If you are teaching in a North American school, you may be teaching in an inclusive classroom. This means that you will be teaching students with various learning challenges, including; learning disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. This situation is a great one to be in, because it means that all students, regardless of differences, are able to receive quality education. It is also a challenge because it means that you, as a teacher, need to be aware of how your students learn, and be able to accommodate for their differences and challenges. Never fear! There are some things that you can do to make the school-year a good one for all students, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. You will find some of my tried and true tricks and tools, below:
How to Teach Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
The key to developing a successful working relationship with an autistic student is to remember that they are students and they are in your classroom to learn. As a species, we have an intrinsic desire to learn, to be curious, to push beyond the barriers of our known environment and to try new things. Autistic students are no different in these desires. What is different is how they perceive and interact with the world around them. It is these differences that make students with autism somewhat terrifying for teachers. Never fear—there are four basic steps that you can take to ensure that both you and your student have a successful school year.
Step One: Be Patient and Understanding
Understand that Autistic Spectrum Disorders are a collection of lifelong neurological difficulties. “They are very complex and encompass autistic disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, autism spectrum disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders”, according to authors Carol L. Paasche, Lola Gorrill, Bev Strom in Children With Special Needs in Early Childhood Settings: Identification, Intervention, Inclusion. The reason why a wide range of disorders falls under the umbrella term of autism is the majority of individuals who have been diagnosed as autistic experience difficulties in five main areas: academics, social interaction, emotional exploration, communication and physical abilities. It is also why educators must be patient and understanding when teaching autistic students.
Step Two: Complete Assessments
Assessments are necessary in the development of a program of study. They can include informal assessments to determine social and emotional skills, daily organic assessments to determine appearance and demeanor, or standardized tests. Assessments will help you to determine where on the academic scale to place your student, what are the main areas of need and strengths, and what interests the student. Once you have completed your initial assessments you will be able to develop a program of study that incorporates activities from the five areas of difficulty mentioned above. This is key because, “If autism is diagnosed early, and intervention and treatment are started at an early age (depending on how severe the disorder is), the child may be able to overcome or lessen the impact of many of the symptoms,” according to the authors.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for Steps Three & Four!