autistic child in my class

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by jenn888, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. jenn888

    jenn888 Rookie

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    Jul 30, 2009

    We have an autistic child st my school. I just received an email that he will be in my class for the upcoming year. This is my 2nd year teaching so I am a bit nervous. Admin. chose to put this child in my class, but I don't know why. He is on the mild spectrum, according to his teacher last year. Any suggestions on strategies?
     
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  3. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Jul 30, 2009

    If he is identified he must have an IEP. Talk to his previous teacher and the special ed. people - they should help you a lot. Talking to the parents can be useful, as well.

    I had a girl last year on the autism spectrum scale. She did well with structure and routine. Too loud, busy or stimulating could be a problem. If it is going to be an out of the ordinary day, give her/him lots of explanations and warnings. Expect to have to model, model, model how to interact with others. For example, violating personal space was an issue for her or making what she thought was a best friend and getting her feelings hurt when they wanted to play with someone else. Sometimes she would get stuck on certain things and it would be hard to redirect but she was motivated by rewards (not my idea either).

    Sitting on the carpet was an issue at first - I had a carpet square to give her boundaries and sensory stimulation. At the beginning she wore a weighted vest to settle her down (special ed's suggestion) but after a while she didn't need it. They also suggested giving her a physical job at the beginning of the day like pushing chairs around or carrying things to help.

    I thought it was going to be a lot more stressful than it was from the warnings I was given so don't worry too much. I am betting you have more structure than the other teacher at your age level which is why they chose you so take it as a complement.
     
  4. MissNikki

    MissNikki Comrade

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    Jul 30, 2009

    I have had at least one autistic child in my class every year for the past five years. Last year, I had three. Look at the child's IEP carefully and find out what is bothersome. Usually loud noises and unstructured settings are difficult for autistic children. Make sure you seek out help from the child study team whenever you need it.
     
  5. luv2teachK

    luv2teachK Rookie

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    I had two students in my class that were in autistic, but on complete opposite ends of the spectrum! It was challenging, but very rewarding. A visual schedule is beneficial. They like to know whats coming next and what to expect. I also found that timers were helpful. I have one that doesn't make sound, and it was great to put at his desk to let know when it was time for lunch, recess etc.
     
  6. aek471

    aek471 Rookie

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    I had an autistic student in my room last year, for the first time. He was also very mild, but I agree with most of what everyone else said. He followed routines very well and when we got off our routine for whatever reason, that is when he would act up. I also assigned a couple little girls in the classroom to kind of be his helpers. They would keep him on task and redirect him when necessary. The visual schedule didn't really work for him, but it's a definite option for most kids. He was a great kid, I really enjoyed my time with him. I agree with scmom, it shouldn't be too much of a challenge - if he's mild enough to be in the general ed classroom, he should be fine!
     
  7. Touchthefuture

    Touchthefuture Comrade

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    I had a very high functioning autistic boy in my class last year and it was truly a blessing. As other posters have noted, he would get distracted wih noise and if we were out of routine a little but if we prepared him he was fine. At the beginning I had to make little signs for his desk that said things like pay attention, finish work, etc. to keep him on task. He eventually got better with these skills. I worked alot with his parents and emailed them weekly updates so they knew what was going on and what was forthcoming. He did have occasional breakdowns when someone invaded his space or said something to him that he did not understand. We worked on these as well and that improved as well. He taught me more than I taught him. He was the sweetest boy and I will truly miss him this year.
     
  8. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Jul 31, 2009

    You have a child with autism in your room, not an autistic child. Sorry, one of my pet peeves. People first!
     
  9. 4inteacher

    4inteacher Rookie

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    Jul 31, 2009

    I was just about to say the same thing, MissCeliaB. I did a lot of work in an autism clinic in college doing one-on-one early intervention therapy and this was one thing that was highly stressed, people first.

    I agree with what everyone has said about routines. This is usually very important. Secondly, the spectrum is so diverse and complex. Every child with autism is quite unique in how he or she interacts with the world. I would definitely find his/her IEP and if possible, talk with the parents. They might have a lot of information about how he/she will respond to your classroom :)

    What a blessing you have to work with a child with autism! It can be a very rewarding experience for both of you :)
     
  10. RainStorm

    RainStorm Aficionado

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    You've gotten some great advice so far. I"m a general ed teacher. I work in a specialized program that integrates individual students with moderate autism into the general ed classroom setting for whatever period of time they can handle and here are the things I've found to be helpful:

    --I use the same color bulletin board paper throughout the my entire room -- either yellow or a very calming robin's egg blue. I also use matching (exactly the same color) trim. Some children with autism are overwhelmed with too many colors. The items on the bulletin board brighten it up enough. THe boards aren't dull.

    --reduce outside noise as much as possible and avoid sudden noises. If you use chimes or bells to get the class' attention, try to give the student an advanced cue so he/she is not startled. Put the mute button on the SMART board when you start it up so an unexpected noise doesn't squelch out. Ask your administrators to give you a "heads up" on the first few fire drills, because this tends to be an overwhelming experience for many children on the spectrum. I know that eventually they will end up with an unplanned one they just have to deal with, but at first, it makes a big difference to have few positive experiences rather than it being so overwhelming and distressing at first.

    --Do facial cues. I use my index finger and draw an imaginary circle around my face, and ask the child "Do I look happy?" or "Do I look impatient?" or "Do I look like..." whatever. Children with autism don't often don't pick up on facial cues, and this helps more than you can imagine. Explaining "Look at my face. I'm not happy. You need to put the scissors down and follow instructions." or "Look at my face. Can you see how happy I am with the great job you just did? Way to go!"

