A showcase of undergraduate assessment items, or, the wild ramblings of a lunatic.....either one works.
Second Issue - Effect of Sensory Overload on academic schoolwork.
One of the main issues in K’s low school grades is his inability to remain on task and complete assessment items. He finds it hard to concentrate on the main task and while he works well at times, his work often goes off on a tangent, missing the purpose of the original task.
In discussing specific learning difficulties that may not be found through standardised testing, Jordan (2003) mentions the apparent lack of motivation or enthusiasm of students with ASD to complete academic tasks, especially when compared to the intense focus of other interests. This can be due to communication impairments, or as suggested by Elwin, Ek, Kjellin & Schroder (2013), a general overload of stimuli. Given the sensory sensitivity of children with ASD, combined with their highly visual nature, it is then highly likely that complex written instructions could lead to another type of sensory overload, much like sound or touch.
Another factor to consider is the intense focus and concentration which students with ASD are capable of, especially in their areas of personal interest (i.e. Lego, etc.). This intensity is linked to a weak central coherence (Attwood, 1998), and may explain why K cannot cope with the overall academic task, but instead gets distracted by one small side task.
While it would be fantastic to harness K’s narrow intensity of focus onto other academic pursuits, it is rather unlikely. At the very least however, it is still certainly advisable to reduce the sensory overload often present in classroom lessons. By directing his attention, K is better able to focus on the relevant information of the lesson and successfully complete the set task. Increased success in self-directed academic study will be a highly desirable outcome in high school.
The visual supports presented here are intended to do just that, concentrate the focus and direct the student’s attention. The viewfinders are visual aids to block out most of the task so that the student can isolate and concentrate on specific parts of the lesson, and then move onto the next when ready, rather than be overwhelmed all at once. The rectangular viewfinder would suit a written exercise, while the round one was ideally designed for a more physical task such as viewing artwork or cleaning one’s bedroom (which probably does look too overwhelming!).
The second part of the support items is a decoder of sorts, designed to help identify the main clues of the task, once visually isolated by the viewfinders. Silverman & Weinfeld (2007) discuss the importance of visually finding key words, which may help to better direct the student’s attention. The two supports work together to perform a task analysis, an evidence-based practice mentioned by Hume, Boyd, Hamm & Kucharczyk (2014). The student is able to reuse the sheet like a whiteboard, rewriting the clues of the task for each specific lesson, and this support may later help with auditory listening skills by identifying key words to listen for.
All these items are made from laminated printer paper, and can be written on with whiteboard markers. Their size and structure may need adjusting to suit various tasks, but at a low cost, this is easily achievable.