How Should Teachers Work with Students with Autism?

All children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty understanding the world around them. Sensory problems of children diagnosed with autism exhibit themselves as the difficulties in specifying basic needs, difficulties in communicating and challenges in social skills. For children who find the class as disturbing because of these features, the class becomes unbearable.

A good class teacher who can communicate well with the student with autism who has many difficulties makes it easier for the child to learn. This should also help to fuse with other children. The fact that teachers pay attention to some important points is very important for the general situation of both the other students and the special child in the class.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a life-long difficulty. Even within the scope of the inclusion report after the training process, symptoms of autism may exhibit themselves from time to time. The fact that a child with autism starts a normal school may be one of these challenging moments. For this reason, there are some tips that the teacher should know about children with autism.

In this article, I will mention these tips in order to get along with them and how the teachers take advantage of it. Also, ı will mention important points for the teacher for having good interaction with them and how they can boost the child’s life.

Cooperation with the Family

Parents should be experienced in their children’s autism problems. Education begins in the family first. For this reason, teachers can also get a lot of information about children from parents. The basic and most important information that will be learned from families is what the special needs of the child and how to address them.

The best source for teachers is the families of children with autism. If there is a difficulty in cooperating with the family, it is a second source to apply to the teacher who serves in a special education institution. It is necessary to organize a meeting at the beginning of the academic year and to continue communication with the families during the school year, whether the problems are experienced or not.

It is necessary for the parents to inform the teacher about any sensory problems that the student with autism can experience in the classroom. The teacher should help the child with this kind of problem. Students with autism are generally uncomfortable with being pushed or in a noisy environment. In this context, the teacher should suggest that the other students should be calmer. Because in that environment, they are not able to calm the child with autism.

The student with autism just before starting school, giving information to other children of the class may help them prepare this situation more easily. For example, a child with autism who is disturbed by sunlight can be seated in the least amount of light.

Improving and Maintaining Social Skills

A child diagnosed with autism cannot give appropriate social reactions and cannot follow social cues. This affects the children playing with his / her classmates and making friends in a negative way. At this point, the teacher should educate the child with autism with social clues. They are also able to ask other children in the class for helping the child with autism.

To fully explain what autism is, teachers should read a book about autism. Teachers can ask to do research on the subject from the children. However, these should not be done while the student with autism is around. Teachers should be very sensitive in this regard. Although children with autism may not seem to understand many things, they may be aware of some situations. And about these issues, if they understand, they would be very offensive.

In general, children with autism cannot express themselves. Children should recognize all people who will help them meet their needs during school hours. For this reason, a teacher can get help from photos of these people and it is very important to do that.

Besides those, especially in the first years of education, it should be allowed to assistant teachers to help children with autism and also help them in order to communicate with other students. This assistant teacher could be personal training, life coach, psychologist or even a university student studying related subjects.

If the child with autism is overwhelmed or unable to express themselves during stressful situations, teachers should obtain help from the signs or pictures of the situation. Although priority is verbal communication, this method should be applied in special and important cases.

Challenges with Other Children’s Parents

In order to solve the problems that may be experienced by the parents of normally developed students and to minimize the behaviors of these parents, there is a huge responsibility for the teacher’s shoulder.

The parents who have children with autism and the other parents should be brought together and the other families should gain awareness in this regard. Because families are very important in the educational period, both families who have a child with autism and families who have normally developed children.

There was a story told by a mother of 13 years old girl with autism. When her daughter reaches the age of 6, leaving the comfort zone and starting the process including the teacher, the parent and the other children that were waiting for them all were very worrying.

For families like them, the possibility of being harmed by a teacher or friends of a happy child in his or her own world is always the reason for unsleepy nights. All the work parents do be harmed by someone. In fact, the child can even more introvert.

When the time came, the mother went to our neighborhood school and told them about her daughter. She requested according to this situation, which teacher they find appropriate or which teacher want to be the volunteer, that one could be the teacher of her child. The school principal was extremely interested in the situation. Her daughter was settled in a class of 16. The mother was incredibly confused and happy.

However, when the semester started, the teacher was uninterested, pouty, and grumpy. Her daughter sat alone on the doorstep and the other children were next to each other in the middle and side of the Windows. The explanation of the teacher was that the others did not want to sit with that girl.

