Children with autism face different challenges in the classroom compared to their peers. They have individual needs and abilities and will need extra support. So, as a teacher, how can you help a child with autism?
Children on the autism spectrum need set routine to help them understand things. This means they find unstructured times such as lunch time difficult. They also need longer to process information and can find communicating hard. Unfortunately, this means they are more susceptible to bullies.
Many children with autism find it difficult to process sensory information which can occur in one or more of the seven senses. Their senses can be intensified (hypersensitive) or under-sensitive (hyposensitive). All children are different, and the degree of sensitivity depends on the child.
Dealing with these challenges can be particularly hard for autistic children at school and can lead to anxiety, difficult behaviour and meltdowns. It’s not always obvious what has triggered these behaviours, making it difficult for teachers to control the situation or find a solution.
It’s a good idea to monitor the child’s behaviour to see if you can find a pattern. If they become anxious or stressed during a certain time of day or surrounding a particular lesson, you can talk to them about what could help them.
How you can assist
You can help an autistic child in your class by:
- Using a routine they are comfortable with
- Making sure you prepare them for any change in routine
- Using visual supports
- Simplify communication to allow time to process information
- Think how you can make the environment more comfortable e.g. offering ear defenders to pupils who struggle to block out background noise
- Deal with bullying swiftly
- Teach autism awareness to other children
- Keep a behaviour diary
- Have an agreed safe space for autistic pupils to go when they feel anxious
- Try to incorporate their intense interests into a lesson
- Have good communication with the parents
If you are a teacher who needs more advice on helping autistic pupils go to https://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/about-us/contact-us.aspx