Morning Meeting: The Best Way to Increase Social Skills
Circle-time, or “morning meeting” is often a valued component of the school day. Educators view this as an important time to address social skill development, as well as to introduce and review academic concepts. Typically, these groups emphasize attending, imitating, listening, and turn taking, and may require students to share materials and wait for periods of time. For many students and staff members, morning meeting is a preferred activity that allows for creativity, interaction, and fun. For students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, these language-based groups may be challenging. The challenges may arise due to difficulties some students with ASD have with distractibility, sequencing information, auditory processing, and social skill development.
The article, “Making the Most of Morning Meeting”, by Karen Hume talks about a method that Catherine Faherty of Division TEACCH encourages her staff to do. This method is called “layering”. Layering is a process of slowly introduces and includes students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) into participation of morning meeting or circle time activities.
Morning Meeting Accommodations for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
According to Faherty, the first layer of inclusion for students with ASD is to have morning meeting with everyone in the class with a minimal of activities, content, and songs. Once the students with ASD have become more familiar with the routine, smaller groups are then formed and then more singing, discussion, and activities should be included, until the final layer is reached. Within that finally layer students with ASD are hopefully able to engage in more discussions and conversations amongst each other.
Other suggestions from Faherty including creating a classroom environment that is beneficial for students with ASD that is not so overwhelming or distracting to their learning. Teachers should also keep routines consistent and to a minimal, depending on the students needs. Also, set expectations of students’ behavior during morning meeting and provide accommodations that will support a student with ASD. For example, there are chairs or special cushioning that may help that child remain contained within their own personal space. There is a student that I have mentioned previously in a forum (high functioning student with ASD) from my classroom this past year who needed a designated spot to sit at in order for him to have a successful morning meeting.
The use of visuals is also another approach for students with ASD. Because students with autism often have strong visual-spatial skills deficits in oral communication, a heavy emphasis on visual materials can be beneficial (Hodgon, 1995; Quill, 1995). Board Maker is a software tool that the special education teachers at our school use within the classroom. Having that clear and concrete visual of what is expected definitely helps those students with ASD.
Hume, K. (2006). Making the most of morning meeting. The Reporter, 11(3), 10-14.
Faherty, C. (n.d.). “Group ideas” for preschool and primary classrooms including students with autism: Structuring for success. Retrieved October 22, 2005: www.teacch.com.
Page included by Kai Blackwood