For teachers new to the profession, teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be fairly common. Most teacher preparation programs today include classes about teaching students with special needs that help with accommodations and modifications for students with ASD. But for longtime teachers, the prevalence of students with ASD in the classroom is fairly new. In fact, in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in 150 children had ASD. Today, that number is one in 591.
Luckily, there is a great deal of information about developmental disabilities like ASD, so teachers can be more prepared than ever to help those students in the classroom. However, ASD is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis – that’s why it’s called a “spectrum” disorder. There are varying ways the diagnosis presents itself and varying degrees to which certain aspects of ASD are present. Every child in your classroom has unique needs, and that goes for students with ASD, too. What works for one child with ASD may not work with another.
Because ASD varies so widely, you will need to get to know your students, read their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and learn alongside them by trial and error. Here are a few instructional techniques that may work well for students with ASD.
1. Use Task Analysis
Break tasks down into very specific steps and demonstrate the steps in sequential order. Repeat the demonstration in the same way several times so that the steps and order can be internalized by the students.
2. Use Concrete Language
Students with ASD can be very literal. Try and get your points across using precise language without getting too flowery or using excessive figurative examples. Keep your language focused on the task and expectations and make sure the instructions don’t have too many points to follow at once.
3. Teach Social Rules and Norms
Do not assume students have picked up on social expectations. Teach skills such as taking turns, raising hands and giving others personal space. Explain why those rules are expected and point out when other students are modeling those skills so students can see them in practice.
4. Provide Some Choices
Like most students, children with ASD enjoy some degree of choice in their educational program. If they have a favorite topic to read about, give them the chance to do so. But don’t provide so many choices that the student becomes overwhelmed. Provide options rather than letting choices be totally open-ended.
5. Follow a Daily Routine
Routines can help students with ASD predict what’s coming up and allow them to feel more comfortable in their environment. Make a daily schedule and ensure students have access to it so they can see what’s coming next. If you know that the schedule is going to change, let the students know in advance so they can feel prepared.
If you are interested in working to ensure that children with ASD have access to the best education possible, consider one of the degrees offered at Grand Canyon University, including our Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Special Education, Master of Education in Special Education and Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorders programs. To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Education provides teachers with the best ways to build inclusive classrooms, visit our website or click the Request Information button on this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.