Increases motivation to attempt a non-preferred task
Increases participation in non-preferred tasks
Increases attention to task
Increases understanding of concept
Studies suggest that incorporating the interests of children with Asperger's and Autism may result in increases in socialization with generalization to other activities.
In 2006, Cosden, Koegel, Koegel, Greenwell, & Klein published a very interesting article titled, "Strength-Based Assessment (*SBA) for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders". They shared that studies have demonstrated that utilizing interest activities or ritualistic behaviors in interventions can result in positive behavior change.
Cosden, et al. (2006) emphasized that SBA is a proactive tool that focuses on individuals' strengths instead of reacting to challenging behaviors. They stated that both goodness of fit and person-centered planning are consistent with the need for SBAs that focus on quality of life issues.
Examples Of How & When To Incorporate One's Interest Into Different Areas
Component of assignment tied to the child's strength or interest
Example: 'Trains', then the child can use his spelling words to make sentences about trains; for an older child - then math, science, physics can be a wonderful format to incorporate one's interest of trains
Example: 'A math problem', if a train has 10 cars and each car can seat 25 people, then how many people can the conductor allow on the train at one time?
Graphic organizer in shape of interest
Example: SpongeBob Square Pants, railway station, etc. the middle and then the different tracks going out to their destinations as part of graphic design
Place a visual of the interest on an assignment
A sticker or icon representing the interest placed on a 'graphic' organizer, worksheet, etc. in different academic areas, etc.
The 'counters' are associated with an interest. Example: Train tracks, train cars, kind words Sponge Bob says, pages of a book the child likes, different notes a musical instrument is playing, etc.
Addition ideas may include:
Use interest in computer as an avenue to complete a project, write a story, or complete assignments
Use something associated with interest as a topic for writing a paper, sentence, etc.
Interest as sentence starters or project starters
Tie hidden rules of social skills
Incorporate one's interest. Example: A scientist seeks data, a scientist learns about others' interests, asks questions about others, etc.
Example: Interest in globes, then 'GLOBE' can be used as an acronym to assist when conversing with others; G-Gentle, L-listen, O-on topic, B-breathe, E- empathize
Rules regarding behavioral and physical boundaries
Interest with Trains Rules of remaining 'on track' or in 'area'. Example: Differentiate between comments which are 'on track' and those which could cause a collision or are 'off track'. Most importantly, have fun with this!
Increase interaction with others
Use an idiosyncrasy. Example: If the individual must touch each chair in the classroom, then have the child first look at and say, "Hello" to the individual in the chair or while picking up the graded papers from each student. Giving multiple cues, this 'may' help to broaden the individuals behavior repertoire/communication and social skills while possibly replacing the need to touch the chairs.
Example: First brush your teeth with your Spiderman toothbrush, then spin for 10 min.There is a visual provided of a 'first/then' card in the visual tools section if needed.
Tie interest to positive problem solving situation
Make it relevant. Example: interest is Star Wars; even R2D2 needs to recharge his batteries, take a break, ask for help, etc.
Addition ideas may include:
*Social narrative tied to one's interest concerning the behavior of concern
*Behavior chart tied to an interest (see examples under ‘visual tools’)
Actual tokens. Tokens can actually be tied to an interest to increase motivation in the token system. Charlop-Christy, M. & Haymes, L., (1998) found that the saliency of the tokens was important for the children in their study.
Functional communication training
This is a great way to understand how one's interests can add motivation for one to communicate. Example: if an individual 'wants' a train track to complete their train set and the train track is in your hand or out of their reach, then they will need you to help them. This is a reason to communicate! Create many of these moments. See the ‘Communication’ page for more ideas.
Learning how to exchange a picture (and eventually say the word too) for an item, activity, etc. begins with the child or adult handing a picture or word representative of a preferred object. This greatly adds to the motivational factor to increase learning. Then, when the child learns this stage, more items are added, etc. However, something of interest at the beginning is a must.
Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
To encourage the individual to respond to multiple cues, to be motivated, to self-manage and initiate interactions to communicate. These areas have to be directly taught. Example: For multiple cues; ‘go get your green sweatshirt’ discriminates between the green and red sweatshirt and also the green sweatshirt and green tee shirt.
Puzzle piece of favorite character
This can be given when it is time to move to the next activity. The puzzle is placed at the place or area of the next activity and when puzzle is complete. Then choice time follows.
A word or picture tied to one's interest
This can be handed to the individual or they have it on a chart or list to self-manage, etc., but also associated with the next subject or activity. Example: If one likes being on highways, then a picture of a speed limit sign would represent ‘math’. A picture of a stop light could indicate it is time to stop and move on or a picture of two highways merging could represent doing a group activity, etc. If at all possible, have the individual come up with signs and signals to represent when it is time to change.
Specific choice charts
Example: To increase the likelihood of a smooth transition and the actual trip in the car, have a special choice chart just for car rides. This will be difficult at first, but well worth it in the end.
Unique sounds to assist with transition
If a child likes trains, then blow a train whistle or record the sound of a train and play it only when there is a transition and when the child needs change activities.
Themed individualized schedules to increase independence
Examples of these tied to interests
Stocco, C. S., Thompson, R.H., and Rodriguez, N.M.
In a study by Stocco, C. S., Thompson, R.H., and Rodriguez, N.M. (2011), they found that most of the teachers in their experiment responded differently to the students with restricted interests. They observed that due to the students increased engagement with their intense interest, plus a decrease in disruptive behaviors, most of the teachers allowed the students to engage in their high interest leisure tasks for a longer time period than the students without a restricted interest. The concern here has to do with a limited exposure to different leisure items. So, how can interests be incorporated into tasks and situations to broaden one's skills, leisure activities, and ultimately interests? *(added information)
It is important here to clarify that incorporating one's interest has to be understood that it does not mean the individual has free reign with his interest and nothing else. However, incorporating means using the interest (or something associated with the interest) to encourage the individual to attempt new tasks or behaviors, initiate less preferred tasks if associated with the interest and increase one's attention during the task. With increased opportunities created by incorporating interests, the individual's interest can be broadened to other leisure, academic, behavioral and social skills. This of course, may hopefully decrease the intense interest and actually be an avenue to build on the individual's strengths.
Charlop-Christy, M. and Haymes, L.
In a study by Charlop-Christy, M. and Haymes, L., (1998), they concluded that using objects of obsessions as token reinforcers for individuals with autism encouraged on-task behaviors and decreased inappropriate behaviors. They also stated that research has shown that using aberrant behaviors as reinforcers decreased off-task behaviors. This may not be easy to grasp, but idiosyncrasies can be used as reinforcers - events which increase the occurrence of a target behavior.
It may also help incorporating the idiosyncrasy into an activity where the unusual behavior is not as distracting to the individual (or others) or where the idiosyncrasy is actually used in a positive manner - where it may be considered a strength.
Koegel, Koegel, Harrower, & Carter
Motivation is an area of concern for individuals with ASDs. Koegel, Koegel, Harrower, & Carter (1999) shared that in their research, they found that when language intervention sessions were conducted without a motivational variable incorporated, they saw very little or very slow gains with little generalization or spontaneity.
List of Possible Interventions or Strategies to Use to Incorporate Interest and Idiosyncrasies
Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
Positive Behavior Supports
Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment for Young Children