There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all program for including children with autism in a general-education classroom. However, there are general strategies and tools that may benefit your child and can be individualized as needed. Talk with your child's teachers about different strategies to create a positive and successful educational experience.
Increasing Success in the Classroom
Create an individual schedule for your child. Many children with autism respond well to a consistent and predictable visual schedule. A schedule can help your child understand where he needs to be and what he will be doing. It can also assist with transitions, which can often be difficult for children with autism. Your child may only need a schedule containing the day's activities. Or maybe your child also needs schedules for specific activities, such as circle time, which may include activities like a good-morning song, story time and sharing time. Many children need schedules with pictures or photographs to represent each activity, while older readers may only require a written schedule. Matching the schedule to your child's individual needs is key, so be sure to communicate with your child's teacher to create the best fit.
Many children with autism also have unique sensory needs. Some children may seek out tactile input, while others may avoid it. Lights, noises or certain visual stimuli may be unpleasant for children with sensory sensitivities. Talk with your child's teachers about creating opportunities to meet your child's needs. Perhaps your child would benefit from a handheld 'fidget' toy during circle time. Or maybe she needs a move-and-sit cushion on her chair. These cushions include a smooth side and a side with sensory points. If your child becomes overwhelmed during certain activities, talk to her teacher about creating a quiet space for her to access when she needs a break.
Increase your child's classroom success with visuals. Many children with autism benefit from visual reminders for areas of difficulty. For example, if your child has trouble participating in the circle-time routine consider providing him with a visual representation of the expectations. This could include the written expectations with pictures or photographs for each expectation -- sit on spot, raise hand to talk, keep hands and body to self, etc. "Social Stories," created by Carol Gray, can also be successful with children with autism. Social stories use words and pictures in a positive way to increase a child's understanding of a situation. The story can be individualized for your child and his specific need.
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