Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental condition that affects social, communication, and imaginative abilities. A child with autism has a range of intellectual abilities, from low to high. Many parents want to put their autistic children in a learning environment capable of catering to their unique learning requirements so they can be accepted and belong there. Educators need to know how to teach autistic students at all ability levels. The National Autistic Society recommends a multi-disciplinary team approach for assessing and teaching autistic students.
However, let us first understand the difference between normal and autistic child.
Difference Between Learning of Autistic Students and Other Students
Learning differs for autistic students because they have different perspectives on the world. They think in pictures, not words; they learn best by doing and experiencing; they prefer the familiar and are easily overwhelmed by change. These challenges can be overcome with good teacher training, but first, we need to understand how autistic students think.
Cognition and Learning
Autistic individuals are often assumed to be cognitively impaired, but many of them have above-average intelligence. This suggests that the problem is not with the brain but its operation.
The main difference between autistic and neurotypical children is that autistic children tend to focus on details at the expense of the whole picture. They may understand individual concepts but don’t always see how they connect or why they are important. This makes it difficult for an autistic child to “get” what is happening in a classroom.
For autistic children to learn effectively, they must understand how each concept fits into the big picture. Teachers must ensure students understand this before moving on to new material.
Language and Communication
A child with ASD may have trouble communicating with others, which makes it difficult for them to learn. They may also have trouble understanding language and how it works. For example, if a teacher asks the class to write an essay about their summer vacation, an autistic student may not understand this because they don’t know what an “essay” is.
An autistic student might also have trouble understanding the tone of voice that the teacher uses when asking questions or giving directions. This can make it hard for them to follow the lesson and get the materials they need from teachers or classmates.
Because of these challenges, autistic students may have trouble learning in traditional classrooms where teachers talk at them instead of talking with them. For example, when a teacher asks a question in class, they might raise their hand rather than ask someone else who knows the answer so everyone can hear it.
Socialization is a primary reason why learning differs for autistic students. Autistic students may struggle with socialization because of how they think, which can cause them to miss social cues or have trouble understanding the needs of others. Typically, autistic children are not interested in playing with their peers or making friends, making it difficult for them to make friends and learn social skills. This can be especially difficult if they attend a school where they do not have many other students similar to them.
Another reason learning differs for autistic students is that they may have trouble following instructions or remembering what they learned in class. This can often lead to frustration on the part of the teacher and student alike, as well as poor grades due to poor performance on tests or homework assignments.
Sensory processing is a key factor in learning for autistic students. According to an autism treatment program autistic people often have difficulties processing information they receive from their senses, which can affect their ability to learn.
- Some autistic children struggle with auditory processing issues. This means that they may have trouble hearing or hearing sounds accurate. They may also have trouble discriminating between sounds, which can cause speech development and language acquisition problems.
- Some autistic children have difficulty making sense of what they see, which can cause problems in reading comprehension and other tasks that require understanding written text or images.
- Finally, tactile sensitivity is another important aspect of sensory processing for autistic children. Some people with autism are very sensitive to touch or pressure on their skin, while others do not feel pain as easily as others.
It can be said that ultimately, the key to teaching autistic students is to pinpoint their specific learning needs and ensure that their curriculum is tailored to those needs. Much like educating other kinds of learners, it is important to find accessible resources that cater to the unique minds of autistic students. Of course, not all autistic children are the same, but if teachers and academics can focus on commonalities between these students, they will be better equipped to educate them effectively.