By Teachers, For Teachers
Autism and school are becoming a hot topic for school boards and parent groups right across the country and around the world.
This is because the occurrence of autism in children is increasing at an alarming rate. Educators today are seeing an exponentially higher number of autistic children in their classrooms than a decade ago. For that reason, an increasing number of parents and educators want to ensure all children receive a positive educational experience.
As no two autistic children display precisely the same autism symptoms, it becomes impossible to create a standardized program that creates positive experiences for children with autism at school.
Therefore, it is likely that in order to receive the best possible education an autistic child will need to undergo an ever-changing educational strategy throughout their entire learning career.
For example, while some students on the spectrum may be able to keep up with peers on an academic level, they may experience challenges as far as the development and use of language and social skills. On the other hand, an autistic child of the same age, gender and IQ level as their peers may struggle not only with social skills and language, but also struggle to keep up with academics because the learning techniques are not right for him or her specific symptoms.
That being said, there are some techniques that seem to work well. This can include creating predictable and stable routines for the school day with clearly laid out accompanying schedules, which can include pictures. Having daily schedules that detail all the various activities and at what time they will occur can help children to understand the way the day will play out and be better able to transition between the various activities and tasks of the day.
Children with autism can also benefit from attending social skills programs that aim to improve social interaction and comprehension of various social cues from adults and other students. If possible, some time every day in a special education classroom where autistic students can have one-on-one time with a teacher or educational assistant will help to enforce lessons and skills learned in a “safe” environment. Here, effective support to lessons might include the use of functional communication cards to give students a break from having to communicate verbally – something that can be very taxing to some autistic children.
Don’t forget that not all school lessons are academically based. Your child may be good at art, music or sports for example. So if they are struggling to keep up with their peers in academic classes and have to be pulled out to attend special classes, push for them to be included in the classes where they can do well. Excelling in classes where they join in with their peers can be an important confidence booster allowing for a more effective academic and social experience overall.
Though a diagnosis of autism and school may feel incompatible at times, it’s important for parents not to lose faith that their children have the strength and ability to pull through when they are presented with the right learning strategy.
This is especially true when that learning strategy is supported with the activities that the child experiences at home. Many of these activities can be strictly for fun, like drawing or craft work and others can be very helpful in reinforcing the classroom’s daily routines. Parents should feel able to speak with teachers often to see what they can do at home to help their child’s autism and school progress to go as smoothly and positively as possible.
Do you have autistic students? How do you make them comfortable in the classroom?