In the classroom;Autism

29th October 1999 at 01:00
* 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.

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