Alongside my teaching at Sixth Form, I lead a small team who are dedicated to developing teaching and learning, staff wellbeing and CPD in college. Part of our vision for CPD this year is to offer staff a selection of lunchtime sessions ranging from ‘managing workload’ to ‘wellbeing in the workplace’, which staff sign up to depending on areas they wish to develop. This week we were extremely lucky to have a specialist practitioner from the Inclusive Education Service within North Yorkshire to speak with staff about Autism Awareness.
Here are the highlights…
Students who have autism often:
- Are good visual learners
- Have good rote memory
- Work best with routines
- Have strong interests
- Pay attention to details
However they might struggle with:
- Delayed processing time
- Distracted by seemingly irrelevant details
- Understanding language and its meaning (often taking a literal approach)
- Difficulties using and interpreting tone, inflection and volume
- Unable to generalise learning skills
- Difficulty reading social situations
- Often struggle to understand what others are thinking and feeling.
How can you support a student in your class who has autism?
- Focus on the Visual: Incorporate visual activities into your lessons, write activities and instructions on the board, use visual structures like planners or tables to help organise their thoughts and focus attention.
- Routine: Be conscious of changing seating plans or sudden changes with routine such as an activity that involves moving around the classroom- if you know this is going to happen, speak with the individual student the previous lesson so they are prepared.
- Idioms – speak literally: avoid using idioms were possible (I use these far too much!) e.g ‘put your head in the sand’, ‘off the top of my head’, ‘on the right track’, ‘bookworm’, ‘brainstorm’.
- Group Work: Be conscious about group or paired work, be mindful about who you put them in a group with and provide extra support with the change of routine and social interaction.
- Too much stimuli: students with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information so be aware of asking them to look and listen at the same time or write and listen (such as with a PowerPoint) or look and speak…give them processing time. Also be conscious that colour, texture or touch can be overwhelming…e.g. check if things like PowerPoint backgrounds are okay.
This of course only offers pointers to consider when teaching students with autism. As Lorna Wing OBE (leading founder of the National Autistic Society in the UK) says “If you have met one person with autism…you have met one person with autism.”