Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers (Part 2)


when they can fix it by either bacteria the secondary school environment can pose challenges for students with autism the sights and sounds of the hallways the noise and commotion are often overwhelming trying to get through all the crowds and everything and all the hordes and hordes of people I just don’t like crowds by the time students get to a classroom especially during the first days of school there’s a good chance they’ll be stressed unsettled and preoccupied with one main thought how can I figure out what it is I’m supposed to do what they’re doing is looking around the environment trying to pick out the important information yeah get to your seats make sure you get all your materials out we’re ready to go teaching students with autism requires creating a supportive learning environment where important information is accessible that starts by first understanding the students mindset think of the classroom is another country with a different culture and the child doesn’t understand that culture or that environment so quickly help the child navigate and understand here’s where you’re supposed to sit here’s where your supplies are here’s what we’re going to be doing today when you’re done with it here’s what you can do next you are spelling out the structure this is red fur is going to come at the end of the class but you’re going to be doing research for students with autism structure in the classroom is critical most individuals with autism get extremely anxious and non-productive in chaotic environments they are much more organized themselves when they’re in organized environments and when task expectations are clear and can be laid out in front of them visually when you walk in my classroom I provide a list of goals on the board the homework is very clearly listed I give an opportunity for students to see that I talked a little bit about that I talked about the homework for most secondary school students the classroom is a comfortable environment for learning that’s not always the case for students with autism for them the classroom may present a number of visual and auditory distractions teachers should be aware of this particularly when deciding on a seating plan some students may struggle unless they sit near the visual supports at the front of the class others may find seats near the windows too distracting or may be bothered by the classroom lighting one thing that makes it hard is my high percentage I’ve allotted I’m very sensitive to light and loud noises which’ll it seems a lot of kids my age like sometimes the child can have a support that makes florescent lights a little more tolerable such as you know wearing a baseball cap wearing sunglasses or even sitting in a certain area of the road a well-structured predictable classroom can provide comfort for students with autism this includes creating clear physical and visual boundaries then art centers are a big idea where you have the glue guns and a spot that is where you go to use the glue gun you have a saw in a spot that is where you go to use the saw and they like that kind of structure as for course content teachers can enhance learning by providing study guides that highlight the key points of a lesson a lot of individuals with autism have difficulty when they read something understanding what’s the most important part of that sentence what’s the most important part of that paragraph and we can assist them with things like highlighted text or study guides that have them fill in the blank in ways where they can go right back to where that answer is in the text students with autism can thrive when supports are in place to match their unique needs essential support strategies include priming academic modifications home base visual supports and reinforcement your teacher gave me the master copy and your note sheet so that you can fill it out beforehand and then she’s gonna call on you for the first one priming students means exposing him or her to course material before a lesson takes place it gives students a chance to become familiar with the material and increases the likelihood they’ll learn key concepts and details the teacher who stands in front of her chemistry class and says first we’re going to read chapter seven pages 19 to 25 then I’m going to tell you what is important in those pages and then you’re going to do an experiment okay that’s priming what atoms exactly atom priming is most effective when it’s built into the students daily routine and teachers can work with parents to help reinforce this strategy at home if you don’t like the food I just don’t spit it out thank you what do you do leave it aside okay good good good what I would prime him about a week before he had something do if he had a test on Friday the teacher made sure I knew about it on Monday if there’s a big assignment I had to prime him for about two months because out of sight out of mind if you do a little bit of the work one week and you wait two weeks he forgets about the assignment a second strategy for teachers is to make academic modifications adapting the content or format of assignments to meet the students specific needs academic modifications can range from read aloud directions on tests extended time on assignments long-term assignments if they’re having trouble doing them at home whatever they need I’m going to provide format I’m going to be patient with them it could also be the case that you might have a student who has tremendous difficulty with word retrieval so may I present multiple choice questions maybe I present a word bank if there’s a reading assignment of 30 pages I do not expect a student with autism to do that unless that’s their competency reading another support strategy involves designating a place where students with autism can go when they need to regain control in times of stress it’s called a home base home base is a strategy that’s used to help individuals with autism to remain calm and stay in the environment when they might be feeling overwhelmed what I’ll do is if I feel like I have a student that’s having problems I will write a note and send them to a safe place and say please deliver the notes and what we want to do is give learners with autism and out to get out of those