The more you know and understand about each child, the better your work on self-regulation will be.
Find out about brothers and sisters and other family members. Who could be a self-regulation partner?
Find out about other therapies children are involved in. The average child with autism in the United States gets seven different therapies (1) – if that sounds like a lot, one child in the survey was receiving 52 different therapies!!! You need to know other therapies going on – What’s being asked of the children? Are there things that could make it more difficult for the children to become more independent? What therapies do they like or dislike? What therapies made a difference and which ones didn’t seem to work? It’s all important for understanding what’s being asked of the children, how busy their schedules are, and what seems to work.
Make sure you know the children’s interests and things they dislike. Bring in their passions and affinities – they’ll keep them interested. Find out what they prefer in terms of videos or movies, games, TV shows, computer programs, books, toys, characters from videos, TV, games and/or books and music. Also, be sure to avoid things they don’t like – that can really turn them off (“yuck, My Little Ponies are stupid!”).
Be aware of each child’s strengths and areas of difficulty. Find out about children’s reading, fine motor and gross motor skills (2). I’ve seen too many speech-language therapists use coloring activities with children who have fine motor problems. The poor kids understandably hated coloring because it was too difficult to control that darned crayon/color. Problems with motor skills are common in children with autism (2).
Here’s a form I developed for spark* and spark*EL that you can use to gather information.
(1) Green, V.A., Pituch, K.A., Itchon, J., Choi, A., O’Reilly, M., & Sigafoos, J. (2006). Internet survey of treatments used by parents of children with autism. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27(1), 70-84.
(2) Problems with motor skills are common in children with autism
(3). More than half have low muscle tone and about 9% have large muscle (gross motor) delays where the child looks clumsy. More than one-third have motor dyspraxia, or difficulty planning, coordinating, producing and reproducing actions and movements with their bodies. Children can have problems imitating gestures (such as waving or making thumbs up) and actions, using tools (such as pencils, scissors, toothbrushes).
(3) Ming, X., Brimacombe, M., & Wagner, G. C. (2007). Prevalence of motor impairment in autism spectrum disorders. Brain & development, 29(9), 565–70.