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How to teach Children and Adults with Autism

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Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism

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Originally published  HERE 

Good teachers helped me to achieve success. I was able to overcome
autism because I had good teachers. At age 2 1/2 I was placed in a
structured nursery school with experienced teachers. From an early age I
was taught to have good manners and to behave at the dinner table.
Children with autism need to have a structured day, and teachers who
know how to be firm but gentle.

Between the ages of 2 1/4 and 5 my day was structured, and I was not
allowed to tune out. I had 45 minutes of one-to-one speech therapy five
days a week, and my mother hired a nanny who spent three to four hours a
day playing games with me and my sister. She taught ‘turn taking’
during play activities. When we made a snowman, she had me roll the
bottom ball; and then my sister had to make the next part.

At mealtimes,
every-body ate together; and I was not allowed to do any “stims.” The
only time I was allowed to revert back to autistic behavior was during a
one-hour rest period after lunch. The combination of the nursery
school, speech therapy, play activities, and “miss manners” meals added
up to 40 hours a week, where my brain was kept connected to the world.

  1. Many people with autism are visual thinkers. I think in pictures. I
    do not think in language. All my thoughts are like videotapes running in
    my imagination. Pictures are my first language, and words are my second
    language. Nouns were the easiest words to learn because I could make a
    picture in my mind of the word. To learn words like “up” or “down,” the
    teacher should demonstrate them to the child. For example, take a toy
    airplane and say “up” as you make the airplane takeoff from a desk. Some
    children will learn better if cards with the words “up” and “down” are
    attached to the toy airplane. The “up” card is attached when the plane
    takes off. The “down” card is attached when it lands.
  2. Avoid long strings of verbal instructions. People with autism
    have problems with remembering the sequence. If the child can read,
    write the instructions down on a piece of paper. I am unable to remember
    sequences. If I ask for directions at a gas station, I can only
    remember three steps. Directions with more than three steps have to be
    written down. I also have difficulty remembering phone numbers because I
    cannot make a picture in my mind.
  3. Many children with autism are good at drawing, art and computer
    programming. These talent areas should be encouraged. I think there
    needs to be much more emphasis on developing the child’s talents.
    Talents can be turned into skills that can be used for future
    employment.
  4. Many autistic children get fixated on one subject such as
    trains or maps. The best way to deal with fixations is to use them to
    motivate school work. If the child likes trains, then use trains to
    teach reading and math. Read a book about a train and do math problems
    with trains. For example, calculate how long it takes for a train to go
    between New York and Washington.
  5. Use concrete visual methods to teach number concepts. My
    parents gave me a math toy which helped me to learn numbers. It
    consisted of a set of blocks which had a different length and a
    different color for the numbers one through ten. With this I learned how
    to add and subtract. To learn fractions my teacher had a wooden apple
    that was cut up into four pieces and a wooden pear that was cut in half.
    From this I learned the concept of quarters and halves.
  6. I had the worst handwriting in my class. Many autistic children
    have problems with motor control in their hands. Neat handwriting is
    sometimes very hard. This can totally frustrate the child. To reduce
    frustration and help the child to enjoy writing, let him type on the
    computer. Typing is often much easier.
  7. Some autistic children will learn reading more easily with
    phonics, and others will learn best by memorizing whole words. I learned
    with phonics. My mother taught me the phonics rules and then had me
    sound out my words. Children with lots of echolalia will often learn
    best if flash cards and picture books are used so that the whole words
    are associated with pictures. It is important to have the picture and
    the printed word on the same side of the card. When teaching nouns the
    child must hear you speak the word and view the picture and printed word
    simultaneously. An example of teaching a verb would be to hold a card
    that says “jump,” and you would jump up and down while saying “jump.”
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