Autism In The Classroom
What Educators Should Know.
There are several different characteristics that come along with autisms. In the classroom, there are three main areas that teachers should be aware of; behavioral, social interaction, and communication.
Behavioral: Teachers should understand that students on the autism spectrum will benefit from routine. They should prepare for what these characteristics look like their classroom, so that they can handle the situation accordingly. Knowing what may or may not cause their student to have behavior problems, depends on what they do to prepare the classroom and learning process.
· Unusually intense or focused interests
· Repetitive use of objects such as repeatedly switching lights on and off or lining up toys (pencils, books, papers in the classroom)
· Sensory sensitives (this includes sounds AND textures, find out what bothers your student)
Social Interaction: Students with autism may have difficulties establishing and maintaining relationships with teachers and peers. This can present itself in these ways:
· Lack of seeking to share enjoyment, interests and activities with other people
· Difficulties forming and sustaining friendships
· Limited use and understanding of non-verbal communication such as eye gave, facial expression and gesture
Communication: Communication presents itself differently in each student on the autism spectrum. Some students have little difficulty with communication, while others have speech impairments of varying degrees. Understanding where your student has difficulties will help their learning process. Just the same, understanding their strengths will help their learning process. Impaired speech may look like;
· Delayed language development
· Difficulties initiation and sustaining conversations
· Repetitive use of language
Autism Spectrum Australia. (2015). Retrieved from
More About Autism
Strengths of students with autism.
children with autism have many strengths that can help them learn if they are accessed accordingly. children with autism may have a strong attention to detail, they also have a tendency to be highly skilled in a particular area of interest and deep study into their interests. They also have a tendency to be logical and may have less concern for what others may think of them. they have a strong visual processing learning and thinking in pictures or video. they communicate directly and tend to listen without judgement. they are good at things that are concrete and have rules like math problems.
Instructional Strategies And Barriers
Autism Spectrum Disorder: Barriers
· Students with ASD have delays in the ability to process verbal or written language. Facts, ideas, and questions are often lost or delayed in the process of language to thought, or thought to language.
· When a child with ASD is called on children may feel stressed or overwhelmed. If a teacher does not wait or repeat the question for the child the child will shut down. The pressure becomes too much to answer the questions and they will shut down. They will respond with an inappropriate behavior. If the child feels too much pressure on multiple occasions and checks out on multiple occasions it will be a greater challenge to get the child reengaged.
· Other academic barriers might include; inability to generalize, difficulties with time concepts and making transitions, troubles with task/even sequencing and difficulties with learning by observation or imitation.
· Children with ASD are usually the odd child out in social situations. They do not understand social norms and have trouble knowing those social cues and norms.
· Children with ASD have trouble expressing feelings in a conventional way. When they act out in frustrations, anger, confusion, boredom behaviors these are often ways they are expressing their emotions and feelings and the only way they know how. It is not uncommon to see these children become aggressive, be disruptive, or have tantrums.
· It is not often seen or known, but students with ASD have struggles in motor (muscle) skills. This includes balance and coordination. With these difficulties it makes it hard for students to do certain physical activates causing them to become easily frustrated. Those ASD children with below average motor skills struggle with the little everyday activities such as using a spoon, using pencils and crayons, fastening a button, zipping up jackets. Imagine the frustration of a speech-delayed child who can't zip his jacket and ends up misbehaving or throwing a fit because that’s the only way they know how to express their thoughts and emotions.
Instructional Methods for ASD Barriers:
1. Where students have delays in processing verbal and written language it would be ideal in the classroom to have and to offer alternative ways for auditory and visual information. Students may understand and process verbal and written language if it is given in some form of auditory or visual way. This could include text to speech, graphic organizers, videos, etc. (UDL 1.2/1.3 Offer alternatives for auditory information/offer alternatives for visual information.
2. Where students with ASD are delayed in their academics you might use self-regulation with the students and guide appropriate goal-setting. This will take some one on one time to sit down with the student and discuss what they might feel works best for them and set them up for success in reaching their goals. As the teacher you would provide tools to help them reach these goals together. (UDL 6.1 Guide appropriate goal-setting)
3. Students with ASD may not understand social cues and norms. They may feel pressured to answer questions and shut down because they can’t handle the pressure. TO work with these you might work with students to facilitate personal coping skills and strategies to get through these pressures. Instead of them misbehaving and going to what is comfortable for them, as the teacher you would encourage them to cope and work with different strategies to appropriately express their emotions and how they are feeling. (UDL 9.2 Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies)
Autism in the Classroom: Overcoming Challenges. (2014). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://butterflyeffects.com/autism-in-the-classroom-overcoming-challenges/
How Students With Autism Learn. (2009). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_2006_pdf_Article4/
Sarris, M. (2014). The Challenge of Physical Fitness for People with Autism. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from https://iancommunity.org/ssc/autism-physical-fitness
Teachers who have students with autism in their classroom may find it intimidating to ensure that the students receive the instruction that he/she needs to progress and succeed. With a little research teachers can find many helpful resources and tools to help students with ASD in the classroom. A website for the National Education Association, www.nea.org, is dedicated to providing links to many other websites. The websites listed on the National Education Association home page specialize in helping teachers find ways in which to better assist these students in their academic journey. The resources found on this site help teachers to find information about the disorder so that they have a better understanding, provide instructional methods and techniques and there are also activities and materials for students that can be found. This is one of many sites where teachers may find many helpful resources they need. There are specialists in the school district as well that may be consulted to help in advising and providing assistance to teachers.