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Children with autism often present unique learning challenges.

Around the world, 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This article will provide a few tips for parents and teachers to better support children with autism.

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What is autism in the classroom?

This developmental disability can cause children social, behavioral, and communication challenges. According to a recent study, approximately 77 percent of spectrum children attend mainstream schools. The same study also found that most teachers lack the confidence and resources to support learners with autism, while parents were unaware that teachers could handle children with autism.

How autism impacts a student’s life

Every child with autism has unique needs, which are reflected differently. Their challenges in life and with their teachers and peers will impact their lives. These challenges can raise your child’s stress, depression, and anxiety levels.

A classroom is a social environment that heavily relies on the learner’s ability to socialize, interact, and communicate effectively with others. These can intensify the child’s anxiety, stress, and depression. This presents unique challenges to teachers, with autistic students more likely to require extra social and learning support services. Research shows the importance of understanding the link between students’ ability to learn in the classroom and their social and emotional competence.

Weak social-emotional competence can greatly impact the student’s ability to connect with the school and excel in the classroom. This reinforces the idea that social-emotional learning plays a critical role in learning, school attendance, classroom behavior, and academic engagement for every student. The heavy focus on the classroom aspect of the curriculum and the demand for data-driven accountability that teachers are required to address often results in the focus on social-emotional learning and mental health being overlooked.

Tips for parents with autistic children

There are many things parents can do to help their child with autism overcome their challenges in life. However,  it’s important to ensure you get the support you need to properly care for your child.

1. Understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses

Experts recommend that you have a really good understanding of your child. You can use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) to assess your child. This standard evaluation tool assesses an autistic child’s social and communication behavior. Ask your child’s doctor or an autism expert to perform this test for your child. The result will help you and your teacher guide the child’s individualized education plan (IEP).

2. Practice, practice, practice

The adage, “practice makes perfect,” still holds. It takes an autistic child multiple attempts to learn to pronounce words as simple as “he” or “she” right. So do not expect them to be able to walk into the classroom and skip along. Experts suggest showing up at least one week before a new school term starts. Practice walking to school, and once there, show them their new classroom. Also, teach your child how to get to the bathrooms and water fountains.

3. Get involved with your school

Experts advise parents with autistic children should consider volunteering at school events or joining the PTA. This way, it becomes much easier to keep tabs on what is happening both at school and in the classroom. This will also be a great opportunity for your child’s teacher to get to know you.

4. Share what you know

Experts recommend providing your teacher with materials and manuals that focus on kids with autism. Request them to share these materials with your child’s coach, therapists, and everyone who works with your child at school.

Tips for teaching children with autism

Every child has unique learning needs. However, autistic children need extra support and guidance to excel in the classroom. As an autistic child’s teacher, it is important that you understand what the child needs and how you can help them become better learners. And these ten simple tips will help you get going.

1. Create a structured classroom environment

Autistic children feel more comfortable when subjected to defined structures and limited deviations from a predictable schedule. Ensure that the classroom environment and lesson plans are structured in a manner that clearly tells your students what they should do, when they should do it, for how long, when it is completed, and what follows next.

2. Make communication easier

There are many communication techniques that you can use when teaching kids with autism. For instance, some schools promote the use of sign language for autistic children with poor speech skills. Facilitated communication is another approach that can help autistic students learn better. This may involve, among other things, holding the learner’s hands and training them to press the right keys on portable communication gadgets.

3. Use visual aids

Visuals are important tools for teaching young children, especially those with autism. Language builder picture cards, photographs, stickers, drawings, and “if/then” cards can be routinely incorporated into various learning activities. Pictures, schedules, and mini-schedules can be used to provide structures. Other tools like web-based videos and tutorials can be incorporated into the learning system to deliver information visually and entertainingly that kids with autism will find much easier to absorb.

4. Encourage social interactions

As a teacher, you must help students with autism develop the skills and knowledge essential for social interaction, both in school and at home. An autistic child may not seem interested in interacting with peers, teachers, and parents. However, you must keep teaching them basic yet essential social skills. Teachers should build an environment that motivates children to practice social and communication skills. Try introducing your autistic learners to Stages Learning Emotion Cards to help students learn to interpret facial expressions.

5. Create structured activities too

Providing structures within various learning activities can be effective when helping students with autism become better learners. Introduce visuals to provide autistic learners with information for every learning activity or task in the same manner you schedule lesson plans daily. For instance, you can use a timer to help students learn how long they need to spend on each task. To help children improve their social skills, be sure to include opportunities for peer interaction too.

6. Use direct language

Young learners with autism may not understand figurative language or abstract concepts and tend to take most things literally. Non-verbal communication, like gestures and facial expressions, may not make sense to them at all. If you are used to teaching non-autistic children, it might take time to master the right wording when communicating with them. It would be best if you were as direct as possible. So be sure to practice.

7. Be patient with them

Even when using direct language, autistic students may not be able to react or respond appropriately. Give them extra time to process and absorb what you are communicating. Patience is essential when teaching autistic children. If you try to rush the child or hurry your statements, questions, or instructions, you will only frustrate and slow them down.

8. Be sensitive to their sensory issues

Autistic children are either under-sensitive or over-sensitive to sensory stimuli. For instance, strong perfumes, buzzing of electrical appliances, certain lighting, or echoes from adjacent rooms may be a real bother to them. This can trigger extreme reactions and affect their learning, so remain aware of these potential triggers and eliminate them from the classroom environment as much as possible. Provide your autistic learners with sensory tools to help them reduce stress and process the information you are communicating.

9. Get rid of potential causes of stress

Autistic children do not react well to disruptions and changes to their routines. Therefore, use transition warnings, clear instructions, and visual schedules to help them feel at ease. Remember, positive reinforcement is often more effective than punishments and threats likely to trigger anxiety and other inappropriate behavioral issues. The idea is to build a positive learning environment where your students feel safe and comfortable.

10. Keep instructions simple

Complex chains of directions can be challenging for most students to follow, particularly for students with autism. Most children with autism struggle with processing oral language. As such, you must break down instructions step-by-step and avoid giving multiple instructions simultaneously. Be sure to use short and simple sentences that are clear. This will allow children enough time to process and respond to instructions appropriately.


It takes a lot of hard work and patience to help autistic students get the most out of the classroom experience. It also takes a good dose of structure and the understanding that autistic children are unique. That means that each child exhibits unique symptoms as well as learning styles. Figuring out how to manage these symptoms and learning styles is key to helping autistic children become their best possible learners.