5 ways to teach autistic children to create poems

poetry journal

By Chris Richardson

It’s been proven that working with autistic students’ creativity and stimulating their imagination enhances the learning process, and helps them absorb information faster. Teaching your students how to create poems is a great way for them to start accumulating new information, and progress in an activity that can give them lifelong satisfaction. Here are some great tips on how to do that.

1. Understand Whom You Are Teaching

First and foremost, it’s important to be patient when working with autistic children. Don’t force them to do something they don’t feel comfortable with. Keep it simple!

● Not all autistic children absorb information the same way; a one-size-fits-it-all approach is improper; being open-minded and innovative is crucial
● Speaking clearly in class is essential
● Being straightforward is a big plus, and it will make your job easier; they can become distracted with lengthy explanations.
Giving out specific instructions (with visual prompts) and directions, and breaking processes down into steps may help the student structure the poem.

Kaley Manfred, teacher at Oaks High, and content writer at Essay Geeks, shares her advice:

“Having preconceptions about autistic children and believing popular myths is wrong, and unprofessional. The key to effective teaching is letting go of prejudices, and learning how to work efficiently with each one of your kids.”

You must understand:

● Some autistic children may have difficulty identifying the emotion they are experiencing.
● Autistic children have differing abilities – one size doesn’t fit all.
● Curing autism is not possible. Work on nurturing skills and enhancing learning through their interests.

It’s crucial to keep an open mind and understand whom you are working with before starting to teach.

2. Read and Sing to Your Students

Some autistic children might have difficulty remembering what they’ve learned. However, others might have exceptional memories. In either case, you should adapt your teaching style according to the needs of each child.

● Think outside of the box. In order to help them create poems, you’ll want to teach them to appreciate poetry first. Sing and read to them! The act of singing can help them remember the poem.

Quick Tip #1:
Start with the subject or title first. Then have them write or say all words associated with that title. Make sure it’s something that they are interested in. For example, if the child likes Star Wars, create a poem about a character in Star Wars.

● Start by writing down the words of the poems or lyrics to a song on a piece of paper
● Make sure you start with fairly simple poems or lyrics
● Read them the poem from time to time, making sure first you have their attention. If a child becomes overwhelmed, take a break. Learning should be fun.

Quick Tip #2: If you want to make the process even funner, assign them new, engaging songs every day. Design a special dance to go along with the song. It will get their bodies moving and they may learn even faster!

Quick Tip #3: Repeat what they’ve learned already so they don’t forget it! Students learn from repetition – start each session with a poem they’ve already learned.

3. Design a PowerPoint

One of the easiest ways to teach children something new (especially poems and stories) is through PowerPoint presentations. Many autistic children benefit from visual prompts – they may learn faster by watching images and associating them with the content they must learn. Videotapes work as well.

● After reading and singing to them, open up a PowerPoint with images
● For each verse that you are reciting/singing, pick a special image or a video, and include them in your presentation
● For more fun teaching sessions, you could even pick GIFs, or short videos

Children will associate the images with the content you are trying to teach them, and it make both of your lives so much easier!

4. Inspire your students

It’s important to keep your students motivated throughout the entire learning process, and give them inspiration for creating something new. Motivation is the key to success for any individual Besides “making the process fun for them,” you should also:

● Get to know each student on a personal level and develop an emotional bond with them
● Notice when they feel comfortable and what makes them uncomfortable. If they are distracted by something in the room, alter the environment.
● Create a supportive system that makes them feel safe and loved
● Encourage them to aim high and set personal goals
● Emphasize the positive – accentuate their great outcome and show appreciation for their effort

Teaching poetry and telling stories is not enough. In order to work properly with your children and teach them well, they must trust you. Therefore, you must inspire them, and inspire in them the confidence they need.

Quick Tip #4: Break your class into small groups. Have them work together to create a poem. This will also help them with team work and social skills, which many autistic children lack.

5. Associate Drawing with Poetry

Last but not least, one of the best activities that could help your children develop creativity is drawing. After you’ve sang, danced, and worked together on understanding meaningful images, it’s time to start creating something new.

Ask them to draw something they are thinking about. After they start drawing, ask them to find words for every single item they’ve drawn. Put the words together, and create a simple poem. Next time, try something more difficult. Keep going, until they reach a higher level of sophistication in developing the poetry.

Quick Tip #5: Encourage them to carry a journal where they can jot notes or pictures that inspire them throughout the day.

Conclusion

When working with autistic children, understand the basics, let go of preconceptions, sing and recite to them, design PowerPoints to help them visualize new concepts, inspire them, and help them create something new in a nurturing environment.

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Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor, and a blogger. He loves to write, learn new things, and meet new outgoing people. Chris is also fond of traveling, sports, and playing the guitar. Follow him on Google+.

The Art of Autism is seeking submissions of poetry and art for its 3rd annual Poems and Art for Peace. Email Keri@normalfilms.com with your submission.

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