* Autism is usually identified before children begin school, but some slip through the net without a diagnosis.
* Teachers can play an important role in detection. Key signs are awkwardness in communicating and relating to others; inability to engage in imaginative play or think in abstraction; rigid adherence to set routines or carrying out elaborate rituals;
* Once a child is diagnosed, mainstream teachers can help by liaising with the SENCO and discussing autism with other staff.
* Tell children in the class about autism and prepare them for pos-sibly strange or different behaviour. Encourage them to empathise to pre-empt teasing and bullying.
* Identify and build on the child's strengths.
* Steer clear of using sarcasm, metaphors and exaggeration, to avoid being misunderstood by the child.
* Continually check to make sure the child is listening and understanding what you're saying and repeat if necessary. Autistic children often shut off when they don't understand something.
* Work out a plan of action for the child's specific needs and keep a record of progress.
* Speak directly to the child, or they may not think they are included when you address the class as a whole.
* Use visual aids when dealing with abstract concepts.
* Avoid distractions in the classroom. Teach the child in a small group when possible.
* Set tasks at an appropriate level and allow extra time if necessary.
* Build on the child's successes. Be encouraging and reward them when they do well.
* Draw on the child's interests in order to stimulate them.
* Ensure that the child knows their schedule and avoid unnecessary change.
* Enlist the help of a classroom assistant if you need one.
* Check the child isn't being left out at break times and structure breaks if necessary.