Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Power Card Strategy

Image: I attached this 1-inch by 1.5 inch picture of Barack Obama on a 2-inch by 3. 5-inch business card and wrote three tips (see seventh paragraph below) to teach my son with autism to be a "good citizen like Barrack Obama." Putting political beliefs aside, the goal is to use a role model to teach good behavior. If this card is effective, similar cards on different topics will be made.

Power Card Strategy

The authors of Just Give Him The Whale, (the book I'm focusing on this week), Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz, attribute Elisa Gagnon with developing the power card strategy. The power card strategy is another way to use a student's special interest as a tool for support. The authors write that the technique consists of two elements:'

"1. a story about a strategy that a student's hero has used to solve a problem, which is usually written on a single page and...

2. the Power Card itself, which is the size of a business card and recaps how the person using the card can use the same strategy to solve a similar problem. [...]"

This strategy is number 15 of the 20 tips featured in Just Give Him the Whale. At the moment I believe this strategy has the potential to help our family perhaps more than the other 19 tips. It's not that the other 19 tips are not good. They are. It is just that we have a situation that #15 might help us solve sooner rather than later.
The Situation

My son is not happy with being in the MICi classroom. In his mind, he has taken control of the situation by declaring himself the winner of a (nonexistent) election. As a result, he goes around telling everyone that he is president of his school and often says "I won and you lost!" to any of his eleven other classmates. Sometimes name calling factors into this performance and sometimes he'll even hum Hail to the Chief (the song that is often played when the U.S. President makes an entrance).

We have a social story intended to discourage this behavior, but the social story doesn't seem to be working efficiently as the undesired behavior keeps popping up almost every day. I'm thinking a power card might work because it is more portable and relies more on role models than on the potential for the person with autism to please other people (as social stories seem to do.)

While frogs tend to be a dominant interest, my son has other interests such as all things American, American presidents, and campaign ads. My guy knows that Barack Obama has won the election to be the next president of the United States and that Mr. Obama defeated John McCain.
Our First Card
Pictures of the object of interest is one aspect of the power card. The picture of the card is accompanied by three tips. So in this particular case, a picture of Mr. Obama would be more appropriate to use on the card than a picture of a frog. The title on our first power card is To Be A Good Citizen Like Barrack Obama.

These are the three tips I have typed up for him: (1) Please do not call your classmates and teachers names. (2) Please stop saying "I won and you lost." (3) Remember that presidents do not elect themselves.

I recycled an old business card by using the blank side for the picture and tips while covering up the existing print side with a picture of the American Flag and the words "Power Card #1. Please see other side." I then punched a hole in the card and attached it to an American Flag Key chain, with the hope that the ring will fill up with other cards if this first one is successful.

My thoughts: The authors of Just Give Him the Whale provide a example of how the power card strategy was effectively applied. The example was taken from one of the author's experiences working with a student with autism who loved pigs.

Please note that I have yet to test the theory. The power card has been made and the accompanying story (which as I mentioned before, is similar to a social story) has yet to be written. The strategy will hopefully be introduced next week. I will provide an update of how this strategy works with my own child (who happens to be quite stubborn) with autism.
A Possible Way of Adapting the strategy for non readers: Put two small pictures side by side on a card to illustrate a change. An example would be a before and after photo of a caregiver who just had a haircut. The goal would be to help the person recognize the caregiver who just made a change in appearance. If you try this, I'd love to know how it worked out for you and your child.


Jeana said...

Hi! I am a teacher of prechool children with special needs. I also have a class of children with autism or PDD. I am also working on a Master's Degree. My research project and "experiment" will be on Power Cards. I was wondering if you had introduced the strategy yet with your son and what kind of results did you find? If you don't mind sharing,I am very interested. Thanks, Jeana in OHIO

Jules said...

Hello Jeana and welcome. So far, so good. I haven't heard anything about my son having another 'election' at school. We're still in the early stages of using this strategy and so far he has only just the one card. Am hoping to make him more soon.

Good luck with your research project.