Course Intention:

The purpose of this course is to provide specific perspectives that will serve as a guide for you in establishing a teaching protocol that will support your student’s success in the classroom, increase your confidence in working with and having a child with autism in your classroom, and help you to leverage the strategies to support the entire class. 

This course will cover these specific topics:

  • Introduction to Autism in the Classroom
  • Accepting the Diagnosis and Its Meaning (even if the child seems like they should be able to manage)
  • Can a Child with Autism Manipulate?
  • Can’t vs. Won’t
  • The Power of Consistency/The Need for All Environments to Work Together
  • The Need for flexibility
  • Applying Accommodations to the Entire Classroom vs. Singling Out the Child with Autism
  • Cognitive vs. Associative Tasks (eye contact, taking notes, etc.)
  • How to Find the Teachable Moment
  • Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement

Introduction to Autism in the Classroom

Children with autism struggle with sensory overload and sensory overwhelm which can cause them to experience paralyzing anxiety, inattention, lack of comprehension, anger, extreme frustration, meltdowns, negative self-image, and misperceptions of the social environment, among other things. Of course, these emotions and behaviors are not desirable for the classroom. Successfully teaching a child with autism requires that the educator understands certain dynamics of autistic thinking and works with the child accordingly.

The root of the difficulties that individuals with autism experience relates directly to the sensory over-stimulation and the resulting processing irregularities that are part of the autism. Because the neurological functioning of an individual with autism becomes overwhelmed by incoming sensory data, much other information in their environment is either never recognized, or never processed, and certainly is not stored for future reference.

As a result, children with autism are not learning automatically from their environment the way neurotypical (not on the autism spectrum) kids learn. Neurotypical children are building an understanding of the world that fuels their ability to be functional in general, their ability to succeed socially, and their overall executive functioning ability. The fact that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) don’t intuitively learn from their environment makes it necessary for us to intentionally and purposefully teach children with autism many abstract concepts, behaviors, and expectations that other children know instinctively from studying their environment. The lack of intuitive learning also leaves the ASD child without a social database to reference for interpersonal interactions, and that makes every interaction feel unique and unpredictable to them. This unpredictability can be extremely anxiety producing even to the point of being intolerable and can result in meltdowns, massive attempts to control the environment, and other extreme behaviors.

Following are a series of short video clips that will give you an idea of what some children with autism experience on a daily basis as they try to navigate life.