How to unlock potential of your child with autism; 8 effective teaching tips | Health - Hindustan Times
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How to unlock potential of your child with autism; 8 effective teaching tips

By, New Delhi
Apr 02, 2024 01:00 PM IST

It is important for educators to understand autism well and develop effective strategies that address the learning needs of students with autism.

World Autism Awareness Day 2024: Full of talent and possibilities, many autistic children never achieve their full potential due to lack of good guidance. Teaching them, honing their skills and shaping them into self-dependent and successful individuals, is the responsibility of their mentors and trainers. Learning with autism can be a challenge considering the children with the disorder may have developmental disabilities that hinder processing of information, understanding of non-verbal cues, sensory processing issues and communication difficulties. Focussing on their strengths can encourage them to do better while working on their weaknesses gently can help them overcome their challenges. Many children with autism are brilliant in Mathematics, Science, and Music and have immense potential. (Also read | ABA Therapy for autistic children: 5 ways it can help in their development)

World Autism Awareness Day is being celebrated on April 2 every year.(iStockphoto)
World Autism Awareness Day is being celebrated on April 2 every year.(iStockphoto)

Autism can lead to issues with organising thoughts, planning things or making strategies which can make it challenging for a student to cope in a traditional classroom environment. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can limit the understanding of a person with it and their ability to respond to social cues, thus posing a challenge for someone who is trying to teach or interact with them.

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Autistic spectrum disorder is a group of developmental disabilities in which children may behave, communicate, interact and learn in ways that are different from most other children. These children have delayed social and language milestones which hinder with mixing up with their peers and communication of their needs.

TEACHING STRATEGIES FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

"Over the last few years, there has been increased awareness of autism as a developmental disability across educational institutions, where all students start their academic and social journey. This development makes it important for all educators to understand the condition well and develop effective strategies that address the learning needs of students with autism. From schools to colleges to workplaces – each environment can be made conducive to their optimal performance as a student or as an employee. The trick is in acceptance and willingness to implement strategies," says Reena Gupta, Director, Office of Learning Support, Ashoka University.

Dr Gupta shares some crucial teaching strategies for children with autism:

1. Priming: This prepares the student with autism for a situation or task. They may feel anxious if exposed to a sudden change or a new addition to their routine. A surprise class quiz or test, for example, can result in emotional meltdowns. However, if informed well in advance, they tend to take any test with utmost sincerity. Similarly, deciding on a signal for time to pause when in group conversations allows them to maintain unsaid social protocols.

2. Managing sensory stimulation: This is critical to keep the learning environment less stressful. It helps to understand the student's discomfort with flickering lights, unpleasant sounds, specific textures, etc., and address them as needed. Driven by senses, they might want to sit closer to the teacher who smells like their mother, in a quiet corner in a library, or might want to hum while working, etc.

3. A list of potential behaviours: List of a short and unambiguous list of expected behaviours can keep students with autism in control of their actions in a group setting. It’s more effective if this list is available visually in front of them.

4. Flexibility: Flexible approach to reading and comprehension of text ensures that students continue to be engaged in intellectually stimulating content, which might be the subject of their intense interest too.

5. Direct instructions: Explicit and direct instruction in the usage of figurative language will help students in their conversations with their peers. They tend to interpret expressions like metaphors, idioms, etc., literally, and thus familiarising them with the most commonly used figurative terms and phrases is important.

6. Teach as per their style: Working with the students on their frequency helps them reduce their outbursts. For example – not forcing them to write legibly, letting them take as much time in completing their work, allowing them to walk out of the class when it becomes overwhelming, etc.

7. Maintain a positive vibe: Facilitate a positive social environment for them by praising them for their unique strengths in front of their peers; awarding them with a certificate for something they are good at, along with their peers for their achievements; giving them responsibilities in events, etc.

8. Encourage them to speak out: Allowing them to verbalise their understanding of the concepts rather than in a conventional written format also encourages them to focus on the value of learning rather than a rigid form of expression.

Using the above-mentioned strategies, educators can create a safe space not only for students with autism but also for other students in their classrooms, promoting an environment of respect for individual differences.

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