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Children With Autism in the Classroom

Children With Autism in the Classroom

Pat Hensley

At the SCCEC Conference, another session I attended was “Help! I’m an LD Teacher and I have a Student with Autism!” The presenters were Denise Webster (Autism Specialist) and Thomas DePeal (LD resource teacher). They talked about the characteristics of students with autism spectrum disorders and also gave classroom strategies for working with these students.

From the presentation:

• In 1980, the autism rates were 1 in 10,000. In January 2010 – 1 in 110. 1 in 315 girls. 1 in 70 boys

Communication issues: Very “direct” individuals, Trouble following directions, Trouble with jokes, sarcasm, and figurative language, Written and oral responses may not reflect true knowledge, May not know how to ask for help, Takes long time to process verbal instructions (getting started)

Social issues: Prefers solitary activities, Problems with group work and interactive lessons, Trouble making friends, Easy targets for bullying and teasing

Behavior issues: Strong and inflexible adherence to rules, Rituals and preoccupation with preferred topics/objects, Easily overwhelmed by minimal change, Unstructured times are the worst because they are unpredictable (socially, transition), Recess, lunch, PE, bus, changing classes, etc.

Academic Issues: Variable abilities across areas, Concrete/Literal thinkers, May develop expertise in area of interest, Difficulty making connections, Difficulty shifting attention, May respond atypically to sensory input, Lights, sounds, touch, etc.

Reduce Anxiety by:

• Carefully consider classroom seating assignments • Be aware of sensory concerns and provide sensory stimuli as needed. Build sensory breaks into daily schedule if needed, • Vigorously but respectfully maintain class rules and boundaries • Provide a predictable structure and prepare the children in advance for transitions or changes in schedules. • Use “priming” for social situations, changes, and test taking. • Use of “red” cue to teach self-monitoring through stoplight or thermometer • Provide “safe haven” or quiet area • Monitor your own nonverbal and paraverbal communication. • Don’t argue – redirect • Don’t assume they can read body language, facial expressions…Be direct! Explain feelings. • Visuals (Visuals are processed better than words because they don’t go away immediately!) • Provide weekly/monthly agendas • Clearly organize information on your board. • Provide question cards (color coded). • Provide instruction cards (cue cards). • Provide “turn cards” for answering questions. • Consistent system to signal an activity change. • Collect assignments in a routine way. • Post daily schedule (visual schedule). • Avoid jokes and sarcasm.

Social Skills Strategies

• Use social stories for providing direction and to teach social skills • Use the “peer buddy” system (with caution) • Offer opportunities for “structured play” during recess and “free time” • Practice “appropriate” interactions (asking for help, initiating and facilitating interactions with peers). One strategy – video modeling • Training on feelings, emotions, and body language • Class environment conducive to risk taking.

Academic Strategies:

• Adjust order of instruction. • Use guided notes and advance organizers. • Vary group/independent work arrangements. • Schedule benchmarks for long assignments. • Color coded assignment folders. • Use notebook to organize • Minimize “self-selection” of work • May need to modify assignments for students who MUST finish before going on. • “Finish Later” file / folder / box

Do you have any other strategies to add to the list? If so, please share!

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