Children with autism, like all children, are capable of learning. It is simply a matter of using strategies that work for them and avoiding ones that don’t. Thanks to pioneers in the field, such as Temple Grandin, we have the ability to teach from a point of strength.
What is hard for them & why they struggle
Children with autism struggle with processing information that is given verbally. They have trouble remembering more than two or three steps in directions. When information is spoken and the child cannot picture it in their minds, they can’t absorb it. Abstract concepts prove difficult for them.
How They Learn Best
Children with autism think in pictures, not in language, so when learning to read, it is very helpful to have words embedded in images. The image is their language and the image becomes their best vehicle for learning. Many children with autism are good in art, drawing, and design.
- We can engage these creative children by asking them to draw pictures of what they are learning.
- When sequences present a problem, use images that show what to do at each step.
- When teaching numbers and what they mean, use concrete objects, color coding (one color per number) and manipulatives that show the meaning of math.
- Stories are powerful vehicles for learning concepts. Use story to teach specific concepts.
- It is helpful to follow a very predictable routine each day; to have a specific place for each activity throughout the day.
How we can help
• Letters and words are embedded in images that help identify the meaning of the letter or word.
• Teaching manuals are designed to follow a specific protocol or routine which children will become familiar with.
• Stories explain and show abstract ideas. For example, in math we use stories to show what is happening when a child is doing a specific operation. Stories link letters with their sounds along with images.
• Body movement is key to our teaching and learning resources. Everything is hands-on and body movement that reflects learning is integrated into every concept taught.
• New concepts are taught explicitly so children won’t have to make associations on their own.
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