* Christopher and me: brain breaks

I’ve been asked how to keep a young’un attentive during summer tutoring, especially one with special needs.  My nephew, Christopher, is such a joy to teach, but he does get tired, off track, antsy, and frustrated at times.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he’s an ASD (A Sweet Dude) kiddo .  Here’s what I do:

  • Keep a visual schedule so he knows when we will take brain breaks.
  • Take a variety of brain breaks, including going outside for a few minutes to toss a minion (below) or to attempt hula hooping.
  • Encourage him to stand up as we work, if he looks fatigued.
  • Give him something to fidget with.
  • Keep the activities focused on his special interests.
  • Tally every off-task remark and praise him for the improvements he’s made as we work.  Many times, simply tallying or graphing is sufficient with kids.  No need for a reward, but…
  • Establish a small reward of his choice for each of our 3 major activities (thinking/language, writing, reading).  For example, he loves a sour small candy, so he’s gotten 3 miniature pieces after each session of working hard.  He DOES work hard all the time anyway, which I find very typical of kids on the autism spectrum.
  • Provide a larger reward for longer and more difficult assignments which may take a week to earn.  These are typically the “thinking” activities related to problem solving.
  • Stay playful.  We DO get off track and although I sneak in some language work as we banter, he needs to enjoy himself with those wild and crazy thoughts of blowing noses, beating Super Mario Bros, or endless discussions of “comic mischief.”

(Hover mouse to read captions.)