DO IT WITH LOVE AND PATIENCE: TEACHING KIDS UNDER THE SPECTRUM
Being a teacher is one of the noblest professions out there. Basically, you become a child’s second parent, which means that you ought to show them love and care.
But if you’re a special needs teacher, you know that your patience will have to be extended further. With the ever-growing population of autistic children, special needs teachers like you must be more than sensitive to the students’ needs. You have to take into account that each of them has unique learning needs and requirements, and overlooking them will prove problematic.
Although autism can be exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally because of the many layers and complexity of the condition, it is important that teachers find ways to connect with their children in a meaningful way. Love and patience are needed. Fortunately, there are many ways to show these attributes through words and actions.
Keep sensory overload at bay
Kids with autism perceive the world differently. Even the most basic things can be unexpectedly distracting for them. Certain smells, blinding lights, and noises from school bell and voices of their classmates can make it difficult for autistic students to focus. With this in mind, you need to make sure that the learning environment is toned down. For instance, your classroom could use a calm or cool color. Do not design or cover the walls with many posters and visuals that will grab the attention of your students.
Make your teaching more visual
You might have a reading program for autism. And while many kids with autism can read, they can still benefit from visual aids; these actually help them absorb information more efficiently. For one, you can use visual cues and pictures as class rules reminders. Photographs, illustrations, and even line drawings will be your best friends when teaching your class. But if you want your style to become more interactive, you can use online tutorials and videos.
Manage changes and transitions
Because an autistic child’s routine is crucial to their comfort, changes and transitions can be incredibly overwhelming for them. Changes are often unavoidable and even necessary in school, but the good news is that you can alleviate the anxiety they induce by preparing the autistic child beforehand.
For example, if you are planning to change classrooms in a week, take the child to view it a few days in advance. Show and give them pictures of it for them to look at until the day of the change. Attaching some predictability to an unexpected task in this way can help it feel less daunting for the child and gives them time to mentally adjust.
Choose your words
You ought to avoid long instructions and lengthy words. This is because many people with autism may have trouble remembering the sequence. If a kid can read, you may want to write the instructions on a piece of paper and even incorporate some drawings. Moreover, you need to choose your words carefully. Your students may find it difficult to understand figurative language, as they tend to look at it in a very literal or concrete manner.
Focus on their interests
You know that a lot of autistic children are fixated on certain things or subjects, such as maps, music, and train. You can use these fixations as a learning device so that they can absorb information much more easily. If a student loves trains, you can incorporate them into the stories you want to tell them and even simple arithmetic problems. If they are in love with the piano, you can turn a story into a song that they can play using the instrument and even sing along with.
Even when you think you’re doing everything right, teaching a child under the spectrum can still be testing. The child and their parents are counting on you to do your best though, so it’s important to learn how to bounce back from those difficult days.
Often this comes with experience and a positive mentality, so it’s up to you to invest the time in strengthening your mind. Here are some simple things to repeat to yourself daily, particularly when things get tough.
Building a relationship with your students is not something that happens overnight. It takes time, dedication, and patience. Every mistake you make is valuable feedback for figuring out what works.
So, on those days where you have your students disrupting class and you feel like pulling your hair out, just remember that they are likely acting out for a reason. It’s usually because of a need that isn’t being met. Once you learn what their needs are, you may find things become so much easier. That sense of accomplishment you gain from supporting them will one day outweigh any hair-pulling stress you felt in the past.
"Supporting a child with autism in the classroom is no small undertaking, but it is a valuable and incredibly fulfilling one. Helping autistic children to fully engage with their learning not only makes their educational experience more positive and beneficial, but it also paves the way for a future where they can reach their full potential."
TEACHING IS LOVE IN ITS PUREST FORM
THANK YOU TO ALL TEACHERS, THERAPISTS AND HOMESCHOOL MOMS.