Public Education for the Student with Autism Tips

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What are visual teaching strategies?

Teaching Strategies for Autism

Autistic individuals have great difficulty processing spoken language without some kind of visual aid. Many other student who do not have autism can be classified as visual learners as well. Visual teaching strategies can help reinforce concepts for the entire classroom. Visual information is concrete and it comes in many forms. A teacher may choose to use pictures from the Picture Exchange Communication System to create a visual schedule for the student. The teacher can also use visual teaching strategies to teach concepts as well. Graphic organizers can be used to help an autistic student make visual connections to abstract information. The graphic organizer is used to break information down into concrete, mentally digestible parts that are easier to remember than the flow of spoken words. Many children, whether autistic or not, benefit from performing actions while learning. Kinesthetic learners learn thorough doing. Guiding students to complete tasks while prompting helps to reinforce ideas. Adding visual elements to any lesson plan is helpful in making the information concrete and memorable. Visual elements include graphic organizers, pictures, graphs and even gestures. Students who have autism benefit from hearing as few words as possible when given a question or directive. Instead of saying, "Billy, could you do me a favor and list the five senses that we discussed in class just the other day?" the teacher could say, "What are the five senses?" Keeping statements clear and concise helps a child with autism process spoken language. In addition, the teacher can use a simple gesture like holding up her hand to represent "five" further helping the student make a connection. The student with autism will need sufficient time to process a question or command and he will need time to respond as well. Giving the autistic student a few extra seconds to give a response allows him to process the information and it gives him time to produce a response.

Are there basic tips for teachers who have autisitic students in their classrooms?

Basic Tips for Teachers

One of the most important tips for teachers who have autistic students in their classrooms is to remember that each child is different. Taking time to find out what motivates and interests the student with autism will help the teacher create activities that are motivating and fun for the child.

  • Build on the autistic student's strengths. The child will fair better if he experiences success and he will learn better if he uses his previously mastered skills.

  • Avoid figurative language. If a teacher is in the habit of using the phrase, "Eyes on me" while instructing a class the student may become distressed simply because he is unable to literally put his eyes on the teacher.

  • Use visual, verbal and physical prompts to help the student make transitions and stay on task. a simple gesture like putting a pencil in front of the student's hand speaks volumes to him.

  • Stick to a schedule. Children who have autism thrive in structured environments.

  • Keep parents involved. The lines of communication should be open with parents of autistic children. Many teachers communicate through a journal that is sent home with the child on a weekly or daily basis.

How does a therapist encourage the child to pay attention in class?

Attention, Autism and the Classroom Setting

One of the most important tasks that a therapist has in the classroom setting is to encourage on-task behavior. There is a fine line between using interventions to keep a child on task and academic support. It is crucial that the TSS does not cross that line. For example, the child may need guidance to help with writing. The therapist may provide hand-over-hand prompts to help the child get started. However, the child has to draw the letters independently. The TSS should not guide the child's hands after initially prompting him to write. Interventions for attention in the classroom have to be as unobtrusive as possible. Too many prompts will only distract everyone in the room, including the teacher. Verbal cues should be kept to a minimum and visual aids like gestures and pictures need to be used sparingly. Specific guidelines for appropriate interventions for attention in the classroom setting are outlined in the child's treatment plan. The TSS also collects data concerning the amount of time that the child is able to attend to a task as well as how many prompts are required to keep him on task. Rewards that are commonly used during home therapies are usually not administered in the classroom setting except for extreme cases. The child may earn tokens that can be traded in for rewards at a later time.

What is the therapist's role in the classroom setting.

Therapist's Role in the Classroom

Occasionally, a child who has autism or related pervasive developmental disorder may have special needs in the classroom setting that require the presence of a therapeutic staff support member (TSS). The therapist provides temporary behavioral services if the child is having trouble adjusting to the classroom environment. The TSS is a member of an agency that provides Wrap Around services. These services are behavioral in nature and they are designed to "wrap around" the child as needed in the home, community and school settings. Wrap Around services are temporary and they are faded as soon as possible, especially in the classroom setting. The goal is to have the child mainstreamed in the regular school setting without becoming dependant on TSS support. The TSS never provides academic services. The therapist is not supposed to tutor the student or correct his mistakes. This will only skew the teacher's perception of the child's abilities and this is not fair to the teacher or the child. The therapist functions to encourage on-task behavior, to help the child transition smoothly and to encourage social interaction. The therapist should follow the teacher's cues as to when intervention is necessary.

What is Wraparound in the home?

Wrap Around in the Home

Wrap Around is a service that offers therapy for the autistic child in the home, school and community settings. Individuals who receive services will have a treatment plan that is developed in a collaborative effort between parents and professionals. The treatment plan systematically outlines specific goals that the child is expected to reach. There are short term goals and long term goals listed under different categories according to the child's needs. Common goals include, but are not limited to, the following realms: communication, attention, compliance, social and play skills. The child is typically assigned a case manager, behavior specialist and a therapeutic staff support member (TSS) who work as a team with the family. The Wrap Around services are family-centered and the involvement of parents and siblings in the process is of the utmost importance.

