Before reading this blog it is important to remember that not every child responds to every tactic. Choose the best strategy for the individual child. It is also important to realize that these ideas can be used with children who have other needs such as intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Here is a quick practical list of useful strategies for teachers wishing to work successfully with a student who has autism and other special needs:
- When planning your lesson it is vital to plan for the student to make simple transitions to a new activity every 10 minutes. These activities could be explained and presented using multi-sensory approach. One method I found useful is to use a picture plan of the lesson on the whiteboard. This provides a visual support for students with autism etc.
- The use of a sensory room or designated area in the classroom can also be used to minimize stress and anxiety for when your student feels overwhelmed and needs time out from the given lesson. Providing short periods of silence also helps here.
- Include students without disabilities whenever possible. This helps improve your inclusive learning environment.
- Provide suitable take home materials.
- Stagger class start and end times this avoids large crowds and loud noises.
- Encourage the involvement of trained professional to help you in peer teaching.
- Provide support and feedback to parents. This allows them to feel supported and involved in their child’s education.
Before Class Begins
- Be well prepared. Preparation is the key for any good teacher. Do not allow for downtime. Provide structure and consistency this creates a routine which is very important. Activity based learning works very well and engages every child. Group activities work well too but make sure they are small groups.
- Creating a positive environment is key, for example awarding good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior (see my blog on traffic light system for a positive behavior model). Use repetition. Provide a choice of activities or worksheets. Also encouraging peer interaction is very helpful and encourages an inclusive learning atmosphere for all.
- The language you use is very important when you are talking with a student who has autism. Always use concrete and clear language. For example instead of saying ‘Do you want to sit down? Say, “Please sit” instead of saying ‘Nice job’ say ‘I like the way you colored in the lines!”
- Be aware of possible sensory issues such as the room temperature, florescent lights and the noise level. Create chances for movement.
The list I have provided is a quick insight into the range of possibilities you as a teacher can use when planning an inclusive learning environment. The information used is based on the guidelines provided by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Autism Task Force. See http://www.ncpd.org.