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10 Tips for Teaching Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Top Tips to Help You Get Started

All children have unique learning needs, but children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD require a little extra guidance and support.

These 10 tips will help you get started:

1. Create a Structured Environment – Children with autism feel more comfortable when they have a routine with clear structures, and minimal deviations from their predicted schedule. Make sure the learning environment and lesson plans are structured in a manner that tells students as well as educators what is to be done, for how long or how much, when it needs to be done, when it is completed, and what comes next.
2. Make Communication Easier – Many communication techniques are used by educators who teach children with ASD. For instance, some learning centers use sign language for autistic children with low speech skills. Facilitated communication is another technique that may help them learn better, where you hold the child’s hand or arm and encourage them to press the appropriate key on portable communication devices.

3. Use Visual Aids – Visuals are an important aspect of teaching young children, particularly for children with autism. Line drawings, photographs or Language Builder Picture Cards, “if/then” cards and stickers can be incorporated within various daily activities, while picture schedules and mini-schedules provide structure. Other tools such as online tutorials and videos deliver information in a visual manner that a child with ASD may find easier to absorb.

4. Encourage Social Interactions – You need to help children with ASD develop the knowledge and skills required for social interaction, both at home and in school. A child with autism may not seem interested in interacting with peers, parents and teachers, but it’s important to keep teaching them social skills. Classrooms provide the perfect setting, and childhood educators should build an environment that encourages children to practice communication skills. Try using the Stages Learning Emotion Cards to help children identify and learn to interpret facial expressions.

5. Make Activities Structured Too – Providing structure within various activities can be effective at helping children with ASD learn better. Use visuals to provide the child with information for each task or activity, in the same manner as lesson plans and daily schedules. For instance, a timer can tell them how long each activity will take. Include opportunities for peer interaction as well, to help children improve their social skills.

6. Use Direct Language – Young students with ASD may not understand abstract concepts or figurative language, and they tend to take most things literally. Non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures, may not make sense to them at all. If you’re used to teaching children who don’t have autism, it can take some time to get used to the right wording for what you want to say. Practice being as direct as possible.

Whether you’re a parent or teacher, it’s essential to understand what a child with autism needs and how you can help them learn better..

7. Give Them Extra Time – Even when you use direct language, a child with ASD may not be able to respond or react right away. Give them extra time to absorb what you’ve said, and process it at their pace. Patience is a key when you’re teaching autism children. If you try to hurry the child or rephrase your instructions, statements or questions, you will only slow them down further as they start reprocessing.

8. Be Aware of Sensory Issues – Children with autism are either over-sensitive or under-sensitive to sensory stimuli the rest of us don’t even notice. For instance, they may be bothered by perfumes and other smells, certain lighting, or even the buzzing of electrical appliances and echoes from other areas. This leads to extreme reactions and from learning, so remain aware of potential triggers and avoid them as far as possible. Provide children with sensory tools to help them reduce stress and process information being communicated to them.

9. Eliminate Potential Stress – Children with autism don’t react well to changes and disruptions to their routine, so use transition warnings, visual schedules and clear instructions to help set them feel at ease. Remember, positive reinforcement is far more effective than threats or punishments, which are likely to cause anxiety and behavioral issues. Focus on building a positive learning environment where they feel safe and comfortable.

10. Keep Instructions Simple – Complicated strings of directions can be difficult for any student to follow, but particularly so for children with ASD. Many struggle with processing oral language, so you break down instructions step-wise, and avoid giving them more than one or two at a time. Make sure you’re using short sentences and simple but clear language, allowing the child enough time to process each step and respond.

Consult a doctor or therapist if you need guidance, research new techniques for teaching children with autism, and try a few different methods to gauge how effective they are for each child. Most importantly, don’t lose patience. With a little practice and effort, you’ll find what works best for them!

*Republished from original article*

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How can teachers support students with autism in the classroom

Students with autism often present unique challenges to schools, and teachers can often find it difficult to meet their needs effectively.

Internationally, around 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social communication and behavioural challenges.

recent study found that among the 934 parents who were surveyed, approximately 77% had children on the spectrum attending mainstream schools.

