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Time on Task

Daphnie Peterson

EDSE 370 Ann Sebald Connie Brakken Sandy Anderson December 8, 2013

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Section 1: Description of the issue, area of interest or idea For the purposes of this project, I want to focus on one specific student at the school in which I am currently placed. This young girl has many challenges both in the school setting as well as at home. According to her Individual Education Program (IEP), she was diagnosed with Autism by Developmental Pathways in September of 2008. She was also diagnosed with Autism and Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder from Children’s Hospital. Due to these diagnoses, she presents many challenges and behaviors. The area of focus for my research paper will center on increasing Sarah’s time on task. Everyday classroom routines and expectations from staff members result in frequent temper tantrums(taking her shoes and socks off, pulling her hair, screaming, yelling, crying, hitting, kicking, throwing and pushing objects at staff), where she is unable to be redirected by staff. My decision to concentrate on Sarah for this research project materialized for several reasons. From my observations and my personal knowledge of the challenges associated with Autism and thus the success rate of time on task, I decided this would be a great opportunity to research the best way to increase her participation in the classroom. Therefore, the

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objective of my research paper is to introduce a specific strategy to increase Sarah’s time on task. Section 2: Description of student Sarah (name changed to protect identity) is an adorable, sweet young girl who just celebrated her 7th birthday and presently is in the second grade at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary. Sarah’s adaptive behavior skills are significantly below age expectations as are her cognitive skills. Sarah’s strengths include: her ability to make connections with adults, communicating her needs and wants, and developing routines quickly by following a visual schedule that she uses with adult guidance. Sarah is very strong willed and prefers to engage in self-directed activities most of the day. Sarah tends to spend a lot of time on off task behaviors. This could be walking around the classroom, sitting on the bean bag, demanding to move from a less preferred activity to one of her liking on her visual schedule and on the extreme of having a temper tantrum. Whatever the behavior is, the fact remains that she is off task and no work is being completed. Some of her biggest areas of need as stated on her IEP include: increasing receptive language i.e. following directions using her visual schedule independently, improving her fine motor and visual motor skills, and completing tasks that clearly

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have a defined beginning, middle and end. Sarah has recently been placed on a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to help decrease the negative behaviors seen throughout her day, and supply her with strategies to increase positive replacement behaviors. A significant portion of her day is mostly spent in the ILC classroom one-on-one with a Para educator who provides academic and behavior support throughout the day. In the ILC classroom, Sarah follows a visual schedule as set-up by a staff member. The visual schedule outlines her daily routine, including all services provided by the speech language pathologist, occupational therapist and the schools mental health provider. Since Sarah spends most of her time in the ILC classroom, 60% of her peer interactions take place in that general area. Sarah’s interaction with her class peers is extremely limited due to her inability to start and end a task that is to be done as a group without having a temper tantrum. This is partially due to her strong work refusal. As a result of these behaviors Sarah is allowed to have her tantrum, regroup, and go back to the task briefly. This is followed through by checking her schedule and moving on to the next item pictured, truly not spending any time on the task or even completing the work or activity given. This gives her complete control of her daily activities without providing the staff the means in which

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to properly adhere to the goals as stated in her IEP. These behaviors are also pervasive in multiple settings beyond the self-contained classroom, but also in the rooms with the specialists, the main hallways of the school, on the playground and when asked to do an unwanted task at home with mom and dad. My planned strategy for this research project is to pair the visual countdown system (appendix 1) with the existing visual schedule already used by Sarah in the ILC classroom to keep Sarah on task, and give those findings to everyone who interacts with her. It is also my intention to help Sarah help herself by reducing the number of temper tantrums that interfere with her ability to accomplish a task. This will be a challenge as Sarah has demonstrated constant stubbornness and unwillingness to change. I will use some of the existing framework that is in place for her. I will be elaborating on the use of the visual schedule by incorporating symbols of the task to be completed. It is my hope this will help Sarah eliminate the fear and anxiety she has when it comes to the work that must be done in the classroom. It is also my intent to increase her ability to interact with her peers by engaging her in short group activities. Once this intervention is put into place that, over time, I believe it will become routine for Sarah.

