We are often faced with overwhelming amounts of information on how best to support students with Autism in the mainstream classroom. While every child is unique, and thus has unique needs, below are some general tips in the forms of DOs and DON’Ts to help guide you.
- Expect students to follow social expectations like greeting others.
- Expect students to participate in specialist lessons, assemblies and special events provided they are given warnings about changes to routine.
- Expect that verbal messages will be quickly forgotten – visual prompts will be the best way to reinforce all learning.
- Expect students to follow classroom rules but make some allowances for the following: the need to move around for sensory input; calling out answers due to inability to read social cues; and being off-task due to a narrow range of interests.
- Talk about students in front of them. They may appear not to be listening but they hear and understand more than you think.
- Ask students to make eye contact, especially if they are in trouble. Your message will be lost while they are focused on looking.
- Assume students are being deliberately rude when they question your authority. Inflexible thinking patterns, which is a key trait of Autism, often leads to a lack of understanding of rules and expectations.
- Believe the myth that children with Autism don’t want friends. They want to make friends and be connected with others – they often just don’t know how. It’s part of your job to teach them.
- Think that, just because a student is quiet, they are coping with the sensory demands of the classroom. Many children withdraw inwardly, appearing to daydream, when they are experiencing sensory overload.