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.
A Framework For Understanding
What I hope Ive given you here is a framework for understanding some of the common difficulties autistic people face, and how to ease them, particularly in a school environment. Try to put yourself in your students shoes, with an awareness of how challenging that is – perhaps you can think of a time when you were asked to keep track of way too many things at once, or you experienced sensory overload, or you were pulled out of something absorbing and had to deal with a completely unexpected situation. See if you can imagine what it would be like if you had to deal with these things multiple times every day, often simultaneously, and you were punished if you ever acted oddly as a result. Maybe you could ask your students what its like for them.
Working with different kinds of minds is always a learning experience, and it takes careful attention and a degree of humility to get it right. If you dont manage that, youll be left managing behaviour with little real insight into where it comes from – and that is much more work in the long run.
Fergus Murray is an Edinburgh-based teacher of chemistry and maths and co-founder of the Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh . He tweets @MxOolong
Use Sensory Tools For Students With Autism
Perceiving the world more deeply and intensely is not a bad thing. Yes, most of the time its overwhelming considering that most sensory stimuli are optimized for individuals with typical development. However, now that researchers have better insight into how students with autism perceive the world, there are some recommendations and even products that optimize their sensory experience.
Sensory toys for students with autism represent a perfect example of how we can turn an obstacle into an opportunity. These toys help students with autism relax, calm down, decrease discomfort, and aid the development of social and executive skills.
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Tips For Meeting Autistic Students’ Educational Needs
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that affects how people respond to their environment behaviorally, socially and communicatively. Since there is a wide variety of ways this disorder manifests itself, people on different parts of that spectrum have different strengths and weaknesses. No matter where a child falls on the spectrum, however, parents must work with schools to ensure students receive the education they deserve and with an estimated 1 in 59 children diagnosed as autistic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many families need support.
This guide discusses the unique difficulties autistic students face and how educators can respond to them. In addition, advice is provided from autism experts and resources to help families with an ASD child.
Tip #: Encourage Self
Teens with autism are often visual learners and thinkers, and creativity goes hand in hand with their learning style. When possible, encourage their abilities and interests. Not only does this boost their self-esteem, but it also contributes to a positive learning environment. This in turn helps ensure the future success of the student.
Dr. Grandin states: I think there needs to be much more emphasis on developing the childs talents. Talents can be turned into skills that can be used for future employment.
Finding ways to include the students interest or talent within any given task can also help to get them more enthused and involved.
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Top Strategies For Teaching Autistic Students
Teaching autistic students can be a challenging and rewarding experience. These students possess unique skills that should be highlighted in order to encourage educational development. Teach for America compiled a list of tips for teaching students with autism. While each student presents with a unique situation and strengths, the following tips can serve as a general guide in the classroom:
The above tips can be incorporated into your classroom routine to encourage the academic and social development of children with autism. Ultimately, autistic teaching strategies help students with autism feel more comfortable in the classroom and better able to access the curriculum.
Reinforcement And Video Modeling
A recent review of 27 Evidence-Based strategies for teaching autistic students found Video Modeling and Positive Reinforcement to be two of the most effective techniques.
Video ModelingThis technique involves showing ASD students videos modeling targeted behavior or displaying how to complete a task.
Positive reinforcement can be anything that serves as an incentive and happens after a student accomplishes a task or behavior. This reinforcer stimulates the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.
Reinforcers are divided into primary and secondary. Primary reinforcers are usually naturally reinforcing, such as sleep, food, or water. On the other hand, ASD students develop positive reinforcers over time and vary from person to person. Examples of secondary reinforcers: praising the student or putting a sticker or a letter grade of A on a worksheet.
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How Does Autism Affect Learning In School
Around 70% of children with autism spectrum disorders in the UK attend mainstream primary schools. The problem is that many mainstream schools are unequipped to provide the support that autistic children need. In fact, according to the National Autism Society and Ambitious About Autism, 60% of teachers in England do not feel that theyve received adequate training to teach children with autism.
A poor classroom environment for autism can hugely disadvantage children with the condition. Most notably, it can cause them difficulty with engaging in learning activities and coping with daily life. Whats more is that these issues can have a lasting impact on them.
