Structure is key for those with autism who experience differences in their receptive and expressive language, and the chronological order of necessary steps to complete a task; which task to complete and/or how to cope with a change in their normal routine.
The TEACCH method advocates adopting a structured approach in the following five areas: physical organisation of the environment, work system, scheduling, routine and visual structure.
Implementing the use of structured learning and teaching tasks also helps to address ‘executive functioning’ issues which children and young people with autism may experience such as working memory, planning and prioritising, organisation, task initiation. Click on this link for further reading about executive functions.
Examples of structured tasks:
Clear labelling and organisation of materials to be used for a task (right) or a visual work system/ checklist (below) of the tasks required for the pupil to complete will promote independence. The work system will communicate four key pieces of information to the child/ young person:
- What work they are required to complete.
- How much work or how many tasks are involved.
- When they will be finished.
- What will happen after the work is completed.
For further reading about activity schedules: Banda, D.R., Grimmett, E. and Hart, S.L., (2009). Helping Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in General Education Classrooms Manage Transition Issues. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 41 (4), pp. 16 – 21.
Benefits of Visual Supports
Visual supports whether physical or digital are particularly beneficial for people with autism as it:
- Reduces the need for complex verbal instructions within the home and at school which aids those who may may experience expressive and receptive language challenges and may also help reduce anxiety and resulting behaviours.
- Facilitates smoother transitioning from a preferred task to a less preferred task.
- Helps children and young people cope with change and unfamiliarity.
- Can help with the generalisation of skills taught.
- Will enable easier progression towards independence.
- Assists with effective communication and social interaction.
It is best to personalise the visuals used for the specific child or young person, for example, you can use photographs of their belongings or favourite cartoon characters to motivate the individual to use the visual support.
- Emotional regulation visuals based on the Inside Out film characters
- Using the individual’s motivators
- Incorporating students strengths and interest when using structured teaching
Points to remember
- Also, consider the developmental age and cognitive ability of the individual when creating the visuals as symbols, photographs or written instructions can be used.
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