Teaching can be one of the most fulfilling careers. It is an absolute joy to be around children, and the chance to make a positive impact in their life is a factor that keeps many teachers going. Despite how difficult the job can prove to be, knowing that the individuals you are teaching are positively benefitting from your interaction make your efforts worth it. As if teaching wasn't hard enough, teaching children with special needs is considerably more challenging. Neurodevelopmental disorders are prevalent in most societies these days. One of the most common neurodevelopmental issues which arise in children is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The DSM 5 is a diagnostic tool that is used by psychologists and behavioral analysts around the world. According to the DSM, ASD is a deficit in social communication and interaction. Therefore, children who have ASD are less functional in social reciprocity and general social communication, which means that they also have a hard time building and maintaining relationships with people around them. When teaching children like this, it is imperative to meet their learning standards through your teaching style.
Here are a few things to consider when teaching children with ASD
Know what you are dealing with
It would be best to teach children with special needs if you had an education in the related field. Merely reading about Autism and other neurodevelopmental issues might not be enough to understand the extent of these individuals' impairments fully. A masters in psychology or a masters in applied behavior analysis online may help you in your attempts to teach these children.
As much as we would all like to help and teach children with special needs, we need to educate ourselves about the conditions they are suffering from. Knowing the severity, type, and general prognosis related to the illness is crucial when dealing with these children. These factors are best interpreted by someone who has been educated and has experience dealing with special children like a behaviour analyst.
The use of visuals
When dealing with children on the autism spectrum, it would be best not to solely rely on verbal means of teaching as done with fully functional students. These individuals have issues both in communication and comprehending messages given to them. Therefore, relying on verbal means as a sole means of teaching might not be the best idea when teaching autistic children.
Using visuals in class might be the best thing you did for these children. They would better understand the messages being conveyed to them if you gave them visual cues instead of explicit verbal messages. Videos and pictures work the best with children having ASD. We would suggest avoiding graphical and statistical examples. The children might not always understand what is being depicted by the diagrams. Using visuals aids might be one of the best teaching strategies you implement.
Focus on the individual
If you are dealing with a child with ASD and are in a typical classroom, consider spending some extra time with the child when conveying information to them. They might not always understand what is going on in the class, therefore, after you have explained a concept to everyone else, consider doing so in simpler words with the autistic child. Doing so would make them feel that they are being taken care of, however, make sure you manage it so the child does not think that they are being treated differently from the rest of the class.
If you are dealing with a class with solely special children, things become considerably easier for you. You can give each child special attention in situations like this. Moreover, classes with special children are usually smaller than usual classes. Smaller classes promote better learning for the individuals as they get focused attention. Teachers have an easier time conveying their lessons.
Explore the student's interests while teaching
If you teach a course with flexible content, try involving the children and asking them what they want to learn. If not that, then pick up on a trend or interest you know the children are interested in. Being a teacher, you would have caught on to the class dynamics and a general theme that resonates with the children.
For example, if most children like animals, consider teaching a topic related to animals and nature in general. Not only will this keep them interested, but it will exercise their ability to stay focused on a topic. Practising focus and attentiveness can be a significant benefit when dealing with children who fall on the autism spectrum.
Activity and sensory-based education
One of the best ways to teach children with ASD is to get them active in the learning process. Having them doing tasks as part of an assignment can be extremely beneficial. Having them become physically involved in the functions might put them in a better position to learn and remember their experiences.
Moreover, teaching them about their senses can also significantly benefit the learning process. Especially with younger children, they might benefit from learning about their senses through engagement. For example, writing a report about walking through a rose garden might encourage them to smell, feel and see their surroundings. Asking them to write about their favourite foods in detail could also encourage them to express themselves subjectively and convey their thoughts to their teachers in written form.
No doubt, dealing with ASD requires a considerable amount of patience and dedication to work. Because these children are sometimes slow to learn, you might become irritated and consider giving upon them. However, if you stick with it, watching someone with special needs grow and begin to overcome some of their issues can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Moreover, knowing that you played a role in development is all the more enjoyable.
Consider some of these teaching tips. You might see a significant change in the student's behaviours by applying some of them. Moreover, they will make the teaching process easier for you as well.
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