Friday, July 12, 2024

How To Support A Child With Autism In The Classroom

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Some Children Thrive When Given Structured Hands

How to Keep your Child with Autism in a Mainstream School Classroom by Helping them Focus Attention

Many children I have worked with or have observed, did very well when given a hands-on/visual activity. Examples include playing a computer game, sorting objects by color or object type completing a puzzle, constructing a model car, tracing or coloring in a picture, etc. As another example, some teachers of children with autism teach academic skills through sorting tasks. For instance, an activity about learning colors would require the child to put all the yellow chips in a yellow cup, all the blue chips in a blue cup, etc. Keeping a child focused with an activity they do well at is a great way to encourage calm behavior. However, if the child is feeling overwhelmed or frustrated from the activity, allow a break or a change in the task.

Characteristics Of Autism Can Include:

  • trouble using and understanding language or certain aspects of language such as sarcasm, expressions, and body language.
  • difficulty taking in sensory input in an ordinary way. For example, a vacuum cleaner may sound overly loud, a smell may be extra strong, or the feel of something may be extra itchy.
  • a need for a particular routine so they know what to expect as they can become frustrated when things dont go the way they had expected.
  • trouble recognizing another persons opinion or understanding another persons feelings.
  • difficulty working on or participating in activities with no clear ending
  • difficulty switching from one activity to another, especially if they have to switch from something enjoyable to something not enjoyable .
  • difficulty organizing themselves in productive play when not directed or given specific instructions.

Sometimes these characteristics lead to problem behaviors at home, in the classroom, or in the community which can be frustrating for the child and the adults caring for him.

Here are some strategies which can prevent problematic behaviors or promote positive behavioral changes :

Students With Autism Can Present Unique Challenges For Their Teachers Who Need To Effectively Meet Their Needs

It is vital that teachers are well-equipped to deal with these challenges and are aware of the best possible ways to support a child with autism in the classroom.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder or autism is a developmental disability that can cause significant social communication and behavioural challenges.

It affects a childs social abilities as well as anything from speech to non-verbal communication and can make their behaviour unpredictable. Of course, its not their fault and they are often blessed with high intelligence and unique strengths that only heighten the challenge of bringing out their best.

So how can you as a teacher support a child with autism in the classroom effectively? Here are some tips that you can follow:

It all starts with the childs parents

The primary carer at home, be it mum or dad, know all the likes, the dislikes, and the particular behavioural triggers. Sure, theyre not professionals, but theyre the true heart of an autistic child, the heart an autistic child may or may not be able to express themselves.

They have the history of good and bad reactions to every experience and stimulation. They have the experience of the good and bad results trying to deal with sometimes confounding reactions.

Learn how to care for children with special needs and improve children’s learning skills in our previous blog posts.

Study all assessments

Getting assistance from a Teacher Aide

Have a set plan for meltdowns

Educate the rest of the class

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Autism In The Classroom

Inclusive education involves identifying and eradicating the barriers to learning that people may face. This means that teachers must facilitate learning and ensure that each child or young persons individual needs are being met. Teachers are obligated to ensure they differentiate learning to meet such needs so all students are able to reach their full potential.

However, despite over 70% of children and young people with autism being educated in mainstream provision, most teachers do not undergo autism-specific training. A 2013 survey by the charity Ambitious about Autism reported that as many as 60% of teachers in England felt they did not have adequate training. Moreover, research has consistently shown parents of children with autism are more likely to be dissatisfied with their childs education.

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Guidelines That Shape Our Approach

Autism Support Classroom

The autism spectrum disorder Guideline is the basis for working with people who have ASD in schools and the community. Its a constantly updated living guideline.

Intensive early intervention for children and students on the spectrum has significant benefits. The guideline recommends:

  • intervention and support as soon as possible
  • responsive services for children, families and whnau
  • structured teaching and environments that reflect unique needs
  • support in everyday situations alongside their peers.

The research indicates that, with the right kind of teaching, students with ASD develop social and communication skills, and manage their stress and behaviour.

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Board Games With A Twist

Teaching children manners can be a helpful way to boost social skills and explain the importance of being polite. This simple, but effective activity puts an etiquette-related twist on a simple game of chess, checkers, or mancala by requiring players to wish their opponent good luck or good game before and after they have played.

Autism In The Classroom: Balancing Family Needs

Wolfe tells WebMD all the hard work with her son Joshua has been worth it.

She says getting early intervention and training helped her entire family become stronger. In a sense, she says, the focus is no longer all on her son. That takes some of the pressure off him and creates a more balanced family life for everyone.

