By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
The Autism Academy for Education and Development has a comprehensive curriculum and understands the struggles of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our current weekly blog series contains 8 critical growth components, starting with Independent Living with Jennifer Sevier. The purpose of this series is to provide growth strategies for quality education for a growing number of children with Autism nationwide. This first week features Independent Living with Jennifer Sevier.
Critical Growth Components in Autism Education Blog Series:
- Independent Living with Jennifer Sevier
- Autism Academic Awareness with Kim Baltzley
- Living Your Best Life with Katie Nieder
- Positive Behavior Support with Darnell Cherry
- Curriculum, Coaching and Culture with Shawn Davis
- Character Building and Development with Derrick Jamerson
- Fostering A Fun Atmosphere with Carrie Hatanaka
- Speech, Occupational and Animal Therapies with Kalona Newcomb
Jennifer Sevier is the new assistant director of the AAED Chandler campus. She recognizes the advantages for additional instruction for independent living skills amongst students with Autism. She’s been educating students for 13 years.
“My students have ranged in age from kindergarten to high school aged and encompass all ability levels” she said. “In my new role, I will strive to create an environment centered on kid-first decision making that helps students to learn and grow.”
There are a variety of skills and strategies that teachers could consider applying when educating children with Autism. It’s important to recognize that Autism is a complex disorder with a wide spectrum of symptoms. These symptoms are displayed in different levels of severity. Identifying similarities in these symptoms help experienced educators plan for promising results. AAED examines a variety of research which equips teachers to produce the most enriching outcomes. Identifying common characteristics empower AAED teachers to provide the best independent living instruction available.
FOUR COMMON CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE:
- Difficulties with Social Interaction
- Struggles with Communication
- Unusual Repetitive Patterns of Behavior
- Difficulty with Changes in Routine
These common characteristics can create complexities for students trying to learn the same way as their neuro-typical peers. This is one of the many reasons why the AAED, Autism-only school concept, is providing the best curriculum for students on the spectrum.
“Early experiences taught me how important it is to treat everyone with respect and to never underestimate someone’s abilities,” Sevier said. “I’ve developed a passion for always looking to the future.”
In order for this population of students to function in the future, teachers must focus on independent living.
GRASPING THE CONCEPT OF GENERALIZATION
Educators often overlook certain challenges faced by high-functioning students on the spectrum. Students with ASD have difficulties with generalization.
Generalization affects their ability to perform skills that have been learned in one setting, and then apply the same skill set across a variety of settings.
A new setting causes many of these students to view the scope of each skill set differently, making it difficult to clutch the concept. This characteristic for students on the spectrum, even individuals who are high functioning wrestle with this concept called generalization.
7 TIPS TO REMEMBER
- Always evaluate whether it’s a good time for rigorous instruction.
- Be realistic when setting expectations and challenges.
- Make multiple positive statements for every constructive correction.
- Look and listen carefully while also reading nonverbal cues.
- Some life-skills lessons only take one minute – keep it simple.
- Only aim to work on a limited number of skills at a time.
- End every teachable moment on a high positive note.
This goal is best accomplished in environments where school and home work hand-in-hand – parents must be a part of the process. Daily living conditions at home provide a natural and routine environment for applying independent life skills. This is why parents must be part of the learning process for independent living practices – this is a critical concept at AAED.
AAED SUGGESTED HOME ACTIVITIES TO ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT LIVING
- Daily Household Chores
- Completing Homework
- Setting the Table
- Emptying the Trash
- Exercising Good Hygiene
- Setting the Alarm Clock
- Putting Grocery Items Away
- Unloading the Dishwasher
- Folding Clothes
- Dusting Furniture
- Following Recipe Instructions
- Making Up the Bed
- Sweeping and Vacuuming
Partnering with parents to teach and employ daily-living strategies is invaluable. Applying skills like cleaning, cooking, and coping under pressure are critically beneficial to independent living. Learning through observation is a challenge amongst children with Autism. Specific instructions are needed with repetitive practice (and in some cases pictures to assist in understanding the instructions).
THE GROWTH COMPONENT OF INDEPENDENT LIVING
Sevier understands first-hand the importance of embracing the growth component of independent living.
“I developed my passion for working with children with special needs through many experiences in my personal life,” she explained. “People in my life have faced many challenges, including developmental delays, deafness, and physical challenges.”
Chandler assistant director Jennifer Sevier says she makes it her mission to assist students with Autism to achieve ongoing success. No student should feel isolated or misunderstood in any learning environment because of an intellectual or developmental disability. Unfortunately, many students with special needs do feel isolated, and isolation stunts growth. It’s especially important to place students with Autism in the right social setting, a place where they fit in, feel loved, and make friends. This often-overlooked recipe is the secret ingredient for a well-balanced Autism school. The Autism Academy for Education and Development provides a proven educational curriculum that strongly encourages independent living.
ABOUT JENNY SEVIER
Sevier earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also completed a master’s degree and earned a graduate level teacher and special education certification program at Cal State Fullerton. Sevier is highly qualified and brings 13 years of educational experience to the AAED Chandler campus. She’s worked at the Autism Academy as a lead teacher, instructional coach, and administrative academic advisor in Tempe. As the new Chandler assistant director, Sevier plans to empower students with social, behavioral and academic success.