tip of the Month:
March, 2018

In working with a student, staff often carry a variety of tools with them, such as visual schedule, token board, first…then visual, contingency map, and many others. These tools can be cumbersome for staff to carry and organize, often leading them to be misplaced or unused.

One way to help ensure that staff will always have most, if not all, the tools necessary to support the student without the hassle of carrying multiple items, is by using your everyday sticky notes and a pencil.

Sticky notes provide a blank canvas for staff to create almost all the visuals needed to support a student. The sticky notes also allow staff to individualize the visuals to the present situation.

Some examples of various visuals that can be created on a sticky note are shown to the right.

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Handling Teasing

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Tip of the Month:
February, 2018

Laugeson (2014) defined teasing as any disparaging remark directed toward another person. Often, the teaser is reinforced by the attention that he or she gets from the crowd and/or the pleasure he or she gets from the discomfort of the victim. Research has shown that socially rejected teens, much like most of our students with ASD, tend to get angry, upset, or physically aggressive when they are teased, while more socially accepted teens often respond to teasing with humor or assertion. Understanding these can provide us with a framework on teaching our students how to respond to teaching.

How to Handle Teasing (Laugeson, 2014)
1. Act like what the person said didn’t bother you.
2. Act like what the person said was lame or stupid.
3. Give a short verbal comeback, such as one of the examples below:
“Yeah, and?”
“Is that supposed to be funny?”
“So what?”
“Who cares”
“And your point is…”
“Big deal”
“And why should I care?”
4.Sound bored OR Have an attitude when you use the comebacks. Decide what is more comfortable for you to use.
5. Give a nonverbal comeback. Pick one that you can do and is comfortable for you to do:
-Rolling your eyes
-Shrugging your shoulders
-Shaking your head
-Be ready with several verbal comebacks. The teasing won’t stop after just one comeback.
-After giving a few verbal comebacks, remove yourself by casually looking away or slowly walking away

Role-play various scenarios with your student in a safe environment until he or she is comfortable with giving both verbal and non-verbal comebacks. Focus on the tone of voice and body language as you are practicing with the student.

Important Note:

  • Don’t ignore the teasing
  • Don’t walk away without giving verbal comebacks
  • Don’t tell an adult right away
  • Don’t tease back
  • Don’t banter (friendly, playful teasing) – very risky to engage in
  • Teasing will get worse before it gets better – encourage the student to persevere and continue to use the strategy
  • Expect the teaser to try again
  • Don’t use verbal comebacks with physically aggressive peers OR with adults (e.g. teacher, parent)
  • Reference

    Laugeson, E.A. (2014). The PEERS® Curriculum for School-Based Professionals: Social Skills Training for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. New York: Routledge.

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School | Home Communication

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Tip of the Month:
January, 2018

In 2012, Zablotsky, Boswell, and Smith conducted a survey with parents of children with ASD regarding their involvement with the school system. The result showed that parents of students with ASD were more likely to attend meetings, talk to the school team, and help with homework. However, these parents are also among the most dissatisfied group when it comes to the level of communication between school and home. The study also showed positive correlation between parental involvement and parental satisfaction with the school system.

Understanding that communication between home and school can have a positive impact on the student’s skill development and on the relationship between parents and teachers, it is essential that an effective and efficient form of communication be established at the beginning of the school year.

An ideal communication tool should be:
• Easy to understand
• Contains all essential information for both school and home
• Quick to complete (less than 5 minutes)

Please see attached for an example of communication sheet. Remember, the communication should be individualized for each student.


Broun, L. (2012 August). Strategies for Effective Home/School Communication. Retrieved from$file/home+and+school+communication.pdf

Zablotsky, B., Boswell, K., & Smith, C. (2012). An evaluation of school involvement and satisfaction of parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 117(4), 316-330.

Communication Book template160.34 KB

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Preparing for Winter vacation

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Preparing for Winter vacation
Tip of the Month:
December, 2017

As winter vacation fast approaches, it might be a good idea to start preparing our students for the transition between school to holidays. Research has shown that individuals with ASD transition better if they are informed ahead of time and if they can predict what is coming.

One way to support the transition is through the use of calendar (see Winter Vacation Calendar TEMPLATE). Using a calendar that shows when the student is going to school and when he or she is not presents a visual prompt to let the student know of what is happening the next day. The calendar can also go to the parents so they can use it during the holidays to prepare the students for returning to school.

Using the calendar with the student (see Winter Vacation Calendar EXAMPLE)

1. At the end of the day, show the student the calendar and inform him/her of what it is for (e.g., “Let’s look at how many more school days before holiday”).
2. Prompt the student, if necessary, to locate the day’s date
3. Have the student mark off the date (e.g., using a marker, put a sticker on it, etc)
4. With the student, count out the remaining days until the holiday begins
5. Show the student of what is the plan for the next day (e.g., “Look at the calendar. Are we coming to school tomorrow?”)
6. Continue doing so until the last day of school
7. Send the calendar home and demonstrate to the parents how to use it to prepare for coming back to school in January

Winter Vacation Calendar EXAMPLE.docx32.6 KB
Winter Vacation Calendar TEMPLATE.docx24.33 KB

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Transitioning from an iPad

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Tip of the Month:
November, 2017

With the increasing popularity of iPad and Apps, students with ASD are given access to more technologies than ever before. One of the challenges that parents and teachers face is to successfully transition the students off the device and on to another activity. It is well documented that individuals with ASD struggle with transition in general (Hume, 2008). This can be due to their needs for predictability, lack of understanding of what is going to happen next, or challenges when their pattern of behaviours is disrupted.
There are many transition strategies out there that can help make these transitions more successful.

