Providing support and instruction for students on the autism spectrum is not always easy. It takes patience, intelligence, empathy, and innovation. This Autism Awareness Month, we are featuring personal stories and connections to Autism from our colleagues and clinicians. One of our wonderful special education teachers – Apryl Levy – wanted to share a method she’s found successful in working with students with autism. Apryl works for Bilingual Therapies within a school district in the Chicago area. She has a vast amount of experience working in various schools, supporting mild to very severe students with disabilities, including students with autism.
“After 14 years of working as a special education teacher and autism specialist, I’ve learned many things that work well with children with Autism. Children with autism can be very successful in school and home when given the right supports. We can look to research based methodology to determine what will work best for kids on the spectrum. I’ve personally experienced success using the TEACCH method out of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”
[From the TEACCH website] “TEACCH developed the intervention approach called “Structured TEACCHing”, which is based on understanding the learning characteristics of individuals with autism and the use of visual supports to promote meaning and independence. TEACCH services are supported by empirical research, enriched by extensive clinical expertise, and notable for its flexible and individualized support of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.” Apryl stands by this method when providing instruction for students with autism. Below she shares the components of this method and the purposes of each step:
- Structuring the Environment:
- Minimize distractions
- Create an area for movement and breaks
- Provide access to visuals
- Keep a positive learning environment
2. Implementing Visual Schedules:
- A schedule is set up to indicate where to go
- Activities are clearly shown in their sequential order through words, photographs, objects, drawings, or whatever medium is easiest for the child to retain.
- We do not fade schedules from our students – they are a tool for lifelong independence. Rather, we design schedules to grow with our students
- Use of Work Systems:
- The Schedule gives information as to where to go; the Work System gives information as to what to do when they get there
- The work system tells the child what is expected of him/her during an activity, how much is supposed to be completed, when he/she is finished, and what’s next after the activity is completed.
- Referred to as a “mini schedule” or schedule within a schedule
- Organized from top to bottom or from left to right.
- Promotes independence
- Establishing Structured Work Tasks:
- Capitalize on the student’s visual learning style
- Minimize reliance on auditory processing
- Build independence
- Teach students to use visual structure rather than ‘personal prompts’
Do you have any resources/suggestions on successful ways to teach and support students with autism? Please share in the comments below. Then check out a heartwarming, personal story from our colleague who has a family member with autism here.