Parents and teachers of children with autism know that the keys to success in their education are patience, collaboration and mutual support between home and school. They also know that finding the time to review the latest research, as well as developing the skills to understand how to apply it, can be challenging. Many families, educators and even youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) themselves report that even a little support can go a long way. If you teach or have a child on the spectrum, here are some ways to help ensure that they and other students with ASD get the education and functional life skills necessary to reach their full potential.
Parent Support Groups That Focus on Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Having a strong social support system is essential for families of children with ASD. Unfortunately, extended family, friends, and school staff may not understand the emotional and personal challenges associated with raising a child on the spectrum. If this is the case, parents can look to support groups and experts in the field in order to learn more about how to help their child experience success in different settings.
Many large cities have support groups specifically designed for the parents of children with ASD. If your area has a variety of support options, choose one backed by ASD research and evidence-based practices (These can often be identified by websites ending in “.org” or “.edu” or “.gov”). Try to choose a group that makes you feel comfortable enough to not only share your experiences, but listen to others and exchange information with them as well. Review the groups’ missions, values and purpose statements, as well as any resource links they may provide. To help establish and maintain a nurturing and supportive environment for your child at home, at school and in community settings, join a group that offers evidence-based advice, and connect with individuals who are familiar with the most current research and standards.
The National Autism Association operates several local chapters throughout the United States. Information about support groups might also be available from:
- School personnel
- A counselor
- Department of Mental Health Services
- Council for Exceptional Children
- Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities
If these resources fail, you can always turn to the internet. Your local public librarian can help you search the web for support groups near you to learn more about nearby options.
Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Classroom
Some of the most common characteristics of autism can make it difficult for educators to teach these pupils. Students with ASD may have:
- Social skill limitations that make it difficult to recognize verbal/nonverbal cues, communicate with teachers or peers, and follow conversational rules
- Delayed or absent speech and language skills
- Nonfunctional routines that interfere with learning
- Unexpected fears or aversions to common items and situations
- Difficulty attending to instruction
- Difficulty with social participation (group work), relationships, academic achievement or occupational performance
Teachers who have limited experience working with special needs students might find it challenging to accommodate these characteristics in the classroom. However, correct application of evidence-based and scientifically supported methods, like the National Professional Development Center’s 27 “Evidenced Based Practices,” consistently yields positive outcomes for students on the spectrum.
There are a variety of educational resources that can help teachers effectively work with children and youth with ASD. Accepted instructional methods and interventions include those identified by respected organizations that identify practices backed by credible evidence that demonstrates their utility, groups such as the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) for ASD.
Learn More About Specific Teaching Methods
Federal law requires public schools to provide students with disabilities the environments and interventions that they need to succeed. Teachers of students with ASD, therefore, may work with a group of educators who specialize in developmental disorders. Given that students with ASD have varied needs and must be accommodated in a variety of settings, instructors who feel their pupils are not receiving the appropriate support may want to learn more from experts in the field who are adept at putting current research into practice.
If you think you’re ready to grow your expertise at accommodating students with special needs, consider pursuing a graduate degree, certificate or licensure endorsement from the University of Kansas School of Education and Human Sciences.