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Autism Teaching Strategies to Use at Home and in the Classroom

April 9, 2021


Are you a parent who has realized that the traditional classroom may not be remunerative? If so, here you are, searching for ways to help your child with autism. 

Autism Teaching Strategies to Use at Home and in the ClassroomIt can be wearying for parents trying to determine which form of education might work best for their children. However, there are a number of autism teaching strategies which can help families assist their autistic child’s everyday learning in a setting that supports his/her needs. It’s also fundamental for teachers to know different strategies to help their learners with autism and to create an environment of calmness in their classrooms. 

This article rounds up some autism teaching strategies for parents to use at home, as well as teachers to use in the schoolroom. 

Autism teaching strategies for parents

Most children with autism are visual learners, meaning they learn best when they can visually see what is expected instead of verbally presented. Visual cues can help children with autism understand and retain skills and aid with communication. Visuals can be a picture, a drawing, a list, keywords, and much more. Here are some tips for use at home: 

Visual schedule

A visual schedule is a graphic representation of scheduled tasks and activities for the day. Visual schedules are beneficial for breaking down tasks with multiple steps to ensure all efforts have been completed. Visual schedules can help reduce anxiety by providing consistency for children with autism. Visual schedules are an excellent way to help ease transitions and reduce meltdowns for children. Parents can create their visual schedules for a home setting or school.

First-then cues

Many children with autism have difficulty focusing and engaging in activities they usually do not prefer. These are known as non-preferred activities. Parents need to help motivate and improve learning; they can use first-then cues. First-then cues will have a picture corresponding to the task that needs to be completed before engaging in the child’s more preferred activity. For example, a cue could include First (picture of what you are asking them to do) Then (pictures of a preferred activity they enjoy). This cueing helps children with autism work on following directions and is a way to help assist with learning new skills.

Find special interests as a teaching mechanism

Children with autism have particular preferences or special interests. This could be a television character, T.V. show, game, toy, etc. It may be beneficial for some parents to utilize their child’s particular interest to teach him/her new skills. For example, if a child has a specific interest in a character, you could use it to teach appropriate social skills. As a parent, you could make social stories with that character to show the accepted way of socializing with peers. 

Embody sensory tools

Some children with autism might have sensory processing dysfunction that can manifest in different ways, such as:

  • Language delays or deficits
  • Fine and gross motor delays
  • Sensory interests
  • Sensory aversions
  • Inability to interact with others
  • Inability to stay interacted
  • Repetitive sensory stereotypies (stimming)

Unfortunately, parents will have to determine what sensory tool works best for their child. Parents can assemble a sensory toolbox of activities and equipment that can be used at home or school. Items that could be added to this toolbox are fidget spinners, stress balls, water beads, ooze tubes, etc. There are so many options for parents to investigate. Parents can organize their sensory toolbox by activities for their hands, whole body, auditory products, oral products, visual, smell products, and light and deep touch. 


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Using social skills

Social skills and communication are often an area that autism learners struggle with. Regardless of the skill taught, social skills practice for children with autism is vital. Examples of teaching social skills include: Promote the practice of “everyday” social skills, such as greeting others, raising your hand to ask a question, saying “thank you”, asking permission for specific items, etc. It is crucial to always model these types of skills to promote learning. Teaching empathy is an essential skill to interact with others and be able to understand their feelings. An excellent way for parents to start teaching empathy is by printing pictures of different moods (smiling, crying, excited, etc.). This would be a great start to show visual cues of emotional states. 

Homeschooling teaching strategies

A traditional classroom setting is not always the ideal learning environment for children with autism. Some families therefore choose to homeschool their children on the spectrum; if you are a parent with a child with autism, you may be wondering where to start or if homeschooling will work for him/her. Here are some tips:

  • Parents can target learning to their child’s interests and strengths while finding ways to help with his/her challenges. For example, a child who loves cars can use cars to learn how to count, read, draw, pretend, etc. Parents can develop or find a program that helps with hands-on learning tools to support their child
  • Parents can support their child in an array of community settings, in which parents will be able to select the correct day and time that works best for their child. For example, a child may enjoy eating at his/her favorite fast-food restaurant, so parents could take him/her there to practice waiting for food
  • Parents can research their child’s appropriate experiences, based on his/her interests like trips to the playground, museum visits, swim lessons, etc. In some cases, parents can introduce new settings slowly and can leave whenever their child is ready
  • Children with autism can have some specific talents. Parents can encourage those talents in ways that some schools might not. For example, through dance classes, music therapy, art therapy, etc
  • Parents can look into more therapy opportunities for their children with autism. Many schools do not provide many therapies that may be beneficial for a child with autism. Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA) is a type of treatment that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, academics, and adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor, hygiene, grooming, etc. 

Autism teaching strategies for teachers

As a teacher, you can use strategies that help learners with autism continue to grow academically. Teachers can also model appropriate behavior for students with autism and help teach them socially acceptable manners. If you’re a teacher, ensure you make your classroom enjoyable. You could provide an “about me” section in your classroom with pictures of your favorite activities and people that matter to you. This will provide an environment that is welcoming and loving. Always remember to be calm and favorable to your learners with autism. Here are some more tips:

  • Keep any instruction or general classroom communication short, simple, and to the point. Kids with autism learn differently than their neurotypical peers. Provide opportunities to visualize, hear, touch, and interact with the words
  • Use the learner’s name first to address the learner directly. For example: “Brad, get your pencil.” While other students may pick up on social cues that you are addressing, a learner with autism may not notice unless they know the question is directed to them
  • Some students with autism might need additional time to process information, especially when it comes to verbal communication
  • As a teacher, it is vital to understand how children view the world and what matters to them. Through doing this, you can adapt your curriculum to help each student with autism
  • Most importantly, patience is crucial for a teacher. You will make mistakes. You will get frustrated, but it is essential to understand why specific topics are imperative to children with autism and help them understand how they can discuss them in a way that fits appropriately with social conventions

Conclusion

There are many autism teaching strategies for families to make use of which can help their children with autism: both in an everyday home setting and in a homeschooling classroom. It’s key to remember children with autism are visual learners. Also, a traditional classroom is not always ideal for children with autism, so some families might choose to homeschool. Lastly, teachers to students with autism need to get to know each of their pupils personally. This will help provide the teacher with the best techniques to help each child with autism grow and flourish.

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