By Rachel Summers
Many people see teaching autistic children as an extra challenge, as many of them don’t learn in conventional ways. However, teaching an autistic child simply requires you to look at teaching in a different way. Below are some methods educators can use when teaching a child, that will help them get the most out of their education. Creating rapport and engaging the child is key.
Make The Most Of The Child’s Interests
Many autistic children can develop fixations on things that interest them. Their interests could be superheroes, trains, maps, or anything else you can think of. If your child does this, then you can use that to their advantage.
“A child that is being given teaching materials that fit in with their interests will be much more likely to get involved” says professional teacher Diane Simmons from Australian Reviewer.
“It’s much easier to encourage them to write or try math calculations if it relates to what they’re into right now.” For example, if a child likes trains try writing a train timetable, or plotting a route for a train on a map.
Develop Their Muscles
Writing can be a particular challenge for autistic children, as they still need to develop their fine motor skills. As this is the case, it can be a good idea to develop those skills first, before moving into writing proper.
For example, try giving the child something soft to squeeze, such as Play-Doh or a stress ball. The more their muscles develop, the harder objects they can start using. You can also ask them to draw on a vertical surface, as drawing or painting up and down can help develop muscles in the hand and wrist.
Be Aware Of Sensory Overload
Learning anything can lead to sensory overload in autistic children. New sights, sounds, and textures can sometimes be overwhelming. Teachers sometimes find that the child is resistant to new learning, yet may not understand that the child’s environment is critical.
“When this happens with my daughter, I take it at her pace” says parent Richard Farrow from UK Services Reviews. “We slow down, and break the task into smaller chunks.
“That way, she can avoid being overloaded and focus on learning.”
Try Teaching with Visual Props
For many autistic children, it’s easier to learn if they’re given the option to learn visually. Some autistic children think in pictures rather than words, so modelling this in your teaching style can help them process information.
For example, think about how you would teach words to a child. When you’re teaching nouns, it’s quite simple to show a picture of that object, alongside the word. For verbs, you may need to get creative. Imagine you’re teaching the concepts of “up” and “down.” You may want to show “up” by using a toy airplane going up in the air, and “down” by showing it land.
Offering Alternate Means Of Communication
Many autistic children are not able to express themselves in the same ways as their typical peers. Up to 1/3 of autistic children are non-verbal, so it can feel as though teaching them is more challenging. Thankfully, with some creativity and technology, this doesn’t need be the case.
With the development of iPads in recent years, it can be easier than ever to communicate with a child. There’s lots of APPS and software available that can help them with communication and expressing their needs. Picture cards, a lo fi alternative, can help them understand emotions and ask for help.
It’s true for all students that a change in regular teaching patterns can help enormously, but this is especially true for autistic children. When regular teaching methodologies aren’t working, changing things up can make a difference.
For example, using music to teach can help children understand a concept. “Autistic children can often find it helpful to sing or chant, rather than learn from a blackboard” says Huffington Post editor and researcher Jessica Powell. “The repetition helps them get the hang of an idea, and can be much more meaningful for them.”
Constantly look for teaching ideas that are outside of the box, as this could be the thing that helps a child get the most out of their learning.
Teach At The Child’s Pace
Finally, always look to the child to set the pace for learning. Look for signs of frustration, fatigue, and being overwhelmed. If you go at their speed, they’ll be much more receptive to you, and you’ll help them enjoy learning with you.
These tips and methods will help you teach in a way that fits the child. It’s amazing just how changing your own perspective and techniques can help a child learn and grow.
Rachel Summers works with students that need extra help with their studies. She’s done this through several different agencies, including UK Top Writers. This experience has taught her just how different students learn. She brings that experience to the articles she writes. Find more articles by Rachel Summers here.