The rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder, is up not only in the United States but worldwide. New research published in Autism Research reveals that 100 in 10,000, that is, 1 in 100 children, are diagnosed with this disorder. Characteristics of autism might be detected in early childhood, but this condition isn’t diagnosed until much later.
Most children on this spectrum are able to live relatively normal lives. Still, they are different from other kids– no wonder their learning needs are unique. Traditional teaching styles are less than ideal for autistic kids. These kids require extra guidance as well as support. Thus, teaching them is a task.
All that being said, we’ll share some tried-and-tested strategies to teach children with ASD effectively.
#1 Create an Individualized Education Program
In the realm of special education, IEPs or Individualized Education Programs play a significant role in supporting students with autism. An IEP is a legally binding document that summarizes the goals of the education, objectives, as well as services for an autistic child.
Creating an IEP is a collaborative effort. Therapists, teachers, parents, and other professionals work together to develop a personalized education plan for students. At least one special education teacher or special education provider must be included in the team.
Schools that cater to such people require special needs educators, so you must hire them. These individuals possess in-depth knowledge and understanding of autism spectrum disorder and are familiar with the unique learning styles and preferences of autistic individuals. Thus, they can tailor instructions and support in a way that meets the unique needs of children with autism.
Consider hiring people who hold a Doctorate of Education in Leadership and Innovation. A Doctor of Education degree program (Ed.D.) can be applied to various industries. Individuals who earn an Ed.D degree can work as special education as well as a curriculum specialist.
Marymount University observes that this terminal degree connects academia with real-life situations. It prepares professionals to drive change in a variety of situations by building a deeper knowledge of teaching and learning. Thus, hiring them in a setting that caters to the needs of autistic children is essential.
#2 Limit Sensory Overload
Any child can experience sensory overload, but this condition is more common among autistic children.
Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses get overstimulated to the point where an individual is unable to cope. Children with autism are either under-sensitive or over-sensitive to sensory stimuli. Environmental factors, such as flickering lights, ticking clocks, or heavy, distinct smells of perfumes and cleaning supplies, are overwhelming for them.
It is nearly impossible to limit every potential distraction, but you can avoid the triggers as much as you can. Using fluorescent lights, for instance, makes it difficult for such children to concentrate. You can either replace them with calm lights or use light filters, which reduce high-frequency glare.
Refrain from covering the classroom walls with too many posters. Too much visual stimulation distracts autistic kids. These elements also have a negative impact on the mood of children with autism. Thus, try limiting sensory load as much as possible.
#3 Keep Instructions Simple
Processing complex instructions for kids with autism isn’t easy. Keep instructions short and to the point because recalling the entire sequence is often difficult for autistic children. Avoid using abstract or metaphorical language. Children might misunderstand what you’re trying to say.
Try breaking instructions into two to three steps. Or, write them on paper, which you can hand over to those who can read. This way, children can refer to the instructions in case of any doubt.
#4 Implement Positive Reinforcement
A fundamental concept in Applied Behavior Analysis theory is positive reinforcement. The process of reinforcing or rewarding desirable behavior to encourage its repetition is known as positive reinforcement.
Say an autistic child completes their assignment on time, and you allow them to play with toys or offer them candies or stickers. The reward you offer them will prompt them to finish their work punctually. Do not just give out anything you like. Identify what motivates the child and give those items to reinforce positive behaviors.
Wrapping things up, children with autism have a unique way of processing information. Their learning styles are also different from other students. An individualized and holistic approach that addresses these individuals’ specific strengths, as well as challenges, is required to teach children with autism successfully.
Incorporate these practices when teaching autistic kids. Rest assured that you will be able to create a supportive and inclusive environment where children on this spectrum will thrive and reach their full potential.