The Autism Awareness Week is about getting schools involved in activities and fundraising in order to learn more about Autism and raise important awareness. Whether you simply want to include a talk in assembly or create lesson plans, you can find useful and free resources from The National Autistic Society here.
Tips for the classroom
It’s important to support pupils with Autism and also their classmates, who need to understand.
Students with autism spectrum disorders need structure, and more so than most children. They tend to find clear, literally worded rules about what behaviour is acceptable easier to deal with, for example: “Look at and listen to the teacher when they are talking” rather than “pay attention”. Paying is something you do with money so how can it apply to attention? The important thing you are trying to do is remove the possibility for confusion, which can lead to anxiety and mis-behaviour.
It is important to use the same discipline systems for all your students, so that autistic students don’t feel singled out, or different. Try to keep rules clear and simple and base them on specific tasks, actions or facts. Try to avoid abstract descriptions, for example instead of saying things like “stay on task”, clearly define the exact activity you are expecting, writing a poem, drawing a picture etc. this sort of precise instruction is more readily understood. Consequences should be equally clear.
Because acceptable behaviours are quite often paid little attention, an autistic child is far less likely to watch and copy them, but less desirable behaviours, which are generally more noticeable and draw attention of other students and the teacher can be more readily imitated. Positive behaviours should be rewarded to highlight them just as much as negative ones.
Try having a list of clearly defined positive behaviours displayed on a wall, permanent visual references are very useful as they rarely change and so can be looked to for guidance when confused or anxious. Any student, autistic or otherwise should be rewarded for adhering to that list.
A simple sticker reward system works well, it’s a tangible reward for behaving in an acceptable way which will, over time, reinforce those behaviours.
These are just examples, but the process of using clear, fact based instruction with tightly defined consequences (good and bad) can be applied to almost anything.