How to cope in the classroom

10th January 2003 at 00:00
If you have a child with autism in your classroom you should seek advice from your Special Educational Needs Coordinator (Senco). If you think a child may have autism you should discuss this with your Senco, who may then consult the school's educational psychologist. "Schools and teachers need confidence to have a go, drawing on the fact that what's good practice for autistic children is good for others. For example, clear explanations; routines and a calm atmosphere," says Mike Collins of the National Autism Soiciety.

Children with autism vary in their behaviour and ability, but bear in mind: it's important to promote tolerance and understanding of the others in the classroom towards the child.

Routines are very important. Try to provide a consistent daily routine and warn the child in advance of changes.

Try to speak as calmly and clearly as possible and don't relyon the child reading "between the lines".

Re-phrase idioms. For example: "Give me five minutes" could be re-phrased as "I'll talk to you at 3 o'clock".

Children with autism need to be explicitly taught rules, conventions and behaviours which most people pick up intuitively. Some children with autism, when taught a rule, will strictly adhere to it, and have difficulty understanding that it can be bent in some situations.

Break and lunch can be stressful because of the lack of structure.

Often a child can be helped by visual cues - some information can be represented in pictorial form and later as diagrams and key words.

Some children have an obsessive interest in some aspects of learning, and refuse to interest themselves in others. It is worth trying to use this as a source of reward and motivation. For example: "If you complete this work by 11.20 then you can spend 10 minutes on space travel."

A child may have great difficulty organising themselves. Give him or her a map or provide a peer guide.

If there are problems with writing, try other methods of recording information: a computer or tape recorder, for example.

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