Topic outline

  • Introduction

    My name is Khelsey Maddocks and I am a parent to an autistic child. I am wishing to educate teachers on autism so that they can be more aware in the classroom of what autism is, the signs of it and I would like to offer some tips of strategies' that can be put in place to make an autistic child's education more successful. This course aims to be in a friendly manner and to absolutely not be patronising but I just recognise that some teachers may not completely be mindful of the fact that some students in the class may be autistic so therefore, I hope to help teachers be more aware of the differences in students in their classroom. 
  • What is autism?

    Autism also referred as autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to the development of the brain. About 1 in 100 children has autism. Characteristics may be detected in early childhood, but often autism is not diagnosed until much later. The abilities and needs of autistic people may vary and change over time. While some people with autism can live independently, others and severe disabilities and may need lifelong support (World Health Organisation, 2023). 

    I will attach a video explaining autism from an autistic persons point of view.

    • Signs of autism

      There are many signs of autism and it can vary from person to person. Autism is on a huge spectrum and some autistic children may be nonverbal altogether and can not speak at all. Nonverbal children will struggle to communicate and this can sometimes show in aggression when trying to communicate with others. 

      Other autistic children may completely be able to speak but struggle in other areas such as social cues and spacial awareness. This can affect them in the fact they may not be able to pick up on other people's emotions, so for example they will not understand when another person is happy, sad or even irritated. Many autistic children can lack spacial awareness so may well come into another person's space and too close to others and this paired with not being able to read social ques can cause a problem. 

      Another sign of autism is stimming. This is the repetitive movement of the body that autistic children may have the urge to do. Stims can vary over a wide range including teeth grinding, chewing, vocal stims and pacing up and down. Autistic children use these stims to self regulate and should be encouraged. Some children try to mask these stims to fit in with the other children as they do not want to stand out, this can be detremental as holding these stims in can be extremeley stressful for them and having to act a certain way all day can cause discomfort. This is called masking and it would be useful for a teacher to spot this in a classroom if it is happening so that the teacher can make the child feel comfortable and hopefully the child may feel they can stim freely. 

      • Strategies' to put in place

        A helpful first step especially for autistic children that may be nonverbal, would be to refer to firstly speak to the parents of the child and then with their consent refer Speech and Language Therapy. Parents can access this separately but SALT will also visit the school to observe the child and offer some strategies' to yourself. These can then be implemented in the classroom. 

        With the social aspect of autism, learning around different emotions can be beneficial for an autistic child. It may be useful to use real life situations to ask the child what emotion they think someone is feeling. It could also be useful to show child YouTube videos and ask the child what the people are feeling, Mr Bean is especially a good one to use. 

        In regards to learning, a certain amount of concentration time may be helpful to aim for. If an autistic child is struggling with stimming and keeping still, a five minute concentration time may be handy to work towards and then build it up if possible. Therefore, the autistic child will hopefully sit in their seat and concentrate for five minutes and then they can get up and stim if they need to. This is called a brain break as autistic children can become very over stimulated and need a break.

        Autistic children also like routine and to know what to expect. A social story can help the child to know what exactly is going to happen throughout the day. This can avoid meltdowns in class with a child having to do an unexpected task. 

        I will attach a video for some more ideas to use in the classroom.

        • How to deal with behaviour

          It can help to be mindful of the fact that stims can sometimes be perceived to be bad behaviour. For example, an autistic child may pace up and down the classroom and may be seen to be not concentrating or willing to work however, this may not be the case. If this is the case it may be harder to use a certain discipline technique with an autistic child as this may not work first time. Discipline will require repetitiveness and patience to find out what works. Sometimes with an autistic child avoidance is more beneficial than dealing with behaviour so putting in certain rules to let the child know what is expected of them can work. 

          It can be useful to have a sensory corner in the classroom for children that are getting over stimulated. This can contain of sensory toys and weighted blankets. This offers a relaxation time for children and give them a safe space to self regulate.