According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum. Autism Speaks reports new studies showing that figure may be closer to 1 in 45. More of these children are being fully included in traditional classrooms.
As a teacher, you may be increasingly expected to provide a successful learning environment for children on the autism spectrum while managing all of your students’ needs. Keep reading to find simple, everyday strategies that can help!
Post a schedule
Children who are on the autism spectrum may have difficulty transitioning from one activity or class to the next. If they have a visible daily schedule, they know what to expect and will cope with changes better.
Use literal language
Children who are on the autism spectrum may not be able to process language—and figurative language is especially confusing. If it’s “raining cats and dogs” they could expect to see cats and dogs falling from the sky. Choose words that are direct and explicit when giving directions, explaining lessons, or talking with the class.
Prepare for changes
Immediate transitions can be jarring. Give students a warning when time is winding down. Time Trackers are a great option to help with this. They have lights that change from green to yellow to red to give visual cues for time remaining. Optional sounds can also be activated for an auditory “heads up”.
Give sensory breaks
Many children on the autism spectrum have sensory processing difficulties. They either are hypo–sensitive or hyper–sensitive, meaning their bodies need a lot more stimulation from their environment or are bothered by sensory stimulation that others can tune out—such as the hum of fluorescent lights, or the feel of scratchy clothing.
They may need time either to relax in a sensory-soothing room with low lights and little stimuli or gain stimulation by jumping on a trampoline or running on the playground.
Lots of students bounce their knees or tap their pencils. This actually helps them stay focused on what the teacher is saying. Make sure kids have a way to fidget that is not disruptive to the rest of the class. Give them a small rubber trinket or counters to fiddle with in their pockets.