Consider sharing this tip sheet with your child’s teachers.
Working with a Student with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Behavior that may seem odd or inappropriate is an attempt to cope and communicate. Interpret the intent.
- Minimizing the sensory triggers for an individual child will make a big difference in their comfort and ability to concentrate. Triggers may include fluorescent lights; noise; scents and intrusion into personal space. The use of earphones may help a child feel less distracted.
- Recognize that being upset is most likely a reaction to tension, anxiety, frustration and inability to cope with a situation.
- Identify and provide a “safe place” the child can retreat to when upset and overwhelmed. Honor the student’s request to leave a stressful situation.
- Encourage the student to self-advocate by sharing their feelings of stress, tension and anxiety.
- Shorten assignments or break complex tasks into smaller steps. Too much direction or information on a page may be overwhelming.
- Modify how material is presented based on how a student processes information. Videos, computer programs, tapes and self-paced reading might be more effective than oral presentations.
- Allow options for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Examples might include PowerPoint presentations, taped presentations (without a live audience), reading a report aloud, creating a poster, and labeling an illustration rather than writing an essay.
- Getting started is a special challenge. Provide bridges and transitions to new tasks such as topic sentences, example problems, and demonstrations.
- Disorganization is not a character flaw – it is a symptom of poor executive functioning skills. You can help by providing and reinforcing structure and being consistent.
- Please understand that responses that may sound blunt or rude are probably not intentional or personal. At a later time, consider brainstorming “better ways to share” information with the student.
- Learn to recognize a louder voice, grouchiness and rudeness as possible indicators of agitation and overwhelm. Move to reduce stressors and allow time for the child to calm down.
- Allow time for shifts in thinking or focus. Give time signals when ending or changing tasks. (For example: In two more minutes we will stop writing.)
- Develop a positive relationship with the student. Speak in a calm, quiet voice. Once there is trust, a student with ASD will be loyal to you.
Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network www.rrvan.org