Top 10 tips to support children with Autism in your classroom
1. Build good relationships. Strong relationships between students and teachers is key in any classroom. Get to know your student and find out what they love, build their trust by showing them that you understand and want to help them in any way that you can. Your student will respond much better to you once that trusting relationship is in place.
2. Create a safe environment. A classroom can be a busy and noisy environment for any child. Setting up supports for the child with Autism can avoid sensory overload and meltdowns. Create a calm corner in the classroom away from the hustle and bustle, maybe include headphones, calm down strategies, deep breathing visuals and some sensory toys.
3. Use visual schedules. Visual schedules help children with Autism as it allows them to predict what comes next therefore reducing anxiety and giving the children a sense of control. Set up a picture schedule for the child or whole class and work through it ticking things off as they are completed throughout the day.
4. Positive reinforcement.
Positive reward systems such as token boards can help children with ASD to stay on task and motivated throughout the day. Instead of attending to the negative behaviours, spot the good behaviours, and reward them.
5. Movement breaks. Children with ASD need to move. Sitting for a length of time can be hard so incorporating scheduled movement breaks into the child’s day can help him/her to feel comfortable and engaged when at the desk. Simple activities such as exercises, dance, games or jobs around the school that allow the child to get up and move!
6. Simple instructions. Don’t give too many instructions at once, break them down for the child with ASD and tell them one thing at a time. Use visual cues and gestures to support your instructions. Eg when telling the class to take out their Maths books, you might hold up the Maths book as a visual cue at the same time.
7. Communicate with parents. This one is so important for children with limited verbal skills in particular. Create a good relationship with parents so that they are open and honest with you, eg if their child has a tough morning they might let you know so that you can alter your instruction on that day. And vice versa, let parents know what’s happening in school but be kind always follow a negative with a positive.
8. Create an awareness and understanding in your classroom.Celebrate Autism Awareness day. Study autism with your class, build a positive attitude to difference in the students in your class. Encourage your students to be kind to those who may be different or need more help. A child who feels valued and liked by his peers will be happier in school.
9. Work with SNAs and other professionals. Make sure you are all working off the same page. Consistency is key. Talk to other professionals such as SLTs and OTs and ask for advice where needed.
10. Accept them as they are. Help them to learn and develop new skills and strategies without trying to change them. Autism is a part of who they are.