The needs of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the classroom can be very different from those of typical students in the class—even high-functioning ASD students require extra, and often, different kinds of support compared to typical students.
ASD students have unique challenges including difficulty reading social situations and making friends; adapting to changes in their routines; and remembering complex ideas or directions; among other things.
These unique challenges of ASD students require a different kind of support than the typical student, and often more support. Here are some ways that teachers can give their high-functioning ASD/Asperger’s student support to help him/her succeed in the classroom:
- ASD students can benefit from opportunities to socialize with other students—when the engagement is structured, such as offering a group game to play.
- Seat the ASD student next to an appropriate buddy who can share notes and provide a friendly, patient presence.
- Give your ASD student directions in writing when working independently.
- Offer visual cues like underlining or highlighting to help draw the child’s attention to the most important parts of test directions or homework assignments.
- Break complex or long projects into simpler tasks.
- Break down worksheets and long tests so there are fewer questions on each page. This gives the ASD student more room to write, while also letting him/her digest smaller amounts of information at once.
- ASD students often have very strong interests in certain areas. Implement those interests to keep them engaged while learning new concepts.
- If possible, work with your ASD student on keyboarding skills and let him/her take notes on a laptop instead of with pen and paper. Many ASD children have difficulty writing, which does not improve with practice.
- Provide a written/illustrated schedule for the ASD student to help them navigate through the day. If there is a change to the normal schedule, give the student early and frequent warning of the change.
- Allow the ASD student to fidget—such as chewing gum, doodling, or squeezing a ball—as this can actually help him/her maintain focus.
- When you see the ASD student getting restless, move so that you are positioned nearer to his/her seat, and offer reminders to stay focused as needed.
- Be clear about expectations for any activity before the ASD student begins. Have the student repeat the directions in his/her own words.
- A visual record of accomplishment, like a progress chart, can help reinforce appropriate behaviors.
- The ASD child may sometimes struggle when there is a lot going on around them. Provide a “quiet time” space s/he can go to for a time-out.
- Talk to other students in the class to help them understand the ASD child’s differences in a positive way, embracing differences.
When you find that things are running smoothly for your ASD student, this doesn’t mean that s/he is “cured” or that the issues have disappeared—it means that you’ve found a way to cope with those challenges that work well.
It can be difficult to predict when an ASD child will have outbursts sometimes, and it’s completely normal to feel frustrated at times. Be patient with the ASD student, keep communication open with the student’s parents. With persistence and understanding, these tips can help your ASD student find success.