Amy Moore Gaffney, M.A., CCC-SLP, discusses evidence-based support strategies for adults with autism as they transition to adulthood and gain independence. She focuses on structured visual support strategies and emphasizes the need for generalized support systems across contexts and environments. Gaffney describes three structured methods that support communication and executive function skill sets in autistic adults. She provides an action plan template, highlights the need for community and employer involvement, and emphasizes the importance of a balanced schedule. The speaker supplies resources and user-friendly ways for creating support before closing with a question and answer session.

Handout for this talk are available online HERE
Learn more about our speaker, Amy Moore Gaffney, HERE
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In this webinar: 

1:30 – Communication and executive function
5:17 – Benefits of visual supports
6:25 – Action plan outline
9:02 – Gaining attention
12:04 – Initiation and asking for help
13:45 – Generalization and communication supports
14:34 – Portable visual supports
16:43 – Starbucks Vocabulary
17:22 – Supporting requests and comments
20:23 – Types of visual schedules (Object, photo, first-then, picture, written)
28:25 – Reminders, change supports, and incorporating interests
31:17 – Checklist for creating schedules
33:44 – Work systems / To-do lists
34:43 – Left-to-right work system
38:30 – Interest-based picture match work system
40:18 – Written work system (to-do list)
43:13 – Work systems for hygiene, home, and jobs
45:42 – Checklist for creating work systems
48:20 – Action plan check-in
49:25 – Resources and ideas
51:30 – Q & A

While support strategies are often taught and implemented throughout schooling, it is crucial to consider who will provide support after an individual graduates from high school (2:15). Gaffney discusses the importance of structured support strategies and schedules that build off of skills taught during childhood and adolescence. She focuses on structured visual support (3:20) and emphasizes the need to use these techniques across school, home, work, and community environments (6:00). Gaffney presents an action plan template (6:25) for assessing behaviors and creating individualized support systems. 

Communication and executive function are two skill sets necessary for a successful transition to adulthood and increased independence (1:30). The presenter emphasizes three structured support strategies specific to these abilities:

1. Structured communication supports

To develop adequate communication support, consider the contexts and settings where an individual communicates (7:13) and the function of their communication (8:22). The speaker discusses support strategies that encourage individuals to ask for help (12:04) and gain attention (9:02), especially for individuals using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices (10:10). She highlights the importance of generalization, or the ability to communicate with different people across locations and contexts (13:45). Portable visual supports (e.g., wallet notes, pictures on a phone, back of a lanyard) enable more privacy and allow strategies to work across environments (14:34). Visual conversation prompts can help with selecting topics to discuss (16:09). Throughout the presentation, Gaffney notes the importance of using personal experiences and preferences (30:35) to create support and provide the necessary vocabulary for favorite places and experiences (16:43)

2. Schedules

Visual schedules present what activities will occur and in what sequence. Such schedules allow predictability, reduce anxiety, and promote independence and flexibility (20:23). Gaffney discusses object (22:45), photograph (23:30), and written (27:57) schedules and emphasizes the need to meet individuals where they are so they can effectively communicate throughout the day (21:55). Adults can keep visual schedules in their car or on their phone to accommodate changes in daily tasks and errands (24:30). Schedules should include visual reminders to check their schedule (28:25), visual supports for changes in the schedule (29:39), and a visual way to show what has been completed and what has not (28:08)

3. Work systems (To do lists)

“While the schedule moves you from place to place, the work system tells you what to do when you get there.” (33:44)

Work systems tell an individual (34:43):

  1. How much work needs to be done
  2. What work needs to be done
  3. When they are finished
  4. What happens next  

Gaffney outlines left-to-right work systems (35:04), picture match work systems (38:30), and written work systems (or to-do lists) (40:18). The speaker highlights the value of support systems learned in school and discusses how to adjust them for adulthood and generalization across environments (39:35). She also emphasizes the importance of balanced to-do lists and suggests including fun activities alongside necessary tasks (42:00). Gaffney provides examples of work systems for home (43:13) and jobs (44:50) and highlights the importance of community and employer involvement. 

Schedules and work systems function most effectively when support staff, coworkers, family, employers, and the individual using the strategies are taught how to use them (45:30). Support systems can be broken down into morning and afternoon to manage anxiety levels and teach prioritization (25:19; 45:15). Gaffney provides easy, user-friendly ways to create schedules, communication supports, and work systems (49:22) before opening to questions (51:30)

About the speaker:

Amy Moore Gaffney, M.A., CCC-SLP is an educational consultant with the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana University, Bloomington. Gaffney has experience working with young children, school-age children, and young adults. Through her work as a speech-language pathologist and Autism consultant, Gaffney has worked with students and their families in a variety of settings, including in-home, public and private schools, and a private clinic.

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