Teaching Children with Autism


There’s a certain way to go about teaching children with autism. And that certain way is to teach them according to their own strengths. I once heard Jonathan Mooney (author, speaker, and former special education student) say that every student should be on an IEP. His point was that every student learns in a different manner. Every child has his own strengths and weaknesses. In the case of children with ASD, they tend be visual learners.

It’s an impossible task, in the scope of one web page, for me to arm you with the proper tools and give you all the information you need to use when teaching children with autism. So I offer some general guidelines and some curriculums that work. In order to teach kids with pervasive developmental disorders I sincerely believe that school teachers need to be flexible and think outside the box. And it’s especially important for these kids that education be fun. If you’re a parent you too will need to embrace those ideals. After all, parents are their children’s first teacher. In many ways you are your child’s primary teacher as well. School teachers are just helping you out. If you have a child with ASD that’s all the more true.

When teaching children with autism it’s important to know the student. There are several good curriculums out there depending on what you want to teach. These ones I name below probably aren’t the best if you’re looking to teach a child rocket science, philosophy, or the theory of plate tectonics. Moving on…

Floortime is a great program we experienced early on. Still today people familiar with it tell me they can see me using what I learned from Floortime with my son. As their website notes it is “a framework that helps clinicians, parents and educators conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop an intervention program tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental challenges. The objectives of the DIR®/Floortime™ Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills and isolated behaviors.” Floortime teaches you some really good fundamentals you’ll use with your child day in and day out.
chalkboard that says Teaching kids with autism

R.O.P.E.S is another terrific curriculum that’s perfect for kids with ASD. The acronym stands for:

Recalling and restating information in meaningful way.
Organizing and planning skills.
Prioritizing and goal directed behavior.
Evaluating situations, actions and outcomes.

As the back of the manual indicates, R.O.P.E.S “clearly defines executive dysfunction and offers many user-friendly tools that capitalize on the visual strengths of children with high functioning autism, Asperger Syndrome or other learning disabilities.” I’m close with a family who actively uses the principles taught in R.O.P.E.S and it works well.

The Hanen Centre’s More Than Words program is great for encouraging children to use speech. And I can testify that it works! As they say on their website “More Than Words is a family-focused program that gives parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and related social communication difficulties, practical tools to help their children communicate.” It’s true. This program teaches you how to teach your child. I remember when we attended this class, taught by our son’s speech pathologist, and learning so much valuable information. If you’re going to be teaching children with autism you have to first be taught yourself.