Now when something like a behavior issue pops up, she asks, âIs it because he is a boy? Is it because he is 7? Is it because he has autism? I donât know and thatâs when it is really hard, trying to decipher when to be the helicopter mom and swoop in and when to just back off because you know 7-year-old boys are going to poke other 7-year-old boys.â

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Behavior Management In The Classroom And At Home

Here are some strategies I have used from time to time to help children reach their potential in the classroom or at home. Behavior management is a very important component and needs as much intervention as academics or classroom management. Its important to:

  • Provide a very clear structure and a set of daily routine .
  • Use clear language. Avoid humor/irony, or phrases like my feet are killing me or its raining cats and dogs, which may cause bewilderment.
  • Make clear which behaviors are unacceptable.
  • Avoid sentences like Would you like to do this? or Why did you do that? It is always more beneficial to give a child some choices.
  • Address the child individually at all times or by using alerting cues such as Everyone and , please put your notebooks away.
  • Keep visual timetables, which are a great resource for helping a child stay organized.
  • Recognize changes in manner or behavior may reflect anxiety or stress, such as talking loudly, pacing the room up and down, flapping hands, or collar biting . It is very important to identify the triggers and address them.
  • Calm with mindfulness or breathing exercises.
  • Utilize sensory inputs such as playing with a sensory ball or squeeze ball, trampoline jumping, and rocking, which are all behaviors that may help calm.

Tell The Child Specifically What You Expect And Allow Him To Earn Privileges For Complying With Your Expectations

How to Teach Children with Autism : Setting up Classroom

For instance, if your child often has a tantrum in a store when he cant go to the toy aisle, tell him exactly what you expect of him before you go to the store and reward him with a privilege for following that expectation. For instance, you can say something like We are going to Target. We are going to the school supply aisle to buy paper and pens, and then we will pay and go home. Once in the store you can give reminders .

Let the child know that he can earn a privilege for following the rules. Privilege ideas include getting a sticker of a favorite character, playing a favorite game once at home, watching a favorite show, going on the computer, staying up ten minutes past bed time, etc. Try to think of a privilege that your child might like or ask him what he would like to work towards.

When the child earns the privilege, praise him with specific language. In the example above you could say, You followed the rules at the Target. We got the paper and pens, paid, and came home. Nice work! Now you can enjoy some computer time. Make sure the privilege is something the child wants. You can let the child choose what he would like to work for ahead of time. Children also benefit from nonverbal praise such as high fives, smiles, thumbs up, etc.

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Supporting Children With Autism In The Classroom

Supporting children with autism in the classroom will enable them to have a positive learning environment. In the UK, around 70% of children and young people on the Autistic Spectrum are educated in mainstream schools. However, teachers do not necessarily receive specific training regarding this complex condition. Furthermore, data has shown that children and young people with autism are less likely to achieve in education and more likely to be unemployed in adulthood.

This suggests that while UK policy and legislation promotes inclusive education, there are still barriers to its implementation barriers that could potentially have a lasting impact on the lives and the educational experiences of children and young people.

This article will focus specifically on Autism Spectrum Disorder and it will explore autism in the classroom further examining the potential barriers to learning that people with autism may face. It will also refer to strategies and techniques that teachers could adopt to create a stress-free learning environment.

Educate Yourself About The Learner

Educating yourself is a practical step for teaching any individual. You need to learn as much about the student as you can to cater and facilitate their needs. If the child has an IEP or 504 plan in place, make sure to study up on these. Knowing the accommodations ahead of time will help with a smooth transition.

If possible, touch base with the childs previous teachers. Chances are, they will have some great insight to help you learn more about your student.

Also Check: Does Autism Come From The Mother Or Father

Tips For Working With Children On The Autism Spectrum

The more you know about how to support students with autism, the better prepared these children will be for academic success.

Use these five tips and accommodations for students with autism to make sure every child in your classroom feels welcome and supported:

  • Avoid sensory overload in classroom decorations or activities, which can make it tough for students with autism to pay attention
  • Many children with autism have difficulties understanding figurative language. If a student misunderstands a simile or idiom that you use, try to teach them what you really mean
  • Sometimes, students with autism feel confused by open-ended questions. When possible, try giving your students options if they dont seem to understand your question
  • Children with autism often have a special interest in a topic or activitytry using what theyre interested in to teach them. If theyre fascinated with dinosaurs, for example, you could use dinosaur figurines to teach them how to add or subtract
  • Dont assume that a child with autism is intellectually disabled. If youre not sure how to best support your student, discuss their symptoms with their family or a school psychologist

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from

Landrigan, P.J. What causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, April 2010, 22, pp. 219-25.



Tips For Supporting Autistic Children In The Classroom

Assistive Communication Devices for Children with Autism

1. Establish a routine

The world is a noisy, disordered, anxiety-inducing place for children with ASD. So having a fixed routine that is stable and predictable is a great way to make a child with autism comfortable in class. While most classes are structured in nature, teachers can help autistic children understand the routine and make it clear to them.

