Resources for Autism: a classroom guide

Paul Main

Utilising autism resources to create inclusive learning environments.

What are resources for autism?

In this article, we will explore what types of learning tools and strategies might make your curriculum easier to access for children with ASD. We will argue about the benefits of making inclusive environments for everyone and that doesn't single out the neurodiverse. ASD or Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can result in hypersensitivity to sounds, sights, and other sensory experiences. There are three most common categories of symptoms of autism:

  • Social impairment;
  • Communication issues; and
  • Stimming or Repetitive behaviours.

With an increasing number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in schools, it has become important for teachers to use the most effective strategies and resources to help these children learn, academically and socially. At Structural Learning, we try to develop classroom concepts that are universally inclusive for everyone. This means developing tools that neurodiverse children can use as well as their mainstream colleagues. In a well-designed classroom environment, a child should not have to pursue their studies in the corridor. Good instructional practice means that all pupils can access the curriculum. In this article, we will provide teaching staff with some ideas for making their classrooms truly inclusive.

What are the best Classroom Resources to be used for children with Autism?

The learning characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder may be different from the rest of the students. Using evidence-informed resources and teaching methods will help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders access all aspects of the curriculum. The following are some of the most effective autism resources and inclusive strategies to help children with autism feel welcome in a classroom while acknowledging their symptoms and individual styles of learning.

1. Universal Thinking Framework: This instructional tool kit provides teachers and children with a well-organised language for learning. The symbols and simple descriptions of the learning actions enable children of all ages to access the curriculum more effectively.

2. Colouring: Autism research studies indicate that colouring can be an incredible mind-body exercise to calm down and increase the focus of children with autism. It is suggested to keep some colorful guide workbooks and colouring pages handy in a primary school classroom and use them as a regular autism practice and calm-down activity for when these primary or secondary schools students are overwhelmed.

3. Fidget Toys: Fidget toys are a famous sensory resource to help children with autism spectrum disorder and other sensory processing disorders stay focused and calm. Teachers may buy ready-made fidget toys for their classroom or use the ones that they co-developed with autistic young people. Clinical professionals claim that engaging in challenging tasks using fidget toys, allow people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, or Anxiety to develop a sense of calmness. This seemingly distracting toy can relax the child's mind and in doing so, improve their working memory and executive functioning skills.

4. Emotion Cards: These are printable cards for children with autism spectrum that can help them recognize various emotions in others and themselves. The teacher would shuffle the emotion cards. Then, show each card to the students and see if they can identify the emotion without looking at the text. If they are unable to recognize the emotion, the teacher would show the word and explain the emotion shown. For example, if the card is “happy,” the teacher could say, “When someone is happy, they might express it by smiling or laughing out loud.”

5. Vegetable Slice Stamps: This activity of art for students with autism spectrum disorder engages sight and touch to help them concentrate on their assignments. Before class starts, the teacher would cut vegetable slices such as cucumbers or potatoes etc. Each child would hold a few vegetable slices along with a cup of paint. The students would dip the vegetable slice into the cup of paint and then press the vegetable slice on a piece of paper. Out of these vegetable slice stamps, students will make exciting botanical impressions on a piece of paper.

6. Slime Experiments: Slime is a well-known craft and a tremendous sensory activity for children with autism. Teachers can find lots of easy slime recipes and have fun making them within their classroom settings for children with autism. Teachers can even make slime as a science or tactile art activity for the students.

8. Graphic Organiser's Visual tools like mind maps and Venn diagrams provide a scaffold for pupils to generate new ideas and capture their thoughts. They are particularly useful for children who might have poor working memories.

Graphic organisers help learners structure their thoughts
Graphic organisers help learners structure their thoughts

8. Sensory Bins: support and encourage various types of development. According to Professional Development Programme experts, the bins are useful for children with autism for two reasons. First, they encourage independent play or differentiated instruction which have educational benefits for students. Second, they offer an easily accessible and straightforward sensory experience for young learners with autism. Sensory bins provide a great opportunity for children with autism to learn and explore by way of hands-on tactile play that involves their senses. These bins can be themed for seasons, holidays, and educational skills.

9. Calm down drawer: According to the Autism competency framework, when children with autism feel overwhelmed, they may lose control of their feeling due to the intense response. This is referred to as “autism meltdown” and is not the same as how students without autism stay in class. Although the best way is to seek help from a school specialist, teachers may use calm down activities in their classroom settings for children to neutralize stressful situations. When children with autism are agitated, tactile toys are great to calm them down children with autism calm down since their minds are so adapted to sensory information. For children with autism, teachers can fill toys in a drawer in their classroom that may help de-escalate overwhelming emotions. When someone with autism seems overwhelmed or has trouble concentrating, they can take one or two sensory toys to help them relax.

10. Writer's BlockThis physical manipulative learning tool can be used across year groups and subjects. Using a whiteboard and a brightly coloured block, children can map out their thoughts and create logical connections. This methodology helps students organise their thinking in preparation for writing.

