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Teaching Kids With Autism

In education today, the number of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is on the rise. In the classroom, you might have children who have been diagnosed with ASD from various sides of the spectrum, ranging from forms of autism described as “high-functioning” to nonverbal or nonspeaking autism. Teaching children with autism might seem overwhelming, but there are strategies out there which teachers can use to create a supportive and inclusive classroom.

Strategies Within the Classroom

A student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is the first step in understanding what needs a particular student might have within the classroom. Children with autism sometimes have strategies and accommodations included in their IEP, which have helped them be successful in the past. Importantly, as noted by Autism Speaks, “Accommodations are not privileges. They are rights.”

In addition, there are more generic strategies you can use that may help students with ASD succeed:

  • Set clear classroom rules, procedures and predictable schedules.
  • Create a comfortable classroom environment, keeping in mind the sensory issues students might have.
  • Communicate clearly, giving time for students to process.
  • Be sensitive to and help teach social skills.
  • Be flexible and supportive when it comes to alternative forms of participation.
  • Support students through the range of transitions they experience, from everyday transitions to the official transition plans created for students with IEPs.

These strategies may not work immediately. However, constant reminders, clear expectations and a comfortable, inclusive environment can help students with autism feel and be successful in the classroom. An online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Special Education from Lamar University can help prepare you for teaching children with autism through the study of various strategies and cutting-edge research.

Other Strategies

Interactions with students with autism aren’t always in the classroom. You might encounter these students in the halls, during assemblies or in other activities around school. Even if you don’t have students with ASD in your class, there are strategies you can use when interacting with them.

In general, you should avoid using figurative speech like idioms when talking with these students. Students with ASD may take speech very literally. This can make idioms like “it’s raining cats and dogs” very confusing. Also, if students don’t understand what you just said, try rewording the sentence using clearer language. Similarly, avoid using sarcasm when talking to children with autism. These students may have trouble with pragmatic language, making it difficult to distinguish a sarcastic tone.

Teaching students with ASD might feel scary, but there are strategies out there that can help you within the classroom. New research comes out all the time about working with students with autism. With an M.Ed. in Special Education, you can be at the forefront of learning about this research, which can help make you — and your students — more comfortable and successful in the inclusive classroom.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in Special Education program.

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