Teaching Children with Autism
There has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism or other autism spectrum disorders. It is likely as an educator that you will have at least one child with this diagnosis in your classroom. This paper explores some of the methods used to teach autistic children.
Autism is a disorder characterized by significant problems in communication and social functioning. Autism is actually called Autism Spectrum Disorder and encompasses a broad range disabilities such as Asperger syndrome, Rett’s Syndrome, and Pervavasive Development Disorder (Dunlap & Fox, n.d.). There are also varying degrees of the disorder from low-functioning (no communication and no social interaction) to high-functioning (some communication and inappropriate but existent social skills.)
One of the most difficult things teachers will face when dealing with Autistic children is their lack of communication skills and inappropriate or nonexistent social skills. In addition to academic instruction children with Autism require instruction in communication techniques and social skills. Kamps et.al. says “A key to accommodating students with autism in public school settings is the provision of social and behavioral programming to develop meaningful participation with nondisabled persons” (p.174).
There are many techniques that are useful in teaching children with autism communication and social skills. One method is the Responsive Classroom, an instructional approach that integrates the teaching of academic and social skills as an aspect of everyday classroom life (Sapona & Winterman, 2002, p. 30).
According to Sapona and Winterman (2002) teachers implementing this model in their classroom include six components:
- Morning meetings
- Classroom organization
- Rules and logical consequences
- Guided discovery
- Academic choice
- Family communication strategies
There are many benefits to implementing this style with autistic children. Holding morning meetings helps autistic children by establishing a common routine that begins the student’s day in a predictable pattern (Sapona & Winterman, 2002, p. 31). Autistic children often need predictable routines, and a highly organized and structured environment in order to function.
Since autistic children need routine there are some tips teachers can implement to make it easier for their autistic students:
- Highlight most important concepts
- Establish alternate modes for completing assignments
- Prepare the students
- Maximize comprehension and content retention
- Graphic and visual organizers
- Mnemonic devices (Marks et. al., 2002)
Students with autism can become overwhelmed very easily by even minor deviations from the routine. It is important to be sensitive to the way autistic children function so that their potential can be reached.
To encourage the development of social skills students are encouraged to interact with one another throughout the...