Alice and the new floor

Anyone who has remodeled their home knows how challenging it can be. Painting means moving all your furniture away from the walls. All of the pictures must come down. The floors need to be covered with rolls of plastic to keep the wood, carpet or tile safe from paint droppings. Imagine if the floors are being ripped up and replaced with new tile. That was about to happen in Alice’s home.

Alice was a child who had extreme sensory perception challenges. Her ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) included a secondary issue of OCD (Obsessive Compulsion Disorder). Not only did change bother the child. Moving things around the house could cause major behavioral challenges, too.

Alice’s mother, Laura, had decided after 10 years to replace her carpeting with tile. She wanted to do it all at once for cost savings. Plus, she wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

Laura was very concerned about her daughter. How would Alice handle a radical change in the house?

Laura had been one of those parents that a teacher dreams to have. She knew how challenging her daughter was. Laura would ask the teacher about ways to help her daughter at home. She was open to learning about ASD and what the specific needs of her daughter were.

Each child with ASD is so different from another one. Some have milder forms of ASD. Others more severe. Some have acute hearing which overwhelms them while others are extremely sensitive to touch, sight, smell and taste. Alice had acute hearing and was unable to fully communicate by voice.

Technology had made a huge difference in her life. The girl had first learned to talk by pictures. Later, she had moved on to a computer generated voice. Alice was very perceptive. Yet, her ASD could cause behavior swings and aggressiveness with change.

The first thing Laura knew to do was prepare her daughter. She had learned that visuals were critical for ASD children. Her daughter had been in Room 623 for five years. Each day, visuals were used for communication, daily activities and preparation for change.

So Laura used her home computer to get Alice ready for the new tile. Out came a “You Tube” video. She had Alice watch different videos on what would occur over and over each day. A calendar was brought out to help Alice understand when the workers would come. Then, the mother began to pack up things.

She watched her daughter’s reaction as Laura pointed to the calendar. It was time to get ready for the workers to come into the house. Alice ran to her room. Laura followed. To her surprise, Alice began to pack up all her toys just like her mother was doing in the rest of the house.

When the day came, Alice didn’t appear to be surprised at all. The only problem was the change in sleeping patterns. Alice had difficulty sleeping in a different place in the house. Yet, with the teacher’s help, Alice was allowed to rest in the classroom until the workers were done in her home. This way Alice behavior was controlled by her being well rested. The mother was amazed at how a little bit of planning could make the transition of a new floor go so well.

In fact, Alice’s mother said the change was harder on her than Alice. Alice was perfectly fine with getting a new floor in the house.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at