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I volunteer in a classroom with autistic students.  How can I be sure I'll never do anything to hurt or upset one of these children?

Two children at my Grandsons school has autism.I work two hours a week in the classroom.I do not know the meaning of Autism.I am afraid I will do something wrong when helping these children with different activities.I am a volenteer.I simply play educational games with the kids to help the teachers.I have always felt it is important for all parents and guardians to be involved in the well being of a child both in school and at home.I am known as Nana at our little school.I want to help any child I can but,would never do anything to hurt or upset a child.I need to know what Autism is so I won't make a mistake when helping the kids.
In Topics: Autism & Aspergers Syndrome, My child's grandparent(s)
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Jan 28, 2008
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What the Expert Says:

Hi Rebecca,

What a wonderfully dedicated volunteer you are! I'm certain that the teacher and children in the classroom value and appreciate your time with them, and you are most definitely making a big difference in the lives of the children.

You have asked a great question. What exactly is Autism? You may have seen movies (such as Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise) or TV shows on the topic, but what is this condition exactly? Autism is a developmental disorder, which means that, from birth, the child does not develop "normally." Specifically, a child with Autism does not fully develop an understanding of how to relate to, and get along with, others. They often appear "in their own world" and do not seek out touch and connection with family members as other children might. Indeed, they may even get frustrated with attempts for connection by others because they find the experience intense and overwhelming. Children with Autism often develop intense interests in different topics or things and preoccupy themselves in this way. For instance, a child with Autism may spend hours lining up cars by size or color or investigating the wiring of the vending machine.

In terms of how you can best work with these children, I think that you should be prepared to occasionally "upset" them. Please know that it is not because you have done something "wrong." It just so happens that children with Autism are often easily upset by social interactions that they experience as confusing and changes in the schedule. Thus, try to always clearly explain projects and activities to children with Autism. Do not expect that they will guess what you mean because this is a very difficult skill for them. Also, set a schedule and stick to it. When a transition is coming, give them two warnings ahead of time (say at five and two minutes) to prepare them for the upcoming transition. Also, you might consider approaching the teacher or special education administrator for more ideas on how to deal with the unique needs of the two children as no two children with Autism are exactly alike.

For more information on Autism, you might want to take a look at the following section of this website:
http://www.education.com/reference/topic/SpecialNeeds_Autism/

Good luck!

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