How can teachers help students make smooth transitions between activities?

Making Transitions

Transitions are especially difficult for children with autism. In order to help an autistic child transition smoothly from one activity to another a teacher may want to use a visual schedule. There are a number of ways to incorporate this into the classroom setting. Structure is very helpful in easing the stress that an autistic child feels during transitions. However, it is highly unlikely that a classroom will follow the same exact schedule each and every day. The child will still need some guidance to help him understand what to expect during special activities in the school setting. Some teachers choose to use a visual schedule that the entire classroom shares in certain grade levels. The schedule can be arranged in front of the classroom and the teacher references it between activities as part of the transitional process. Creating a social story is another approach that helps children with autism make transitions. Many older students benefit from scripting the events of the day. The child memorizes a story that helps him understand that he is supposed to get in line with the other students; that the teacher and classmates are pleased when he does so. Objects that are associated with certain transitions are very helpful in the process as well. The child knows that he will be expected to line up for the school bus after he gets his coat and backpack. A teacher may use a picture of the art teacher or a drawing as an object of transiting before art class.

What is an IEP?

IEP: Individual Education Plan

An IEP is an Individual Education Plan developed for students who have special needs. The IEP is a legal document that outlines educational goals for the child as well as the strategies that will be used to achieve those goals. The Individual Education Plan is a collaborative effort developed by teachers, parents and special education coordinator for the school district. Parent can elect to include an advocate or psychologist in the process as well but it is usually unnecessary. The IEP will commonly outline the necessity of a behavioral therapist (TSS) in the classroom in some cases.

What different educational settings are available for autisitc children?

Different Educational Settings for Autistic Students

Today, many children with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders are mainstreamed into the regular classroom. Most autistic children thrive in a structured environment and many parents find that their children fair better behaviorally in school than they do in the home and in the community. The highly structured classroom is ideal for many children with autism. However, other autistic children require additional support. Autism learning support classrooms are helpful in providing one-on-one attention that many autistic children need in an educational setting. Many school districts are adopting autism learning support classrooms for the benefit of this population. The student may spend the entire day in the autism support class or he may spend part of the day in the normal classroom setting and the rest of the time in the autism learning support educational setting. Profoundly autistic children as well as children with a dual diagnosis of mental retardation will need an entirely different educational setting. The ideal educational setting for these individuals is staffed with professionals who work solely within the field of educating autistic and mentally retarded children. Some families choose to home school their autistic children. With effort and dedication, parents and professionals can create an educational setting in the home.


Educating an Autistic Child

The education process of a child with autism has to involve both the parents and the educators. While the parents of children who are not affected by autism, should still take an interest in their child's education the need to do so when it comes to an autistic child is immeasurable. Children who are autistic have strengths and weaknesses just like any other children and these characteristics should be analyzed when setting academic goals and strategies. Parents should ensure that the teachers understand the autism treatment alternatives your child is following and their education should not conflict with these treatment methods. Meeting with your child's teachers often can help to make certain your child's educational goals are being met and that your child is living up to their potential.

What is IDEA?

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1997. This act was especially helpful in the mainstreaming of autistic students because it mandated school districts to provide the least restrictive learning environment for individuals with disabilities like autism. School districts are now responsible for placement and funding of students with disabilities like autism through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In response, school districts began developing support classrooms and education programs designed for autistic children. The IEP, or Individual Education Plan is a byproduct of IDEA as well.

Are there books about autism in the classroom?

Future Reading

The article "Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew" by Ellen Notbohm is a beautifully written exploration of the autistic child's point of view. The article addresses the way a child with autism experiences some situations including sensory overload and difficulty with navigating through social situations. The perspective is valuable in understanding the importance of concrete, concise language as well as the troubles the child with autism has with auditory processing. The piece also addresses tantrums and the importance of trying to determine the antecedent to the behavior as well as taking preventative steps to avoid them in the future. Ellen Notbohm's book Ten Things Your Student With Autism Wishes You Knew was released in September 2006 and it is a must-read for any teacher who has a child with autism in his class. The text is also very valuable for caretakers and therapists as well.


Educational Needs of Autistic Children

The long term educational goals of autistic children closely match those of children who are not affected by autism. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles children with autism to an education that is comparable in term of skills and information to children who are not disabled but the difference is that autistic children often need additional educational activities to help them develop. The additional training that autistic children often need includes communication skills, social skills, language skills, behavioral issues and leisure skills. Without a firm grasp of these skills, children with autism would have difficulty learning their academic subjects. For this reason, additional assistance is often needed in these areas to allow the child to meet their academic goals.

How are social goals addressed in the school setting?

Encouraging Social Interaction

Part of the therapist's role in the classroom setting is to encourage social interaction. The interventions used to promote social integration during recess, lunch and play activities typically include modeling as well as verbal and visual prompts. The child may be rewarded for social interactions as well. A therapist will have specific social goals that the child is working for in the school setting. Some of the social goals include maintaining appropriate boundaries as well as initiating play with other students. Many children with autism have great difficulty reciprocating play. A therapist or teacher can encourage the child to reciprocate appropriate play with other students through verbal prompts and praise.

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