If you are getting an autistic child in your class for the first time this September, you may have heard many things about autism which makes you nervous about being able to meet the child needs within your class this year. The first thing to remember is that every autistic child is different, has their own strengths as well as difficulties and with the right support can usually have a successful year in your class.
Here are 4 things you can do to start off your year with this child on the right footing:
To the parent who will be eager to tell you all about their child, what works for them, what upsets them and how it is for them at home. This is important information and at the beginning of term it is quite okay just to listen and respond with a “I’m looking forward to getting to know your child. Let’s meet again [at agreed date] and see what plans we can make for the rest of the year.” Planned and structured meetings with parents can alleviate the anxieties they have and give you valuable information about the child. Don’t forget to ask the parent about the child’s good points, interests and strengths.
2. READ IT
You will more than likely be given some information about the child from their previous teacher or from your SENCO. There may be anything from one page to a file full of paperwork. Make it your priority to READ the most up to date document. Hopefully this will be an Educational Psychologists report and/or an Education, Health and Care Plan. Read the All About Me section which will give you the views of the parent and child themselves. If you are given nothing else but a one-page pupil profile READ THIS. For all the paperwork I advise you to get a highlighter and highlight the POSITIVE statements that you think will be most useful for you to know as you plan for the child in your lessons.
3. USE IT
Autistic children usually need structure and predictability. If you are advised or given a visual timetable for the child – It isn’t wallpaper, it needs to be changed every day, the child needs to be able to take off each activity as it finishes and know that the day is going to end and when. Visual timetables teach the child about order and sequencing, supports them to be able to organise themselves and supports the development of their memory and recall skills. Imagining what something will be like, or worrying about how long they have, or what is going to happen in the day are really common challenges for autistic children. A visual timetable and other visual supports can make all the difference to them engaging in the classroom activities and lessons. See here for more about Visual timetables
4. INCLUDE INTERESTS
One of the best ways to motivate a child with autism is to link what they are doing to their special interests. It can be in a reward chart of a TARDIS, lots of opportunities to write about their favourite topic, space in the day to indulge in a ‘topic box’ of items or toys that relate to their interests. Maths can be done through Lego, Beast Quest writing can cover English writing targets and Space can be linked to and illustrate all kinds of topics in the curriculum. This works in primary and Secondary. Be creative, and get the child on your side. It does mean digressing from your carefully planned lessons, but think carefully about the learning target. If it is to understand addition or quadratic equations, can it be made relevant to a pupil who finds school a great challenge and who has an area of great expertise that they are always being told they cannot talk about!
Of course, you want the autistic child to engage in a variety of learning tasks and topics, but include and acknowledging their interests can build upon their strengths and make school that bit more successful for them.
I have recorded online courses that are in small manageable chunks and that you can do in about 3 hours in total. Each is CPD accredited and for £10 per month you get access to ALL our autism courses and the Live sessions, as well as to our annual conference. Each course can be done as a one-off for just £20 each.
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