Autism in the Classroom. Part 1.
Quite rightly there has been a lot of focus recently on Autism awareness especially from the perspective of Autism in the classroom. Autistic spectrum condition (ASC) affects around 1 in 59 children in the USA (CDC) and around 1 in 100 children in the UK (NAS). As teachers we come across students on the autistic spectrum daily and being able to help these students make progress can be difficult for those who are new to teaching or have limited experience. What makes it so difficult is the vast array of needs that these students require. It is a subject very personal to me as my son has what is generally called Asperger’s. He was diagnosed quite late (at 10 years old) and is now 14 and in grade/year 9. He is a very bright boy but is struggling at school, not so much in his ability but with the rigours of what is expected of him and the social interactions that go hand in hand with it.
I decided I wanted to do a series of posts on the subject of Autism in the classroom to try and give fellow teachers (both new and more experienced) some tactics that I have found to work both from my teaching and my own home-life. In addition I will have several guest authors write posts giving their expertise. Today’s post contains a report written by a teacher friend Katie who runs her own YouTube channel “For Teachers“. Check out their great videos that are, as advertised…for teachers!
Katie from For Teachers.
As teachers, we are more fortunate than we realise. Every day we are exposed to new challenges, experiences and we constantly have to adapt in order to make the most of new opportunities. As part of our journey as educators, we will become personally accountable for the progress of a group of children over the course of a year. And with that power, comes great responsibility!
What are our challenges?
Autism refers to a spectrum, and can affect children’s ability to connect with their peers, adults, and the world around them. Perhaps they will seek comfort from sensory items or appear tactful, or in other instances may prefer to keep a physical distance from those around them and their environment. The truth is, you can never be too sure what will make a child feel uncomfortable. That is why a one-size-fits-all approach will never be effective when you are trying to support a child with autism. As a teacher this is a challenge in itself, as you have to work hard not only to understand the child yourself, but to encourage a positive atmosphere where the child is able to succeed socially, emotionally and make positive progress. In the classroom, you need to be ready to embrace new challenges, and to provide for all children within your care.
No one has all the answers but hopefully by working together teachers can build a toolkit of tactics that can help both student and teacher. Some of the tools we cover in our video (Here) are wiggle boards, noise cancellation headphones, squishy toys for children to play with… the list goes on. As a teacher it is your duty to keep trying new methods until you find something that works – even if this is just a short term solution. It is important to update your toolkit constantly and embrace the suggestions of others. Perhaps they might have tried something that will help a child within your care who needs more support. So far, our video has been well received by the Autism Awareness community. I think they respect that we are still on a learning journey ourselves, and that this is a subject that should be spoken about more often for class teachers.
We could say “we have experience of working with children who have autism” but I think the issue is that there is no “one size fits all” solution. You need to adapt and use new approaches each time a new little face enters your classroom. It is important for all of us to reflect on our own understanding and improve as practitioners to enable children with Autism to show progress and thrive under our care.
Autism in the classroom is something that all teachers need to pay specific attention to. In the next few parts of this series I will be looking at teaching children under 10 with Autism, teaching teenagers with Autism and building strategic relationships with families of these students.
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For the only classroom engagement tips you’ll ever need see my post https://teacherofsci.com/classroom-engagement/
Thanks for your time,