What are the most effective learning strategies for children with Autism?

1. Many young learners and adults with disabilities or Autism Spectrum Disorders have a fixation on some activities or topics. Childcare providers may take the benefit of using what these students are passionate about and use it to help children with ASD learn in class. If a student with ASD is passionate about using the internet, it might be worth exploring the multitude of online tools to design a math lesson using a resource such as online multiplication games etc. Google or additional search tools may provide guidance for school leaders and teachers in finding a suitable downloadable guide to be used as an online learning resource for the students.

2. According to several Autism research activities and studies, a large number of children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions are multisensory thinkers and do not pay attention very well when a lesson excludes their other senses. This growing area of study is known as embodied cognition. While providing specialized care of children it is recommended to use the most effective resources for autism that engage various senses such as sight, touch and hearing. These approaches help to make these children more responsive towards learning. For example, education providers can use magnet letters to teach alphabets to children with autism. Our block building approach uses the idea of tactile learning to help children think through tasks with their hands. As they build models, they articulate their ideas verbally helping them clarify their thinking.

3. According to mental health professionals, many autistic children function more effectively with a strong daily structure. Therefore, it is better to create a strong classroom routine to help individuals with autism participate more in classroom learning. When it comes to practical services and accommodations in a secondary or primary school setting, these may be different for each individual. It is a good idea that the childcare providers and educators attend an appropriate Professional Development Programme and approach a student’s family or health care providers to find out what must be the best resources for their child. EHC plans should reflect these needs and provide teachers with appropriate guidance.

4. Autism specialists suggest that both children and adults with autism may become overwhelmed when provided with too many options in community services or education. Hence, while offering their services for children and adults health care providers must provide people with autism with a limited number of and clear choices to keep them comfortable answering.

Creating multi-sensory learning environments for children with autism
Creating multi-sensory learning environments for children with autism

Investing in resources for autism

Creating holistic inclusive environments means that children and adults with autism can achieve their academic potential. The more a teacher learns about Autistic Spectrum Condition, the better they can create individual care packages for these students and make them ready to achieve lifelong success.

Depending upon the health condition of children with autism, teachers can select from a wide range of autism resources and autism-friendly strategies. This inclusive practice for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders means they have a better chance of accessing the curriculum that might otherwise be hard for them to grasp.

Providing your staff with a comprehensive list of resources for one-on-one and group activities in your school means that teachers and support staff will always have the right kind of tools at hand. Along with an effective professional development programme, these types of tools have the potential to bring improvements to Autism Services and to keep your students engaged and focused on their learning.

Guidance for teachers working with ASD students

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects 1% of the population. This means that one in every 100 people has ASD. It is estimated that between 2 and 3 million Americans have autism (the exact number for the UK hasn't been confirmed). That number is expected to double within the next 20 years.

Children with ASD may struggle with learning and communication. They may have difficulty understanding language, reading, writing, math, and social interactions. They may also have trouble following directions, paying attention, controlling emotions, and managing behavior.

In order to teach these students effectively, teachers need to understand how to interact effectively with them. As with any special educational need, individual differences do need to be considered as there is never a 'one size fits all'. Here are five tips for teaching children with autism in the classroom.

1. Be Patient

Teachers sometimes find themselves frustrated with students with ASD. However, patience is key. Students with ASD often have challenges processing information quickly. This makes it difficult for them to learn fast. Teachers need to give them plenty of time to absorb information. Students with ASD might also repeat things over and over again. If you don't give them enough time to think about an answer, they won't remember it later. Be patient and wait until they are ready to respond.

2. Use Visual Methods

Visual methods are useful tools for helping students with ASD learn. For example, using visual aids such as pictures, diagrams, charts, and graphs helps students with ASD focus better. Using visuals also helps students with ASD pay attention longer periods of time. When possible, use visuals to explain concepts. For instance, instead of saying “the sky is blue,” show students a picture of the sky.

3. Make Learning Engaging

Children with ASD might enjoy using games and puzzles. These types of activities provide opportunities for them to practice problem solving and develop logical thinking skills. Games and puzzles also allow students with ASD to express themselves creatively. For example, they can play board games such as chess, Scrabble, and Monopoly. Puzzles can include jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku.

4. Give Them Time to Think

Many students with ASD have problems focusing on tasks. To help them concentrate, give them ample time to complete assignments. Give them plenty of time to finish projects and homework. Allow them to work independently without constant supervision. Provide them with plenty of quiet space to study.

5. Teach Social Skills

Social skills are essential for children with ASD. Teaching them basic social skills such as eye contact, greeting others, and responding appropriately to questions can improve their ability to interact with peers. Teaching social skills also allows students with ASD to become more independent.

For example, teaching them how to ask for help when needed can help them feel more comfortable asking for assistance. By teaching them appropriate behaviors, teachers can teach them how to behave in public settings.