An autism spectrum disorder is a range of mental disorders that manifests itself in communication difficulties, narrow interests and repetitive behavior. And this is a problem when you try to find a way to educate learners with autism. Although every autistic child may respond differently to learning methods, here are a few strategies that are commonly used to help children with autism enhance their learning potential.
- Set the Boundaries of the Learning Space
Children with autism are supersensitive to a change of environment. Thus, it’s important to establish visual cues as to where one type of activity takes place and where students should go for a certain activity. Equip the learning space with individual and specific items, for example, toys. Allow a student to carry a certain toy or other items with him so that it will be easier for him to move from one learning space to another. Besides, you can place physical signs of the installed space on the floor, for example, rugs for each child where he can play. The use of furniture or tape on the floor is helpful too. Such boundaries within the learning space provide predictability through visual cues.
In the case of children without special needs, a kidsecured aid is enough to provide care; however, in the case of students with autism, it takes more effort. For the latter, it’s important to feel secure in the classroom. For this reason, reduce direct light when possible and minimize distracting noise to bring comfort and calm to special-needs kids.
- Create a Predictable Schedule
Children with communication disorders adhere to certain rituals and the slightest changes in their life or in the regime can become a traumatic factor for them. The result of such changes is withdrawing into oneself or a flash of aggression expressed in cruel treatment of loved ones, peers, animals in an effort to destroy and break everything around.
Many autistic children succeed when there is a predictable schedule. They see the meaning of activity only when it is clearly pre-scheduled: children should know what to do first, what sequence of actions to take, how to finish. So, it would be very helpful to let them know what to expect each day. Hang clearly visible analog clock on the wall and stick on it images that will show daytime activities and the time when they will be done. Refer to this watch every time you mention the time when children are to be engaged in a certain activity.
Also, for instance, during a PE lesson, kids with autism do not understand why and how long they need to run in circles. But their activities will be more meaningful if you lay out several toys on the floor and the child is given a specific task: each time he runs past the toys, he is to take one of them and throw it in the basket. In this way, the child will see the plan of action and become calmer. Such meaningfulness must be achieved when performing any task. A child should always know why he will perform this or that action.
By the way, children with autism like collecting things, so they can and should be involved in sorting items. They are indispensable helpers when you need, for example, to sort pencils by color or cubes by size. At school, such children can be involved in the creation and sorting of herbariums, collections of stones, shells, photographs. They do a good job of keeping daily records of animals in a pet’s corner.
- Let the Children Follow Their Own Lesson Plan
Children with autism are as capable of learning as children who are not suffering from this disorder. They just need to find a way to absorb the information properly. Observe what objects a kid is attracted to. Does he need to walk to re-read the alphabet? Holding a toy in his hands helps him read aloud? Whatever it is, let the child learn in his own way. For instance, let him draw. Many students, even those who do not have special needs, find it easier to concentrate on a lesson if they draw some scribbles in a notebook.
Also, allow small breaks during which the child can stand up and walk around the classroom. Such regular breaks from mental activity are necessary for autists because of their increased fatigue.
- Use Concentration to Make Learning Easier
Many autistic children fix their attention on certain objects and this can be advantageously used in learning. For example, if a child fixes his attention on toy cars, use them in teaching geography, “driving” a car to different countries.
- Provide Them Behavioral Models
Many children with autism have difficulty with the ability to tune in to emotions, motivation, and other social signals that are instinctive for children without autism. Read them different stories to show correct behavior in various situations. For example, read a story about a sad child and show a frowning face or make tears as an example of expressing sadness to help an autistic child learn to understand emotions. A child can learn by remembering. Observing their peers’ behavior help students with autism learn appropriate behavior and social skills as well.
Every kid with autism is truly unique. However, knowing the general patterns of development of autistic children and having a set of ways for working with them you can get on the right side of them even in the most difficult and unpredictable situations.