This is why, as a teacher, its crucial for you to be aware of the educational implications of autism and how to adopt effective autism teaching methods. By integrating suitable autism learning styles and alleviating any discomfort in the classroom, you will enable autistic children to take part in learning more comfortably and become better prepared for their future.
Different Schools Suit Different Teachers
Ive worked in mainstream and special schools that were wonderful, and Ive spent time in mainstream and special schools that sucked. Want to know what the distinguishing factors were?
The good schools knew who I was. They knew my strengths, they knew what motivated me, and had the wisdom to know that teachers like students work harder and work better when theyre doing something they love.
The bad schools expected us to adapt 100% to the vision of senior management, rather than seeing what skillset lay among their staff and adapting their approach to allow us opportunities to do what were good at. Kind of like commanding a bunch of mathematicians to be plumbers, and wondering why they cant fix pipes using a protractor and a compass.
Finding a teaching post isnt just about finding a school that will employ you. There needs to be a culture in the school that you feel comfortable with, senior staff you feel supported by, and a school ethos that matches your own.
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Find Out As Much As You Can About Autism
Learn about autism and about your students specific challenges and requirements. Request training and if youre lucky enough to have had training already, share your knowledge with colleagues. Invite successful autistic role models, e.g. alumni or final year students, to share their experiences with staff. Get in touch with the experts from your universitys disability support team and discuss what further changes you can make to your teaching practice. Its worth exploring this in depth because they may be very personal to you and your subject area.
Top 10 Strategies For Teaching Your Autistic Student
Increase your knowledge about autism. Understanding autism will help you to understand your autistic students behaviour. For example, frequently the reason behind their autistic behaviour is social confusion or sensory overload or both. Reducing confusion and overload is a quick way to manage the behaviour. We recommend that you read our blog post on What is High Functioning Autism.
Increase your knowledge about your autistic student. There is a saying, if you have met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person. In other words, the autistic community is a very heterogeneous group, and it is important to understand the unique profile of your autistic student. Ask both the parents and previous teachers to give you a one-page snapshot of the child.
Ask for the following information your students:
- personality strengths
6. A Sensory-Friendly Classroom.
Once you know the sensory profile of the autistic students in your class, make the accommodations necessary to ensure that your classroom is as autism friendly, considering the sensory profile, as possible. Make sensory toys available for all students. Over time, the ones who really need them or use them, and the novelty will wear off for the others. Many of the Neurotypical kids will also benefit!
7. A Sanctuary.
9. Be flexible.
10. Create inclusivity.
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Autism In The Classroom: Tips And Strategies
Having a child with autism in the classroom can be a challenge, but also incredibly fulfilling if you know how to provide the right support. Whether its helping them to maintain their routine, handle sensory overload, or engage in learning in a way that resonates with them, all of your interventions will benefit them significantly.
Here are our 7 top tips for supporting autistic children in the classroom:
Effective Tips For Teaching Children With Autism In 2022
Its impossible to handle her.
Hes totally disruptive and creates a ruckus in my class.
What an attention seeker!
Do you think she should be attending regular school?
He cant sit still, even for a moment.
I dont think hes capable of learning.
These are some of the commonly heard frustrations that come with teaching students with autism.
But what if we tried to understand how the student with autism feels? What if we attributed their behavior to a different brain wiring instead of deliberate disruption?
Not abnormal or dysfunctional just different.
This better explains their hyperactivity, anxiety, and inability to connect with other children. These behaviors are a cry for help your help.
At Positive Action, our committee partners with educators by providing schools with the right tools to develop special ed curriculums catered to students with autism.
What I love most about Positive Action is the way it pertains to the real issues students face in today’s world! Lori Kessinge, 5th Grade Teacher, Critzer Elementary School, Virginia
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Strategy #: Using Rewards And Incentives
Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, is a form of therapy that is used to help children with ASD manage or eliminate problem behaviors, such as behaviors that result in self-harm or disruptions to other children. One of the most widely-used treatments for children with ASD, applied behavior analysis therapy works by using rewards and incentives to reinforce positive behaviors.
Though sometimes controversial, ABA has also been proven effective for certain children by research. For example, a peer-reviewed study published in 2020 found that long-term, comprehensive ABA-based interventions were beneficial to lifelong development of children with ASD, highlighting socialization, communication and expressive language as being potentially promising targets for ABA-based interventions.
