Do you have a student with autism in your classroom this year? Whether you are a veteran teacher or just starting out, you may be wondering how to help your student be successful in your classroom. Here you will find 12 inclusion tips for your classroom. I would like to thank Emily, from Education to the Core for the wonderful opportunity to stop by and share with you today.
Guest Post by Lisette from Speech Sprouts
If you have questions, reach out to your SLP, occupational therapist or special education teacher. Believe me, no one has all the answers for every child. Teaming up can make a huge difference!
Students with autism have a wide variety of abilities and challenges. Here are strategies that can help.
1. Reduce Sensory Overload.
Survey your room and setting from a sensory point of view, remove distractors, and make modifications if possible.
Many children with autism lack the ability to tune out the sensory information around them (things you and I may not ordinarily notice), leaving them feeling overwhelmed.
Watch for sounds, smells and sights. Noisy hall? Flickering lights? Clicking noise from a fan? Do you wear perfume? Try a lamp for soft lighting, move a noisy neighbor, play soft music during work, use a study carrel, or offer noise-canceling earphones.
2. Provide a structured routine. Use a schedule.
Your student finds it comforting to know what she should be doing, and what will happen next. (Including when to expect a break or playtime). Use first-then statements. “First math, then computer time.”
Use a visual or written schedule. It can be student-specific or a general classroom schedule depending on what is recommended for your student. Your SLP can help you with this.
Teachers often tell me their student doesn’t need to use a schedule because they know the routine. You probably use a planner. You know your regular routine, but your planner alerts you to upcoming changes. A schedule serves this purpose for your student.
3. Warn your student ahead of time to expect changes.
Assemblies, fire drills or even eating lunch in the room for a special event may cause anxiety. Even transitions from classroom to another area can cause fear of the unknown. I know a student who clearly expressed to me “I don’t like new things.”
Give your student a warning that change is coming. “In five minutes we will line up to go to recess. In two minutes we will line up to go to recess. It’s time to line up to go to recess.”
4. Use visuals.
Difficulty processing auditory information is often a challenge for students with autism. Visual learning is often a strength. Provide pictures, write instructions on the board, demonstrate what you need done.
5. Talk less, show more. Give oral instructions in as few words as possible.
Pause for processing time. Some students may need as long as 30 seconds or more. Then repeat if needed. Taking too much, particularly when a student is already upset, may increase anxiety or even trigger a meltdown.
6. Use concrete, simple wording.
Avoid idioms, sarcasm. “It’s raining hard outside.” is better than “It’s raining cats and dogs.” You may find your student looking outside for the cats and dogs. Students with autism often take things quite literally.
7. Avoid open-ended questions. Give limited choices.
Do you want a cracker or a cookie?” is preferable to “What do you want to eat?”
Stick to just two or three choices. Too many choices can produce anxiety. I knew a little boy that would melt down in the toy store, when presented with a shelf full of Lego sets and asked which one he wanted.
8. Have direct, explicit rules and expectations.
Write them, post them, show them. Don’t expect your student will automatically know them. If she is to hang up her backpack, sit down, and get out her spelling words each morning, be sure to be clear about what is expected, and in what sequence.
9. Build in breaks.
Your student may need break time in her routine. Be sure your student knows they are there, when to expect them, or how to ask for them.
Even five minutes in a quiet place, a walk up and down the hall, or listening to soft music can make a big difference, help her be ready to learn and help avoid melt-downs. Provide a limited number of breaks so it is not used to avoid a task. Try offering three break cards he can turn in to you.
10. Teach social skills directly.
Understanding social expectations can be very difficult for your student. Teach “friend maker” positive behaviors such as greeting others in the morning. Teach that behaviors such as yelling or telling someone you do not like their clothes are “friend breakers.”
11. Special interests can be used to motivate your student.
If he obsesses over Jurassic park, you may have him adding and subtracting dinosaurs. Loves airplanes? Measure how far from take-off to landing.
12. Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff.
If your student does better standing up to work, that’s okay. If group work makes her anxious, offer her an independent assignment. If he makes a rude remark, don’t take it personally, just teach the expectation. Celebrate successes, large and small!
Help your student be successful across his day. I created a freebie for you to help you communicate your tips with other staff members. Download this tip HANDOUT and a personalized “About Me” sheet to share what works for your fantastic, unique student at Speech Sprouts on TpT.
My name is Lisette, and I am passionate about building awesome speech and language skills as the foundation for learning and life. I’m a speech language pathologist who works with children from PK-4th grade. I want to thank Emily for the invitation to guest-post on her wonderful blog, Education to The Core. If you enjoyed this post, be sure share it or pin it to your favorite Pinterest boards!