Structure the presentation of worksheets
When deciding how best to present work to all the class including the student with autism, it may be advisable to consider
- How to differentiate the materials?
- How will others interpret this differentiation particularly when holding the tent of providing an inclusive classroom?
- How the child or young person with autism will see this difference?
Timmons, Breitenbach and MacIsaac (2004) (Link to Educating Children about Autism in an Inclusive Classroom PDF) offer a range of support be recommend that when designing the programme, disclosure is essential and that the following questions are raised and answered. They feel that the
Points to Consider When Designing an Inclusive Classroom
Parents and Professionals working together are advised to consider the following and the impact on the child or young person with autism and the peer group.
“1. Does your child know that he or she has autism?
- Do you feel comfortable with the class knowing your child has autism?
- Do you think a presentation to the class would be beneficial?
- How would you like to be involved?
- Give information to the teacher
- Be part of the presentation to the class
- Provide written or picture information about your child
- Suggest another family member to participate in the presentation
- How would you like your child to be involved?
- Child in the room and part of the presentation
- Child in the room as a listener, but not a presenter
- Child not in the room
- Child as a co-presenter
- Can you suggest helpful strategies or techniques that may help peers interact with your child?
- Is there any specific information about your child you would like us to share?” (P.10)
It is only with this openness that the full group of children or young people understand the need for their individual needs to be met in an individual manner. The Autism Education Trust offers guidelines in support of the busy teacher and the inclusive school. (What is Good Practice in Autism Education?)
The National Autistic Society support the need for preparation before engaging with the class, including the student with autism. The following are seen as areas to be considered.
Top tips for helping Students with Autism to learn
The National Autistic Society 2015 Schools’ Autism Awareness Week: www.autism.org.uk/saaw
- Get the student’s attention before you give out instructions. You could call their name or go closer to them, but also stay aware of any issues they may have with being in close proximity to others.
- Use clear and consistent language. Try using visual clues or symbols along with words as this may make your instructions easier to follow. People with autism often find visual information extremely helpful.
- Give the child time to process information. Try using the six second rule: Count to six in your mind after giving an instruction.
- Make sure that you say what you mean. Avoid non-literal language such as metaphor, sarcasm and idioms without also giving a clear explanation of your meaning. You could spend some time teaching a student some common idioms and metaphors, explaining them in literal terms. They may like to compile a list of common terms they struggle with.
- Try to include demonstrations, activities and pictures in your lessons. People with autism learn better when they see things. Use realistic pictures as they might not be able to relate to unrealistic ones. Visual supports are very helpful in preparing for changes and explaining information.
- Make the lesson more explicit by relating to the child’s experience. Or try to give the child such an experience – after all, it’s easier to understand happiness when you’re feeling it. The golden rule is to proceed from concrete (what the child knows) to abstract (what you are asking them to imagine).
- Try to teach a new topic in as many situations as possible. Children with autism might find it difficult to ‘generalise’ a learnt skill or to apply a skill in a new way when in differing contexts. For example, if you are teaching addition, teach the child to add up using objects, numbers and finger counting. Don’t expect a student with autism to simply pick these things up, or to intuitively understand that horizontal and vertical additions are two ways of carrying out the same task.
- Keep things calm and simple. Autistic students will benefit from a quiet, distraction-free learning area. Because of their perceptual differences, too much noise, movement, bright colours and pictures will be difficult for most autistic students to cope with. Similarly, if you are using pictures to teach, try to avoid complicated pictures or pictures with too much information.
- Have consistent classroom rules and routines. It’s important your students with autism understand what you expect of them. Make sure rules are explained explicitly using visual supports and that rules set are followed by staff (there is little more damaging to trust and rapport than staff not working by the rules that they set for others!).
- Have clear consequences for rule-breaking. These should apply to the whole class (and staff – see above).
- Use ‘time-outs’. Having ‘time-out’ from a class can help a student recover from a stressful experience. Time-outs should be seen as meeting a need, not used as a reward for compliance or punishment.
- Use visual timetables. These help to provide structure and therefore reduce uncertainty and anxiety, helping the student to focus on their learning.
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As previously mentioned throughout Middletown Centre for Autism’s Online Resources, many children and young people with autism are visual learners and therefore, using this knowledge, we can use have a series of cue cards which tell the student which resources are necessary to carry out each activity. This promotes a sense of inclusion and satisfaction as the child or young person can independently prepare him or herself for the class activity.
Highlight directions, number the steps to complete harder tasks, and give an example of the completed task to help students transition to and from a work assignment. (Examples of graphic organisers)