The 5 Best Teaching Strategies For Autism
by Shea Brogren, MOT, OTR/LNovember 05, 2019
Children with autism tend to have different learning needs when compared to their peers. They each have their own unique strengths and needs, and it’s important to be aware of these so that teaching strategies can be adapted.
In this article, we are going to dive deeper into our top five autism teaching strategies, so that you can better assist children with the learning process.
Difficulty With Implicit Learning
There are so many things you know how to do that no one ever taught you. Most likely, no one sat down with you as a child and taught you how to play with your toys, tell a joke, or ride a bus.
But while the reasons for this are debated, research and experience show that people with autism often need explicit instruction to learn new skills that the rest of us just seem to magically pick up . Learning things youve never been taught is called implicit learning.
When your child struggles with implicit learning, the answer is to teach them the skills they are missing! You may find yourself teaching things you never imagined, like:
- How to read body language
- How to take a shower
- What to do when you feel angry
- How to do pretend play
- How to explore new foods
When teaching your child new skills, remember that they are visual learners and that they rely on routines. Use this knowledge to help them learn. For example:
> Show rather than tell
Demonstrate how to do something more than you describe it. For example, if you are teaching your child how to clean their hands, rub your hands together in an exaggerated way to show them the action.
> Use visuals
Use pictures, videos, and books to show your child what is expected of them. Lets say you are teaching your child to pretend play and they arent paying attention to your demonstrations. Try showing them a picture or a video of the action and see if theyll imitate from that.
> Create routines
Tip : Find Help And Support
Caring for a child with ASD can demand a lot of energy and time. There may be days when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or discouraged. Parenting isnt ever easy, and raising a child with special needs is even more challenging. In order to be the best parent you can be, its essential that you take care of yourself.
Dont try to do everything on your own. You dont have to! There are many places that families of children with ASD can turn to for advice, a helping hand, advocacy, and support:
ADS support groups Joining an ASD support group is a great way to meet other families dealing with the same challenges you are. Parents can share information, get advice, and lean on each other for emotional support. Just being around others in the same boat and sharing their experience can go a long way toward reducing the isolation many parents feel after receiving a childs diagnosis.
Respite care Every parent needs a break now and again. And for parents coping with the added stress of ASD, this is especially true. In respite care, another caregiver takes over temporarily, giving you a break for a few hours, days, or even weeks.
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Supporting Students With Significant Needs In Distance Learning
Dr. Nicole Abera, a school leader at a full-time special education day school discusses critical strategies for distance learning with students who have significant needs. Transitioning technology, communicating with parents, establishing routines, prioritizing engagement, and implementing many ways for students to show what they know as learning demands are increased are addressed with illustrative examples.
Spectrum Nature Of Autism
Our theory is consistent with the spectrum nature of autism because the degree of LUT learning may vary among different individuals and among different modalities/systems/tasks for the same individual. We mentioned that different systems of the brain, autistic or not, may have different biases toward INT and LUT learning depending on what kind of tasks the system does. This natural variation of learning styles among different systems suggests that autism may affect different systems to varying degrees. Although we often contrast typical vs. autistic populations for ease of description, our theory suggests a continuum. In particular, high-functioning autistic people must be able to extract certain regularities from experience by using INT learning to some extent .Typical people may also have a few autistic traits without meeting diagnostic criteria and some of those traits are advantageous.
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Question: Since Kids With Autism Can Get Special Education Services Does That Mean Autism Is A Learning Disability
No, autism spectrum disorder isnt a learning disability. But it does affect learning sometimes in ways like learning disabilities. And kids who have autism are often eligible for special education
Special education law covers 13 types of disabilities, including a category known as specific learning disability . Autism is another category.
Kids who have an SLD have challenges in certain academic skills. Reading, writing, and math are the main ones. Autism may cause challenges in those areas, too. However, it also has a broader impact on how kids develop.
It affects communication and can cause trouble with social skills. It also tends to involve sensory processing issues, repeated movements, and limited interests.
