Teaching children with autism can present a number of challenges, whether you are a professional teacher or a parent providing home schooling. In this edition of the Jobskin® blog, we'll share some strategies that can make the teaching process easier and more rewarding for both teacher and pupil.
The Importance of Routine
Children with autism respond best when they have a fixed routine in place, from the moment they get up in the morning until bedtime arrives at night and at every point in between. Stick to specific times for specific activities. The routine should be tailored to the unique personality traits of the child and should be followed consistently. If the routine is going to be changed or disrupted in any way, give the child as much notice as possible and explain clearly what is going to happen and why. Allow the child time to process the information. The result will be a child who is more receptive to learning and also to many other daily activities such as playing and eating meals.
Short and Sweet
It will help a child with autism to make your instructions as short as possible, using simple and clear language. For example, a relatively long and complex sentence like 'Now we are going to learn about multiplication so open your maths book and we will begin' could be cut much shorter: simply saying 'open your maths book' will be far more effective.
Strengthening Social Skills
Many children with autism struggle to understand the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour; common challenges include teaching the importance of sharing and personal space. It's vital to help children with autism learn these skills so that, as they grow older, they are better equipped to integrate with others. Don't be discouraged if this process takes a lot of time: just continue repeating the crucial lessons and they will gradually sink in.
Offering too many choices to a child with autism is counterproductive and can be a great source of frustration for them. Being frustrated in this way is likely to result in misbehaviour or even a full-on meltdown. For example, if it's reading time then don't lead a child to the bookcase: a choice of just two or three books will suffice.
Repeat and Reinforce
When asking a child with autism to complete a task, it is a good idea to repeat the instructions at least twice. Then check if the child has understood what you have asked them to do; if they haven't, repeat once again. Always remember to keep your instructions brief and to-the-point as described above.
Children with autism can often experience lapses in concentration and may not understand or even hear an instruction you have given to them. Before proceeding, address the pupil directly by name and ensure that you have their attention. After giving an instruction, check that they have heard and understood.
Do you have any tips that you could add to this list that might help others? If you are a teacher, parent or carer, we would love to hear from you so please get in touch! Together, we can make teaching children with autism a more productive and rewarding experience, promoting inclusivity and working towards a better world.