The success of a student is every teacher’s number one priority over the course of their teaching career. For some students success can be getting good grades and for other it may mean increased involvement within the classroom environment. You can help all your students achieve their full potential regardless of how the measure they measure their success.
For students with Autism they can often present unique challenges to schools, as teachers can often find it difficult to help meet their needs effectively.
Internationally there are around 1 in 68 children that are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social communication and behavioural challenges.
It is important for teachers within the school system to have a better understanding of students not only with autism and how it may affect their learning. There also needs be the appropriate strategies in place for teachers so they are well equipped.
Below is a list of some tips for teachers to help better understand their student with Autism maximising their full potential within the classroom environment:
Children with autism thrive in a structured environment. Make sure you establish a routine and try to keep it as consistent as possible. Although the world around them is ever changing, keeping to a routine and structure can provide great comfort to a child with autism spectrum.
As the saying goes, a picture can speak a thousand words!! Children with autism learn faster and with greater ease when you use visuals. In fact, we all respond to visual. Next time you are checking out your favourite magazine or reading a paper, look at the pages with advertisements and see which ones catch your eyes. Visual supports maintain a child’s focus and interest. So you can use visuals with pretty much anything.
People with autism like order and detail. They feel in control and secure when they know what to expect. Schedules/Timetables can help a student know what’s ahead and can be broad or detailed.
- Reducing Distractions
Many people with autism find it difficult to filter out background noise and visual information. Children with autism pay attention to detail. Wall charts and posters can be very distracting. While you or I would stop “seeing the posters” after a while, children on the spectrum will not. Each time they look at it will be like the very first time and it will be impossible for them to ignore it.
Try and seat children away from windows and doors. Use storage bins and closets for packing away toys and books. Remember the old adage – out of sight, out of mind. Noise and smells can be very disturbing to people with autism. Keep the door closed if possible. If your classroom is in a high traffic area, discuss alternatives with the Principal.
- Remember, its not personal
Children with autism are not rude. They simply don’t understand social rules or how they’re supposed to behave. It can feel insulting when you excitedly give a gift or eagerly try and share information and you get little to no response.
Turn these incidents into learning experiences. As an example, if you enthusiastically greet a child with autism and you get the cold shoulder, create a “Greeting Lesson”. Take two index cards. Draw a stick figure saying “Hi” on the first card. On the second card draw a stick figure smiling and waving. Show each card to the child as you say. “When somebody says Hi, you can either say “Hi” or you can smile and wave. Which one do you want to do?” When the child picks a card, say “Great, let’s practise. “Hi Jordan”. Show the card to prompt the child to respond according to the card he picked. Praise the child highly after a response and have your cards ready for the next morning greeting! Keep it consistent by asking the parents to follow through with this activity at home.
If you get frustrated (and we all have our days) always remember the golden rule. NEVER, ever, speak about a child on the autism spectrum as if they weren’t present. While it might look like the student isn’t listening or doesn’t understand, this probably is not the case. People with autism often have acute hearing. They can be absorbed in a book on the other side of the room and despite the noise level in the class, they will easily be able to tune into what you are saying. Despite the lack of reaction they sometimes present, hearing you speak about them in a negative way will crush their self-esteem.
- Establish Independence
Teaching students with autism how to be independent is vital to their well-being. While it’s tempting to help someone that’s struggling to close a zip, it’s a much greater service to calmly teach that person how to do it themselves. People can be slow when they are learning a new skill until they become proficient. Time is usually something we don’t have to spare. However in order to help a person progress we must make time to show them the ropes.
While it’s wonderful that your students take direction from you, it’s equally important they learn to respond to peers. If a student asks for scissors, invite him to ask a peer. Encourage your students to ask each other for help and information. By doing so, students learn there are many people they can seek out for help and companionship.
Making decisions is equally important and this begins by teaching students to make a choice, between two choices. Once students can easily decide between two options introduce a third choice. This method will help children think of various options and make decisions.
People with autism may take extra time to process verbal instructions. When giving a directive or asking a question, make sure you allow for extra processing time before offering guidance.
Self-help skills are essential to learn. Some of these include navigating the school, putting on outerwear, asking for assistance and accounting for personal belongings. Fade all prompts as soon as you can. Remember that written prompts are usually easier to fade than verbal prompts.
Fading prompts can be done in a phased approach. If you are prompting a child to greet someone by showing them an index card with the word “Hello”, try fading it to a blank index card as a reminder before you completely remove the prompt. Never underestimate the power of consistency.
Nothing works in a day whether it’s a diet, an exercise plan or learning to behave in class. Often we implement solutions and if there are no results within a few days we throw our hands up in the air and say “This doesn’t work. Let me try something else”. Avoid this temptation and make sure you allow ample time before you abandon an idea. Remember that consistency is a key component of success. If you’re teaching a student to control aggression, the same plan should be implemented in all settings, at school and at home.
Amanda Ogden is from Sydney Australia, and has spent the past 13 years working within the welfare industry in both administration and case management assisting people with mental health issues, mild intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries, drug & alcohol, homelessness gain employment. She also loves travelling, creating jewellery, music, friends and family.
One thought on “Tips for Teachers to help a student with Autism. How you can help them succeed!!”
Thank you so much for this post madam. Its been a lovely read. The way you have tried to sensitize one towards autism is commendable!!