Jason Lewis on October 26, 2011
Some tips from the document given to people attending the Autism Parent Training Night at Heartspring on October 6th 2011! You can download the full pdf file here, it’s definitely worth a read if you couldn’t attend the event!
The classroom routines should be kept consistent, structured and predictable as possible. Children with AS often do not like surprises. They should be prepared in advance, when possible, for changes and transitions, including things such as schedule breaks, field trips, vacations, etc.
Rules should be applied carefully. Many of these children can be fairly rigid about following “rules” quite literally. While clearly expressed, rules and guidelines, preferably written down for a student, are helpful, they should be applied with some flexibility. The rules do not automatically have to be exactly the same for the child with AS as for the rest of the students …their needs and abilities are different.
Staff should take full advantage of a child’s areas of special interest when teaching. The child will learn best when an area of high personal interest is on the agenda. Teachers can creatively connect the child’s interests as a reward to the child for successful completion of other tasks or adherence to rules or behavioral expectations.
Most students with AS respond well to the use of visuals: schedules, charts, lists, pictures, etc.
In general, try to keep teaching fairly concrete. Avoid language that may be misunderstood by the child with AS, such as sarcasm, confusing figurative speech, idioms, etc. Work to break down and simplify more abstract language and concepts.
Explicit, didactic teaching of strategies can be very helpful, to assist the child gain proficiency in “executive function” areas such as organization and study skills.
Insure the school staff outside of the classroom, such as physical education teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, librarians etc., are familiar with the child’s style and needs and have enough information to understand management approaches. Confidentiality is always a primary concern, but a basic understanding for all of the staff that comes in contact with the child insures a safer, child friendly environment.
Try to avoid escalating power struggles. These children often do not understand rigid displays of authority or anger and will themselves become more rigid and stubborn if forcefully confronted. Their behavior can get rapidly out of control, and at that point it is often better for the staff person to back off and allow things to cool down. It is always preferable, when possible, to anticipate such situations and take preventative/proactive measures to avoid the confrontation through calmness, negotiation, presentation of choices or diversion of attention elsewhere.
Do not assume that what you are saying is being understood. Children with AS often appear as if they understand what you are trying to communicate, when, in fact, they are confused and frustrated. Take your time and check for understanding.
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