School can be a challenging place for young people on the autistic spectrum given the challenges they may encounter with their executive functioning, social skills and sensory demands. Teaching children the virtue of organisation, asking for help and a measure of independence by taking responsibility for their belongings (such as books, PE Kit and homework) from an early age will stand them in good stead as they progress through school towards the world of work. It is also helpful to gradually encourage involvement with other children when completing pair and group work tasks whether in the classroom or outside. As with teaching of household chores bear the top tips in mind.
1. Following a timetable
Given the inclination towards anxiety when routines are disrupted or when they are unsure what is happening having a visual timetable/ schedule available from an early age can be reassuring for children/ young people with autism.
The timetable can be a hard copy or for older children viewed on an electronic device. My Study Life provide an interactive planner for schedules/ timetables, submission deadlines for homework/ assignments and revision.
2. Organising books and materials for different school subjects
Keeping school books and materials in an organised system will ensure that they are much easier found and also aid with packing the schoolbag and completing homework’s.
The style of organisation selected should be based upon the cognitive ability and preference of the child or young person.
All books and materials required for each subject should be labelled in the same way for ease of organisation. It may also be helpful to have an individual folder or tuff bag for each subject area.
Different methods of organisation:
3. Organising homework and meeting deadlines:
Use of a homework diary or planner on a mobile device can help reduce the anxiety of missing a deadline.
For common problems which can be experienced while completing homework such as maintaining concentration advice is provided by the National Autistic Society.
For further reading click here.
A timer can be useful to help maintain focus for a certain length of time. Timers can be conventional sand timers or electronic timers, for example:
4. Packing schoolbag
A checklist can be used for younger children to teach them the skills of packing the correct equipment. Remembering to pack the correct books, to take a PE kit or Home Economics ingredients can be a challenge for those at secondary school. Referring to their timetable and colour coding books can help.
For young children, there are activities which prompt the consideration of what you might need to take to school:
5. Working as part of a group
A social skills difference is seen as one of the greatest challenges for young people on the autistic spectrum. For example, they may have a limited understanding of the give – and – take nature of conversation, the feelings of others and lack understanding of the unspoken rules of social interaction (Painter, 2006, pp. 13, 15). Krasny et al., (2003) have identified ten “essential ingredients” which are required when devising a social skills programme:
- Teach concrete skills
- Keep the group highly structured and predictable.
- Structured transitions from one activity to the next.
- Take the cognitive and language abilities of the young people into consideration.
- Use a range of teaching strategies for different learning styles.
- Use pair and group work as much as possible to encourage interest in others.
- Be aware of and address any self – esteem issues.
- Focus on social skills which are most relevant to those with autism.
- Start with basic skills and build up to more complex skills.
- Promote generalisation of skills learnt to the home environment and other arenas.
Group work is a major component of education in order to prepare students for the work place. Many opportunities for group work will be offered within the classroom but it is necessary to scaffold the learning for those with autism to make the task more beneficial and less daunting.
6. Problem – Solving and Decision – Making Skills
These skills are a key component of the thinking skills and personal capabilities framework (CCEA). Not only is it important that young people with autism learn how to complete a range of skills and tasks but also what steps should be taken if they encounter a problem. This is particularly pertinent as individuals with autism may experience problem solving challenges, therefore it is important to start teaching the necessary skills as early as possible so that they can be generalised (Cote, D.L., Jones, V.L., Barnett, C., Pavelek, K., Nguyen, H. and Sparks, S.L., (2014). Teaching Problem Solving Skills to Elementary Age Students with Autism. Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 49 (2), pp. 189 – 199.
Teaching can be conducted in a number of different ways whether as a role play or when an activity is sabotaged to prompt the individual to ask for help or to solve the problem if they have encountered it before.
- Autism Live – Teaching Problem Solving:
- Temple Grandin, “Helping Different Kinds of Minds Solve Problems”
- Asking for help
- Problem – Solving Wheel
- Problem – Solving Skills:
- For ideas about activity and schedule sabotage:
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