HOW TO TEACH EFFECTIVELY IN A CLASS WITH AUTISTIC STUDENTS
Not all teachers are fully trained to teach a class that’s composed of both neurotypical and autistic students. But with the current educational setting where high-functioning autistic students are allowed to be fused together with neurotypical students in the same class, there is now an existing pressure for educators to step up their game and be able to act as a valuable teacher for both types of students. To educators, there is a continuing struggle to provide the best educational experience for students who are on the autism spectrum. Your priority is to give them a learning environment that’s expected to be different from what most basic schools are offering, given the nature of their disorder. You also have to deal with their unique and challenging behaviors brought by their autism features in such a way that is not only understanding of their condition but also nurturing in a sense. Acting like their second parent is a big role to play as a teacher, which is why you don’t only need the right tools and equipment to become an effective educator, you also have to learn the proper ways of communicating and interacting with your autistic students. To maximize your teaching efficiency for your autistic students’ valuable education and to help them develop into more equipped and trained individuals on the spectrum, here are the most important tips that you can include in your teaching methodology.
- Hand out tasks in a very specific and sequenced manner. Autistic individuals take words in their literal sense and find it difficult to follow orders that are not arranged. Help them execute the tasks properly by using very specific words and providing order to your instructions. Your sentence structure must not be too long otherwise you will be giving your autistic students a hard time figuring out what it means. As much as possible, break your statements and phrases into simpler ones. If you’re writing the instructions on the board for homework and projects, be sure to number the tasks accordingly.
- Train your autistic students some basic social skills that they need to observe in a classroom setting, such as taking turns in talking or answering, and the time constraints that they must consider when taking their turn. Those on the spectrum can invade other’s personal space without them really knowing it, which may put their classmates at an awkward situation and discourage them to engage with your autistic students. In this regard, teach the latter how to maintain the proper social distance and how to be more considerate when engaging with their classmates.
- Avoid giving your autistic students a handful of choices in answering a specific question. As much as possible, limit the number of choices to three because they can easily get confused and anxious when given a set of choices and find it hard to arrive at a decision easily. The use of open-ended questions is also discouraged as it will only make answering tougher for autistic students. Questions that are answerable by a “yes” or “no” are much preferred.
- It is also possible that your autistic student will only respond with a quiet stare to your question at some point in class simply because they did not understand it, so it is not fair to end their turn or opportunity to answer because of it. Instead, you may try to ask them if they understood the question or not, and then start rephrasing it if they said they didn’t.
- Sarcasms and idioms must not be used to address an autistic student in the classroom. If the student did a violation or a mistake in class, saying the word “great” to express your frustration will only lead the student to believe that it was a good thing to do. Instead of using the phrases “zip your lips” or “this assignment is just a piece of cake”, just say “keep quiet” or “this assignment is easy”.
- Have your class follow a definite routine of activities. From saying the daily prayer to falling in line and getting out of the classroom, all the things that must be done by the whole class should follow a specific pattern that is regularly performed. Of course, not all the things should be the same. The discussion and interactions during lessons can be different as long as your autistic students know that the daily routines are not disrupted. When there are factors that can cause a change of routine, make the information known to your autistic student as early as possible. This is to avoid overwhelming the student due to a sudden change in the routine they’re used to.
- Use visual aids and other presentation methods to guide the students on what you want them to achieve. Without having a specific reference, your autistic student may not be able to know whether the task has been completed or not. Show them what the completed task looks like, or tell them how near they are at completing it.
- Do rechecks of the autistic student’s understanding on instructions you’ve given. There are instances when they feel too embarrassed to ask the second time. To make sure that they know what they have to do, call out their names and raise their attention whenever you’re about to give the class instructions. You can also have a one-on-one consultation with the student to check up on the given task.
- Minimize sources of distraction and sensory discomfort for your autistic student. Make sure that they are not experiencing any over or under stimulation of sensory responses, and that there’s nothing that can distract them during class. If there are activities where sensory issues are inevitable, you can allow the student not to participate in the said activity.
- To further enhance their attentiveness in class, link the discussion to some topics that are of their interest. Autistic individuals are more likely to show eagerness in social interaction and communication when the topic discussed is one that they’re interested in.