Only individuals who meet certain educational and professional requirements can become ABA therapists. However, all teachers can implement the basic ideas of ABA, such as positive reinforcement in the classroom . To explore these topics in depth, read about how teachers can use reward systems to encourage better student engagement, or explore our Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis, which will prepare you for a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst .
All Children With Autism Have Intellectual Disabilities
Because autism is a spectrum disorder, it comes in a broad range of symptoms and severity. In terms of how autism affects learning in school, some students may have cognitive disabilities while others might not. The best way to know for sure is to discuss their symptoms with their parents or a school specialist.
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How Would It Feel To Be : : : :
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.
Make Directions Clear Short And Concrete
For example, if your child is throwing food at the table say, eat your food rather than Be good at the table, Dont throw your food or Would you stop with that! You are always throwing your food. For children with difficulty understanding language, showing them a picture or a visual demonstration of the behavior you want to see, can be helpful.
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These 10 Tips Will Help You Get Started:
1. Create a Structured Environment
Children with autism feel more comfortable when they have a routine with clear structures and minimal deviations from their predicted schedule. Make sure the learning environment and lesson plans are structured in a manner that tells students as well as educators what is to be done, for how long or how much, when it needs to be done when it is completed, and what comes next.
2. Make Communication Easier
Many communication techniques are used by educators who teach children with ASD. For instance, some learning centers use sign language for autistic children with low speech skills. Facilitated communication is another technique that may help them learn better, where you hold the childs hand or arm and encourage them to press the appropriate key on portable communication devices.
3. Use Visual Aids
Visuals are an important aspect of teaching young children, particularly for children with autism. Line drawings, photographs or Language Builder Picture Cards, if/then cards and stickers can be incorporated within various daily activities, while picture schedules and mini-schedules provide structure. Other tools such as online tutorials and videos deliver information in a visual manner that a child with ASD may find easier to absorb.
4. Encourage Social Interactions
5. Make Activities Structured Too
6. Use Direct Language
7. Give Them Extra Time
8. Be Aware of Sensory Issues
9. Eliminate Potential Stress
10. Keep Instructions Simple
Acknowledge Your Child Or Students For Complying With Your Requests
For instance, if your child is using a loud voice in the movie theater and you say, whisper in the theater, praise the child with a comment such as nice job whispering, or thank you for being respectful in the theater. For children who understand language well, situations like this are a good time to teach about other peoples perspectives .
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Strategy #: Limiting Sensory Overload
As any teacher knows from experience, the classroom can be a hectic environment, especially at lower grade levels such as elementary school classes. From the shouting and laughter of children to the humming and blinking of lights, its easy for students to lose their focus especially when they dont feel motivated to learn.
These types of environmental factors can be distracting for any student but for students with ASD, they can be overwhelming. Many children and adults who have ASD anywhere from 69 to 93 percent, according to some research experience hypersensitivity or other sensory symptoms, including overreactions to the sensory environment .
While its impossible to eliminate every potential distraction, teachers can still make a positive difference by identifying and managing sources of sensory overload. For example, Autism Speaks points out that some students who have ASD might feel discomfort with making sustained eye contact, changing in busy locker rooms, or standing in crowded lines. By taking simple actions to avoid or accommodate these scenarios for instance, granting students with ASD a few minutes to unwind after walking in a noisy hallway, or allowing students to dress when the locker room is empty educators can make the classroom a more welcoming and less distracting environment.
Accommodations Protections And Rights
When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, it recognized that because of the special challenges people with disabilities face, they need special legal protections to ensure they are treated fairly and not taken advantage of because of their condition. What this means for ASD students is that a host of legal rights ensure that they can enjoy the same educational opportunities that other students do.
The passage of the ADA opened the door for other legislation to be enacted that helps children with disabilities. First and foremost, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , autistic children are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education meaning students should have access to educational programs that best fit their special needs. Additionally, the law calls for education to be provided in the least restrictive environment, so students who have disabilities have the opportunity to learn among their counterparts who dont have the same issues. In order to make this possible, classrooms may need to be tailored to the autistic students needs.
Children with autism cannot just be thrown into a traditional classroom without any accommodations if they would not be able to benefit from the instruction, Leichtweisz says. There is often a fine balance between finding the least restrictive environment and one in which children can often learn, and many times parents and schools are not in agreement.
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