Teaching students with autism how to be self-regulating is vital to their wellbeing. While it’s enticing to help someone that’s struggling to close a zipper, it’s a much greater service to peacefully teach that person how to do it themselves. People can be slow when they are learning a new skill until they become proficient. Time is usually something we don’t have to spare, particularly in western societies. However in order to help a person progress we must make time to show them the ropes.
While it’s delightful that your students take direction from you, it’s equally important they learn to respond to peers. If a student asks for a scissor, tell him to ask his peer. Encourage your students to ask each other for help and information. By doing so, students learn there are many people they can seek out for help and companionship. Making decisions is equally important and this begins by teaching students to make a choice. Offer two choices. Once students can easily decide between two options introduce a third choice. This method will help children think of various options and make decisions. People with autism may take extra time to process verbal instructions.
When giving a directive or asking a question, make sure you allow for extra processing time before offering guidance. Self-help skills are essential to learn. Some of these include navigating the school halls, putting on outerwear, asking for assistance and accounting for personal belongings. Fade all prompts as soon as you can. Remember that written prompts are usually easier to fade than verbal prompts. Fading prompts can be done in a phased approach.
If you are prompting a child to greet someone by showing them an index card with the word “Hello”, try fading it to a blank index card as a reminder before you completely remove the prompt. Never underestimate the power of consistency. Nothing works in a day whether it’s a diet, an exercise plan or learning to behave in class. Often we implement solutions and if there are no results within a few days we throw our hands up in the air and say “This doesn’t work.
Let me try something else”. Avoid this temptation and make sure you allow ample time before you abandon an idea. Remember that consistency is a key component of success. If you’re teaching a student to control aggression, the same plan should be implemented in all settings, at school and at home.