Autism and autism spectrum disorder, often abbreviated as ASD, can be applied to a broad range of social characterizations that impacts many students. ASD can include repetitive behavior, challenges with speech and verbal communication, or social behaviors. As a teacher, ASD students can force you to adapt your teaching methods to work with your ASD student’s challenges. Below are some simple tips to help teachers successfully work with ASD students.
Many ASD students learn much better with visuals cues. Visuals can help with a range of lessons including subject matter and social behavior. One helpful application is to use cue cards with visual representations. When teaching social behavior, two-sided “if/then” cards can be used to explain action and consequence. If, for example, a student does not like to practice reading but does enjoy playing outside a card might have a picture of a book on the “if” side, and a picture of a swing set on the “then” side. Further, using autism software can help provide various, easy to understand, pictures to help with everyday learning.
There should always be a safe, comfortable place in the classroom that allows children to simply take a break. Escaping from learning and instruction for just a few moments can help children with ASD. It allows the child to reset and escape from the world, if even just for a moment. To prevent repeated or extended breaks enact a rule that states any time a student takes a break, he or she must come back and complete the task at hand. It is important to note that an area used as a break should never be used as a place of punishment.
Keep it Simple
Many children who have been diagnosed with ASD have difficulties processing complex oral communication. Keep instruction simple and to the point. Very short, direct instructions are best when using oral communication with a child with ASD. If possible, give instructions in separate, segmented sections instead of giving a chain of instructions at once. Often, it can be helpful to use indicator words such as “first” and “then” to give an order and priority to instructions.
Listen to the Parents
Nobody spends more time with a child than the parents. Often, before a child even enters school, a parent will understand how their child best learns and best acclimates to a new setting. Take time to communicate with the parents to learn what the child likes and doesn’t like. Learn what has been successful in the past and what hasn’t. Understand the challenges the child faces and what has been successful to combat past challenges. If, as a teacher, you come across a problem or concern, discuss it first with the parents to create a solution together.