One way to do this is to create a visual timetable. Teachers can place images to describe activities and transitions in chronological order to help the child understand how the day will progress.

2. Work with their parents

Children with ASD often have what is called sensory sensitivity that causes them to get anxious or aggressive around certain sounds or textures. But this sensitivity is specific to each child. So its best to talk to a childs parents before they start a particular class to find out what in particular disturbs them. For example, if the child hates the sound of the school bell, you may allow them to use noise-canceling headphones five minutes before the bell goes off.

3. Integrate their interests

Many children with autism can become highly skilled and focused on specific interests, whether its electronics, painting, unicorns, or a certain period in history. Teachers can use these interests as gateways to learning. For example, if you know a child is interested in cars, they can try integrating pictures of cars in their math or spelling exercises.

4. Use colorful visual aids

5. Deliver instruction visually

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How Do I Handle A Child With Autism In My Classroom With No Help

Teaching a large class of children is challenging no matter what the class composition is. Increasingly, teachers are being asked to deal with larger populations of students with special needs, students who are language learners, as well as grade-level learners all in one class. This task is incredibly difficult and requires concerted effort at differentiation and the key tool of all teachers: amazing patience.

This is especially true if a teacher has a child with autism in her class. Children with autism are capable of learning and participating in class, but frequently have difficulties with social aspects of learning and classwork, as well as the organization that comes with being a successful student. Additionally, children with autism may be oversensitive to physical stimuli or may have emotional triggers that cause him or her to act out in the classroom. This presents a dilemma for the teacher who needs to manage the behavior and learning of over twenty students and cant fully stop class to deal with the needs of any one.

Interesting Questions:

Rise To The Challenge

Positive Action recognizes the value of each and every person. We help special needs students integrate into mainstream classrooms while equipping them with the essential skills and motivation to thrive.

Positive Action can help you assess your special education students needs and plan how to meet them with Individualized Education Plans.

I am very grateful for these lessons. They fulfill a need that so many children are lacking in the educational process today. Linda Davis, 2nd Grade Teacher, Davis Elementary

If you want to see how Positive Action can increase educational success at your institution or organization contact us by phone, chat, or email or schedule a webinar with us below.

Also Check: Do Kids Outgrow Autism

Explain The Importance Of Learning Adaptations

If your child has autism then giving them an explanation for their differences in the classroom can help them tackle challenges they face more effectively. If your child is not yet aware of their autism, then it may be helpful to seek some advice on how to explain autism to a child.

Explaining autism in context to learning

Once they have understood their autism, help them to understand it in the context of their learning, so that they too can help themselves meet their potential. Understanding their own learning needs can empower the child to take initiative and to seek help or adaptations when needed. Practicing autonomy over their own learning can make for a valuable life-long skill.

Including your child in meetings

When possible, include your child, in meetings with the school and additional support services that are involved in their care and learning. Be sure to simplify your communication, answer any questions and check your child has correctly understood the discussions in the meeting. Also when possible, involve your child in decisions regarding their learning.

Continue to take an inquisitive approach dont assume, but ask questions their needs may change as they grow older and its important to encourage them to communicate these changes.

How Would It Feel To Be : : : :

Supporting Autistic Children in the Classroom | National Autistic Society | Twinkl

Next time you read a book to your class, try asking your students how it would feel to be the main character in the story. If youre reading a picture book about Cinderella, for example, you could ask how they would feel if they had two evil stepsisters who were mean to them. Or if youre reading Peter Pan as a class, you could ask them what happy memories they would think about to fly with magic pixie dust.

This can help students with autism learn empathy as well as how to see situations in their lives from another perspective. It can also teach them how to recognize emotional cues by encouraging them to put themselves in the perspective of another person.

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Adapt Their Learning Environments To Suit Their Needs

Many children with autism experience sensory sensitivity. This means that they can often feel over or under-stimulated by their senses.

Understand your childs sensory preferences

As a parent, you may notice your childs sensory preferences at home. Observe how your child reacts to certain sounds, smells, colours, and textures. Sometimes keeping a diary can help to highlight important patterns. If you notice something important, communicate this with the school in as much detail as possible.

This will enable your childs teachers to adapt the classroom to suit their sensory needs, and prevent the child from becoming overwhelmed with over-stimulation.

As a teacher, it is equally important that you observe and learn about the childs sensory preferences too. They may be exposed to new stimuli in the classroom that their parents havent seen them experience.

For example, you may notice that the child becomes very distressed when the school bell rings. In such cases, you may ask the child to put on their sound defender headphones before the bell is due to ring.

It may also be helpful to communicate a childs sensory needs with the rest of the class to bring about a group effort in supporting a child autism in the classroom. Getting the class involved can significantly improve the learning environment for both typically developing children as well as those with autism, causing far less disruption.

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