Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that is a result of differences in the brain. This may make it hard for someone with ASD to behave, communicate, and interact with others. As a result, students with ASD may have a difficult time concentrating during class, comprehending academic lessons, and even behaving. Some teachers, tutors, and parents may not know how to teach a child with autism, which could cause frustration, as they want to help their students achieve their maximum potential.
Here are some ways you could help your student:
Be aware of the characteristics of autism
This may include delayed language, cognitive, and learning skills, poorly developed social skills, restrictive or repetitive behaviors, and the inability to properly communicate. Being aware of these traits can help you remain patient and understanding while teaching your student with autism.
Get to know your student
Knowing your student’s likes, dislikes, needs, fears, and how often they need breaks can assist you in crafting an individualized learning plan for them. It will also allow the student to feel validated and cared for by their instructor.
Do an emotional check-in
Checking on how your student is feeling – happy, sad, anxious, frustrated, mad, confused – can help you gauge how to approach your lesson. Making sure you are aware of your student’s emotions will show you value them as individuals. On top of that, their ability to focus and learn is greatly impacted by their emotional state.
Reduce sensory overload
Sensory overload can happen from many things, like fluorescent lights, unexpected noises, or even loud music. When a child experiences sensory overload, they will find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand and even become frustrated. Ensuring you minimize the amount of distractions– making sure you are in a quiet space, using non-fluorescent lights, and more– will help your student feel less distracted and calmer during their lessons.
Use some ABA practices
Implementing some practices from Applied Behavior Analysis, such as incentives and rewards, will help your student with autism engage more throughout the session. Additionally, providing positive reinforcement, like affirmations, can help your student feel validated and motivated to keep learning.
Be clear and direct when giving instructions and feedback
Many students with ASD find it hard to understand nuanced or vague language, such as idioms or figurative language. To help them better understand what you want them to do, it is best you tell them in straightforward terms. The same applies to when you are giving feedback. For example, letting the student know they are “doing awesome” rather than telling them they are “on a roll” will help them understand they are mastering a subject.
Having something your student can look at (i.e. a poster with rules, an incentive chart, etc.) can help them remember what they need to do with the task at hand.
Students with autism prefer consistency in their routine because it calms their anxiety around uncertainty. By making sure you set a routine, you will ensure your student feels safe and is motivated to try their best. A routine could include practicing multiplication during the first ten minutes of class, or even making sure you read one story a day.
Giving your students a set of choices (i.e. letting them pick between starting off with writing sentences or practicing their vowels) while still encouraging them to practice a skill set, helps them feel in control of the session because they get to navigate where it goes. It also lets them see that their decisions matter in how their education pans out.
Teaching social skills
A key characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lack of social skills. Therefore, it is important to model to your students social skills that will benefit them throughout their academic and social lives. For example, you may practice establishing physical boundaries (i.e. no hugging during the lesson), teaching them how to say “please” and “thank you,” and also showing them how to express their emotions.
With these tips, your student will be able to begin thriving inside and outside the classroom.