Over 3.5 million individuals in the U.S. have some form of autism spectrum disorder.
What’s more, this number keeps growing every day, and an increasing number of autistic children are entering school systems.
This gives a new urgency to the need to be well-versed in teaching autistic children.
There are a lot of studies out there when it comes to working with autistic children in classrooms. But it can be hard to identify the methods that truly work.
In this post, we’ll offer the essential tips for providing autistic children with all the tools they need for success in school and beyond.
Read on for insight!
1. Be Informed About Teaching Autistic Children
First things first, when it comes to teaching autistic children, knowledge is power.
It’s important for all educators to understand the fundamentals of autism spectrum disorders and know how to recognize certain behavior.
In fact, it is possible to professionally study the behavior of individuals.
Some school systems will offer educational training sessions to instructors on the autism spectrum and other disorders.
If your school does not offer this, learn more about what autism is. Research how it commonly manifests itself in learning environments, including signs, symptoms, and causes.
You may want to read up on what it’s like to live with autism as an individual.
Talk to family, friends, and coworkers for advice in navigating the wealth of information about autism that’s out there.
2. Simplify Your Language
When it comes to teaching autistic children, it’s essential to pay attention to the language you use when delivering information and tasks.
Use simple and direct language as much as possible. Autistic children respond best to directions that are very clear and free of sarcasm, idioms, and confusing constructions.
This can be tough for some instructors, especially if they are inclined to use a lot of words to convey meaning.
On the whole, however, simplifying your language in the classroom can help make things clear for all of your students.
3. Emphasize Social Skills
Whenever possible, build social skill development into your curriculum. It’s important to reiterate social skills of all kinds with autistic students.
These may include how to wait patiently in line, or how to share crayons with another student.
Be careful not to be patronizing when you do emphasize these social skills. When possible, be holistic in your instruction and teach social skills to all students at once.
4. Check for Understanding
Because the language you use is so important when teaching autistic children, make sure you check for understanding.
The best way to do this is to have an autistic student repeat an instruction back to you.
This is also a great principle to use with students in general. Having students repeat what you’ve instructed them to do is a great way to assess learning progress.
5. Rely on Daily Structure
Just as they appreciate concrete language, autistic children also appreciate predictable daily routines.
Make sure that you give your autistic students a solid daily structure that they can rely on.
Be clear when discussing this structure. If the daily routine ever has to change, give advance warning and make sure the autistic child fully understands the change before undergoing it.
6. Inform Other Students
Teaching autistic children can be difficult, as some children may face bullying and teasing from other students.
Combat this by making sure all of your students are informed about the situation. This is a tip that should be administered delicately, of course.
You may want to spend an afternoon educating your students about learning preferences and behaviors.
This is a great way to introduce the idea that everyone learns best in different ways, and that it’s important to respect these ways.
7. Limit Distractions
When teaching autistic children, limit distractions as much as possible. Autistic individuals can get easily overwhelmed with sensory stimuli.
Try not to play any music in the classroom when teaching. Be wary of brightly colored displays or open windows.
Get comfortable recognizing when an autistic student is losing focus. Develop strategies to regain this focus and minimize any distractions.
8. Go Visual
Many autistic children respond well to visual aids and cues when learning information.
As you deliver a lesson, do your best to use as many visual aids as possible. This may mean incorporating posters, images, and diagrams in your teaching.
To vary things up a bit, check for a student’s understanding by having him/her draw what you meant.
It’s important to enable an autistic student’s creative and visual sides when you are educating. Not only does this reiterate key information to a student, but it also can keep the lesson free of distractions.
9. Be Direct
Whenever you address an autistic student in any capacity, address them as an individual.
Autistic children can quickly tune out when you give cues or information to a large, ambiguous group. They can get distracted or frustrated if they don’t have a clear direction.
Be very direct in your commands, and make sure you address your autistic students by name.
10. Meet Them Where They’re At
At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind when teaching autistic children is to meet them where they are at.
This may mean incorporating your student’s interests into a lesson plan. It may also mean learning how to recognize a particular student’s changes in behavior so you can always be ready to meet their needs.
Get to know your autistic children. Know their habits, likes, and dislikes.
When you demonstrate to your students that you are eager to be on their level and help them grow, they’ll be more likely to positively respond.
Teaching Autistic Children
It can be difficult finding ways to effectively instruct autistic children if you don’t have a good foundation.
Make sure you are informed about what autism is and how it appears in the classroom. Simplify your language as much as possible when working with your autistic students, and always meet them where they’re at.
Limit daily distractions and enforce a predictable, familiar routine to get things done.
Become a ULearning Student today!