How Can I Help A Child With Autism Learn More Effectively?
In order for you to help a child with autism learn effectively, you need to know how they learn best. Below is a list of some of the things that children with autism need to help them learn.
Children With Autism Need Structure
Structure makes things predictable, reduces stress, confusion, anxiety, and behavior problems. It also builds on the child’s strengths which are the desire for routine, predictability, organization, comfort with repetitive tasks, and their need to finish things. Structure can also help lead to independence.
Tips To Maintain Structure:
- create daily schedules for the child
teach the meaning and value of a schedule
- focus on what you want the child to do
- use daily schedules, calendars, and lists to help them learn the order of the activities
- use different visual cues (objects, photos, icons, words, sentences, check lists)
- make a schedule that is specific to the child’s developmental and skill levels
- make sure the work you are giving them is geared towards their level
- make sure they have clear visual cues so that they can understand what work is being asked of them, how much work is to be done, how they know when they are done the work and what they are to do next
- make sure that activities end before the child becomes frustrated
Children With Autism Need To Be Taught Visually
Many children with autism think in pictures, not in language. A lot of children’s thoughts are like videotapes running in their imagination. Pictures are their first language, and words are their second language.
Nouns may be easier words for them to learn because they could make a picture in their mind of the word.
To teach a child words like "up" or "down," you should demonstrate them to the child. For example, take a toy airplane and say "up" as you make the airplane takeoff from a desk.
Some children will learn better if cards with the words "up" and "down" are attached to the toy airplane. The "up" card is attached when the plane takes off and the "down" card is attached when it lands.
To teach a verb like jump, hold a card that says "jump," and jump up and down while saying "jump."
Children with lots of echolalia will often learn best if flash cards and picture books are used so that the whole words are associated with pictures.
Be sure that the picture and the printed word on the same side of the card.
Children With Autism Need As Few Distractions As Possible
Children with autism can be distracted by many things which can interfere with their concentration and ability to learn. Lights, alarms, hallway sounds, and smells are just some examples of things that can distract a child with autism.
Some autistic people are bothered by fluorescent lights because they can see the flicker of the 60-cycle electricity. To avoid this problem, have the child sit near a window or try to avoid using fluorescent lights.
If you can’t avoid using fluorescent bulbs, use the newest bulbs you can get because new bulbs don’t flicker as much or put a lamp with a regular incandescent light bulb next to the child's desk.
Tips To Avoid Distractions:
- make sure it’s visually clear what activities happen in which areas
keep furniture and materials organized
- have the child sit near or facing the teacher or at the end of a row
- if they are in a large group, put them in between two good students
- use visual barriers or study carrels
Children With Autism Communicate Through Their Behavior
Children with autism often have problems communicating and so paying attention to their behavior may give you clues about how they are feeling or what they are trying to say.
Remember, communication goes both ways. You may not understand a child with autism and you shouldn’t assume that they will understand you either.
Watch them and see how they learn best. Allow them to teach you how to teach them.
Tips To Help Behavior:
- write a list of behavior rules for the child to read when needed (ex. what to do, and not what not to do, if possible)
- use stories and role playing to show them appropriate behavior in social situations
- remember that positive rewards work better than punishment
pay attention to their likes, dislikes, and interests
- teach the child ways to be flexible
- use their strengths
- find a way to let the student know there if there is going to be a change in the daily schedule or routine, or if something needs to be interrupted before it is finished
- let the child know ahead of time when an activity is about to begin or end, or if you are going to touch or move them