Here are 13 effective ways to support an autistic college student, suitable for implementation by parents and teachers alike.
1. Study autism
The more you know about autism, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions for your child or students. Ask questions and educate yourself about different treatment options. Both parents and teachers can participate in the treatment options available.
2. Know the student
Parents, teachers, or professors need to know what triggers a students’ disruptive or challenging behaviors and what stimulates positive responses. What does the student find frightening, uncomfortable, stressful, and calming? If you understand, you’ll be in a better position to solve problems and prevent situations that are challenging.
3. Accept the child
According to Nerdy Writers, parents and teachers should accept the child with all his/her strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on the autistic side all the time will affect how you treat or behave towards the student. Enjoy the child’s weaknesses and strengths. Celebrate the small wins. And most importantly, don’t compare the child or student to others. All your child wants is to feel loved and accepted unconditionally.
4. Do not give up
Do not assume or jump to conclusions about the future of the student. Like everyone else, children with autism have an entire lifetime to develop and improve essential skills that will help them become responsible men and women.
5. Consistency is key
Youngsters with autism tend to have a difficult time applying the lessons they’ve learned in a single setting. For instance, they might use sign language to communicate at school but never at home. Creating a consistent environment is one of the best ways to accelerate the learning process. Find out what the child’s therapist is doing and implement his/her techniques. Being consistent in how you interact and deal with certain behaviors is also critical.
6. Reward good behavior
Positive reinforcement is greatly beneficial to students with autism. Therefore, make an effort to catch them doing good things all day long. Praise them when they behave appropriately or develop a new skill and be specific about the behavior you are praising. Think of better ways to reward them such as allowing them to play their favorite games or giving them gifts.
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7. Understand the non-verbal cues
If you are observant, you can learn to pick up on non-verbal cues students with autism use to communicate. Pay attention to their facial expressions, the sounds they make, and the gestures they use when they are hungry, tired, or frustrated.
8. Figure out what motivates them
We all feel upset and angry when people ignore or misunderstand us. And it’s no different for students with autism. People with autism tend to act out when the people around them fail to understand them. Throwing a tantrum is their best way to get your attention and communicate their frustration.
9. Time for fun is essential
Students with autism might seek more time for fun than therapy. It’s important to schedule fun time when the student is most awake or alert. Figure out the best ways to have fun together by thinking about things that make the child laugh, smile, or come out of his/her bubble. The child will enjoy these activities if they aren’t educational or therapeutic. Fun time will make it easier for you to bond and connect with the student.
10. Pay attention to the student’s sensitivity
Some people with autism tend to be hypersensitive to touch, light, smell, and sound. Others are under-sensitive. You need to figure out what sounds, smells, sights, and movements trigger the child’s disruptive behaviors and what stimulates positive responses. By understanding what affects the child, you’ll be in a better position to solve problems and create more positive experiences.
11. Teach social skills
The current curriculum may be too vague or hidden for students with autism. You’ll need to teach certain things explicitly. You should consider modeling social skills and discussing how certain behaviors affect other people. Students with autism will learn quickly using pictures.
12. Treat students as individuals
You need to model understanding, patience, and respect, especially in the classroom. Celebrate your students’ success and don’t be afraid to do things that don’t conform in class. You need to understand all your students since autism affects everyone differently.
13. Join a support group
Joining an autism support group is one of the best ways to meet other people dealing with the same challenges you face every day. Parents and teachers can share information, brainstorm ideas, seek advice, and support each other emotionally. Being around people who can understand what you face can go a long way in reducing isolation, especially for parents and caregivers.
It’s important for both teachers and parents to consult a therapist if they need help or want to implement new techniques that will help the student develop essential skills. Remember, patience pays. Keep your instructions simple. With a little effort and practice, you’ll figure out what’s best for your students in the long run.
This article was featured in Issue 113 – Transitioning to Adulthood