“You knock, but no one responds …” Most of the teachers, and parents, confront this play when they teach autistic children. They do not perceive how to actually teach if children do not have the ability to process information. In addition, discrepant behaviors, strict routines, and puzzling perspectives make the teaching sessions even more distressful.
Children with autism often spurn the teaching methods of their teachers. They want someone who can see, hear, and feel the world through their perspective; a teacher who can look inside their minds and talk in their terms and rules. That type of teacher connects with them emotionally and helps them to learn new things faster.
Over 50% parents of autistic children consider that the schools do not provide the right support. And, the right support of the right teachers in the schools can make an intense difference in their children's lives. In a way, this is true. In a 2011 survey, 43% of young autistic people revealed that they feel their teachers do not know enough about their condition. Their teaching methods upset their feelings and compel them to face annoying repercussions.
Autism is the fastest growing disorder today, and only 56% of students with autism finish high school. This statistic indicates that how much we need to learn about autism and see autistic children as they are, not as we want them to be. Therefore, I've put together 19 important things that you need to learn before teaching autistic children.
1 – You must keep the meanings of your sentences simple. The more your sentences stay simple and short, the more the child understands you and achieve high marks in subjects.
2 – Many autistic children born without filtering systems. The absence of filters compels their conscious minds to assimilate every bit of information in supreme detail and does not permit them to keep up with the pace. This is the actual reason why most of the autistic kids are slow learners.
3. “Provide support according to the need.” Several examples, and researches, have proven time and time again that children with autism have the ability to reach their goals with the final progress. Daryl Hannah (American film actress), Peter Howson (Scottish painter), and Clay Marzo (American professional surfer) are those famous people who have reached the heights of success with the right help and support according to their needs.
4 – According to Antonia Hamilton, associate professor in psychology at University of Nottingham (June 2007 – July 2013) and senior lecturer at University College London, “Typical children imitate everything an adult does, whereas autistic children only do the actions that really need to do. ” This finding helps the teachers, and the parents, to understand the general nature of induction of autistic children.
5 – In his book 'The Miller Method', Dr. Arnold Miller assures that children with autism learn best through action. Learning through action engagements the child with you and teach him how to move easily from one location to another.
6 – In autism, each child is different, and the reasons and treatments are different too.
7. During researches, it seems that children with autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have the ability to switch off their senses for securing themselves – when they can not deal with change or flooding sensory information. It is as though the eyes quit seeing and the ears quit listening. They do not react at all and withdraw into their own world.
8 – Limit the amount of choices and give simple, interesting instructions. Because, multiplearious choices flare up anxious feelings and fluster minds. The more you keep things simple and limited, the more children grasp the message and follow you.
9 – Children with ASD can feel anxiety about being too physically near to people. This is the reason why they often do not hug or greet with happiness.
10 – The fanaticism with which autistic kids partake in their favorite activities makes them different from typical children. When some activity absorbs their attention, they ignore requests, orders, and questions. It's like the spell of the activity dominating their hearts and controls their minds.
11 – Many autistic kids think in pictures. Words are like a second language. Therefore, it's always better to read picture books or tell stories through different and interesting photos. Substantial studies have demonstrated that reading with pictures strengnthens concentration, develops discipline, improves basic speech skills, and engages the child with you on an emotional and psychological level.
12 – Autistic children grow on strict routines. Routines are more than a need for them. However, this is dangerous in the long-run, because unaltered and strict routines hinder their potential for development. That's why, it's important to introduce a small amount of changes into their daily habitual systems in order to help them learn to deal with the changes. For instance, tell them stories from a new position, drink water in front of them from different shape bottles, or use more energetic and happy body-language.
13 – Dr. Letitia Naigles, professor at the University of Connecticut, tells us, “Children with ASD understand more than they can show.” If they find communal interaction challenging, it does not mean that they do not understand what's happening around them.
14 – Many autistic children are exceptionally sensitive to sound, touch, and other sensory stimulation.
15 – More than 50% children with ASD face bullying at school. As a teacher, and parent too, it's your moral duty to protect the children, since a certain kind of bullying can be responsible for introducing suicidal thoughts in the child's mind.
16. Orders of repetitive behaviors in the very same manners are quite common in autism. For example, closing windows again and again for no obvious reason, touching the teacher's table every time the child enters into the classroom, or lining up the toys with obsession. These types of repetitive behaviors can also be a child's way to deal with anxiety.
17 – From time to time, “Ask for help.” Ask the children to help you in picking up the chair or cleaning up the mess. Most of the children with ASD love to help and put everything in its proper order. In addition, this strategy engages the children with you and boosts their self-esteem.
18 – Children with ASD do not care what you think about their interest and obsession. They invite you in their activity when they feel you can increase the fun level. Your participation in their activity definitely helps you to teach them how to develop meaningful social skills and relationships.
19 – Self-Injurious Behaviors – head-banging, finger wiggling, excess self-rubbing, nail biting, and careless running – are the signs of anxiety and panic. It's better to stop the activities whenever you notice these behaviors in the child, because he can show rage in unexpected ways. Give him some time to absorb his feelings and water down the situation by eliminating that specific activity which causes problems for the child.
Lastly, do not associate every behavior of the child with ASD. I have seen many teachers and parents who turn 5% of the problem into 95%. Do not do this. Children have their own nature too – some are introverts, some are extroverts; some are artists, some are idealists; some are thinkers, some are doers. Just understand them and love them. Sooner or later in your life, you will be proud of them and their success.