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Section 3: Summary of research It is widely known that children with Autism have a hard time focusing their attention from a preferred activity to a less preferred activity. My observations of Sarah prove this to be very true and the challenges faced in the classroom associated with her time on task. Once Sarah is focused on a preferred activity then it is extremely difficult to get her to direct her attention to the next task on her schedule. This redirection usually results in a temper tantrum and an extreme amount of time wasted. I decided to focus my research around increasing her time on task and thus increase her participation in the classroom. Initially I began my research by interviewing several members on the special education team who work with Sarah at the elementary school. All of the information I received from the team pointed to her inability to stay on task and be engaged with the lesson or activity being presented. My research then evolved to finding information on the Internet to find what if any correlation there is between Autism and the amount of time spent on engaged and meaningful learning tasks. Per Steven Brock (2005), time on task (also referred to as engaged learning time) is defined as engaged time on particular learning tasks. Engagement in particular kinds of tasks is what

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is wanted (not just general engagement). This refers to the amount of time a learner is actively engaged in the task at hand (Brock, 2005). Some research concludes that engaged time is the most important influence on academic achievement. Then two questions come to mind “What does engaged learning look like and how does it relate to Time on Task?” According to Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, and Rasmussen (1994) the answer is “Meaningful time on task is a misnomer because it is not exactly about time; learning in school is about completing tasks that directly relate to the goals of instruction.” Arguably, the primary goal of schooling is to provide students with a safe and engaging environment in which to learn. However, for those students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) school can be a challenge. Teachers will agree that it takes a lot of hard work to help a child with ASD get the most out of the classroom experience and understanding that every child, especially those with autism are unique. Through my observation, individuals with ASD have greater difficulty shifting their attention from one activity to another or in changes to their routine. This may have to do with their inability to perceive the passage of time. According to Adrianne Warber (2009), “Time perception in the Autism Spectrum Disorder is a part of the complexity of the condition.” This may explain

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why people with ASD present challenges with social interactions and learning. Time perception refers to how the human brain interprets the passage of time, according to brain researchers. Children with autism recruit different brain regions than controls do when estimating how much time has gone by (Hughes, 2012). This lack of time passage perception could be driving other cognitive impairments such as language delays and affected social interactions. According to Melissa Allman, the assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University “They’re lost in a sea of time” (Allman, 2011). Those with ASD may appear uninterested and distant because they have not yet processed the information presented. This could also explain the intense focus some have on an object or activity for hours at a time. This intense focus may be related to time perception in ASD because the person is unaware of how much time has passed (Warber, 2009). The opposite could be true for work refusal or a less preferred task and wanting to move onto a different activity. This would support why Sarah is having a difficult time staying on task. Section 4: Development of Instructional Plan I decided to focus my instructional plan to include two strategies designed to help increase Sarah’s time on task. The first strategy will focus on the amount of time Sarah spends

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transitioning into and out of scheduled activities. The second strategy will focus on using an external visual cue that will prompt on task behavior and will clearly signal the transitions in and out of activities. The use of these strategies will ultimately increase her time on task, decrease the amount of time it takes to transition and increase her total minutes of engagement. Effectively practiced transitions help students move smoothly from one activity to the next. Everyone must change from one activity to another and from one setting to another throughout the day. Transitions naturally occur frequently and require individuals to stop an activity, move from one location to another, and begin something new. Individuals with ASD may have greater difficulty in shifting attention from one task to another or in changes in routine (Dettmer, Simpson, Myles & Ganz, 2000). The strategies focused around transitioning can be used verbally or visually. In addition, these strategies can happen before transitioning, during a transition or after the transition has occurred. It is part of my plan to increase the predictability of what task is to come next using her visual schedule, therefore increasing the amount of time spent on the task at hand.

