Teaching Students With Autism – Some Basic Guidelines


Teaching Students With Autism – Some Basic Guidelines

Working with autistic children or adults is one of the most rewarding professions one could ask for. Often, autistic individuals possess a spirit and contagious curiosity that can awaken those around them.

However joyful working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders may be, it can also be quite difficult.

Features of the autism spectrum are wide ranging and are often behavioral, communicative, cognitive, and/or developmental. For this reason, teaching students with autism requires a very particular and special approach suited to their individual needs.

One of the first concerns in teaching anyone is the need to maintain attention and focus; this issue is magnified with reference to autistic individuals. Often, children and adults affected by autism spectrum disorders have very limited attention spans when it comes to most things – yet, there is a marked tendency to attach to certain concepts, ideas, and themes. It is extremely useful to find a way to integrate these things into the teaching of other concepts. Furthermore, avoiding long or complicated tasks or verbal instruction is important when teaching students with autism. Teaching should be broken down into smaller activities and segments so that the information is processed rather than being “tuned out.”

Autistic individuals tend to have extremely creative streaks, a fact that can be very useful when teaching them. Utilizing teaching tools and methods that appeal to creativity in a cognitive as well as methodological sense can be very helpful. Some examples of things to try include incorporating visual stimuli into less abstract concepts, such as the teaching of numbers or letters (i.e. using bright, colorful, artistic visual aids.) Also, whenever possible, allowing the student to engage in creative endeavors, such as drawing, painting, or coloring, can help the student to perceive concepts in a way that makes sense to them – thus enabling them to learn through their own personal style.

It is of utmost importance to keep environmental factors in mind when teaching students with autism spectrum disorders. As you begin to familiarize yourself with the student(s), you should begin to grasp their individual triggers, in terms of what upsets them, makes them uncomfortable, etc. For example, many autistic people are bothered by extremely bright lights, so it may be best to avoid these in the teaching environment. Other things to consider are the noise level or overall sensory output of the environment in which you will be teaching – it is important to promote a sense of calmness and focus in autistic individuals when seeking to impart knowledge upon them.

There is no real “one size fits all” answer to what works in terms of teaching students with autism. Where a particular student falls on the spectrum, what their personal abilities and experiences are, and perhaps even their age, all factor into the way one should go about teaching them. As is always true, it is important to consider the individual when developing a way to teach the individual, but these general guidelines should be helpful to anyone beginning to work with a student who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder – and it is truly one of the most wonderful and enlightening endeavors upon which one could embark!


This article was written for Insights-on-Health.com by Nicole D T, a freelance writer who researches and writes on various topics.

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