A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder experiences the world quite differently, and the school years bring new challenges for him and his parents.
There are endless possibilities where a child can reach but unlocking the hidden potential is the toughest job for the parents and guardians. As each child is unique in its way so the same formula could not be applied to all.
A child may face problem in perceiving, registering information, integrating and processing sensory inputs. Their nervous system is fragile and weak whereas outside world continuously exerts pressure therefore normal day schooling could be too demanding for a child on the spectrum.
Some kids have a problem with slow processing and take more time to process received information and they have to continuously think to cope as our world is too fast, loud and challenging for them.
The brain has to work harder to meet the required level, which sometimes leads to behavior trials. The teacher needs to break down the instructions and try to be slower while explaining something as their brain needs more time to process, this is what we call individual differences and it should be respected and accommodated accordingly.
An Autistic child is normally socially isolated and to fit in any specific social environment is a hard task for him. Similarly meeting the academic demands of the school is again a problematic affair for such children.
Besides sensory issues, some kids have eating disorders, gut and sleep issues which should be kept in mind while dealing with the child on the spectrum because most of the time things are beyond his control.
In the above-mentioned scenarios, it is recommended that the teacher should be a role model for the child with whom he feels safe, secure and competent.
Let the child set his own pace and there should be flexibility and opportunity for escape when needed. At the beginning of the day, the child will be happy, responsive and focused but as the day passes stress level may increase exponentially. At this stage teacher or teacher aid should adjust instructional and academics demands accordingly.
A noisy classroom, bright light, loud instructions can lead to sensory overload which is too much for the nervous system of autistic.
Academic goals should be according to the child’s needs and these are tailor-made keeping in view the strength and weaknesses. The teaching method should be appropriate.
They are visual learners and visual schedules can help them in understanding different concepts. Keeping a full day routine in visual schedules could be very helpful as it will make things predictable for them.
Consistently following the same routine every day and keeping things the same will improve child progress in school. IEP (INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATIONAL PLAN) for short term goals and long-term targets will set the pathway for the teacher and teacher aid to work with him in the desired directions.
Often the unpredictable routines lead to anxiety in these kids and the hardest time for them is recess, lunchtime, between classes time.
Anxiety can be expressed in the form of a meltdown or shutdown. It is recommended that one should not scold, insult, ridicule or punish that child rather the teacher should lower the stimulation, lower her voice and offer assistance and support.
Can Autistic Child be Home Schooled
Few children on the spectrum have cognitive and sensory issues. Some face difficulty in processing multiple tasks at the same time.
Traditional teaching involves a lot of listening, writing, sitting without enough breaks and for the child on spectrum in school sensory bombardment, social interaction with peers and meeting academic demands are really difficult.
The nervous system is already vulnerable, and a full day of school could be draining for them, as they have to meet instructional academics and social demands.
As the day passes stress level may increase leading to a meltdown. In a few cases, we can easily say that homeschooling is the best solution.
If Parents are committed, know the child’s weaknesses and strengths and are devoted to unlocking the hidden talent of their child, then by following an individualized educational plan which is tailored made according to the child’s physical and mental state they can do miracles.
Parents are the best therapist a child could have because they are available 24/7. There are good and bad days and only parents can understand the underlying issues like sleep disturbance, level of anxiety and mood swings.
For the parents who are doing homeschooling should join the homeschooling group to plan play dates and group learning with other children so that interactions and social learning should not be stopped.
But for many parents, homeschooling is not a good option as they have to stay at home and could not pursue their profession.
Secondly, parents should be empowered to deal with their autistic child as it needs a lot of consistency, hard work and money to teach them.
On the other hand, in homeschooling child is restricted and isolated at home he will not get the chance to meet and socialize with others. It will stop social and accidental learning.
For most of the kids on the spectrum, two to three hours of schooling with professionals and two to three hours of homeschooling in which child and parents work together yields the best results.
Short duration schooling where special needs are catered like occupational therapy to meet sensory needs, physical training to channelize their energies, speech therapy to help in speech along with group activities to help in socialization is the best way to train them.
Parents at home should generalize the concept taught at school for better understanding. They should adopt a naturalistic teaching approach like shopping for giving the concept of buying and selling.
The child should be encouraged to do daily chores himself, to make him more independent and to boost his confidence. Learning can become fun if the child is involved in this way and he feels safe, secure and accepted.
Are There Schools for Autistic Children?