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The second part of my instructional plan will encompass the expanded use of the visual schedule that Sarah already has in place in the classroom. Visual schedules can allow individuals with ASD to view an upcoming activity, have a better understanding of the sequence of activities that will occur, and increase overall predictability (Dettmer et a., 2000). Although she is accustomed to the use of the visual schedule, it is my plan to incorporate a visual countdown system when Sarah is working on a task. The countdown system is a simple visual type of schedule and is a system that allows the individual to “see” (Appendix 1) how much time is remaining on a task. The flexibility of the countdown system is that there is no set amount of time in which the countdown takes place, but in the amount of work that is being done. The use of this type of visual will help sort out or pinpoint what is important, therefore placing the importance of time on task. The effectiveness of this intervention will be measured by the use of a stopwatch to track the amount of time Sarah was engaged before having to remove a numbered section of the visual timer. The strategies I have chosen will, I believe, increase her ability to “see” how much time is left on a task. The process of implementation will be simple yet effective. It will begin by Sarah identifying what the next task or activity is on her

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schedule and then using the visual countdown system. The materials needed to implement this strategy will be very minimal as I have designed this to work with what is already in place for Sarah and enhance the predictability of the expectation of the time on task. Sarah’s visual schedule along with the visual countdown folder will be the major components of my research. Assessments will be conducted before, during and after the strategy is put into place. Section 5: Tools used Assessments will be documented using a chart method. This chart (Appendix 2) will be filled out for one week prior to the introduction of the intervention. This will provide the baseline of data needed. Then the chart will be filled out for the next two weeks while the intervention is being applied (Appendix 3). This information will then provide me with the necessary data in which to test my theory of increasing Sarah’s time on task. The information on these charts will include:

 The date  The task/activity to be completed  Time on task  Time off task  Behavior associated with the task

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Using the formula of time on task divided by the number of instructional minutes will then provide me with the percent of engagement Sarah had. These percentages will then give me the data needed to see if the intervention is working. Section 6- Summary Report The purpose of this research paper was to increase Sarah’s overall participation in the classroom and ultimately her time on task. This action research project provided vital information and an opportunity to expand my thinking of what works and what doesn’t when working with students like Sarah. I now know that nine minutes is generally the maximum length of time for Sarah to stay on task before her negative behaviors occur. Students like Sarah prefer to have established routines that will allow them to explore and have a sense of control in their day. The use of the visual timer along with Sarah’s visual schedule proved to be successful. A complete, well-rounded lesson does not necessarily require students to sit in their seats while being engaged for long periods of time. Sarah was standing and moving about the room while still enjoying the activity that was under observation. That was interesting to witness her mobile concentration and most unexpected by this observer. Multiple activities can be overwhelming for students with autism. However, when using a visual timer those activities can

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be stretched out and time on task increased. In this way they become individual tasks in line to one another. Sarah was able to move onto the next task assisted by the visual timer. She

could see the tasks countdown to completion and she remained content. The negative behaviors were lessened by the visual timer. I observed that she still had temper tantrums; however, they were fewer. I believe that her tantrums will decrease even more if the visual schedule and the visual timer are consistently used. In conclusion, I believe visual aids increase the productivity in autistic children. The use of visual timers and/or schedules helps the child perceive the lapse of time. General Education teachers could learn from special education teachers the value of using time lapse visual aids to increase productive time on task while including special needs students in the general education classroom. This would decrease the negative behaviors seen by special needs students and allow them access to the general education curriculum.

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Bibliography

Allman M.J, et al. Am. J. Intellect. Dev. Deisabil. 116, 165-178 (2011) PubMed. Retrieved August 25, 2013, from SFARI.org Brock, S. E. (2005). Time on task. In S. Lee (Ed.),Encyclopedia of School Psychology (pp. 567-568). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. doi:galegroup.com.source . Retrieved August 28, 2013, from Encyclopedia of School Psychology Dettmer, S., Simpson, R., Myles, B., & Ganz, J. (2000). The use of visual supports to facilitate transitions of students with autism. focus on autism and other developmental disabilities. (15), 163-169. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from www.lidc.indiana.edu/?pag eld=399 Huges, V. (2012, October 15). Children with autism get lost in time, imaging study says. Retrieved August 25, 2013, from SFARI.org

Jones, B., Valdez, G., Nowakowski, J., & Rasmussen, C. (1994). Designing Learning and Technology for Educational Reform. Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from Encyclopedia of Leadership and Administration

Warber, A. (n.d.).(2009) Time perception in autism spectrum disorder. Retrieved August 25, 2013, from autism.lovetoknow.com/Time_Perception_in_Autism_Spectrum_Disorder

Time on Task 15 Appendix 1

Visual timer used to help keep Sarah on task.

