Differentiation? On a Trip?

Today, as you can probably guess from the title, we escaped the classroom and headed out for some fun! Never have I welcomed such a smiley excited group of students into my room, the sun was shining, the uncomfortable school uniforms were nowhere to be seen and we only had one hour of real lessons all day. We were doing something MUCH more important – we were off to play on rope swings in a hay barn and eat in an American style diner.

I on the other hand, entered the day somewhat more wary; on the one hand nothing makes me happier than a chance to work on Social Skills for a day, on the other a day out of school always fills me with a sense of fear about what could go wrong. And let’s face it outside the predictable world of school there are 101 things that could go wrong!!

I needn’t have worried though, behaviour was exemplary, manners were perfect and great fun was had by all. We climbed on hay bales, crawled through tunnels and swung on rope swings. When it all got too much we had a quick 10 minute iPad downtime break, then we got up and ran around again. We even survived lunchtime without a meltdown, even though the food didn’t taste like we expected it to, no-one was impolite to the waiter, and everyone found something they could eat.

For me, it’s this, the differentiation we do outside the classroom that (despite the worrying I do about it) is the most important. I mean, don’t get me wrong I love it when my students do amazing work. But, even more than that I love it when they live amazing lives; when they make friends, are happy and truly enjoy social times together – that is when the true magic happens.

So, if you’ve got a trip planned here are my top five tips for taking students with ASD on an extended outing:

  • Plan where your students will sit on the coach (talk to them about it in advance, don’t just assume you know them well enough to decide)
  • Let your students know exactly what the plan for the day is (if possible write it down on portable schedule – so that you can update any changes as and when they happen)
  • Unless you are taking a packed lunch which has come from the student’s own home – do rehearse a plan with the student for what will happen if the food turns out not to look/ taste the way they expect.
  • Have a way of creating positive downtime into your day (we took two iPads and a 10 minute timer). Some students might find a full day of intense social activity just too much.
  • Praise them lots, days out are great fun but they are also really challenging, so if things are going well, notice it.

Go on, plan a trip, there’s just enough time to organise it…

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