Autism in the classroom is another difficult topic — whether you’re a parent or a teacher. Parents want what’s best for their children, and teachers are hungry for information on how to deal with autistic children in their own classrooms. This section is for information and resources for teachers. For parent information on IEPs, advocacy, and free and appropriate education, please visit AutismLink’s IEPs and Educational Advocacy Page!
Autism in Schools — For Teachers:
So you have a child with autism in your classroom. What’s next? How do you know what to expect? How will you handle it?? Here are some suggestions from AutismLink, and there are links to other sites below:
- Meet with parents, the student and professionals to determine needs of the student.
- Develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
- Work as a team. Keep in touch on new medication and possible side effects, and on mood, personality and environmental changes.
- The student with autism, like any other student, may be more alert in the morning or the afternoon. Whenever possible, structure the learning period according to the student’s pattern of response.
- Allow the student time to become familiar with routines and environments. Try to maintain these with as few variations as possible.
- Understand that the student has a unique learning style and gear activities to the individual child, e.g., modify time limits.
- Choose activity-based learning; use concrete, tangible and visual aids. Processing abstract concepts is frequently very difficult.
- Help the student focus on learning: pre-teach, teach and post-teach.
- Strengthen communication skills. Focus on language processing in an ongoing language training approach.
- Help the student organize: use calendars, timetables, photos or pictures of activities in sequence. Remind the student what comes next.
- Cue changes to new activities: help the student anticipate changes before they take place.
- Be as familiar as possible with any specific aids.
- Incorporate and understand behavioral methods as learning strategies.
- Allow time to process information.
- Teach from a functional point of view, avoiding abstracts.
- Watch for over-stimulation: help the student settle down. This may require the substitution of an equally stimulating activity or a change of environment. If necessary, arrange for “time out.”
- Integrate social skills, self-control and social problem-solving. Repeating a routine of chosen behaviour is your best resource.
- Incorporate a system of tangible rewards, e.g., a social outing.
- Encourage social interaction with peers, while still allowing access to “time alone” if necessary.
- Establish expectations and consequences. Expect acceptable and appropriate behaviour.
- Be realistic in your expectations. The student will function better in a structure common to home and school.
- Plan for success, constantly reinforce small steps, but be prepared for long periods with no apparent progress.
- Talk to the class about autism and have the student or parent explain any needs. Encourage other students to find out how they can assist and how they should assist.
- Develop a real understanding of the nature of autism – be informed. Read, research and visit other classrooms.
- Talk to other teachers in the AutismLink Discussion Forums!
- What are some tips and strategies for helping students with autism achieve their fullest potential? And how can teachers cultivate the best learning environment in their classrooms? Explore these and other issues surrounding Autism in the Classroom.
- Classroom Strategies — This document starts off with the basics of autism, but if you scroll down to the end, there are lots of great ideas on how to deal with autistic children in the classroom. It explains “literalness” of thought, concrete thinking, etc.!
- TEACCH Classroom strategies
- OASIS — Click on the “Education” tab on the left — lots of resources.