Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
Don’t Be Left Out!
Subscribe to get latest educational news and updates for free: