30 Nov 2022

Top tips for how to help a child with autism at school

Children with autism have to deal with many challenges, which includes how they learn at school. According to the National Autistic Society, there are 700,000 …

Children with autism have to deal with many challenges, which includes how they learn at school. According to the National Autistic Society, there are 700,000 autistic children and adults in the United Kingdom. It’s important that your child feels comfortable in an environment that is unfamiliar to them.

Teachers who are teaching autistic children at school need to know how to support them so that they can achieve their full potential. It’s worth noting that no two autistic children are the same, since each child will require varying levels of support in either a mainstream or special school environment.

We’ve included some top tips for how to help a child with autism at school feel comfortable and succeed in an environment that is unfamiliar to them.

Spend time getting to know the autistic child at school

One of the first things that school staff should do is spend some time getting to know your autistic child. It might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all autistic children you teach are similar to one another, but each child will have their own individual strengths, weaknesses and interests.

Intensive interaction is a good strategy to use, particularly if the teacher is meeting the autistic child for the first time. It’s an approach that’s used to interact with people who find it hard to communicate and socialise, which includes children with autism.

With this approach, it’s worth letting the child decide where they want to meet them on their terms as it can help the teachers know more about them. This can be useful as your child progresses from primary school, all the way up to university.

Create and establish a routine with them

Children with autism spectrum disorders like routines so it’s crucial that you work with them to create and establish a routine for them to follow at school. It’s important that you communicate any changes with them in advance so that your child does not get distressed by any unplanned events that occur.

In terms of the best format to create a routine for your autistic child at school, utilising visuals can be particularly useful for them. Your child’s teacher could use a combination of pictures and symbols to produce a timetable that they can use to know what tasks they’re doing during the school day.

Having a well-formatted timetable can help your child manage their time independently while moving on from one task to another.

Be aware of sensory overload

Teachers should be aware that a child with autism is likely to experience sensory overload within their school environment. It’s important that they are provided with simple adjustments so that it not only enhances their learning, but also manages their sensory sensations throughout the school day.

If your autistic child  is sensitive to noise, providing them with headphones can help them to concentrate, as well as eliminate any background noise. By providing breaks and activities to regulate your child’s sensory stimulation, it can help them to not only calm down, but also concentrate on their school work too.

Provide clear communication for your child with autism 

Children with autism will find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal language, which may include tone-of-voice and body language. They may also vary in terms of their verbal communication, with some autistic children being unable to speak and others having very good language skills.

Communicating with rhetorical questions, idioms and metaphors can confuse your child, so it’s crucial that you use simple and direct language with them. If your autistic child is a visual learner, then the teacher should create materials to make it easier for them to know how to complete the tasks in a step-by-step format.

For autistic children who are able to read, then teachers should provide written instructions for tasks. This means that they’ll be able to go through the task and ask questions about any instructions that they don’t understand.

Utilise the autistic child’s interests to help them learn

Some autistic children can form highly-focused interests, whether that’s a certain period in history, technology or cars. Teachers can use their interests and integrate it into their lesson and homework planning.

For example, if the autistic child’s parents know that their child is interested in darts, you could integrate their interest into maths problems. That could include adding, subtracting and utilising times tables to help them solve problems on a dartboard. By doing this, it can make a major difference in how the child engages in their learning at school.

Supporting an autistic child at school can be both challenging and rewarding for teachers and parents. Having the right learning environment and support can help children to not only have a positive school experience, but also help them achieve their full academic potential.

If you are worried about your child’s progress in school and worry that they are on the autism spectrum, The Autism Service’s Child Autism Assessment service can come in and help. Our team can complete a diagnostic assessment to determine whether your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

For any questions about how we diagnose children and adults with autism, please feel free to contact us today.

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