Teaching strategies for including students with Autism in your classroom

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

  1. 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.

During Class:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!”
  3. 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.


4 thoughts on “Teaching strategies for including students with Autism in your classroom”

  1. Hello!

    My name is Shayna Perella. I’m a senior at Elizabethtown College studying Early Childhood education and Special Education. I was wondering if you could share one of your most effective stories that incorporates one of the strategies you have listed above. I was also wondering if you have any advice for working with the parents of a child with Autism.

      1. Thank you Ms keleghan for taking the time to respond to my comment! Look forward to hearing back you by next week.

        Thank you!

      2. Hi Shayne apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

        The best example I can use is a picture timeline of the lesson on the whiteboard for the student in my class who has autism. It allows him to know what is coming up next in the lesson. It gives him structure and a routine that he can get used to. Getting to know the individual is crucial as some aspects I have listed do not work with every child who has autism. For example the student I work with hates music but it is widely recognized that people with autism can really enjoy music. I have only recently started working with this particular student so my experiences are few and far between at the moment as I only teach him once a week. I also find working with his mother extremely helpful as she knows her son the best and can help me plan and prepare specific resources for him that he will respond well to. I sent her a short questionaire to fill out about her son which was also really helpful.

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