Children on the Autism Spectrum often need to a place retreat to. This is a calm area where they can gather their thoughts with minimal sensory input or distraction. It is very important that at home and school that they are not sent to this area for misbehaviour e.g. In early childhood centres a quiet spot is NOT a naughty spot, at home the bedroom is not a naughty area, as then they will not want to use this as a retreat area or for sleep. This also can confuse the child into thinking that they are in trouble for being anxious and will create more anxiety in the child. Often they will not go to the area as they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.
6 Key Strategies for Creating a Calming Area at School and Home
- Create a specific area e.g. a partitioned area in a larger room, a tent, small room, egg chairs, etc.
- Give the area a special name.
- Use a visual cue to help them go there.
- Equip with items that promote relaxation (sensory tools,books, comfortable bean bag or cushion, music,
- Reward them for going there independently.
- Have a timer so they know how long they have been thereand know when to come back.
Please note: Giving students computer time only keeps them in a holding pattern and it doesn’t calm them. You will find that they will have a meltdown when you try to get them to finish or they lose a game or the computer doesn’t work in the way they want it to. This shows that the computer has not reduced their anxiety.
Create a Wheel of Activities to do to Help Self- Regulate
You can call this wheel whatever name the student understands i.e. “Focus, Fidget, Calm, Coping, Listening, Sitting, Staying Awesome”.
Practice the activities in the wheel and make sure they have the desired outcome. Explain to the student sometimes you need to do a few of the activities to be ready to come back to learn, engage, listen, etc.
I like to use the book The Kid’s Guide to Staying Awesome and in Control for students to create their own menu of success. The book offers lots of great activities to help students regulate their emotions. You can cut out the pictures and put in your wheel or write in the activities.
Wheel of Calm / Wheel of Focus
This is a wonderful way to reinforce the strategies you teach students through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or self-regulation activities.
Allowing students to ‘cool down’, ‘take a break’ or ‘reflect on behaviour’ is an important part of most classrooms. Many students with ASD, ADHD, ODD need to be taught how to manage their emotions. Just sitting them out or removing them
doesn’t reduce the behaviour, in fact it can escalate the behaviour.