What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Autism

Female teacher working with two young children with autism
Female teacher working with two young children with autism

The prevalence of autism in children in the United States increased by 119.4% from the year 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68), according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the fastest-growing developmental disability in the nation today.

Strategies to teach children with autism

It is important for teachers to know that communication issues may not be a 24/7 challenge for children with autism, but rather they may be exhibited only during certain social situations. These tips from Scholastic spell out ways you can help students with autism succeed in the classroom.

  1. Tell the student what you would like them to do instead of telling them to stop a behavior.
  2. Use a “talk about it later” box. If a student has something to say, but it could be lengthy and off-topic, place a sticky note on the corner of your desk, or in a box, and write the time of day you will talk to the student about that.
  3. Allow flexibility within your day’s structure. Although students with autism like routine and structure, a strategy to help the student is to offer flexibility with an assignment. For example, offer them two sets of math questions and ask which one they would like to complete first.
  4. Create a visual schedule of daily events. Do not list times by each event because a student with autism may expect that when the clock indicates a set time, you are moving on to the next thing.
  5. Connect, expect, and reflect. Connections do not come easily to students on the spectrum. but these students do understand genuine care and compassion. Reflection is also key to your teaching because that is how you can determine how to make tomorrow better for the student by evaluating what went wrong the day before.

Teaching children who have autism can be rewarding. Helping that child feel included in your classroom can produce positive results for you and all of your students. If you are a certified teacher who wants to specialize in educating students with autism, you can enroll in the Spring Arbor University online Master of Special Education program and obtain an endorsement in as few as 30 months.