After a horrible semester, there was another teacher who wanted to be the teacher of my child. But it would be the first time for her working with a child with autism. She asked to learn the interests, challenges, difficulties of that child from the mother.

One day, there was a meeting for parents. Mother was extremely stressed because parents usually did not want her child in the class. But, things have not happened as she expected. After the introduction part, the teacher asked for help from both parents and children for her daughter.

She said that “We embrace this child together or we exclude her. It is your decision. I want to do the first one but I need your help.” It was the first step taken for her child by other than her family and it made mother extremely happy.

At the end of the first year, the girl learned to read and write. Her teacher immediately noticed her talent and she made the opening, closing speech and read poems of all ceremonies. The teacher changed the whole children, parents, and other teacher’s point of view. She told everyone about autism and what can be done. She raised awareness.

All individuals with autism requiring special education may benefit from this service in accordance with their interests, requests, qualifications, and capabilities. It is essential to start special education early.

In order to ensure the continuity of all kinds of education of individuals with autism, cooperation should be made with the institutions and organizations that will provide all kinds of rehabilitation and special education. Families should be actively involved in all aspects of the special education process.

There are some main points that teachers should be careful about in order to improve children with autism’s life. If school life will be easier, it affects the best parts of life.

Teachers should be aware that autism affects every child differently. Autism is a wide spectrum and each child with autism is different from each other. They all have different tastes, desires, and needs. Just like all other children!

If the teacher wants to know a child with autism, the best way to do this is to talk to the child’s family. The teacher will not only get the most accurate information from the people who love the child most. At the same time, the teacher has shown that they really care about the child and will make them very happy.

We know that change is inevitable and can sometimes be difficult for everyone. But for a child with autism, change and surprises can mean a disruption to their lives. For example, when the actual teacher does not come and replacement occurs, when fire drills happen or when the class is canceled, those would be very difficult for children with autism.

The teacher can alleviate this process by making a pre-explanatory narrative to the child and by understanding them in the anxiety process. 5-minute and 2-minute warnings are also recommended to ensure that the child adapts to change.

A child with autism needs extra time to understand the language. Teacher should allow an extra 3 seconds to elapse after the end of the sentence to sense it. If the teacher needs to give a command, not exceeding 2 words will increase the chances of the child to react.

If the teacher needs to repeat what is said, it is of great importance that repeating the structure of the sentence without changing it. Because it is a new sentence and it means the beginning of a new process to detect. Trying to rush a child with autism to a hurry will only slow the child down and the teacher should be aware of that. That’s why teachers always try to use an understanding and calm language.

The student with autism in class may be much more than the teacher might think. On the other hand, the child repeats very long sentences and discourses, but he/she may not even notice what he/she is talking about. This kind of communication problems should be perceived as normal by the teacher.

Every day and every interaction of a child with autism should be considered as a process of education and training.

Knowing what will happen in school hours is a comforting element for children with autism. If they know what the next step will be, it will be easier for them to manage their stressful feelings that may occur with the transition. Thus, both the student with autism and the teacher will experience a trouble-free day. Because of this, the teacher should write down the schedule of the day onboard every morning.

While teachers might communicate with other students using sarcasm, idioms, or a raised voice, understand that these type of things do not have the same effect on a child with autism. They also will not understand if the teacher compares them to another student, or if the teacher brings up events that are unrelated or old.

Best case scenario, these types of communication would be confusing. Worst case, they would be scary for them.

Until this time, the idioms we use in our daily life have become the usual phrases for us that we have known and accepted in daily life. However, a child with autism will try to understand all these statements in a real sense, and the communication process will become inevitable chaos for them.

For this reason, adhering to the true meaning of words will facilitate mutual communication from both sides. It means the teacher should be more careful about not using idioms.

The issues that are quite insignificant for other people can be the subjects that a child with autism can talk about for days and hours without interruption. In a loop that can last for hours, the child with autism can talk about a single subject without a break. These issues, unfortunately, rarely consist of subjects that contribute to the learning of the child. In this case, the teacher can direct the subject to training topics without breaking the child’s enthusiasm.

