SUPERVISING AUTISTIC STUDENTS IN ARTS, MUSIC, AND P.E. CLASSES
Are you a teacher to a diverse class of both neurotypical and autistic students? There really is no easy way to put it in terms of finding a good teaching methodology that can work for both types of students, but it is certainly possible. You may not be comfortable enough giving basic lessons and activities for the whole class, thinking that you might compromise the learning process of your autistic students. Add to that the fact that you are still in the process of learning how to mentor autistic students, you may feel unprepared and confused on what to do. But with a dash of resourcefulness and a positive attitude which are your unique strengths as a teacher, you’ll be able to come up with a dozen alternatives and solutions to these existing problems. In terms of class subjects that you’ll have to commit to the whole class, arts, music, and physical education are some of the most challenging areas to tackle when considering the neurodevelopmental disorder that some of your students may have, specifically autism. With this in mind, it is only right to think of the ways on how you can accommodate your autistic students’ needs and features while highlighting or maximizing their strengths.
Widen your knowledge about autism in general
Most teachers crumble on the pressure of having to mentor autistic students in a typical classroom setting. Instead of getting discouraged by the thought that you might not be up for the task, start learning about your student’s disorder in order to come up with a modified and better teaching approach for the entire class. Widening your knowledge about autism can be achieved in many ways, one of which is through reading both physical publications and online sources. There are a lot of literature and articles about autism which you can easily find nowadays that it apparently leaves no excuse for someone such as an educator to not have a deeper understanding or knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder when the situation necessitates. To further increase your correct perception about the disorder, you can watch videos on the web that not only discuss ASD but also provides tips and guide in dealing and interacting with autistic individuals.
Delve deeper into the individual’s autistic nature
Not all autistic individuals are the same, which means that after studying the overall topic of autism, you have to understand the student’s personality and behaviour and specific autism features that they exhibit. Applying what you have learned without knowing the distinctive characteristics of the student will only make your efforts go to waste because not all the guides are applicable in all cases of autism. Only after knowing your autistic student’s idiosyncratic traits shall you be able to come up with a specific teaching strategy in these challenging class subjects.
Music Teaching Approach
- Some autistic persons have the tendency to seek sensory stimuli and might not control themselves to acquire more. If your student can’t seem to get enough touching or playing the musical instruments, it would help control the situation if you put a visual marker or signage that prohibits them from touching or playing the instruments.
- Schedules for rehearsals of upcoming music activities should be posted in a visually clear calendar or bulletin to keep students updated.
- Some autistic students might excel in home practice rather than at school, which is why you need to make a taped or recorded version of the whole musical piece and let them bring it at home to practice.
- It is important that you do not constrain your autistic students too much in music practices. Let them take a break and allow them to move around during break time. It will also make them more engaged if you reward them with something after a whole rehearsal session but in an educational way, such as allowing them to play the musical instrument they like or giving them a good musical piece that suits their interest.
Arts Teaching Approach
- For projects that take more than one sitting or those that are composed of multiple procedures, inform your class beforehand so that the autistic student will have the idea that they have to be thorough with it. Provide a schedule for each part of the project, and markers that will indicate the specific percentage of completion. If the autistic student tends to overdo it and proceeds to the next step in advance, call out their attention and warn them that it’s enough for that day.
- If the art project requires you to demonstrate in front of the class and you see your autistic student drawing something on the art material, do not reprimand them if it’s not really necessary. After all, they can still consult you and you can still be able to check their progress.
- It is also helpful if you have in the classroom a specific drawer or cabinet where kids can access art materials such as drawing paper where they can doodle while you are demonstrating a long process or if the student finishes ahead of time and got nothing else to do.
- If P.E. uniforms is a must, have the autistic student change their outfit at least 5 minutes ahead of their neurotypical classmates.
- The space for performance can be adjusted to address spatial awareness issues. You can have the activity on a smaller area if the autistic student has difficulty maintaining balance in a wide space.
- For team sports that have complicated rules and a variety of terms or techniques, simplify the objective or goal of the game in one or two sentences. When the autistic student seems to be having difficulty executing specific moves, assist them while they practice.
- If possible, introduce physical fitness activities that do not require the class to compete with each other. You can create exercise routines that everybody will have to follow without the need to emphasize that someone is excelling.