Schools for Autistic Children

Schools should chalk out a consistent detailed repetitive and routine schedule for classroom activities, moving between classrooms, lunch break activity, playtime activity and other activities throughout the day. 

Schools should provide multiple media options to suit each child’s specific learning style. For some visual aid like videos, pictures and chart relays will help, for others audio aid like audio tape or recording of the written information will help and yet in some tactile aids like flashcards, board games, note-pads for note taking, computer games and craft projects will help. The best progress will be made with the child’s preferred learning style. It’s important to remember that not all autistic children are the same. Whilst one may experience trouble hearing, another may not. That’s why it’s important to be able to facilitate all senses. There are a number of different devices out there to help people with autism, be sure to find out what each child struggles with and provide them with the same.

Schools need to give these children direct instruction of academic and social skills, structured activities and lessons with an introduction, detailed explanation, and a summary. Teachers need to be firm but tactful in their method of correcting the autistic child’s behavior. Embarrassing the student or causing him/her to feel shame will not help the student to learn appropriate social behaviors. 

Schools need to provide Sensory Aids to autistic children, as most of these children have a sensory processing disorder. This aid can help relieve the resulting stress and improve focus for autistic children as they attempt to learn in a busy classroom environment. These gadgets allow these kids to self-regulate their emotions and keep themselves on task when distractions compete for their attention. Many kids who are prone to repetitive behavior can keep their typical motions under control with an aid in hand or under foot. These sensory aids could be stress balls, pencil toppers, tangle puzzles, clay, wiggle cushions, weighted lap pads, foot rollers and chair bands. 

Improvements and QoL Changes

Schools need to allocate a quiet corner to autistic child, as the classrooms are full of distractions like other students thumping the tables, moving chairs, running hither thither, announcements on speakers, school bells, flickering lights, bright wall colors, strong smells of deodorants, talcum powders etc. Thus a quiet corner to take a break from and rest should be provided to these children for escaping from this strong sensory stimulus.

Schools should provide short breaks of five minutes in between activities. These breaks should also be available on an as-needed basis to allow students with autism to learn how to respond to internal cues and take the actions required to regulate their being. If the student is demonstrating problems with regulating his/her emotions and behavior, provide time away from the group or class in a safe, private area for the student to compose him/herself. As the child’s stress level decreases, encourage him/her to return to the group or class setting. Besides, incorporating stress relief breaks for the entire class helps target this challenge for the autistic child inconspicuous. Consider including stretching, pushing and pulling activities, or games for the whole class. Without adequate number of breaks each day, students may be prone to meltdowns from sensory overload and fatigue from constantly attempting to regulate them. With the breaks they tend to become more mindful of their feelings. 

School should pair the autistic child with a peer to help with social skills and activities in the classroom and in other settings like, cafeteria, gymnasium, playground, library etc. Role playing in the classroom also gives the student opportunities to participate and observe acceptable social interactions.

Teachers having information about the broad spectrum of autism or ASD is of greatest help. Having a teacher that is both knowledgeable and understanding gives these children the best chance for classroom and social success. If the teachers are unsure of how to approach or handle certain situations with an autistic student, they should consult the student’s educational team, especially when implementing interventions in the classroom. Also ask the parents of the student to help with reinforcing classroom strategies at home, and vice versa. The entire educational team within the school Teachers, Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, Educator, and Parent should create a list of social and academic goals for the child. 

Please note that besides all these therapies some children may require medication to help with concentration and/or response to environmental stimuli. Please follow the instructions for medications thoroughly from the physician or school nurse. 

Lastly, as regards autistic children patience is a virtue. Cultivate and reveal it.  

Kindness is giving hope to those who think that they are all alone in this world. 

– RAKtivist