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How Students With Autism Learn (page 2)

— Autism Society
Updated on Jul 28, 2009

Addressing Social Deficits

Opportunities to help children with autism understand social norms and improve social interactions can be
created in a variety of ways.  Setting up “buddy systems” or “peer tutoring” arrangements that pair children without disabilities with those with autism provides opportunities to observe and model behaviors. Some leaders in the field have employed a special “kids club” to provide extracurricular opportunities. Using pictures to convey classroom rules and etiquette and assigning multi-step tasks are often very helpful.

Setting up play schemes based on social situations allows children with autism to “practice” some basic life skills, such as going to the doctor, shopping, or going to school. Stories written by the educator can be used to help
students identify relevant social cues, become familiar with routines and rules, and develop desired social skills. These stories can  also help prepare the child for unexpected occurrences or changes in routines (Gray, 1995; Gray & Garand, 1993).

Addressing Behavior Issues

Children with autism have great difficulty expressing their feelings in conventional ways. Sometimes their behavior is often the only way they have to communicate feelings of frustration, anger, confusion, happiness, or boredom. While not all children with autism exhibit challenging behaviors, it is not uncommon to see children become
aggressive, be disruptive, or have tantrums.

Adaptations to Make Learning Easier for Students with ASD

To compensate for the social, communicative, and sensory impairments experienced by students with autism, modifications to the learning environment can greatly enhance an education program’s effectiveness. There are
many ways to adapt activities and materials to meet the needs of the students. Such modifications should be viewed by educators as an enhancement to learning.

Here are 20 suggestions to help you make learning easier for students with autism:

  1. Extend a welcoming environment to all students.
  2. Identify and use appropriate functional communication systems across all environments
    consistently.
  3. Develop predictable routines; use timers or bells to assist children with transitions from one activity to the next (making transitions is an area of particular difficulty for most students with autism).
  4. Understand that behavior is a form of communication that can often be remedied by assessing the child’s
    communicative intent and making environmental changes or implementing planned behavioral interventions.
  5. Use visuals to convey instructions, meanings, routines, and schedules.
  6. Provide a classroom aide or paraprofessional to help the child complete tasks and to facilitate meaningful social
    interactions and appropriate adaptive behaviors.
  7. Encourage “peer mentoring”.
  8. Build on areas of strengths and interests. Develop skills and talents that can lead to success later in life.
  9. Use creative strategies to assist the child in learning more effective social skills.
  10. Provide frequent positive reinforcement. Find out from parents or guardians what type of motivators work for
    each child.
  11. Plan for “fading” prompts to promote more independence.
  12. Be aware of the child’s sensory needs when developing classroom activities and implementing behavioral
    strategies.
  13. Do things with instead of for the student when she or he needs assistance. Have high expectations!
  14. Allow extra time for the child to form a response to your request (many students need extra time to process the
    meaning of an instruction).
  15. Provide an environment that is uncluttered and without distracting noises.
  16. Whenever possible, use natural lighting; standard fluorescent lighting can cause difficulties for some children
    with autism.
  17. Consider the physical placement of the child in the classroom and how it relates to his or her unique responses
    to environmental stimuli.
  18. Do not request information from the child when she or he is upset -allow time for coping.
  19. Treat the student with autism with the same respect you would their fellow classmates.
  20. Empower the student to be an active participant in all classroom and social activities.
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