11 Practical Tips for ASD Teachers
Teaching is not easy, especially for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) teachers. Although rewarding, guiding a child may be challenging.
Teachers are the bricks that our children need to build beautiful castles. We can find many different rooms inside the castle, but as important as the others: culture, patience, social interaction, courage, ability to solve conflicts and problems, manners, and skills. Teachers guide the next generations, and we have tremendous respect and understanding for them. Because things get tricky. Things get frustrating. We all need help sometimes so that we won't feel overwhelmed. Here are some tips that we think may help teachers:
1. Learn about what your students like.
People on the spectrum have very distinct and specific interests. Try to incorporate them into your lesson to keep your students more engaged.
2. Promote interactions.
Group interactions may be intimidating, but one-on-one interactions might be more approachable.
3. Have a clear structure.
Prepare the lessons carefully and structure them into main points. Make the information in lists or easily listable.
4. Have a schedule they can follow.
It would help if you made everything as predictable as you can. Spontaneous changes can stress the kids on the spectrum, and you don't want that to happen. To keep your classes productive, you need a strict program.
5. Encourage them to remain organized.
Your students probably like to make lists and organize their stuff in a particular way to feel comfortable. Support that!
6. Give precise instructions.
It would be best if you were very concise about what they should do during active learning time and active working time (e.g., solving exercises, answering questions).
7. Delimitate breaks.
Breaks are essential in the learning process. Take some time between the main points of your lesson and make sure they understood you by asking questions about what point you made.
Also, try to take small breaks for playing or other enjoyable activities so the kids can better keep their focus when you are teaching.
8. Be patient!
It's a well-known thing that you should approach kids with patience. If your students are on the spectrum, you should strengthen that patience. Nonetheless, suppose a student of yours is an AAC user and formulating an answer on their device. In that case, they should be allowed to take as much time as they need. Understand that they make an effort to give you the wanted answer or participate in the ongoing discussion.
9. Use all the means you need to make your point.
Use spoken language, an AAC device, and gestures to make something clear in need or to reassure them.
If the case, try using creative teaching sometimes. Art may help you bond with your students and help you discover new layers of their personalities. And, of course, it's fun!
10. Always acknowledge their successes, no matter how small.
Use adjectives such as good, awesome, excellent, amazing, clever, smart; or exclamations like wow! or yay!
11. Be mindful of their habits.
Don’t forget: they might have a difficult time being at school! Understanding their needs, the things they enjoy, and their limits will make them more comfortable. If you can’t quite get the specifics, don’t discourage yourself! Instead, talk to their parents. You can learn more about your students, strengthen your relationship with them, and connect with their parents.
Common mistakes to avoid
You aren’t explicit enough.
Remember, you know exactly what you want your students to do or say. You have an expected reaction in mind, but they don’t. Explain clearly. If you don’t get the expected reaction/answer, explain why it’s not correct or what may be improved.
Control your frustration.
It might get frustrating sometimes, and I get that. We are only human, after all. There are many reasons for your frustration. What should you do? Go to the root of it!
How did you end up in that situation? Are there too many stimuli around? Are you not explicit enough? Is what you ask your student to achieve too challenging to manage in that stage? Should the skill be broken down into smaller steps?
You don't provide the proper environment.
It would be best if you assured a proper environment. That includes visual and audio stimuli. If the surroundings are overwhelming, it might cause your students to feel distressed and won't allow them to practice adequately and be confident.
You are also an essential part of the environment. Ask yourself: Am I too close? Too loud? Are my gestures too extensive or too aggressive?
Make a difference!
According to ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Programs Guide, the most prized characteristics of an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) teacher are:
✎ Being organized
✎ Paying attention to details
✎ Having a positive attitude