A child on spectrum needs intensive therapies and early intervention tailored for their individual needs, which will affect his whole life.
There are some very good schools working and bringing positive change in the lives of these kids.
Best Schooling for Autistic Child 2020
ABC school is designed to meet the individual needs of children who are diagnosed with Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) between the ages of 3 and 22 years of age.
New Hope academy Niles is an excellent institute dealing with elder kids aged 11 to 21. In this institute, different skills are being taught which helps them to be more independent in life.
Other institutes which are playing an important role in helping these kids are;
- Kendall school therapeutic pathways.
- May Centre for child development schools Santa Cruz
- The Autism Academy of learning
- Camp hill Special School
- Imagine Academy
Children on the spectrum need individualized attention while choosing a school one should ask the student to teacher ratio.
The school should provide speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, special education and behavior therapy to meet special needs. The best school is in which your child is emotionally supported. The child should feel happy and protected competent.
Inclusion or sending a child on the spectrum to mainstream school is an important decision for a child. Few children will blossom and well-adjusted with a little modification but some of them withdraw and regress.
Inclusion can yield outstanding results if sensory, emotional, social academics and instructional demands are adjusted.
For any child on the spectrum if he feels safe, secure and competent he can perform well. On the other hand, if the school routine is too hard for the child and the environment is not accommodative it will do more harm than good.
How Can I Help My Autistic Child in School?
Few important things to help your child in school.
- First of all, being a parent, one should be realistic about the demands set for the child. It is recommended that one should set goals according to the child’s level.
- Every child on the spectrum is different so let them set the pace and learn accordingly without any pressure and strain.
- Physical settings of the classroom should be adjusted according to his needs such as sitting arrangement should be altered if needed. If he needs earplugs to avoid noises, sunglasses or mask it should be provided to avoid sensory overload.
- Tasks that are presented to the child should not be too hard and confusing, it should not be too long, instructions should be clear and concrete and broken into small steps.
- The way of explaining instructions should be accommodative and polite. Then decide which skills to teach your child set your goals in which he is lacking. If he lacks and doesn’t know how to control his emotions teach him coping skills first.
- If he is socially isolated teach him socialization and work on his interactions with peers.
- If he is not good at reading work on his reading skills first.
A child on spectrum needs predictable structured and consistent routines and for expected things, they show less anxiety.
There should be visual schedules for daily routines. Set up a color organizer and color code thing to help them pack their bag pack.
Try to begin with simple instructions, provide support where needed and consistently work on the same skill unless the desired level is achieved.
Never blame a child for not doing it rather try to alter your demand accordingly and prove to be as supportive as possible.
See Also:- How to Deal with Autism in Adults
How to Make an Effective Team at School?
In the classroom teachers and peers should be well aware of the child on the spectrum and his limitations.
If they are willing to understand individual differences than adjustment of a child on the spectrum will be much easier and they can be supportive.
There are very good videos and books available. Schools should plan workshops for awareness and knowledge of autism.
Class fellows who are supportive and accommodative prove to be the best teacher for the child. Parents are the best advocates for their children. They should be the leader for the child and their protector who can work in effective collaboration with teachers, therapists, and professionals.
Parents can guide them about the strength and weaknesses of their child and have a close look at progress and can suggest modifying strategies if needed.
A child on the spectrum is entitled to many rights. Parents should be well aware of their rights.
In America, there is IDEA (INDIVIDUAL DISABILITY EDUCATION ACT). It is recommended that parents should read those rights and should be well aware of their rights.
Knowledge is power. If the child is showing problematic behaviors too frequently parents can request a school district for functional behavior assessment and ask for a positive behavior support plan.
Parents should build a good relationship with occupational and speech therapists and make sure those goals should be practiced daily by the teacher or teacher aid.
In conclusion we can say that the triangle of parent-child and the therapist is very important. There should be a strong effective collaboration between teachers and parents for the betterment of the child.
Early interventions and understanding the child’s differences and accepting it is very important. Schooling is very important for the child on the spectrum. It can be part-time schooling for two to four hours, but it will open a new horizon for the child.
The teacher should have knowledge about autism and impart knowledge to the class fellows. The good collaboration of teachers with parents, designed individual educational plans according to the need of the child and willingness to manage behavioral challenges will bring very good results.
Overall if the school environment is supportive and accommodative in which the child feels safe, respected, protected and competent. IF THEY CAN’T LEARN THE WAY WE TEACH. WE SHOULD TEACH THE WAY THEY LEARN.
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