Early diagnosis and intervention are very important for children with an ASD. As we’ve mentioned, under IDEA children with an ASD may be eligible for early intervention services (birth to 3) and an educational program appropriate to their individual needs.
In addition to academic instruction, special education programs for students with ASDs focus on improving communication, social, academic, behavioral, and daily living skills. Behavior and communication problems that interfere with learning often require the assistance of a professional who is particularly knowledgeable in the autism field to develop and help implement a plan which can be carried out at home and school.
The classroom environment should be structured so that the program is consistent and predictable. Students with an ASD learn better and are less confused when information is presented visually as well as verbally. Interaction with nondisabled peers is also important, for these students provide models of appropriate language, social, and behavioral skills. Consistency and continuity are very important for children with an ASD and parents should always be involved in the development of their child’s program, so that learning activities, experiences, and approaches will be most effective and can be carried over into the home and community.
Practical Tips on Teaching Children with ASD
- All teachers should see it as their responsibility to identify and address the needs of all children, especially the needs of children with disabilities - including the needs of children with autistic spectrum disorder.
- Appoint one teacher (ideally s/he should volunteer) that will become the main focal point for autistic spectrum disorder. S/he should be trained and later provide guidance for her/his colleagues who come in contact with and/or are teaching children with autistic spectrum disorder.
- Encourage teachers with knowledge and experience in teaching and working with children with autistic spectrum disorder to share their expertise with others in and out of school – including community outreach programmes - as well as with educational authorities and in other schools nearby.
- Continuously update the school “information bank” on new developments related to autistic spectrum disorder for the use of teachers, school administrators and parents.
- Consult specialist staff – resource teachers from support units or resource centres. Encourage the creation of a dynamic support system.
- Ensure that children with ASD have individual learning plans that are tailored to meet their needs.
- Provide opportunities for children with ASD to generalise skills learnt in one setting to other situations/settings.