Supporting students with autism in the classroom doesn’t have to be a battle. With the tried and true tactics from parents of autistic children and professionals who work with them everyday, you can learn how to support students with autism in the classroom to help guide them through their most successful school year yet.
What is Autism?
The first step in learning how to support students with autism in the classroom is to understand exactly what it is they’re dealing with.
Also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autism refers to a broad range of conditions and characterized by challenges with:
- Speech/Non Verbal Communication
- Repetitive Behaviors
- Social Skills
- Noise Sensitivity
- Mood Instability
- Social Issues
- Cognitive rigidity
There are several types of autism, including Asperger’s, pervasive developmental disorder, and autistic disorder, and it’s estimated that autism affects 1 in 54 children today.
7 Tips for How to Support a Child with Autism in the Classroom
1. Identify Their Strengths, Weaknesses, & Triggers
Supporting students with autism in the classroom is not a one size fits all endeavor. Just like the rest of your students, autistic students have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses they deal with that affects the way they learn, think, interact, and solve problems. Speak with your student, their parents, therapists, or educational planners to learn exactly what your student needs to succeed, and what possible triggers they may have that you can avoid in the classroom.
2. Create a Relaxing Atmosphere
Sensory overload can overwhelm an autistic child and make it nearly impossible for them to concentrate. If possible, avoid using bright and flashing lights, strong smells, and loud or distracting noises in the classroom. Instead, opt for creating a comfortable classroom free from too many distractions. Decorate with warm colors, soft music during any downtime, and offer comfortable seating like bean bags or rocking chairs. The more safe and secure they feel in their classroom space, the better off they will be.
3. Use Visuals
Supporting students with autism in the classroom can be accomplished with visuals. Things like signs can greatly help students with autism better focus on what they need to do, rather than trying to understand or follow a lengthy explanation. These visuals can serve as reminders of what classroom rules are, where supplies or books go, or pictures and models showing the best way to complete a task.
4. Say What You Mean
It’s not uncommon for autistic students to take what you say literally, whether it’s a silly figure of speech, analogy, or colloquialism. Explain lessons or instructions plainly so they can be easily understood by all, and try to avoid the use of confusing sayings or terms that can be misunderstood.
5. Implement Systems for Organization
Depending on what your student’s strengths and weaknesses are, they may either be extremely organized, or need support to keep things tidy. If your student is the latter, you can support them by implementing strategies even non-autistic students can benefit from. This can include structuring your lesson plan to include time to write down assignments, pack book bags, and clean up work spaces.
6. Encourage Social Interactions
Just as with a shy student or a student who speaks a predominately different language than the rest of the class, learning how to support students with autism in the classroom also comes down to encouraging social interactions. This could be teaming up in small groups for projects, having everyone participate in a classroom icebreaker or question of the day, or simply giving students the opportunity to share or challenge ideas, ask questions, and interact with each other.
7. Teach Social Skills
Learning how to support a child with autism in the classroom also comes down to teaching moments. Modeling appropriate social skills and discussing how our actions and behaviors can affect other people can be monumental in the growth of autistic student’s social skills.
How Morgan Guidance Can Help
Whether you’re a teacher or parent of a newly diagnosed child with autism, or you’re seeking expert advice on how to best help your autistic student transition to college, Morgan Guidance’s team of experienced educational consultants are here to help. With our Early Intervention, Education Planning, and Parent Education and Support Services, we’ll help put your child on the best track to help them find success. Contact Elaine at Morgan Guidance today to learn more.