6 Tips for Teaching Students with Autism
Take a look at the following success stories. You may recognise some of them. Albert Einstein was a successful mathematician and scientist. Anthony Hopkins continues to be one of the most bankable Hollywood stars. This is due to his role in some outstanding movies like Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Charles Darwin was a biologist, geologist, and Naturalist. On the list is twitter’s latest owner Elon Musk. Others are Steven Spielberg, Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford, and Bob Dylan.
Well, if you look at the list, it showcases amazing individuals. They are people who have made a significant impact on the world. What you may not know, or speculations, are rife that they are/were autistic.
So why is it important for us to start this article this way? The simple response is that some autistic individuals have amazing gifts. Gifts that, like any other child, we can uncover with the right education and support. Yet, teaching children with autism may need a little more specialisation. We will share valuable tips for teaching students with autism.
1. Enrol For The Right Autism Support Teacher Training
Certification for autism support teachers is not different from any other. But, with special education (SPED), there are extra assessments you must pass. Depending on the state, you may or may not need a master’s degree. Other states will also need a degree in SPED.
Please note that learning never ends. Most states need all teachers to keep up with training to renew licenses or certificates. And this requires taking specific courses for the teacher recertification credits. Please check your state’s education department for more details.
Online Graduate Courses for Teachers
Balancing life, work, and the demands of earning graduate credits are challenging. A viable option lies in signing up for online graduate courses for teachers. You can schedule the advanced courses when it is convenient for you. Self-paced learning also brings flexibility and convenience.
Continuing education for teachers is pretty affordable, thanks to online courses. There is no commuting or taking time off to get your teacher recertification credits.
2. Learn Everything You Can About Autism
Do take time to know all you can about autism. It will make it easier to understand why the students behave the way they do. Learn about things like social anxiety, repetitive behaviour, and sensory overload. All these are common manifestations of autism. Please sign up for specific advancement courses in SPED that address such topics.
With autism knowledge, it will make it easier to tailor-make lessons. No two autistic people are the same. Each has a unique profile that will need specific interventions. You must uncover individual interests, motivations, challenges, strengths, etc.
3. Be Consistent and Predictable
Anxiety is a very real concern for autistic persons. A disruption to their normal routine can be unsettling.
As the teacher, be consistent and predictable in everything you do. So, work on routines or schedules that they can adapt to. Also, be clear in your communication. Avoid hidden meanings, long explanations, or figurative speech.
Predictable behaviour does not mean that things will not happen that need change. That provides an opportunity to teach autistic students how to handle such scenarios. Your job is to allay any fears and help with a smooth transition.
4. Create a Conducive Learning Environment
Another concern for autistic persons is sensory overload. You will notice that many have an adverse reaction to loud noises. Movement and flashing lights can also create serious confusion for them.
- Ensure the following in creating a conducive learning environment.
- Avoid loud background noises like loud music.
- Let the student sit near natural light instead of under a fluorescent light.
- If you must use artificial light, look for bulbs that do not flicker.
- Allow the student to stand when they can. It helps with the self-calming rocking motions that are characteristic of autistic people.
- Incorporate plenty of visual cues when teaching. Such can help avoid lengthy explanations that the student may not understand.
- Use sensory toys to help overcome some of the sensory issues.
- Create a sanctuary or quiet corner for the students. It should be a calm environment where the child can cool off in.
5. Work On Yourself as A SPED Teacher
It would be misleading to think being a SPED is easy. Some days will be more demanding than others. Yet, you can expect a challenge daily, as each autistic student is unique.
Do sign up for the teacher recertification online courses. The 3 credit courses for teachers cover topics like understanding kids with Asperger’s. Other topics that can help are assertive discipline, dealing with aggression, etc.
Other personal self-development tips include:
- Learning to know when to take a step back. Autistic people are very perceptive and can pick up on your frustration. When things are getting too hard to manage, it is alright to disengage for a minute.
- Work on your patience, understanding, and respect. Not everything will, or has to, work out. Being too rigid and demanding will backfire on you.
- Have compassion and empathy. Put yourself in your autistic student’s shoes for a minute. Understand they don’t view the world as we do. It is easy for them to become aggressive due to frustration. If you don’t understand their reaction, it will be hard to help.
- Build a support network of other SPED teachers or support staff for help when you need it.
- Keep up with training and learn more about autism. The teacher recertification credits courses help with this. But, use all available resources, both online and offline, to develop yourself further.
6. Include Parents and Caregivers
Like any other student, pay attention to parents’ and caregivers’ important role. Make sure you have plenty of involvement from these groups. They are critical in coordinating learning and even tailor-making the lessons. Also, see how you can integrate what works outside of school into your lessons.
Becoming a SPED teacher is a calling in itself. The truth is, the best, award-winning teacher may not make it in such an environment. But compassion and a willingness to make a change are not enough.
We have looked at some tips for teaching autistic students above. The right training and a conducive learning environment are key. Please, don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.
Also, keep up with continuing education for teachers. So sign up for online graduate courses for your teacher recertification credits.