It also found that, in general, teachers only felt slightly confident in their ability to support students with autism, while parents were even less certain of teachers’ confidence to teach their children with autism.

Teachers, then, need to have a better understanding of autism and how it may affect learning. They also need help putting appropriate strategies in place.

Impact of autism on a student’s life

Every person on the autism spectrum is unique and their needs will be reflected differently.

Challenges experienced interacting socially and communicating with others are common among students on the spectrum, and will have an impact on every aspect of their lives.

These challenges can lead to levels of stress, anxiety and depression that are much higher than for other students. Up to 72% of students on the autism spectrum have additional mental health needs.

Classrooms are social environments that rely heavily on being able to interact, socialise and communicate with others effectively. This can intensify the stress, anxiety and depression students on the spectrum may experience.

This can present unique challenges for schools and teachers, with students on the spectrum being four times more likely than their peers to require additional learning and social support services.

Research shows the importance of understanding the link between academic learning and social and emotional competence.

A lack of social-emotional competence can lead to not only a decrease in a student’s connection with school, but also academic performance.

This reinforces the notion that social-emotional learning has a critical role to play in learning, as well as in school attendance, classroom behaviour, and academic engagement for all students.

The heavy focus on academic aspects of the curriculum and the demand for data-driven accountability that schools are required to address often result in the focus on social and emotional learning and mental health being overshadowed or pushed to one side.

Misinformation around inclusion

Inclusion is about being proactive in identifying the barriers learners encounter in attempting to access opportunities for quality education, and then removing those barriers.

It is about meeting the needs of all children to ensure they get a quality education and have the opportunity to reach their potential.

Often assumptions are made that “inclusion” means students need to be in mainstream classrooms at all times. When inclusion is interpreted in this way, students may be unable to access adjustments that adequately address and meet their needs.

The implementation of any adjustments need to be tailored to the students’ individual needs.

Schools also need to be careful not to run the risk of overgeneralising, as students with autism can be as different from each other as any other students.

Students on the spectrum often need time away from other students and the demands of the mainstream classroom. The frequency with which this needs to happen will be based on the individual needs of the students involved, and where they go in these situations would be dependent on the school setting.

Doing this would help them to not only manage the social and sensory challenges of the school environment, but also the stress and anxiety they can experience.

Schools also need to be careful not to run the risk of overgeneralising, as students with autism can be as different from each other as any other students..

Ideas for teachers

During the survey, students with autism made some suggestions as to how teachers could better support their needs.

They suggested that it would be useful if teachers could help them cope with change and transition by simply reminding them when a change was looming.

They also asked to use a tablet or laptop to help with school work, instead of handwriting. This can help students on the spectrum overcome many of the motor skill difficulties that make handwriting difficult.

Giving students a copy of instructions or information that their teacher writes on the board may also help.

Students with autism can find tasks requiring a lot of planning and organisation such as managing assignments, participating in assessments, navigating learning tasks, and completing homework extremely difficult.

This can have a negative impact on their cognitive, social and academic ability.

Schools could allow older students to take photos of these instructions using their mobile phone or tablet.

Having a quiet space to complete their assessments and getting assistance with organising themselves and the social aspects of school were also raised as important strategies.

How to better support students

There are a number of barriers to providing better and appropriate support to meet the educational needs of students with autism.

These include: funding, lack of knowledge and training, lack of specialist support staff and time, lack of appropriate resourcing and class sizes.

Funding can impact on the amount of resourcing, support and specialist staff available to teachers to help individualise their approach. Funding and resources vary from state to state and school to school.

Teacher training and experience in autism will vary.

In the Australian Autism Educational Needs Analysis, the majority of teachers (89%) and specialists (97.5%) who participated had received professional learning or specific training related to students on the autism spectrum.

Teachers and specialists working in the field need to feel adequately supported to meet the needs of these students, and this support must be ongoing.

The use of flexible and individually tailored educational approaches is crucial. This requires that teachers have an array of adjustments and resource options which can be implemented both in and outside of the classroom environment.

Input from a multidisciplinary team that includes educational specialists and allied health professionals should also be available.

