Many autistic students have special interests or “favorite things”. These are things the student is passionate about. This could include favorite shows, characters, sensory items, and more. This strong interest can be a part of monotropism. Monotropism can include a focus on a small number of things. Individuals may hyperfocus on certain topics or interests. This is a normal variance in neurological functioning that can be seen in autism, ADHD, etc. For more information on neurodiversity, check out these handouts.
Students often enjoy and are more engaged in activities that have a preferred interest or “favorite thing” embedded. This could be individualized to meet each student’s needs.
- Including Favorite Characters on Schedules or Visuals
- Creating an Activity for Writing or Math that Includes a Favorite Topic
- Using the Child’s Preferred Items in Child Led Play (example: if a child loves hangers, play with hangers!)
- Create an Activity that Includes Favorite Characters
Structuring a Session for Independence and Success
Many autistic students work well independently with the following in place: physical structure that makes sense (presenting materials from the left with a finished box on the right, as we often work from left to right in the US), visuals to reduce anxiety (a picture schedule of where the student will be now, next, later or a written schedule with similar format).
Below, you’ll find three different types of visuals that could be helpful for autistic students. The middle and right hand side show two forms of visual schedules- the middle is written with a dry erase marker, the right has pictures and shows the location at the start and end of a speech session. The left shows a custom activity that is part of the visual schedule under “activity”. In this case, the student loves Peppa Pig…so an activity sequence was custom designed with this favorite show in mind.
You could incorporate Peppa Pig throughout this child’s schedule, including songs, books, toys, etc. You can find lots of Peppa Pig activities and games in my amazon shop. Take a peek below at an activity sequence custom made with Peppa Pig characters embedded. This was used with several young students. Each had an increase in independence, participation, and success with the individual tasks. It allowed for structure to reduce anxiety, opportunities for language surrounding a favorite topic, and less need for redirection.
Pictured Below: 1) The Peppa List for an independent activity (the student reads, marks, matches, and completes), 2) 4 tasks that have a matching character, 3) matching the pieces to the list as the student progresses (the order does not matter here), 4) including what’s next to reduce anxiety: check your schedule, 4) a finished box and clear start/finish to this activity to reduce anxiety and increase success/independence.
Originally, I did not have matching pieces to go along with the Peppa list. However, every student I used this with pulled off the icon and matched it to the list. So…I added velcro and made it so that they would pull the piece off of the activity as they went along. You can create your own individualized lists and schedule books using this schedule resource on TpT. This is The Best Visual Schedule. You can also buy it directly on this site here. It has options for customization. You could incorporate any favorite topic.