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Teaching Children with Autism

Madhura Pandit
The word autism tends to intimidate many parents. There are different ways to teach autistic children. Following tips and techniques will be helpful in teaching children who suffer from autism.
Autism is a neurobiological disorder in which the communication and social interaction abilities of a child are impaired. Its exact cause is unknown. Even though there is no medication available to cure this disorder completely, certain techniques may help children to overcome their inabilities.
A person from any group of society can be affected by autism. Although, this disorder is seen at an early age, it is not diagnosed before the child is three years old. Abnormal behavior is the only noticeable symptom.

Symptoms in Autism

Lack of communication or problems in communicating with others and repetitive behavior like flapping of hands is observed. Autistic children hardly make any eye contact and are sensitive to touch and sound. They do not like changes and tend to follow certain routines or patterns.
Self-injurious behavior like banging of head on wall or floor, biting, hair pulling, etc., is frequently observed. They may also suffer from learning disability.
The unusual behavior seems as though the child has suddenly lost his skills. Parents usually do not take these symptoms seriously as they think that their child would improve soon. But, specific methods should be implemented by parents from the child's early age to help him overcome his inabilities.

Methods for Teaching Autistic Children

➡Generally, autistic children do not understand verbal language. Instead, non-verbal or picture language is easy for them to understand. Hence, parents or teachers should use pictures or photographs of all concrete things to autistic children. They should demonstrate various actions using gestures or videos so that it is easier for children to understand. 
For e.g., to make a child understand what is an apple, the teacher should show the picture of the fruit. Similarly, to make a child understand the difference between stand up or sit down, teachers should demonstrate those actions. This way, the child will learn faster.
➡ To make autistic children understand words, picture cards should be used. These have words written on them along with pictures. As their picture memory is fairly well-developed, they find it easier to understand and memorize the words. Children learn words by hearing the sound that they hear while the teacher speaks.
Hence, proper pronunciations should be made by teachers to help the child learn. A child may jumble up with words that are close to each other. For e.g., it may be difficult for a child to differentiate between consonants. In order to help overcome this, teachers must stress on consonants while speaking word. This way, it may help the child to remember them.
➡ Visual methods can also help children in understanding numbers. As autistic children understand concrete things better, teachers can make use of number blocks, charts, etc. They should also let children handle or touch the number blocks. Concepts like adding and subtracting should be taught with these methods.
➡ Autistic children are usually found to be good at skills like painting or drawing. These skills should be encouraged as they may help them in future for skill-oriented employment.
➡ The memory of autistic children is not well-developed. Therefore, they find it difficult to remember complex instructions or even directions. It is advisable for the teachers to write down the instructions in simple language. The child will be able to follow these instructions.
➡ It is observed that children suffering from autism usually take all words in their literal meaning. Hence, teachers should not speak in sarcastic or taunting manner. They should avoid asking vague questions. Instead they should be very specific and direct.
For e.g., do not ask an autistic child as to why has he done a certain thing. He will not be able to answer. Instead, teachers should tell the child not to do a particular thing. This way, he will be able to differentiate between right and wrong.
➡ General behavior rules should be taught in different locations or else the child feels that the rule applies only in that particular area. For e.g., to teach the child not to make noise in a public place, you need to give him/her the same instructions at every public place or else he/she might think that the instructions apply only to specific areas.
➡ An autistic child should be encouraged to speak. Only then will he know that language is necessary for communication. For e.g., give a particular thing to the child only when he/she asks for it verbally. Parents should find out what the child likes to speak about.
If he/she begins to say something, parents should not interrupt. They need to be patient and continue the conversation so as to encourage the child to speak more.
➡ As autistic children do not like changes, it is necessary for parents to prepare them beforehand for a change in routine that is about to occur. Do not give instructions abruptly as it may confuse the child.
Parents should keep in mind, not to force anything on their children. Children can be helped to overcome autism with the joint effort of parents and teachers. There are many autistic adults leading a normal life. One thing that parents and teachers should remember is, 'Patience is the key to success'.
Disclaimer: This is meant only to provide information.