situations in a safe and quiet way that doesn’t disrupt the rest of the classroom or lead to a behavioral escalation that would also be very stigmatizing for them in front of their peers a fourth and overarching strategy is to maximize visual supports which come in many forms for instance labels can be helpful for identifying a drawers contents or where homework should be placed the first piece is to get your writing devices visual supports also take the form of self-management tools that help students stay focused these tools generally outline the steps needed to complete a task and students can check off each step as it’s completed you may have actually clock times written next to the activity so that the child looks at the time looks at the activity and is able to monitor where he is the mat the independent math assignment should take 20 minutes so you should be done by 10:20 check and on that visual support you may have written you know if you are off scheduled by more than 5 minutes raise your hand ask the teacher for help because students with autism tend to be more visual learners they may benefit from having a copy of their daily schedule or one posted in the room to help guide them through the day I prefer a printed schedule because that way I remember things more clearly and that way I’d stay more organized another visual support graphic organizers present material in a way that makes it easier for a student to understand see I am they not only highlight important concepts and facts but display the relationship between them instead of this big piece of paper it lists out all the different kinds of spaces another type of visual support is what’s called a social script social scripts tell the student what to say in a particular situation a great way quite often the resource room teacher can write the scripts and the student can have them on note cards or on a piece of paper and his or her notebook for example for the student who has difficulty asking a questions you may actually have a script that says I forgot my math book today can you tell me help me figure out what to do sometimes it’ll just be appropriate responses sometimes a student just might need an initiation statement how do I join this group what’s an appropriate thing to say so it’s going to vary depending on how much the individual needs you all the expression if a student has difficulty mastering a recurring event or routine the teacher can make a short video with a smartphone or video camera sometimes a way for them to really understand what it is about their behavior that needs to change or what it is about their behavior that really worked so if you can capture that and then link it to self-monitoring and say okay how did you do did you make eye contact with them did you listen when they had something to say and many individuals with autism who could not have a conversation with you about that could look at a visual description of it and say whether or not that element was happening or needed to happen what do you need for photosynthesis take place the Sun very good the final support strategy reinforcement rewards students for aving in ways that are productive and support their continued personal growth some common reinforcers include verbal praise additional break or computer lab time or homework passes so reinforcement is simply something that you do that increases the likelihood of behavior yeah and as far as I’m concerned a good teacher uses reinforcement all the time they’re just using it naturally but the kid with autism the teenager with autism may need reinforcement for things that no one else does like talking to your friends or not engaging in repetitive speech collectively these five support strategies can help teachers provide the structure that students with autism need to learn effectively but even when teachers devote their efforts to creating order structure and predictability in the classroom changes and transitions are a part of daily life in school and beyond transitions are a very frequent and necessary part of every high schoolers life and transitions by definition are difficult for learners with autism because it requires them to stop doing something that they’re currently involved in and then travel to whatever they need to do next and then focus in on what that next activity is I wanted to be sure that everyone was clear what we’re doing today sir teachers can alleviate some of the anxiety transitions caused by having a clear agenda and making it accessible to students however no amount of planning can prevent sudden last-minute changes from disrupting a class schedule activities or a daily routine you know the predictable transitions are one thing okay it’s time to go to your next class it’s the unpredictable transitions it’s the there’s a fire drill or somebody’s parent dropped in you know those are the ones that where you hope the teacher knows the learner well enough to provide the support necessary during those times the learning environment that secondary school teachers create and the specialized supports they provide are integral to the success of students on the autism spectrum there’s no question teaching students with autism can initially be a challenge but it’s a challenge that promises great rewards teachers are in a very difficult place they are responsible to having every student in their class with autism without autism pass so they do have an awful lot to do and we’ll never feel better than watching a child with autism make his first friend pass the subjects graduate from high school you did a really good job to that keep up the good work when they’ve had a student with autism in their class and they’ve gotten the right kind of support from their school district their school principal and the special ed teacher in the family they have never felt more rewarded this segment focuses on the strategies and tools teachers can use in the classroom to create a supportive learning environment for students with autism the next segment practices for challenging behavior offers guidance for handling difficult behavioral situations that may arise with students on the spectrum for additional information and resources please visit the Organization for autism research website at you

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