It is not enough to give teachers professional development on autism. They need additional help from appropriate specialist staff to put adjustments in place that fit within the context of their classroom and school.

*Republished from original article*

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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Diet

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a complex developmental and neurological condition that typically appears during the first three years of life. It affects brain function, particularly in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Classic symptoms include delayed talking, lack of interest in playing with other children, not wanting to be held or cuddled and poor eye contact. There is no known cause for ASD, but both genetics and environment are believed to play a role.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in every 68 American children has been identified with ASD. It is about five times more common in boys than in girls.

People with ASD often repeat behaviors and have narrow, obsessive interests. These types of behavior can affect eating habits and food choices, which can lead to the following health concerns.

  • Limited food selection or strong food dislikes. Someone with autism may be sensitive to the taste, smell, color and texture of foods. They may limit or totally avoid some foods and even whole food groups. Common dislikes include fruits, vegetables and slippery, soft foods.
  • Not eating enough food. Kids with autism may have difficulty focusing on one task for an extended period of time. It may be hard for a child to sit down and eat a meal from start to finish.
  • Constipation. This problem usually is caused by a child’s limited food choices. It typically can be remedied through a high-fiber diet, plenty of fluids and regular physical activity.
  • Medication interactions. Some stimulant medications used with autism, such as Ritalin, lower appetite. This can reduce the amount of food a child eats, which can affect growth. Other medications may increase appetite or affect the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. If your child takes medication, ask your healthcare provider about possible side effects.

Caring for a child with ASD can be challenging on many levels, and healthful eating is no exception. For children with ASD, a nutritious, balanced diet can make a world of difference in their ability to learn, how they manage their emotions and how they process information. Because children with ASD often have restricted diets as well as difficulty sitting through meal times, they may not be getting all the nutrients they need, particularly calcium and protein.

If you have a child with ASD, try these nutrition strategies.

Be Prepared for Pickiness

Many parents find their child’s sensitivity to tastes, colors, smells and textures the biggest barriers to a balanced diet. Getting your child to try new foods — especially those that are soft and slippery — may seem nearly impossible. You may find that your child avoids certain foods or even entire food groups. One of the easiest ways to approach sensory issues is to tackle them outside of the kitchen. Have your child visit the supermarket with you to choose a new food. When you get home, research it together on the Internet to learn about where it grows. Then, decide together how to prepare it. When you are done, don’t worry if your child doesn’t want to eat it. Simply becoming familiar with new foods in a low-pressure, positive way eventually can help your child become a more flexible eater.

For children with ASD, a nutritious, balanced diet can make a world of difference in their ability to learn, how they manage their emotions and how they process information..

Make Mealtimes Routine

A child with ASD will have to work harder at mealtimes because a busy kitchen, bright lights and even the way the furniture is arranged all are potential stressors. Making meals as predictable and routine as possible can help. Serving meals at the same time every day is one of the simplest ways to reduce stress. In addition, think about what concessions you can make for easier mealtimes. If your child is sensitive to lights, try dining by candlelight. Let your child pick a favorite food to include at every meal. Or, let your child choose a favorite seat at the table.

Seek Guidance for Special Diets

You may have heard that a gluten- or casein-free diet can improve symptoms of ASD. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Casein is a protein found in milk. Proponents of the diet believe people with autism have a “leaky gut,” or intestine, which allows parts of gluten and casein to seep into the bloodstream and affect the brain and central nervous system. The belief is that this may lead to autism or magnify its symptoms. While some studies indicate that these diets may be effective for certain children, controlled scientific studies have not proven this to be true so more research is needed. Keep in mind that restrictive diets require careful planning to make sure your child’s nutrition needs are being met. Consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your child’s diet as there can be side effects and potential nutrient shortfalls when a gluten- or casein-free diet is self-prescribed.

Working With a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Most children, with or without autism, can be choosy and particular about the foods they eat. A registered dietitian nutritionist can identify any nutritional risks based on how your child eats, answer your questions about diet therapies and supplements advertised as helpful for autism and help guide your child on how to eat well and live healthfully.

 

*Republished from original article*

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