There are currently around 700,000 people in the UK alone diagnosed with autism, a developmental disability affecting the way a person communicates and how they experience the world.
Working in SEN, whether in a mainstream or special needs school, you may come across students diagnosed with autism. This guide will give you some tips and advice you can apply to ensure you are supporting these students in the best way possible.
Establish a routine
The world can often be a confusing and scary place for autistic children, which is why they find comfort in a stable routine.
Creating a visual timetable can be a great way of doing this. Add simple text and images and describe the activities they will be carrying out each day. Ensure it is in chronological order to avoid confusion.
This way, the student will know in advance exactly what he’ll be doing, reducing their stress and anxiety.
Changes to the usual routine can be extremely overwhelming for autistic students. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, but you can prepare them beforehand.
If you’re moving classrooms one week, take the student to see the classroom beforehand. This will allow them to adjust and prepare mentally, in order to make it a less daunting experience.
Communicate clearly and simply
Autism often impacts children’s ability to communicate and interpret. Consider how you are structuring your sentences and don’t overcomplicate the language you use. An example of this would be using rhetorical questions.
A good thing to remember is that clear instruction often works better as it is easier for them to understand.
Incorporate their interests
Autistic children sometimes form highly-focused interests. Incorporating this into their school day will give them more enjoyment and motivation and will add meaning to their learning.
For example, if you know you’re student is interested in football, integrate this into some math’s problems. They can add, subtract and multiply with footballs.
This will positively impact their engagement with their learning.
Be mindful of sensory overload
It is important to know that children with autism are likely to experience some form of sensory overload within school.
Making simple adjustments will not only manage their sensitivity but will also enhance their learning. If the student is sensitive to noise, giving them headphones will improve their concentration and reduce any background noise. This will also help them stay calm.
Work with their parents or carers
Parents will more often than not know their children really well. In order for you to be able to successfully support the child it is essential to work alongside and share knowledge with their parent or carer.
Suggesting things that have worked with the student whether in school or at home will benefit the child.
This advice should give you a solid understanding of how best to support a student with autism. The most important thing is to try to understand what their needs are and from there decide the best way to meet those needs!