National Autism Awareness Month
April is National Autism Awareness Month. This month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year. The Autism Society has organized a variety of ways you can get involved, and celebrations include presidential/congressional declarations, online events and activities, local events and activities through their affiliates and partner opportunities.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability. Signs of the disorder typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Behaviors associated with autism can include delayed learning of language, difficulty making eye contact or holding conversation, difficulty with executive functioning, narrow, intense interests, poor motor skills and sensory sensitivities.
Tips for Teachers Working with Students on the Autism Spectrum
With an increasing population of individuals with autism, it’s important for teachers to be well-versed on those students’ needs. In today’s blog, Kindermark Kids wanted to offer some tips for working with students with autism.
1. Get to Know the Student’s Needs and Interests.
The most important tip for teachers working with students with autism is to build a relationship. Start off by getting to know them, understanding both their needs and their interests. By developing a friendship with students on the autism spectrum, you are able to prepare them to be open to learning in your classroom. Once you get to know the student, you’ll begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and then can adjust your teaching methods accordingly.
2. Avoid Sensory Overload.
Many students on the autism spectrum have sensory sensitivities. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure their senses aren’t overloaded. Fluorescent lights, unique smells and noises from other students can make it difficult for students with autism to concentrate. Avoid covering the classroom walls with too many posters and other distractions. Some students will also benefit from having their own center, where they can spend time away from any distractions. Consider one of our room dividers to create a quiet space. Sensory overload can lead to negative behavior, fear, anxiety, withdrawal, increased repetitive behavior, tantrums or complete meltdowns.
3. Teach Social Skills Directly.
While many children that are thrown into a classroom setting make friends easily, those with autism can struggle with social skills. As the teacher, it’s important that you show support for their needs and directly teach them how to be social. Not only do you want to model appropriate social skills, but you’ll need to discuss how our behaviors make others feel. In addition, you need to help build their confidence in interacting socially.
4. Use Concrete Language.
Those students on the autism spectrum can have a difficult time with language, especially figurative language. These students interpret things very literally. Try to use concrete language, using as few words as possible. Be direct and get to the point. If you get a blank stare after asking a question or giving an instruction, try rewording it. In addition, asking a student to repeat what you said helps clarify that you’ve been understood. You’ll also want to avoid using sarcasm and idioms.
5. Offer Positive Feedback Before Criticism.
Students with autism often take things very personally, and can have difficulty handling constructive criticism. Be sure to offer positive feedback whenever possible. For example, when grading papers offer positive comments at the beginning and end to offset any negative comments. In some cases, you may want to ask the student to come discuss the paper with you rather than marking it up. Also consider using a different color pen than red for corrections. Students often associate red ink with failure and negativity. When a student is putting forth effort, be sure to reward them and offer praise.
At Kindermark Kids, it’s our mission to advance the business and professional goals of our customers and team members, while promoting the well-being of children and families. We do so through offering carefully chosen toys, classroom accessories and children’s furniture. Every product that we offer was designed and build with public play areas in mind. Be sure to visit our website for all your classroom needs!
Kindermark Kids - Creating Child-Friendly Spaces!
- Erin Burdette