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Stratagies for working with children with Autism or Asperger`s syndrome in Primary schools

Stratagies for working with children with Autism or Asperger`s syndrome in Primary schools.

1. Early Communication Skills

a. Respond to any possible form of communication, and assume it means something.

b. Comment on what the pupil is doing rather than ask questions (since this often increases echolalia).

c. Teach a strategy (verbal or visual) for :-

* gaining another persons attention

* asking for help

* not wanting something

* wanting something

* wanting an action to be repeated.

d. Increase the motivation to communicate by giving choices and making tasks fun.

e. Make communication necessary by :-

* making a desired object inaccessible (e.g. placing it on a high shelf)

* Violating object functions e.g. (using a spoon which is too large to fit into a jar)

* removing an object which is necessary to complete a task

* delaying access to a particular item e.g. (offering one sock but not the other).

2. Social Communication

a. Be aware that the pupil may interrupt spoken language in a literal way and therefore may not understand jokes, metaphor, implied messages or sarcasm.

b. Be aware that the pupil is not necessarily intending to be rude if they are responding literally.

c. It is appropriate to point out sensitively to the pupil if they have been significantly tactless, insensitive or insulting.

d. Directly teach appropriate "conversational skills" (turn taking; topic introduction, maintenance change).

3. Early Interaction Skills

a. Aim for shared attention by commenting about what the pupil is doing as they are doing it.

b. Notice what the pupil does and copy them (without making fun) assume their sounds or actions mean something. Once a pattern of imitation is established gradually introduce minor modifications of your own to "extend" the pupil`s behaviour.

c. Play any two-way interaction games (e.g. rolling a ball to each other).

4. Social Interaction

a. Praise the pupil for "simple" expected social behaviour that you would take for granted with other children.

b. Teach the "friendly behaviours" and how to respond to social cues.

c. Be aware of the need to continue to offer interaction , even if you don`t get much in return, since some pupils do not readily express emotions.

d. Monitor closely any forms of verbal or physical bullying of the pupil.

e. Consider setting up informal buddy systems or more formal strategies such as "circle of friends".

f. Remember that the pupil may need some time each day to be without company.

g. Provide structured opportunities for the pupil to observe how other people interact. Provide opportunities to the pupil to rehearse and try out strategies based on what they have seen.

5. Routine

a. Try and make daily routines or timetables as consistent as is possible.

b. Provide accurate prior information regarding a change of routine.

c. If possible, allay fears of the unknown by introducing the pupil to the new activity, teacher or class beforehand to prevent excessive worrying.

d. Reduce anxiety by building in predictability. Thus it is possible to :-

* Use pictures and photographs in sequence, showing daily routines, to produce a visual timetable.

* Use an object of reference which can be associated with a future activity

* Allow the child to observe an activity before being asked to join in.

e. Start the day off by being non-directive and gradually increase the demands on the pupil during the day.

6. Obsessive Behaviour

a. Limit to specific times of the day or week when the pupil`s can talk about their "fixations".

b. Have firm expectations re completing work which may be outside the pupil`s narrow range of interest.

c. Occasionally link the pupil`s specific to the subject being studied (if appropriate).

d. Possibly use "time to spend on area of special interest" as a reward for completing other work.

e. If obsessions are a way of coping with anxiety it may be more helpful to try and eliminate the cause of anxiety rather than focusing on the obsession.

f. Agree a code word or symbol which everyone can use when a person has had enough of a particular topic.

7. Concentration

a. Often, it is not that the pupil`s attention is poor but that the "focus" is unusual. The pupil may find it hard to figure out what is relevant, so attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli. This can be helped by :-

* Keeping noise levels down to a minimum.

* Repeating group instructions as an individual instruction.

* Underlining key words in written text for the pupil.

b. The correct seating for many pupils would be :-

* Near the front

* Close to the subject teacher

* Away from distractions.

8. Emotional

a. Be aware that pupils can be prone to depression, so monitor their level of distress carefully.

b. Consider teaching strategies for coping with stress and write the steps on a card which the pupil carries around with them : e.g.

* Breathe deeply

* Count slowly

* Ask to go to learning support.

9. Motor Control

a. Some pupils may be obsessed with neatness or show signs of being physically clumsy, so try and create more time to complete assignments, coursework or examinations.

b. Be aware that competitive team games can be exceptionally difficult for some pupils.

10. Learning Style

a. Be aware that the pupil may have advanced skills in certain areas (e.g. rote computational skills, decoding, memory).

b. Additional structure will be needed with "creative work". These assignments will need to be broken down into small steps, with frequent adult feedback and redirection.

c. It may be necessary to back up some verbal directions with written ones (e.g. on the board or at the top of the page) since many written directions are easier to understand because there is no social communication attached to these.

d. Difficulties in using empathy as a way of understanding human experience of different people or cultures can affect the learning in many curriculum areas.

e. The pupils will often need calm, predictable, patient and matter of fact handling.

f. Consider the use of alternative methods of recording work, in addition to handwriting.

* Use of computer

* Use of tape recorder

* Cut and stick

* Cloze procedures.

g. The pupils will often find it hard to generalise learning from one context to another. Thus there needs to be plenty of "overlearning" with functional skills being taught in a range of context.

h. When using group work :-

* Pair with a reasonable partner who will not dominate.

* Assign specific roles to pupils and peers to make expectations explicit.

i. be aware that "tests" are strange social situations and prepare the pupils in advance.

j. As "home" and "school" may seem as two different places, the whole idea of homework could be difficult. Thus homework needs to be checked that it is written down accurately with the purpose clearly explained. Be aware of the difficulty with "generalisation" with homework.

k. Use the pupil`s name before giving an instruction to gain their attention.

l. Consider using short sentences with key words rather than more "polite" , indirect forms of questioning.

m. When explaining a task

* Summarise the main points in advance (possibly providing a visual prompt such as a list

* Giving an advanced warning as you get to the main points

* Organise and chunk information into sections.

n. As questions can often confuse, turn these into statements. "The weather is...." rather than " What`s the weather like ?".

o. Most pupils do not learn through incidental learning.

"The teacher who does not understand that it is necessary to teach children seemingly obvious things will feel impatient and irritated"
( Hans Asperger)


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