4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B

4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B
Most of the Four me (and you) fam

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Social story: substitute teacher

A teacher asked me if I had one of these yesterday, and I thought someone else out there in cyberspace might also benefit.

Aspies are very rigid, particularly with their routines. Change and transitions are hard for them. The substitute teacher is particularly tricky. Of course, most typical kids may try to pull one over on a sub or slack off for a sub. For an Aspie, it's more than that.

An Aspie can be taught, with behavioral interventions and reinforcers and extreme consistency, to follow her own teacher's directions. Once the Aspie masters this, she then can relax and tackle the tasks at hand. Once that initial hurdle of mastering a teacher's tone, style, smell, routine, and expectations is surpassed, an Aspie then can focus better on the work that's expected of her. When her teacher is absent, the tone, style, smell, routine, and expectations are not those that she's been taught to understand. Accordingly, the Aspie now has so much work to do to understand what this different person wants or means, that she can only focus on that. She may, then, refuse to do work, act out, stim, or generally be a mess.

Such was the life of my 4A when her beloved kindergarten teacher was occasionally absent. As the years progressed, substitutes became less problematic, but we still do struggle on sub days. Subs, hard as they may try and wonderful notes teacher leaves for sub notwithstanding, just can't (understandably, of course!) know all of the supports that 4A needs or why she needs them. Things that we have worked for MONTHS to establish as routine can (and do) unravel in an instant when the teacher isn't there to reinforce or behaviorally support the expectation.

Oh well. That's life. I always felt bad for the sub. Like being a sub isn't hard enough, right? Then, you've got to deal with this oppositional maniac on top of it.

Here's a social story that I made for 4A when she was in kindergarten. It worked BEAUTIFULLY! Remember, your Aspie lacks the ability to understand that socially it feels good to do a nice job for the sub when the teacher's out. And, wonderfully literal creature that she is, your Aspie does not know that she's expected to follow the substitute's directions unless you tell her exactly that. A social story will make the expectation that she is to follow the substitute's direction explicitly clear. (And, for 4A, it didn't hurt, of course, that her K teacher used the same (amazing!) sub each time she was out and that both the K teacher and the sub understood 4A and her needed supports very well.)


Sub days, if you have an Aspie, are VERY hard. Stay calm. Carry on. Blindly follow that behavioral plan. You will get back to where you were before the sub was there. It's likely going to take some work, involve an extinguishment/extinction burst, and generally be a pain in her teacher's (and your) ass, but you'll get there.

As an aside, I am working on two future posts: one on the basics of social stories for the non-ASD parenting crowd and one on using social story-like supports for typical children. I've gotten questions on both; stay tuned...they're in the works.

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