My son did not talk until he was four years old. I went to several doctors, and they gave me excuses. I was told several times that his sister spoke for him, so he did not need to talk. When he was three years old, I finally was able to get some help with speech through the school. He received an IEP and went to speech and physical therapy two times a week. He finally was starting to communicate.
He still had a hard time communicating with his peers and was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5. My son was also struggling academically, so I held him back in the first grade. He became a stronger reader and has continued to maintain good grades.
In the 5th grade, he came home and said that he wanted to try out for the band. I was VERY skeptical. This is the child that has a hard time dealing with sounds. It is hard for him to go into a grocery store or flush a toilet. Loud sounds or too many sounds have always been a struggle for him. He often covered his ears, so I did not think band was a good decision. Well, I was WRONG. The band was the best decision! He really enjoys it. The trumpet is his outlet and has helped him deal with sounds. He still struggles with sounds, but not nearly as much as he did before band.
All along, he still struggled with his peers. They don’t understand his way of thinking. He has a hard time communicating his thoughts. He often comes across as arrogant or argumentative. I had him tested in the 8th grade, and he was placed on the autism spectrum (Aspergers).
6 Tips for Teaching a Child With Autism
- Have patience with him or her. The autism spectrum is very broad with a wide range of abilities and characteristics. It will take some time to get to know what their strengths and weaknesses are, but building a solid relationship with your student is crucial.
- Set up your classroom to accommodate an autistic child. Avoid sensory overload. Think about the coverings on your wall, things hanging from the ceiling, the paint color choice, playing music, flickering lights, etc. Autistic students strive off of routine and structure. These all factor into how an autistic child will behave.
- Use concrete language. Most autistic are quite literal. Try avoiding figurative language because autistic students have a hard time understanding the hidden meanings.
- Know what triggers your autistic student and try to avoid these situations in the first place. You will need to learn how to defuse situations when things get out of hand. Take them to a quiet place away from the other students. Talk to them in a calm voice.
- Choose your battles. If they only want to use the color blue crayon, then let them! This is just one that you will not win, nor is it important.
- Find a way to nurture your autistic student. A deep understanding of the strategies and social skills needed to handle an autistic child is extremely important. Celebrate their successes. Autistic children often don’t feel comfortable being touched, but they still want to feel loved.
Having a son on the autism spectrum helped me become a better teacher. It is crucial for the teacher to know their student’s needs and accommodations. It will sometimes feel like an impossible task; just remember to be patient. Reach out to former teachers, resource teachers, family members, etc., to help you understand failures and celebrate successes.