- Does my child have autism?
- How to explain autism to a child
- How to support a child with autism in the classroom
- How to help a child with autism when they're learning at home
Wondering how to help your autistic child learn in class and at home? From practical strategies to books and the best online resources, here you’ll find ways to help your autistic child work towards a happy learning journey!
We know as parents it is natural to worry that your autistic child’s learning might be in jeopardy. Or that their mental health might suffer along the way. 😕 That’s why we want to help austistic students and their parents thrive on their learning journey.
Does my child have autism? 🤔
Here a few signs to look at for that could help you understand your child might be autistic:
Difficulties with social communication
Autistic children might not not interact with peers or appear socially clumsy. They can have difficulty picking up on or interpreting body language, facial expression and tone of voice.
🔥 Expert Tip : “Perhaps they [autistic children] initiate interaction in an undesirable way,” says Lucy Russell, clinical director of Everlief Child Psychology where she works with autistic children and the founder of parenting platform They Are The Future.“Or talk about themselves without allowing the other person to share information.”
Difficulties with social imagination
They make inferences, predicting what might happen next in a social interaction. Autistic children can often have repetitive behaviours and intense interests. Russell adds that some children (especially older children) may mask these difficulties.
🔥 Expert Tip : “For example, a child may have repetitive behaviours such as flicking or twisting fingers (“stimming”), but they may hide this at school because they realise it is considered odd or undesirable,” says Russell. “So it’s important that parents and teachers look under the surface.”
They will show sensory processing differences. Such as sensitivity to sounds or visual stimuli.
🔥 Expert Tip : ”A child may seem frequently overwhelmed and tip easily into a meltdown or outburst,” says Russell.
Many times the signs of autism are subtle and can go unnoticed during early years. Here are some ways autism shows itself during early teenage years.
How to explain autism to a child? 🤔
There is no one way to explain autism to your child and as Russell says “no right or wrong time.”
🔥 Expert Tip : “Generally if autism is explained in a positive way – understanding why they [autistic students] find something difficult, it is positive for a child's self esteem,” says Russell.
Here are some resources which discuss autism in a healthy and positive way:
- The Superhero Brain: Explaining Autism to Empower Kids by Christel Land
- Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder
- My Awesome Autism: Helping Children Learn About Their Autism Diagnosis by Nikki Saunders
- The ASD Workbook: Understanding Your Autism Spectrum Disorder by Penny Kershaw
- Celebrating Autism
- Autmazing Youtube Channel
🔥 Expert Tip : ”With younger children (e.g. under 7s), parents may wish to tell them only that they have a very special brain,” says Russell. “It’s possible to tell a child that their brain has different strengths and difficulties, without using the term autism (or ASD/ASC) if this feels right for the parent.”
How to support a child with autism in the classroom? 🤔
Every child with autism is different, it's a huge spectrum, and each child's needs will vary. ✊
For example, Russell points out that most autistic children will struggle with transitions. So they may need extra one to one support to transition from one task to another or from one environment to another; such as the playground to the classroom.
However, some autistic children seem to manage fine with transitions during the school day, probably because they have gotten used to the structure and know what to expect.
🔥 Expert Tip : “It’s essential that teachers show flexibility in their approach,” says Russell.
Here are some common strategies she recommends, for supporting autistic children in the classroom:
- Ensure learning tasks are concrete and clear. Break tasks down into single steps.
- Support verbal instructions with a written instruction and a picture where possible.
- Check that the child has processed your instructions. For example, ask them to repeat the instruction back to you.
- You may need to give the instruction to the child specifically, in addition to giving the instruction to the whole class.
- You may need to call their name or touch them to get their attention, and ensure they have made eye contact with you before giving the one to one instruction.
- Ensure regular mini movement breaks, to support sensory regulation and thus optimise learning.
- Minimise sensory distractions in the classroom; like “loud” visual displays or too much noise.
- Bring the child to the front of the class if this helps their learning.
How to help a child with autism when they’re learning at home? 🤔
Rusell suggests that the most crucial way parents can support learning at home for their autistic child is to “ensure plenty of rest”, before they attempt homework.
🔥 Expert Tip : “Spot the signs that your child’s “stress cup” is full,” says Russell. “Autistic children’s nervous systems are more easily overloaded than “neurotypical” children’s.”
Parents can support the same strategies as applied in the classroom. Though unlike school they can make learning sessions at home shorter for autistic students – much like microlearning methods!
When it comes to home learning, autistic students could need a parent or guardian to be present during their hybrid and blended learning classes at home. Especially if online learning is overwhelming them. 🤯
🔥 Expert Tip : “On-going teletherapy might benefit your autistic child,” says Rose Griffin, an ABA speech therapist and host of the Autism Outreach Podcast. “As it will continue to help them build their communication skills [for digital learning].”
Griffin, who works with older autistic students, is quite positive that gradually autistic students can independently learn online. As well as enjoy the benefits of the virtual classroom by themselves! 💪
At GoStudent, we’re mindful of the individual needs of each of our students. If your child is autistic, online learning has the flexibility to cater to their specific academic requirements! So book a free-trial with one of our tutors here!