Creating a circle of friends is the best way to help learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder, cope with finding ways to communicate and gain social and cognitive skills. Interaction with other students can be encouraged by growing a ‘circle of friends’ through various activities which enable learners on the Spectrum to have social interaction and friends. Warber, A. (2015
Parents are key in any teacher-student relationship especially for learners with autism spectrum disorder. Have a heart to heart chat with the student’s parent/s in order to build long-term relations. Share in a positive way the difficulties you face while teaching their child.
Let them know that you really want to assist their child and ask for assessments and reports that the student may have undergone. Study these to create a plan of action, moving forward together with parents, child, and specialists.
Make a list of the student’s strengths based on the individuals differences. Keep in mind that every child has a strength whether he is mentally challenged or any other challenge. Maybe the child is extremely caring, loving, attention seeker and any other attribute. Find creative ways to utilise this in the classroom.
Develop a student’s profile to increase staff understanding of an individual child. Educate teachers and peers through training and strategies to utilise friendship circles. I attended a conference for learners with autism spectrum disorder in Melbourne, 2017.
The highlight was listening to a young guy who spoke about the benefits of his ‘circle of friends’ at school. He said it was the number one strategy that got him through to adulthood. His specialist teacher, one of the main speakers at the conference confirmed this.
If one of your learners is on the spectrum, you can encourage this by having a special meeting together with you once a week or fortnight during a lunch period. Play games, chat, do something special together at times.
Learners with autism spectrum disorder do have barriers to learning but nothing is impossible. Mostly they gain knowledge through visual aids. Therefore, create a visual schedule and implement it with the learner and his/her circle of friends. First, make an Analysis of the concept you want to deliver, and then synthesise it.
For example, break the concepts into chunks so that the student can be better able to understand the smaller parts of the whole. Introducing a timetable would definitely help the learner plan for what to do next. Use timers clearly to show how long the activity will last.
I have used large sand timers to make it visual in a big way and fun with coloured sand, while the learner completes a given activity within the given time frame. This increases the learner’s productivity with relation to time and their success in your class.
Set up a behaviour plan as it’s important to pick up the early signs and have a designated area where learners with autism spectrum disorder can go if they have a meltdown.
He/she can rejoin the class when they have had time to cool down and you the teacher can allow them to rejoin the class calmly. It makes the child feel assured and safe and keeps your class functioning smoothly as well.
This can have a ripple effect. As all the eyes of the other students are observing you carefully, how you treat this one learner in your class. Learners perceive how to treat others who are different from the way you do. Lakhani, K. (2016).
Have regular meetings with his/her circle of friends maybe once a week at lunchtime and have them role play positive behaviours. Make sure you make it fun! Don’t ever be aggressive with learners on the Spectrum. Try to keep cool even when the learner is behaving rudely.
Always give fewer choices to learners with autism spectrum disorder because many choices require more attention and time which is difficult for learners with autism spectrum disorder.
For example, if a learner is asked to pick up the right colour for mango, give him/her only two choices like yellow and blue. Moreover, give very clear choices and preferably not too many open-ended forms of questions.
Always use short and to the point sentences to ensure clarity. Use a variety of presentation, especially visual aids in your teaching, as this will not only aid the learners with autism spectrum disorder but also any other learners in your class.
All work given to a learners with autism spectrum disorder must be realistically achievable within a given time. Identify and use the learner’s strengths or special interest when planning an activity. Use reward and motivation in order to encourage the child to continue his performance but don’t overdo it.
Help learners with autism spectrum disorder to be organised by using colour coding of some form in your classroom. For example, colour all science books with blue and label all science equipment with a blue sticker. Continue with the other subjects, coding each subject a different colour.
Plan and consider your course of action when a learners with autism spectrum disorder enters your class. Consider your learner’s needs and figure out which teaching strategies best suit his/her needs. Pay attention to how the student responds to each teaching method. It may take a combination of teaching methods to satisfy the student’s needs.
It all depends on your student’s needs, your relationship with that student and how the relationships within the circle of friends has developed.
Adriana. L Schulr, Edited By Ehnin. L Quil, (2010) Teaching Children with Autism. Delmers Publications, Inc.
Barry, M. (2016). Uniquely Human [A Different Way of Seeing Autism] Sydney, Australia
Johns, L. (2012). Autism
Lakhani, K. Autism Specialist, (2016) https://www.huffingtonpost.in/
Warber, A. (2015)
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