Tips And Strategies For Helping Children With Autism In The Classroom
Managing a classroom can be a challenge on its own. It becomes even more challenging when you have a child with autism in it. However, it can also provide you with a fulfilling opportunity if you approach it the right way. There is so much potential to make a positive impact in their lives. Whether it’s by helping them day by day with their routine, helping them avoid sensory overload, or helping them better engage in the classroom – you will have consistent moments where you are truly making a difference.
Here are some of the best tips that you can utilise to better support a child with autism in the classroom:
1. Come Up With And Stick With a Routine
The most important thing to do with a child that has autism is stick to a routine. The world can be confusing enough as it is. Those with autism can get confused very easily. Thus, they seek out predictable things. They like having structure. The good news is, that school is naturally structured. However, some things can disrupt the routine. Because of this, you want to be aware of these things and help them. A good way to do this is by making their routine crystal clear.
You can do this by crafting a visual timeline of sorts. This timeline can showcase their routine simply. You can use images and/or very simple words to place on the timeline. This will show them their routine in chronological order. They can always look at the visual timeline and see what they are to do and what they have to do next. This can give them a visual aid that will make them much more confident in their daily plan. It’s also a good way to show them that you care.
2. Help Optimise Their Environment
It can be different for everyone. No one is the same. One sound that distracts someone can be harmless to another. Regardless, when they experience this sensory overload, it can cause them to have a positive or negative reaction. A good way to minimise this is by figuring out what overstimulates them and reducing it. As a side benefit, you may want to read Louise Hunt‘s story as it may be inspirational to you.
Because every child is different, it’s going to take some trial and error. You need to figure out what’s sensitive for them. You can do this through careful observation. You can see what they react to and what they don’t. You can always ask for help from their parents. They likely have a lot of information that you can use. Once you know what is overloading their senses, try to remove it from the environment altogether or at least minimise it.
For instance, if you have a child that gets distressed at the sound of the bell ringing, you can try to give them noise-canceling headphones a good 5 minutes or so before the bell. This can help minimise their exposure to the school bell.
3. Manage Transitions and Changes
As mentioned previously, every autistic child strives for consistency. They want to maintain a consistent routine daily. Any deviation from their normal schedule can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. These things can get overwhelming for them. These changes are completely unavoidable sometimes. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot do something about it. You could always better prepare them to face the changes.
For instance, if you are looking at changing the classroom in a couple of weeks, you could always take the child to the new classroom in advance. That way, they can get a good feel for the new classroom and anticipate the change. They will have time to get accustomed to being in the new classroom and they can even choose their new seat. This gives them a better chance to adjust to the otherwise abrupt change for them.
4. Communication Is Key
While it can vary from individual to individual, you do want to ensure you are communicating directly with someone that has autism. Typically, they can get confused at the littlest thing. If you use the wrong words or if you don’t pay attention to the word order of your sentences, it can get them misinterpreting you. This is why it’s so important to carefully consider your word choice and how you structure everything.
If you are looking to get an autistic child to do something, ask them directly. Don’t beat around the bush. Tell them exactly what you want them to do directly.
5. Integrate More Of Their Interests
Something that makes autistic children so incredibly unique is how deep they can get into their interests. You can leverage their unique ability to get so focused on their interests to keep them more engaged with school. Try to incorporate their interests into the classroom as much as possible.