At Pediatric Therapeutic Services, we have a team of specialists who can help assess a student’s needs and recommend the right level of accommodation. Some of the members of our multi-disciplinary team include:
- Board Certified Behavioral Analysts (BCBAs)
- Licensed Behavior Specialists
- Registered Behavioral Technicians (RBTs)
- Occupational Therapists (OTs)
- Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)
- Physical Therapists (PTs)
While our therapists can provide services in the classroom as part of a push-in or co-teaching model, an autistic support classroom may provide some students with the supports they need to make meaningful progress in the least restrictive environment.
With our 20+ years of experience and our multi-disciplinary approach, Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) can offer guidance on how to set up a strong program in your school’s autistic support classroom and create an inclusive and supportive classroom setup.
How a Multi-Disciplinary Approach Supports Students in Autistic Support Classrooms
At PTS, our behavioral health specialists and RBTs are experts at employing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) tactics in an Autistic Support Classroom to help students succeed in the school setting. However, when a student is engaged in therapy for autism spectrum disorder, they are often working on a range of skills, not just one aspect of development.
This is why it’s important to take a multi-disciplinary approach to your autistic support classroom’s program—to provide the most comprehensive care possible.
Our behavioral health specialists will often collaborate with therapists who specialize in other disciplines, such as SLP, OT, or PT. These therapists approach issues in different ways, so collaborating with OTs, PTs, and SLPs can help to create a more well-rounded, comprehensive program in your autistic support classroom.
Speech-Language Pathologists in the Autistic Support Classroom
In an autistic support classroom, SLP can assist with students who may be experiencing speech and language-related disorders like articulation issues or apraxia.
SLPs may work closely with a behavioral health specialist when a student is experiencing delays in speech and language or is non-verbal. The SLP will perform SLP intervention services and provide the behavioral health specialist with helpful strategies for building communication skills in ABA therapy sessions.
SLPs can also help with any AAC system that the student may need and can coordinate an AAC evaluation if necessary.
Occupational Therapists in the Autistic Support Classroom
OTs can work with students in the autistic support classroom who experience delays in coordination, fine or gross motor skills, or sensory processing.
OTs also provide students with skills to help regulate themselves. They can help a child decrease inappropriate stims and provide students with more socially acceptable skills for regulation. The OT will also provide the behavioral health specialist with strategies and activities that can be incorporated into ABA therapy sessions or as part of the autistic support classroom.
Physical Therapists in the Autistic Support Classroom
Physical therapists typically work with children on gross motor skills for participation in gym class, playground skills, motor planning, and bilateral coordination. In an autistic support classroom, they can support children who may have low muscle tone or who need to build additional motor function or coordination.
They’ll also work with behavioral health specialists to determine how PT can be beneficial in promoting more successful ABA therapy sessions.
PTS Can Help You Take a Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Your Autistic Support Classroom
One advantage of working with PTS is the sense of cohesion between RBTs, behavioral health specialists, and other members of the related services team such as OTs, PTs, and SLPs. This web of supports strengthens the autistic support classroom overall.
How to Support Students with Autism with the Right Classroom Setup
Once you have the right multi-disciplinary program in place, your therapy team can create a physical setup for your autistic support classroom that is as beneficial as possible for your students. As you know, setting up an autistic support classroom correctly can increase skills acquisition and independence and lower stress and anxiety.
Here are four tips for optimizing your classroom setup to support your students with autism:
1. Pay Attention to the Physical Layout and Remove Clutter
Consider the daily flow of your autistic support classroom and set up your classroom to facilitate smooth transitions throughout the day. Use colored tape to establish workstation boundaries. You may also consider labeling each workstation with the corresponding word to support any nonverbal students.
Also, make sure to remove clutter that doesn’t serve a specific teaching purpose—including unused furniture and old posters. This allows your students to focus on you and the lesson, instead of fixating on non-teaching items.
2. Minimize Sensory Stimulation
Keep in mind that students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have hypersensitivity to stimuli. Reduce the risk of sensory overload for students by adjusting the lighting and window coverings. You can also use carpets to reduce noise levels.
3. Provide Ways to Stimulate Sensory Response When Appropriate
In addition to hypersensitivity, as mentioned in the previous point, ASD can manifest as hyposensitivity, or under-responsiveness, to stimuli. Consult with occupational therapists to help sensory-seeking students with tools like weighted blankets, wiggle cushions, putty, movement breaks, and more.
4. Have a Calm Down Area
Misunderstandings, over-stimulation, or communication breakdowns can lead to frustration or meltdowns. Creating a calming area can help to prevent this from happening. This can be as simple as a desk with dividers by it or a small area in the corner of the classroom with a bean bag chair and some headphones.
Remember: The Calm Down Area should never be used as a form of punishment.
Set Up a Strong Program in an Autistic Support Classroom with Help from PTS
A team of qualified behavioral health specialists, OTs, PTs, SLPs, and other qualified therapists can help you take a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to your autistic support classroom program. With our integrated services and hands-on program management style, PTS can help you offer your students with autism the supports they need in an autistic support classroom and in the general education classroom.
Contact PTS to find out more today!