The Center for Disease Control now reports that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with some form of Autism by the time they are eight years old. That means that if you are like most teachers, students with Autism are included in your art room or may be in the near future.
We are still learning about Autism and how to engage learners with Autism in every classroom. A lot of the struggle comes from the misconception that Autism is “scary” or “unmanageable.” We need to work together to support Autism awareness and change the perception of this disease.
Here are 5 ways to support Autism awareness this month:
1. Use people first language. People with Autism are people first. They have likes and dislikes, needs and wants, strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else. Instead of labeling a child as an Autistic student, say student with Autism instead. This language rule applies to all disorders and disabilities.
2. Think of Autism and your students with Autism as a puzzle. The traditional symbol for Autism, designed and promoted by Autism Society, is a brightly colored ribbon filled with different puzzle pieces. As a teacher, you should try a variety of approaches and problem-solve what is going to work best for each particular student.
3. Take time to ask questions. If your student with Autism is verbal, ask him/her about their likes and dislikes and talk about possible solutions. Maybe an option of wearing gloves while painting or gluing would be a good choice? If your student with Autism is non-verbal, reach out to other adults who work with this student, particularly those responsible for the student’s IEP. He or she may have a plethora of suggestions to try in the art room.
4. Try and try again. Autism is a spectrum disorder. To understand what that means, take a look at the color spectrum pictured below.Each point on that spectrum represents a color, but no two points are exactly identical. In comparison, no two students with Autism have identical tendencies or needs. What works to accommodate one student may or may not work for the next and finding accommodations that do work, often include trial and error.
5. Practice patience and love. All students deserve to feel like they are an important part of your classroom, and children with Autism are no different. They may or may not show it, but all students inherently know when you care.
Want to do something even bigger to support Autism Awareness Month? Check out Autism Speak’s “Light it up Blue” Campaign.
If you are interested in learning more about working with students with Autism, don’t miss these upcoming opportunities:
How do you advocate for your students with Autism?