Valuable Resources to Help Students with Autism Succeed
Children with autism can present unique challenges in your classroom. Check out these online sources for tips, information and professional support.
When you’re the head of a class with a student with autism, the job of providing differentiated instruction can be daunting. With the number of autistic children on the rise—one in 45 fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, according to a 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report—regular classroom teachers are more likely to have a student with autism, a disorder which ranges widely in the severity of its effects on development.
Students with autism generally have an individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 plan to lay out special accommodations. But it’s important to get to know the disorder and understand how modifications to your lessons are key to reaching your students, says Lisa Goring, with Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group.
Visual devices, for instance, can be particularly useful for some, she says. Goring gives as an example a student who is asked to name state capitals, but cannot respond to the verbal question with a verbal answer. Instead, the teacher used a visual device—stickers to place on a map—and the student was able to give all the correct answers.
“It’s about how the child can best communicate,” Goring says. “You may need to get in information in a different way. For some (autistic) students it may be that what motivates the rest of the class may not be motivating to them.”
Luckily, there are a number of resources to help teachers meet the unique needs and learning styles of students with autism.
The latest resources come in the form of apps. Not only does Autism Speaks have its own app for Android and iPhone, their online community compiles a list of their favorite autism apps that help teach social, cognitive and communication skills through behavior modification apps, language flash card apps, art apps and more. Try them in your classroom or suggest to parents and caregivers.
These sites feature lessons and tips to help you provide an inclusive classroom with differentiated instruction.
- Curriki: Here you’ll find tips for adapting lessons for an autistic student, as well as important background on the range of needs and abilities of children with autism. Appropriate for grades K-5.
- Child-Autism-Parent-Cafe.com: This autism-dedicated site offers 10 tips for creating an inclusive classroom.
- NEA.org: Read the NEA guide for teaching students with autism.
A number of professional development opportunities exist for teachers who want to better understand their autistic students. These sites offer continuing education, workshops and conferences on teaching students with autism.
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism: This clearinghouse of information from Indiana University features workshops, presentations, and strategies for working with students with autism of all ages and all points on the spectrum.
- The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Free, downloadable courses ranging from common characteristics of autistic students to approaches to instruction. The center promotes use of evidence-based practices for students with autism.
Resources available locally
Services and supports vary by district, based on student needs; some may employ an autism consultant or a behavioral consultant. Whatever the supports in place, Goring of Autism Speaks says that central to it all should be a consistent team approach that includes constant communication between all the players.
Some sites with information and support for schools:
- Autism Speaks: This toolkit is designed to support educators working with students with autism.
- National Association of Special Education Teachers: The association has links to a number of resources, including information on medical issues, classroom management and behavioral interventions.
- National Autism Center: A clearinghouse of information for educators and others who work with students with autism.
- Autism Society of America: Links to services and supports, searchable by location and the type of service needed.
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