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Time on Task Pre-intervention
Time on Task (scale of participation 1-10) 1- Completely off task 5- Partially with adult support 10- Completely engaged with minimal adult support

DATE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

SETTING/per COMMENTS (include setting, task 15 minutes behavior, duration of time on task) instruction
1:1 independent work, temper tantrum, time off task 12 mins, time on task 3 mins work refusal out of seat, away from table, time off task 7 mins, time on task 8 mins independent work, temper tantrum, time off task 9 mins, time on task 6 min. work refusal, temper tantrum, time off task 10 mins, time on task 5 work refusal, time off task 10 min, time on task 5 mins work refusal, time off task 7 mins, time on task 8 mins Work refusal, time off task 3 mins, time on task 12 mins. work refusal, temper tantrum, time off task 9 mins., time on task 6 mins.

10/8 10/8 10/09 10/09 10/10 10/15 10/15 10/16

X x x x x x x x

G TT 1:1 G 1:1 G TT

120 minutes

53 minutes of on task behavior Engaged in on task behavior was at 44%

Setting- TT/CL= Teacher Time/ Class (1:1) G= Group Task= the assigned task during observation, such as independent seat work, whole group instruction Behavior= the challenging behavior needs to be identified. Off task, work refusal, temper tantrum (taking her shoes and socks off, pulling her hair, screaming, yelling, crying, hitting, kicking, throwing and pushing objects at staff) must be noted. Duration of time= the time must be noted for on task behavior, as well as, for the amount of time Student was off task.   On task- Actively engaged on assigned task Off task- instead of working on assigned task student was walking around, playing with toys, sitting in bean bag, or having a temper tantrum

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Time on Task Post- Intervention
Time on Task (scale of participation 1-10) 1- Completely off task 5- Partially with adult support 10- Completely engaged with minimal adult support

DATE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

SETTING/per COMMENTS (include, task behavior, 15 minutes duration of time on task) instruction
1:1 G independent work, temper tantrum, time off task 6 mins, time on task 9 mins out of seat, away from table, time off task 4 mi, time on task 11 mins temper tantrum, time off task 6 mins, time on task 9 min. work refusal, temper tantrum, time off task 9 mins, time on task 6 time off task 5 min, time on task 10 mins work refusal, time off task 4 mins, time on task 8 mins Work refusal, time off task 2 mins, time on task 13 mins. work refusal, temper tantrum, time off task 6 mins., time on task 9 mins. Work refusal, temper tantrum, off task 12 mins, on task 3

10/22 10/23 10/24 10/25 10/28 10/29 10/30 10/31 11/01 x

x x x x x x x x

TT 1:1 G 1:1 G TT 1:1

11/04 11/05 11/06

x x x

G TT G

Work refusal, time off task 7 min, on task 8 mins Work refusal , Mild tantrum, off task 7 minutes , on task 8 min Work refusal, time off task 1 minute, time on task 14 mins.

180 minutes Setting- TT/CL= Teacher Time/ Class (1:1) G= Group

108 minutes of on task behavior Engaged in on task behavior 60%

Task= the assigned task during observation, such as independent seat work, whole group instruction Behavior= the challenging behavior needs to be identified. Off task, work refusal, temper tantrum (taking her shoes and socks off, pulling her hair, screaming, yelling, crying, hitting, kicking, throwing and pushing objects at staff) must be noted. Duration of time= the time must be noted for on task behavior, as well as, for the amount of time Student was off task.  On task- Actively engaged on assigned task  Off task- instead of working on assigned task student was walking around, playing with toys, sitting in bean bag, or having a temper tantrum