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Encouraging Learning Engagement for Students with Autism

Author Justin Clark, Learning Difficulties and Autism Tutor in Brisbane.

It has been found that when teaching students with autism, the most effective programs are those that are structured, educational and individually tailored.  These types of programs should include clearly articulated and theoretically sound components for supporting the development of skills that are maintained across time and generalised across contexts.  Successful programs for teaching students with autism are based on the student’s strengths and help identify areas of need.  Engagement is crucial to the success of such a program.

Challenges When Teaching Students With Autism

The challenge when teaching students with autism is to develop methods of encouraging them to engage in activities that are important for learning but which they may not like.  Engagement can be encouraged by establishing clear boundaries, carefully engineering schedules, using visual supports to enhance attention, along with considering sensory needs and accommodations.  Incorporating preferred materials, activities and students’ special interests can also promote engagement.  Therefore, rather than expecting students with autism to become engaged with typical learning experiences, their interests need to be considered and activities modified to promote maximum engagement.

Autism Teaching Strategy – Choice Making

One effective strategy in teaching students with autism is choice making which is associated with active participation.  This results in students with autism having some control over their environment.  This in turn makes them feel more in control and reduces challenging behaviours.

Positive outcomes are associated with allowing students with autism to choose from a list of tasks, empowering them to select the order in which they want to complete these tasks.

When they are demonstrating inappropriate behaviours behavioural redirection can also be presented as a choice.  For example, if the student is scribbling their answers on the paper, they can be told that they can either dictate their answers or type their answers on a computer.  Being given opportunities is the key to making choices and central to increasing engagement.

Autism Teaching Strategy – Dialogic Reading

Another example of increasing engagement which is effective when teaching students with autism is through the use of dialogic reading.  This involves families reading with their children rather than to their children.  It’s about asking questions, providing feedback and evoking increasingly sophisticated descriptions from the child.  Additional teaching and instruction is also provided to develop an awareness of rhyme, concepts about print and alphabet knowledge.   For example, distancing prompts can be used to ask children to relate the pictures or words in the book they are reading to experiences outside the book.  Therefore, while looking at a book with a picture of animals in a zoo, the child might be asked about when they were at a zoo and the animals that they saw as compared to the animals in the book.  Later they could be asked what are their favourite animals and which animals they would like to see on their next trip to the zoo.  As we can see, distancing prompts help children form a bridge between books and the real world, as well as aiding verbal fluency, conversational abilities, and narrative skills.   Big Books are an ideal medium for implementing all the ideas contained within dialogic reading.

Autism Teaching Strategy – Priming

Finally, priming is a useful strategy when teaching students with autism.  Priming allows the student to practice an activity that they might have difficulty with and so become familiar with the materials ahead of time.  Priming is effective for students with autism because it increases predictability through exposure and decreases anxiety, while allowing for exploration.  An example of priming is where worksheets that need to be completed the next day are reviewed the day before or videos are shown of environments where the student will be going.  Once again, this results in greater engagement due to an increase in familiarity and the lessening of anxiety that the student might be feeling.

Hope Tutoring in Brisbane

As a specialist autism tutor I am experienced in teaching children across the autism spectrum.  If you have an  autistic child and are considering one-on-one tutoring for your child with a qualified and experienced tutor you can contact me (Justin) on 0404 407 233.

If you are seeking more information on methods and tips regarding teaching students with autism, there will be more blogs on this topic and similar topics published regularly on this website.

Teaching Students With Autism

Justin Clark, Autism Tutor in Brisbane

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