Children have a natural curiosity. They have questions about almost everything and most are anxious to share knowledge. This makes teaching children about autism easier.
First examine what is known about autism.
Children who have autism have some behaviors that will be noticeable early on in the classroom.
These may include:
*little eye contact
*spinning and rocking behaviors
*strong reactions to loud noises
*often speak with an abnormal tone or rhythm, or do not speak at all
*may repeat words, but not understand them
*respond negatively with a change of routine
~ Give children the experience of perceiving things differently
When the child with autism is not in the room these life lessons can be very helpful. Children with autism often are sensitive to noise. They perceive it differently. Sometimes younger children respond well to exaggerated examples. When the child with autism is not in the room these life lessons can be very helpful.
*Use an air-horn
Talk about how some children with autism hear things differently than others. Talk about how volume is not the same for everyone. Use an example of a timer. Set a timer and let the children hear it go off. Explain that some children hear it differently, prepare them for a very loud noise and then use the air-horn. What sounds like a timer to some, may sound like an air-horn to others. Then in class when a child with autism is reacting to noise, the teacher can quickly remind them about the air-horn.
* Use mittens
Sense of touch may different for some children. Provide mittens and have children try and feel things. Have them try and pick up small objects. It is hard. This gives them a broader understanding.
*Use a recorder
Have children listen to something from something spoken in an unfamiliar language. Question them about understanding the information. Point out that they did not understand the information, but they can learn to repeat it.
Have the children repeat five words until they can say them with ease. Point out that they still don’t understand them. Children with autism often repeat things they don’t understand.
~ Mimicking behaviors
Children learn things that they see all the time. Mimicking behavior is one of the tools that are used to teach. It is important that children learn there are times when mimicking behavior is not appropriate and even destructive.
*Do not mimic spinning, flapping and rocking behaviors. The child with autism uses these as some coping mannerism. It should not be used by other children. For very young children just teach them it is not acceptable behavior for them. When they get older they can learn the reasons.
*Do not mimic speech patterns and oddities
Making a sweeping statement to a child like “If everyone was jumping off a cliff would you?” is not a wise choice. Because the answer for most children is “yes”. They would follow the crowd, mimic the behavior and do what everyone else is doing. Instead teach them to have a sense of self. That is not a behavior that “I” can do, but it not my job to stop others from behaving that way. Teach tolerance.