Teachers and doctors know a lot about how to help with autism and with learning disabilities. But the strategies can be very different. Some supports that are great for kids with learning disabilities may not work for kids with autismand vice versa. Autism and learning disabilities can co-occur, too.
See two grade-schoolers explain what autism and dyslexia feel like in this video from Not Your Mum.
Understood as used above includes Understood For All Inc., and their officers, affiliates, parents, and related entities, and their respective employees, contractors, or other personnel.
How Visual Tools Can Help People With Autism Learn And Thrive
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Many people with autism think and learn visually. Autism professionals highly advocate using visual tools to help children and adults with autism learn better and function more effectively in daily life.
While not every person with autism is, in fact, a visual learner, there is no question that visual aids, manipulatives, picture cards, video models, and related tools can be very helpful to people with autism. Whats more, most such tools are relatively easy to find and/or make and are quite inexpensive.
Read Also: Is Aspergers Hereditary Or Genetic
Autistic People May Act In A Different Way To Other People
Autistic people may:
- find it hard to communicate and interact with other people
- find it hard to understand how other people think or feel
- find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
- get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
- take longer to understand information
- do or think the same things over and over
If you think you or your child may be autistic, get advice about the signs of autism.
Calming Activities To Prevent Autism Meltdowns In Class
When students with autism are feeling overwhelmed, the intense response that they feel may cause them to lose control of their emotions. This is called an autism meltdown and is different from when students without autism act out in class. While the best strategy for autism meltdowns is to seek help from a school specialist, these calm down activities can help to de-escalate stressful situations.
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How Kids With Autism Think And Learn: A Guide For Parents
You may have heard the saying, If youve met one child with autism, youve met one child with autism.
This is a popular saying because kids with autism can be so different from one another. In fact, the kids with autism who I see in therapy are often more similar to their parents than to each other.
But there are certain things all kids with autism have in common. Kids with autism have their own learning style, and it is different from how those of us who dont have autism think and learn.
As a parent, understanding the special way your child thinks can help you to be more effective at teaching your child new skills. It can also reduce some of the daily battles and frustrations that accompany the condition.
Ive seen many parents overcome with relief when they discover that what seemed like utter stubbornness was really just their childs different learning style.
And when you have a better grasp on how your child thinks, you can teach your child in a way they will understand.
Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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The Learning Styles Of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Both children on the autism spectrum and their neurotypical peers learn best when they are exposed to various learning styles and teaching methods. Studies have shown that uncovering and supporting childrens favored learning styles can improve performance in all areas. To understand how a child learns best, it helps to understand what type of learning environment a child responds to organically.
First, there is visual style learning. In this category, children rely on their sense of sight, and best learn from books, videos, charts, pictures and color coding methods. Children in this learning category also benefit greatly from visual aids, such as visual schedules in the classroom or at home. Labeling is also a great way to assist in care of articles at home, as well as in school. Children with visual learning styles often pursue careers as: data analysts, artists, architects, to name a few.
That being said, those with strong visual learning tendencies would benefit most greatly from reading from books, notes, screens or the board for absorption of knowledge and materials. Auditory learners will benefit from lecture, recordings, audio books, and video demonstrations learners would best perform with models, experiments, or tactile input from lesson plans.
Date posted: May 20, 2015. Content created by The Autism NOW Center. Last updated: May 20, 2015.
The Challenges Of Independence
Aspergers does not mean no challenges, confirms Lynne Soraya, who writes the Aspergers Diary for Psychology Today. I was hit by a carfor the second timewhen I was in college, at age 19. Life skills like learning how to effectively manage sensory inputs so that you can safely cross a street are still applicable for those of us deemed high functioning.’
The day of the accident, Soraya says, she had gotten in an argument and was so overwhelmed by her emotions, along with the noise and crowds, that she experienced tunnel vision and didnt see the car coming until it was too late.
Add to the challenges of independence the withdrawal of the educational supports and services some of these kids have been receiving since they were as young as 2 years old those supports vanish when they age out of childrens services. They do not grow out of their autism, and they may very likely have other, accompanying problems, including anxiety and ADHD, that may make things that much harder.