Visual schedule
A visual schedule showing the student the sequence of events that will happen can help build predictability for the students. This can be as simple as a First..Then.. visual.

  • At the start of the first activity, show the visual and go through the visual with the student.
  • As the first activity is done, inform the student that the activity is “finished” or “all done” and direct the student to look at what is the next activity going to be.
  • Praise and reinforce the student for successful transition.

Timer & countdown
A timer can provide a visual cue for the students of how much time remains in the current activity. Be aware of your student’s sensory profile to determine the type of timer that works best for your student.

A countdown can serve as a warning signal to prepare our students for the end of an activity. The length of the countdown (seconds or minutes) will vary depending on your student’s ability and the activity itself. A countdown can be presented in various ways:

  • Vocal countdown (e.g. “iPad is done in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, all done”)
  • Countdown using fingers
  • Countdown strip (see attached)

Guided access
iPad and iPhone has a built-in feature that will enable you to control access to the iPad including setting a timer and locking a screen that can be monitored using a passcode. Please see attached handout on how to enable and set up Guided Access for your iPad/iPhone.

Hume, K. (2008). Transition time: Helping individuals on the autism spectrum move successfully from one activity to another. Retrieved from

Countdown Strip22.59 KB
FirstThenVisual21.15 KB
iPad Guided Access3.24 MB

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Building Rapport

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Building Rapport
Tip of the Month:
October, 2017

Presession pairing refers to a procedure used to establish a relationship between the instructor and a student, where the instructor is viewed as a reinforcer by the student (Kelly et al, 2015). Developing a good rapport with a student can often be essential in decreasing problem behaviours and increasing engagement in learning.

How to pair with a student

1. Create a preference profile of the student. This includes selecting toys, books, foods, activities, games, videos, and other things that the student enjoys doing. NOTE: you want to collect enough items to continue the pairing session if the student is bored with one item.
2. Present one item/activity at a time to the student and allow the student to interact with it
3. As the student is interacting with the item, join in with the student to ‘enhance’ the experience. The idea is that things are more ‘fun’ with you, the instructor, around than without
4. Follow the student’s lead. As the student loses interest, introduce new activity/item for him/her to interact with.
5. Minimize demands/instructions during pairing activity until rapport has been firmly established.
6. Once a rapport has been established, began introducing small demands/instructions. Start with demands/instructions that the student is most likely to respond before moving to the more difficult instructions.

Notes about pairing

  • Pairing is a gradual process. It is unlikely to happen in just one day so be sure to run the session for a long enough period.
  • Pairing is an ongoing process. Instructors should continue to pair with the students throughout the year to make sure the rapport is vmaintained.


Kelly, A. N., Axe, J. B., Allen, R. F., & Maguire, R. W. (2015). Effects of presession pairing on the challenging behavior and academic responding of children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 30, 135-156.

ABA Teaching Ideas. (2017, September 11). Manding, pairing, and fun activity ideas. Retrieved from

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Teaching Sexual Health

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Tip of the Month:
September, 2017

Why teach sexual health to students with ASD?
People with Autism are like all people and have the right to learn all they can to enable them to become a sexually healthy person. However, because of to the social challenges a person with autism faces, learning about sexual health can be even more important. Many individuals with ASD do not have even basic knowledge about sexuality. Many individuals with ASD do knot know when and whom to ask questions with regards to sex and sexuality. Teaching sexual health is important to help prevent the spread of STD’s, unwanted pregnancies, and abuse. Many young people with ASD or other disability are at an increased risk of sexual abuse. Many young people do not know the difference between an appropriate and inappropriate touch. Often sex and sexuality, as serious topics, are ones many of us would rather avoid than address. This may be more so when the issues is sexuality and students with ASD. Individuals with ASD may have sexual feelings that are “out-of-sync” with their level of social development and awareness. As children grow, their social and sexual skills sets are likely to become different to their chronological age and appearance. Other people, however, will base expectations on their chronological age, and NOT their developmental age.

How to teach sexual health:
Start earlier rather than later! Preparation is key! It might take our students with ASD to understand and process information and thus starting earlier gives them more time to come to terms and understand important skills and concepts. TEACH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related Handicapped Children) suggest that parents and professionals begin the discussion about sexuality at around the age of 10 which is (two-three years before the average child enters puberty. Students with ASD can be reluctant to change, so it is important to give them plenty of notice regarding what will happen when they enter puberty.

Be clear, direct, and honest!
It is important to answer your child or student’s questions about puberty, their body and sexuality. This helps the student understand that puberty and sexuality is not something to be embarrassed about and that they can trust you. Using clear and correct terminology to describe body parts is also essential and is the most effective approach when teaching sexual health. Using visual supports is a key strategy for students with ASD. You can use visual supports to explain basics of development, such as showing the student photos of themselves as babies and toddlers, and of other children at different ages to help your student to understand about when puberty happens in life.

You can also use a body outline, labelling all of the body parts and pointing out how each part will change and talking about what fluids come from each part (sweat, tears, urine, semen, menstrual blood).

Teach private versus public!
It is vital to give students guidelines about the difference between private and public. Some topics that can be covered are: What parts of my body are private? Who can touch certain parts of my body? What body parts can I touch on other people? What is a private room and what can I do in that room (Masturbate, undress)?

Resources list
• Making sense of sex by S.Atwood and J.Powell
• A 5 is against the Law! Social boundaries straight up! By K.D. Buron
• Intimate relationships and sexual health: A curriculum for teaching adolescents/adults with high functioning ASD and other social challenges by C.Davies and M. Dubie
• (go to teacher’s portal- lesson plans- lesson by grade-differing abilities)

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