    --Be very careful about strong smells. White board cleaner is something to avoid. So are other strong odors. Give the child an "out" if you must work with something and the odor cannot be helped. Let the child choose to go someplace else (another classroom, etc.) where he or she will be properly supervised, if the smell is overwhelming. The student may not realize it is the smell that is bothering her/him.

    --Warn this student about unexpected textures or stimulants. Your other students may love putting their hand in a wonder box to feel what is there, but your student with autism may need to be clued in first. She may not like the feel of finger paints. He may not like the smell of tempra paints. The squeek from the markers may be annoying.
     
  11. PEteacher07

    PEteacher07 Cohort

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    Jul 31, 2009

    We became an autism specialty campus last year and I had 3 kids are various needs in my gym classes. Will your child have an assistant with him/her? All of mine do which is an absolute blessing b/c my PE classes go from 70 to 95 students. They can help get the child back on track.

    Children with autism can get overstimulated VERY easily. My 4th grade boy this past year struggled with this b/c he was in my gym with 85 other kids. He is in a group of kids with a very intense dynamic. His grade level is highly competitive and there are also some immature kids as well and they would pick on him to "set him off" which would start a bunch of kicking and hitting. If you can find a kid in your class who is sensitive to kids who are different, buddy them up.

    My 3rd grade boy with autism last year was an absolute hoot! He loved to dance and would always ask why the music was turned off. He was also VERY BIG on his routine. He knew that he had to leave the gym a couple of minutes early to take his medicine and was very meticulous about it. If he forgot his coat in the classroom, he would obsess over it and have a meltdown. We are continuing to work with him on not freaking out about this and his assistant will not go back to his classroom to get his coat. He also responds well to pictures so I made a small sign using boardmaker right in front of his seat so if he is having an outburst I will point at the "Quiet", "Stop," "Sit in Your Seat", and "Listen" pictures and that works really well with him. This particularly student is in a lower key group of kids and they just love him to pieces and are always helping him get to wear he needs to go!

    My 2nd grade girl this past year wasn't too difficult either. She had some problems with keeping her hands to herself. She kind of fixated on a little boy b/c I think she had a crush on him so we had to address that with her pretty often about leaving him alone.

    Overall, go into this with an open mind. I was very nervous last year about getting these new students but it worked out just fine!
     
  12. Kindergarten31

    Kindergarten31 Cohort

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    I, too, had an child with mild autism last year, plus a few other disorders. She also had difficultly with noise and routine changes, but her coping was to just shut down for a short while and then she would be OK. She also could read on a 4th grade level and knew everyone's birthdate in our class. Our CD/SL saw her 3 times a week, VE twice a week, and sail aide twice a week,plus alot of support for me from our 'child services' team. It will be interesting to see her in 1st grade next year.
     
  13. JustJim

    JustJim Companion

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    Jul 31, 2009

    Rainstorm, where you when I was in second grade? :) You managed to hit almost all of the things I wished for back then. (I actually still have a list made then that is headed "When I'm a teacher I won't do this"!) By second grade, your kids probably have a general idea of what to expect; by removing things that are barriers for them you really facilitate their actual learning.

    MsCeliaB, 4inteacher, I'm autistic. It is not something that can be separated from me--it is an intrinsic factor in how I make sense of the world around me, learn, and interact with the world around me. Like many others, I'm more concerned with actual inclusion and acceptance than I am with terminology. The focus of the posters here has been on things to help Jenn integrate the kid into the classroom, who cares what they call the kids?
     
  14. glitterfish

    glitterfish Comrade

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    Jul 31, 2009

    I had a child with autism in my classroom last year and, like you, I was nervous because it was my first experience with this. Everyone has given wonderful tips. The 2 things I have to add are, even though I was so anxious, this child ended up being one of my all-time absolute favorites. I adored him. He was so much work and when he was absent, my life was easier, but he also made our classroom complete and it was not the same without our Special K there. Also, keep in mind that every child is so different and there is so much variance on the spectrum. Take some of these things and try them out and you will quickly develop your own strategies. Also, may want to see what worked with previous teachers.

    ETA: I see that you are early childhood so you may not be able to talk with anyone that taught him/her beforehand. Feel free to PM me if you want to ask any specific questions or need to chat about your concerns.
     
  15. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Jim, part of being viewed as a professional in an education community is using the correct language. Honestly, when I hear people who are not using people-first language, I assume immediately that they are not up-to-date with what are currently considered the best practices. It's likely that her student's parents will feel the same way. I agree with you that how students are treated is most important, but unfortunately there are parents of children with autism who get very hung up on what they are called as well.

    OP, you've gotten some great feedback here. I've worked for several years with students with autism, both in the classroom, and doing ABA or respite sitting in their homes. If you need some resources to help set up a visual schedule or behavior supports, let me know through a PM. I think you're going to have a great year and do a great job!

     
  16. SpecSub

    SpecSub Comrade

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    Aug 1, 2009

    We have several children with autism who are on the mild end of the spectrum. They do not have IEPs because their dianosis does not interfere with their education. Now, that's not true for all of our autistic kids, but I just want you to know that just because a child is autistic does not mean he will need special education or modifications or accommodations. Wait and see, or talk to last year's teacher.
    ETA: One of our boys is reading four years ahead of grade level and needs enrichment.
     

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