Children on the autism spectrum can have some of the most unique learning and behavioral needs in and out of the classroom. Their needs are very dependent on the symptoms they experience, and those can vary quite a bit dependent on the individual. In this post, we’ll talk through the best strategies for teaching children on the autism spectrum, whether you’re the parent or the teacher.
Understanding the Need
Overall, most if not all children on the spectrum will need some extra guidance or support when it comes to education. Having that support and more importantly, the right type of support, can make or break a child’s scholastic success.
To get into how best to teach the child on the spectrum, one must first understand their needs by analyzing their symptoms. What are the challenges the child is facing when it comes to teaching? Are the challenges:
- Attention based?
- Concerning communication?
- Anxiety or Mental Health based?
The answer could be yes to some or all- but each root cause can require a different type of support and method of teaching. Try your best to focus on the root cause of the challenges as opposed to addressing the issue with a less specific approach before implementing any changes or tips.
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The Teaching Tips
- Structure is Crucial- Children on the spectrum thrive in structured environments. This means they know what to expect and have a clear cut schedule of the day’s activities. Structured environments are familiar and purposeful, and ensuring your classroom or home has an intentional structure can support your teaching efforts in a variety of ways.
- Encourage Socializing- If the child on the spectrum has trouble with socializing or communication, creating a safe space for them to practice socializing can make a world of difference. If in a classroom, encourage social communication with group based activities and recreational time. If at home, seek opportunities for play dates or extracurriculars that encourage peer to peer communication free of judgement or outside stress.
- Give Extra Time if Needed- A little bit of patience can go a long way for a child on the autism spectrum. A lot extra time for them to complete tasks and assignments. Especially if their challenges are attention-based. Being more lenient with time constraints can afford them the opportunity to thrive in your teaching environment.
- Keep Instructions Clear- Trick questions simply won’t do. When teaching or assigning a task or activity, make instructions as clear as possible and ensure the child understands every piece of it before letting them handle it. Be direct, concise and open to questions or concerns related to ability.
- Keep Sensory Issues in Mind- Many children on the spectrum experience sensory issues where they process sensory stimuli very differently than their neurotypical peers. As such, they can experience sensory overload which can trigger a tantrum or repetitive behaviors. If this is the case for the child you’re teaching, be mindful of what sensory experiences await them in your teaching environment. Are they triggered by the lighting, sounds or other sensory information when being taught? If possible, remove those experiences entirely or adjust accordingly to fit their needs and comfort.
These tips can help ensure a child on the autism spectrum’s scholastic success. Above all else, support and guidance are key.
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