Like a beautifully woven tapestry, each of our lives is a unique blend of colors and textures. But for children on the autism spectrum, there are additional threads of challenges and triumphs that require the support and guidance of dedicated educators. Paraprofessionals and substitute teachers can be the stitching that binds it all together, helping children find the source of their own potential to shine brightly both in and out of the classroom.
What is Autism?
Discovering and understanding autism can be the key to unlocking challenges faced by many children. Autism now affects one in 44 children, but no two autism experiences are identical. The condition varies from person to person and can impact social interactions, communication, and cognitive function. And while it’s typically detected early in life, it’s important to keep increasing awareness of autism so that everyone gets the assistance they need to thrive.
Create a Safe Environment for Learning
By creating an atmosphere where children feel relaxed and accepted, they are more likely to open up and engage in activities that can help them learn better. Paraprofessionals play an essential role in this – they can take the time to observe student behavior and develop strategies that will work best for each student’s unique needs.
Keeping a consistent daily routine is crucial for those with autism, but that doesn’t mean that special occasions have to be excluded. To make moments special, create a personalized planner with a unique picture that captures the day’s events.
Additionally, it’s vital to design an environment free of stimulating factors:
- Keep stress levels low since children with autism can pick up quickly on negative emotions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break and come back when you’re ready.
- Use a clear and calm speaking voice since loud or erratic speaking can be distressing for some students.
- Consider allowing students to stand during certain activities, as many individuals with autism find comfort in movement such as rocking.
With a few simple changes, teachers can make a big difference in creating a more inclusive and supportive learning environment for all children.
Prevent Sensory Overload
For students with autism, the classroom can be a sensory minefield. From bright lights to loud noises, sensory overload can make it difficult to focus on learning. But with a few tweaks, the classroom can be transformed into a calming oasis that promotes concentration and success.
Sensory Tip #1: Consider the colors – cool, calming shades like blue and green can help create a more peaceful atmosphere. And avoid too many decorations on the walls, as they can be distracting to students.
Sensory Tip #2: Some students may benefit from a designated quiet space where they can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. Avoid playing loud background music as it makes it difficult for the autistic child to concentrate.
Sensory Tip #3: d. Some people with autism find fluorescent lights distracting because they can see the flicker of the 60-cycle electricity. To mitigate this effect:
- Place the child’s desk near the window or try to avoid using fluorescent lights altogether.
- If the lights are unavoidable, use the newest bulbs you have as they flicker less.
- You can also place a lamp with an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb next to the child’s desk.
- Think of Visuals: Why rely on lengthy explanations when you can show students exactly what you mean? By incorporating pictures and other visuals into the classroom, not only will students with autism better understand important rules and routines, but they’ll also feel more supported and engaged in their learning.
- Consider Language: For many individuals with autism, taking idioms and other figures of speech too literally can be a challenge. By presenting language in a concrete way, you can avoid misunderstandings.
Provide Support Outside of the Classroom
Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive in and out of the classroom, but children with autism face unique challenges that require special support and attention. While teachers and classroom aides are essential to providing a safe and positive learning environment, support outside of the classroom is equally important. Teachers can enhance their support by collaborating with parents and caregivers who are the true experts on their amazing kids. By sharing knowledge and assisting with difficult transitions, such as changing schools or moving into adulthood, both educators and families can create a truly integrated approach that supports the child’s growth and success.
Although substitute teaching provides an amazing opportunity for someone looking for rewarding work, teaching is not an easy profession. And when it comes to educating students with autism, the challenge is multiplied. It can be easy to feel drained and overwhelmed, even when you’re doing everything right. That’s why building resilience is such an important aspect of teaching. When you can bounce back from difficult moments and continue to have a positive impact on your students, you become a true inspiration.
Teachers, know you are making a difference in the lives of your students each and every day, and your dedication to building resilience is not only admirable but necessary. Keep up the great work and know that your efforts are appreciated by many, students and families alike.
Ready to Make a Difference?
Are you looking to start a fulfilling career in education? Get ready to transform young minds and make an impact with Morgan Hunter Education. We offer exciting opportunities for substitute teachers, teacher’s aides, special education professionals, and paraprofessionals. At Morgan Hunter Education, we’re passionate about revolutionizing the substitute teaching system and enhancing our schools’ overall educational experience for future generations.
If you’re passionate about education and want to make a difference in the lives of our youth, we have many exciting opportunities for you to begin your substitute teaching career. Join us in shaping the future of education in Kansas and Missouri!