How Can I Help A Child With Autism Learn More Effectively?

In order for you to help a child with autism learn effectively, you need to know how they learn best. Below is a list of some of the things that children with autism need to help them learn.

Children With Autism Need Structure

Structure makes things predictable, reduces stress, confusion, anxiety, and behavior problems. It also builds on the child's strengths which are the desire for routine, predictability, organization, comfort with repetitive tasks, and their need to finish things. Structure can also help lead to independence.

Tips To Maintain Structure:

  • Establish set routines at school and at home.
  • Create daily schedules, weekly calendars and lists.
  • Focus on what you want the child to do, rather than what they should not do.
  • Use visual cues like checklists with photos.
  • Make a schedule that is specific to the child's developmental and skill levels.
  • Establish clear visual cues so that they can understand what work is being asked of them, how much work is to be done, how they know when they are done the work and what they are to do next.
  • Make sure that activities do not last longer than the child's ability to stay focused.

Children With Autism Need Minimal Distractions

People with Autism are often more sensitive to distractions than others.

For example, most students do not attend to people entering or leaving a room, but students with autism often cannot ignore the door. Other factors that interfere with their concentration and ability to learn include lights, alarms, announcements, hallway sounds, and smells.

Tips To Avoid Distractions:

  • Make sure it's visually clear what activities happen in which areas.
  • Keep furniture placement consistent. Keep seating consistent and materials organized.
  • Have the child sit near or facing the teacher or at the end of a row with their back to the wall. Some children are anxious when others sit behind them.
  • In a large group, such as an assembly, put them near good role models and at the end of a row where they can easily leave if overwhelmed.
  • For academic work, use visual barriers like study carrels.

Children With Autism Communicate With Behavior

Children with autism often have problems communicating and so paying attention to their behavior may give you clues about how they are feeling or what they are trying to say.

Remember, communication goes both ways. You may not understand a child with autism and you shouldn't assume that they understand you either. Watch them and see how they learn best. Allow them to teach you how to teach them.

Tips To Improve Behavior:

  • Write a list of behavior rules for the child to refer to when needed.
  • Use stories and role-playing to teach appropriate behavior in social situations.
  • Remember that positive rewards work better than punishment.
  • Pay attention to their likes, dislikes, and interests and use them to increase engagement.
  • Teach the child ways to be flexible.
  • Use their strengths.
  • Tell the student if there is going to be a change in the daily schedule or routine, or if something needs to be interrupted before it is finished.
  • Let the child know ahead of time when an activity is about to begin or end, or if you are going to touch or move them.

Children With Autism Are Better Taught Visually

Many children with autism think in pictures, not in words. Their thoughts can be like videotapes running in their imagination. Pictures are sometimes their first language, and words are their second language.

Tips For Visually Teaching Reading:

  • Nouns may be easier words for them to learn because they can make a picture in their mind of the word.
  • To teach a child words like "up" or "down," you should demonstrate them to the child. For example, take a toy airplane and say "up" as you make the airplane takeoff from a desk.
  • Some children will learn better if cards with the words "up" and "down" are attached to the toy airplane. The "up" card is attached when the plane takes off and the "down" card is attached when it lands.
  • To teach a verb like jump, hold a card that says "jump," and jump up and down while saying, "jump."
  • Children with echolalia will often learn best if picture books are used so that the whole words are associated with pictures.
  • Other students might learn best with a phonics-based approach to teaching reading.