Requesting a break from classroom activities is a simple strategy that can be implemented inside the classroom. This self regulation tool helps students advocate for their needs when they feel overly stimulated or frustrated. This has been effective with students identified with OHI (ADHD), emotional disabilities, autism, and the general ed population as well.
Below are some instructions I found online that explain how to implement this strategy effectively. Enjoy!
How to Implement
Break cards should always be available to the student, either in their possession or within easy reach in order to encourage easy and fast use.
Various Student Needs
Break cards should be appropriate to the situation and student. Small, discrete cards are preferable in many situations. A student that has poor fine motor control may need larger cards. Students with visual challenges may also need larger cards.
Clear Expectations and Parameters
When acknowledging the request for a break, the staff should always make clear the parameters: how long the break will be and where the break will take place. (e.g. “O.K., take a 4-minute break and then return to your task.” or “Do you want to take your 5-minute break in the classroom or on the benches outside the cafeteria?”). It is also important to clarify what will happen at the end of the break (e.g. “After 5 minutes you will return to your task).”
Returning to Task
It is important that after the break is over, the student returns to the task in order for the student to understand that the break is a brief respite, not a key to avoiding the task.
Support using a Timer
For students who do not recognize the passage of time on a watch or clock, a timer may be used.
Supporting Transitioning Back
For students that staff expect might have difficulty transitioning back to the original task, a serious prompt (e.g. “7 more minutes of break time.” or “In 3 minutes break is over, and it is time to return to _______.”) should be given. This assists most students in preparing for the difficult transition and eases a sudden statement of “Break is over. Time to get back to work.”
For students who are just learning how to use a break card, a fading prompt hierarchy may be used. At first the teacher puts the card in the student’s hand and says, “Do you want to take a break?” After the student gets the connection between the card and a break, then the teacher might say, “If you want to take a break please give me the break card.” For the next step, a teacher could say, “What do you need to do to ask for a break?” Finally, the teacher could encourage use of the break card by pointing to it. The ultimate goal is for a student to be as independent as possible in initiating the need for a break.
Teacher Initiated Breaks
As a student is learning how to use a break card, staff should observe the student carefully during times that a break may be useful. If a teacher notices a student showing signs of agitation, the teacher can use the appropriate prompt (see above tips) to begin the request.
Break while at a Job Site
A student who does not communicate verbally is at a job site. The student is provided with a key chain or lanyard that has several small laminated business cards attached. The cards have different phrases and one is “I need a break.” The student will show the card to the supervisor to request a break. The supervisor will respond by saying yes and by outlining the parameters of the break. (e.g. “O.K., take a 10-minute break and then return to your task.” or “Do you want to take your 5-minute break in the break room or on the front steps?”)
Break while in a School Assembly
A student who is sensitive to noise volume is in a school assembly. The student communicates verbally but when overwhelmed may start screaming to communicate his needs instead of speaking. The student has a break card in his pocket. If the noise level becomes too high, the student may show the break card to the teacher to request a break. The teacher approves the break and outlines parameters.