Related: Sensory Processing FAQ
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Explanation Of Autistic Behaviors
We hypothesize that autistic and typical brains are biased toward LUT and INT learning, respectively. The LUT and INT styles may be realized, respectively, by narrow and broad neuronal tuning functions, and by a strong and weak emphasis on coding training data precisely. We now show that by examining the logical consequences of this hypothesis, we can explain the broad array of autistic behaviors listed in the Introduction. For the ease of discussion we often consider the extreme case of LUT learning. However, we do not imply that every autistic individual has the same set of behavioral characteristics of the same severity .
Tools For Staying Organized
Zoe Gross had some sessions with an educational therapist/planning specialist before college but they didnt really help, she says, because I was reluctant to participate due to anxiety around planning. Once at Vassar, she did her best to compensate for her challenges, which she outlines in her chapter for the ASAN college handbook, titled Better Living Through Prosthetic Brain Parts. She writes that her parents always helped her stay organized, right down to reminding her to eat dinner. But in college, if I forget about an appointment, no one will remember it for me.
So Gross devised some practical tools to help her stay on track, including visual timers, planners and multiple alarm clocks. Because there are so many small steps between waking up and walking out the door , she drew a flow chart thats included in the book titled How to Leave the Room. It starts with the question: Do you need a shower?
Those tricks only go so far, she says now.
Autistic students need a way to spend more time in school without it being prohibitively expensive to our families, as college already is for so many, she says. We need a way to work at a different pace and have that be all right. Ideally, many of us would benefit from having personal care aides at college, as a quadriplegic student might have. However, its going to be hard to get supports like these put into place because they cost institutions money.
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How Is Asd Diagnosed
ASD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person depending on the severity of the disorder. Symptoms may even go unrecognized for young children who have mild ASD or less debilitating handicaps.
Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by clinicians based on symptoms, signs, and testing according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V, a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders. Children should be screened for developmental delays during periodic checkups and specifically for autism at 18- and 24-month well-child visits.
Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:
- no babbling or pointing by age 1
- no single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
- no response to name
- excessive lining up of toys or objects
- no smiling or social responsiveness
Later indicators include:
- impaired ability to make friends with peers
- impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
- absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
- repetitive or unusual use of language
- abnormally intense or focused interest
- preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
- inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
Common Learning Challenges For Children With Autism
One of the main issues that children with Autism face is an impairment in social skills. Interacting with teachers and their peers can often be a point of difficulty. Children with Autism tend to struggle when it comes to picking up on others body language, understanding non-literal phrases , and understanding that others have different desires or beliefs than they do.
Along with social skills, general communication is oftentimes difficult. Expressing their feelings and listening to directions can be difficult. Reading and writing can also be something children with Autism struggle with, but could also be a place that a child on the spectrum is very strong at.
At the core of this is that children with Autism tend to struggle with what is called joint attention. This means sharing an experience through eye contact, gestures, and talking. Joint attention would be explaining to your child that they need to clean their room and realizing that they are not paying attention. You are not sharing the experience of discussing the room needing to be cleaned.
Joint attention is at the core of all learning and social interactions. Teaching someone something is just really sharing your experience with them and both are paying attention to what is being taught.
These are the general struggles that children will experience, but they will differ in severity for each child. Lets look at how children in general learn and how this can be used to our advantage when teaching your child.
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Types Of Support To Help People With Asd
ASD is a lifelong disorder. You cannot change the fact that a person has ASD. But support can significantly improve the ability of that person to be successful in all areas of their life. This support is referred to as intervention.
Intensive intervention and therapy can help a person
- learn new skills
- change some behaviours that interfere with their functioning.
Intervening as early as possible helps most people, so diagnosis in young children is important.
There are many programs and supports available for people diagnosed with ASD. Interventions for ASD can include:
- occupational therapy
- training for parents, families and caregivers
- behavioural therapy, like applied behaviour analysis
- education and school planning in the form of an individual education plan