Children with Autism
Signs of Autism
- Poor Language
- Unusual or repetitive behaviours
- Diminished interest in other people
- Difficulties with flexibility and thought
(Betterhealth Vic, 2013 & KidsMatter, 2013).
Setting Up your Classroom
Space - Some children will need a place to have quiet time, while others will need the flexibility for movement. Remember that warning the children before the room layout is changed is important, quick abrupt change can cause emotional distress.
Seating - Providing a variety of seating options for the children, not just chairs, but lapboards and cushions to sit on the floor provide the children with the ability to find comfortable seating without being restrained to a chair and desk. It allows children with trouble staying still the ability to move around.
Lighting - Some children will have sensitivity to lighting (including fluorescent lights), this may require the teacher to move them around in seating to find a spot with less reflection. Lower levels of light are optimal for light sensitivity.
Sounds - Children may have sensitivity to sound, using a soft voice when speaking to them can help. Children may also be easily distracted by sounds around them, at times this may mean moving them away from the sound being made to a quieter section with peers.
Routine - Provide the child with the classroom routine, explain the routine and make sure they understand it and feel comfortable with it. Most children with autism work will and desire routine, they can become quite angry or anxious if the routine is broken, so make sure you discuss with child the child before it happens.
Visual Cues - Clear visual cues are important in a classroom, they provide routine and reference for the child. Be careful where these are placed, make them simple and easy to see.
- Show and tell the students what is expected of them.
- Provide few and simple steps.
- Be clear in your instructions.
- Give the child examples of anything practical you want them to achieve.
- If you think the child does not understand, ask them to repeat the question/statement.
- Do not give important information during busy times such as, wait for a quiet time where you can get the child's attention as focussed as possible.
- Always keep lines of communication open with parents.
- Involve the parent within classroom activities where suited.
- Provide parents with opportunities to work with their child at home.
- Talk to the parents about what strategies work with their child in regards to learning, reinforce these strategies to provide consistency for the child.
- Inform parents on their child's learning, parents what to be informed.
- If there are going to be changes to the routine let the parents know so they can reinforce this at home while you reinforce the idea of change at school.
(Kluth, 2009; Beaney & Kershaw 2003; Kabot & Reeve, 2010)
Ways to engage children with Autism.
- Addressing a child's fascinations and passions.
- Limit the time you talk to students.
- Where possible make learning active and experimental for the children.
- Make sure children understand and have the skills to achieve what is asked of them, otherwise disruptions and resistance can occur.
- Provide short times on tasks, provide a break every 12-15 minutes. Some changes in behaviour can mean that a child needs a break from their school work.
- Provide the child with choices where possible.
How to deal with challenging behaviour
There are various ways that a teacher can address challenging behaviour;
- School programs established which may include one on one time to address the behaviour or train staff in developing their skills to deal with the behaviour.
- Shaping alternative behaviours, if a child for example snatches a pencil every time they need one, the teacher can intervene showing them the way they politely ask and slowly retrieve the pencil.
- Helping children to internalise external messages, if a child is getting frustrated from the loud noises and begins screaming, the teacher can get down to their level and ask them if they are feeling anxious, and if they need some quiet time. Over time when the child gets into this situation they can identify that they are anxious and need some quiet time.
- Ignoring inappropriate or challenging behaviours.
- Positive reinforcement.
- Time out to calm down and process their feelings.
(Imray, 2008 & Autism - Help, 2008)