The teacher cannot do a bigger favor to the family of a child with autism than to encourage the child to talk to their peers in a classroom setting. Since the classroom environment is an environment in which the mother can never create for the child at home, encouraging the child to communicate while having dozens of similar interests around the child is an excellent opportunity for interaction with social skills in autism that has to be continuously studied.

Even if the child with autism does not seem to be concerned with their peers, it will be useful for them the teacher to try to familiarize the child.

The sounds others will not hear, the colors others will not notice, and the suddenly changing images can cause a child with autism to be more introvert. For this, the teacher can ask the child’s family to help him/her. These problems can be overcome by simple changes that other students in the class will not be disturbed.

A child with autism will begin to show repetitive behaviors when they are bored, excited, or stressed in the class. Naturally, their peers will perceive these behaviors quite strange. Talking to classmates of a child with autism beforehand is very important to explain to them what autism is and how to respond to friends with autism.

If it is necessary, teachers should not be afraid to spend time teaching very specific social rules and skills to a student with autism. For example, how to wait in line for the slide, how to ask a neighbor for a pencil sharpener, or how to congratulate the winning team after a game of dodgeball.

Threatening by punishment is never a good way to communicate and maintain an efficient interaction and communication with the child, as this will trigger the anxiety of children with autism. Instead, the teacher can focus on each child’s ability to be better with positive reinforcement by focusing on the child’s abilities and willingness to try.

For example, some kind of affirmations like “the results of the math test will be better when it develops the collection process” will encourage children with autism as well as strengthen communication.

Children with autism say anything they see as it is. So instead of personally observing any observations, they can tell, the child’s effort to communicate with the teacher should delight them.

As long as the teacher sympathetic to children with autism, they will always approach them well and love them. The only thing the teacher has to give them is a better understanding. This situation is also accurate with other people such as with families, friends, and people walking in the street.

Curriculum for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Special education programs should be planned to cover the process of interaction and mutual adaptation with individuals with autism.

The education of children with autism starts with determining the performance of each individual. In addition, it should be individualized and initiated early compared to normally developed children.

Preparing the child for group training and ensuring that it fuses is one of the main objectives. Group training is carried out with 2 to 4 children with autism who match each other in terms of skill levels and talents.

Children who have advantages in terms of social and academic skills can benefit from mainstreaming programs appropriate for their performance. Special education support is provided to children with autism who are involved in mainstreaming education, to other students, to teacher and families.

The problems and behaviors observed in individuals with autism are considered as part of education. The teachers use appropriate methods and techniques in order to eliminate problematic behavior. Education and training continue according to the goals determined in accordance with the performances of children with autism who progress during education.

In education; environment, material, plan, and methods take the center of the individual with autism. Trips and travels, ceremonies and similar activities aiming at the social development of them are prepared and organized within the framework of a program.

In the process of education, learning and teaching strategies, methods and techniques appropriate to their individual characteristics are utilized.

Necessary measures are taken to inform the school personnel, families and the community about special education. Communication skills are given to individuals with autism through pictures or signs.

The teacher should plan and carry out special education training without separating the individuals with autism from their social and physical environment as much as possible.

The environment for the education of children with autism is organized in a one-to-one and group-oriented manner. In addition to one-to-one training corners, physical environments are prepared in such a way as to organize activity corners such as paintings, handicrafts, puppets, and toys. The educational environment is arranged as five square meters for each student.

The physical environment is organized depends on considering light, color, and sound.

Objectives of Special Education for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • It is essential for teachers to develop an individualized training plan for individuals with autism or to individualize and implement training programs.
  • Teachers should give individuals with autism the ability to live independently in daily life by teaching them basic skills and habits.
  • Teachers should try to eliminate or minimize the problem behaviors which are observed in individuals with special needs by using scientific methods and techniques.
  • Teachers should prepare individuals with autism for society and take precautions to ensure their social development.
  • Teachers should ensure that individuals with autism benefit from the right to education in terms of their abilities and potential.
  • Teachers should prepare the environment and conditions in which individuals with special educational needs can meet their material and spiritual needs.
  • The task of the teachers is to eliminate the obstacles which are caused by the problems of individuals with autism and to reduce the effect of them.

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