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Learning Techniques for Children with Autism

Learning Techniques for Children with Autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by challenges with social communication, and by restricted and repetitive actions that affects one’s behavior, emotions, and sensory processing in children. This  affects the ways in which they perceive, learn, think, or problem-solve. Since autism largely affects one’s sensory issues, some of them might require considerable support in their daily lives to understand how to learn things better to be able to understand the world.

Understanding Autism

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive and restrictive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. Other characteristics include atypical activity and behavior patterns, for instance, challenges with transitioning from one activity to another, an excessive focus on details and unusual responses to sensory stimuli. 

Autism Teaching Methods

For children with autism, teaching strategies can be made more effective and implemented by a parent, teacher or a medical professional. Here are a couple of noteworthy clinical treatments:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

     is a method of teaching children with autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. It is based on the premise that appropriate behavior, including speech therapy, academics and life skills – can be taught using scientific principles, and by reducing reinforcements so that the child can learn without constant rewards.
    The most well-known form of ABA is Discrete Trial Training (DTT), wherein skills are broken down to the small tasks and are taught individually. Discrete or separate trials may be used to teach eye contact, imitation, fine motor skills, self-help, academics, language, and conversation. Students start with learning small skills, and gradually learn more complicated skills as each smaller one is mastered.

  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

    is a family-based behavioral clinical treatment that tries to fix the social problems at the heart of autism, such as friendship skills, empathy, and the desire to share personal experiences with others. This approach takes into account the ways in which developing children learn how to have emotional relationships, right from infancy. RDI tries to help children interact positively with other people, even without language, using the pretext that when children learn the value and joy of personal relationships, they will find it easier to learn language and social skills. The idea is to give them a \”second chance\” to learn these skills through play, \”guided participation\” and other similar activities.

Autism Teaching Methods at Home

In view of the fact that most children with autism are visual learners, parents and teachers should take into consideration that these children learn best when they can see what is expected instead of being told what to do verbally. Visual cues greatly help children with autism, to understand and retain skills that aid with communication. Some of these strategies can be implemented at home as well as in a classroom:

  1. Create an environment that is not over stimulating. The child will do better if there is no loud music playing in the background, as it distracts a child with autism from concentrating on the subject at hand.
  2. Create a structured environment with predictable routines. The daily routine should be the same everyday, only differing slightly for special occasions. For visual learners, be sure to use signs and pictures to represent that event, in the child\’s schedule.
  3. Apart from pictures, you can also use drawings, a list or keywords, since visual schedules are beneficial to break down tasks and show multiple steps so that all efforts have been completed. Visual schedules like these can help reduce anxiety by providing consistency for children with autism. They are also an excellent way to help ease transitions and reduce meltdowns for such children. 
  4. Give fewer choices. If a child is asked to pick a color, only give him/her two choices, or at the very most, three choices to pick from. The more the options, the more confused they are likely to be.
  5. Select repetitive motions when working on projects. Most classrooms designed for autism have an area for work box tasks, such as putting erasers on pencils, or sorting colors into colored cups.
  6. Keep your voice low and clear when teaching or explaining a concept. Children with autism become agitated and confused, if someone is using a very loud voice to speak. 
  7. Limit physical contact. While this is a good strategy for all children, children with autism cannot properly interpret body language and touch, so minimal physical contact works best.

These suggestions should help in educating a child with autism, with less stress and in a calmer environment, while taking into account their limitations. The same guidelines can also be conveyed to teachers to use in a classroom, when teaching children with autism. For instance, allowing such students to stand instead of sitting around a table during a class demonstration, lets them do better when they are learning. Many are in the habit of rocking back and forth; this allows them to repeat those movements while still listening to the teacher’s instruction. 

Simple guidelines like these allow you as a parent, or a teacher, to eliminate stress in order to let children with autism learn in a more focused environment, and to let them grow and flourish at their pace.

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