None of us are strangers to undesirable behaviors, amiright? We would not have the jobs that we do if they didn’t happen. We do our best to help our students with autism learn the replacement behaviors that will get them their wants and needs safely and effectively. However, I think it is super important to take the onus on making our classrooms a place where our students with autism feel safe and comfortable. There are so many factors that can play on to our students’ management needs. Several of these needs may not even come to minds. It’s easy for us to forget, as it’s safe to say that most of us are neurotypical and not experiencing the same things our students might.
Not Enough Structure
The unknown is the antithesis of learning for our guys. This is why we have individual schedules and predictable routines. I have used this analogy before, but it will make sense to those of us who have been substitute teachers: think about the difference between being a substitute that’s going to a different school every day versus having a permanent job. You’re not familiar with the route to get to the school, the protocol for clocking and signing in, your schedule, or your students. When you have a permanent placement, everything is on autopilots and lends itself to be a lot less anxiety inducing. For our students, when they can be on autopilot, their anxiety is reduced. This will allow them the brainspace for more learning.
Too Much Overwhelming Stimuli in the Classroom
One thing I have realized my scoping out people’s teacher Instagrams and looking through Teachers Pay Teachers is this: people (specifically teachers) really like rainbow. I get it: there’s something about looking at a picture where every part of ROY G. BIV is making a bold presence. I think it is stimulating to most neurotypical people? However, for our students with autism, it can be kind of overwhelming to be surrounded by so many colors. I personally like to stick with cooler, calming colors, which are supposed to, obviously, help with staying calm.
Frankly, too much crap on the walls in general can cause issues too. There’s so many places to look and see that it can be a lot. Make sure any posters and visuals serve a purpose and are used in a way to help the student. Back to colors, use colors in a way that is meaningful (such are color coding each student’s classroom items or giving each center a color).
Tasks are too hard/easy
It can be a slippery slope in a special ed class. Your instructions can go in so many different directions that it’s so likely that you could be in a classroom with students that can’t identify letter mixed with ones that can write 4-5 sentence paragraphs. Tread lightly on giving work that is super taxing, even if a para is readily available to work. In contrast, be careful not to give stuff that is so easy a student whizzes right through it or does not feel challenged. Find the balance between alternating easy tasks with more challenging ones.
Not making expectations and directions clear
When it comes to behaviors, academics, whatever…always be clear and consistent what needs to be done and what will earn the goods (aka reinforcers). Students should be aware of what behavior will earn them and which will not. When giving directions, make sure you are explicit as possible.
Not working enough of functional communication
It pains me to write this, but I have seen it wayyyyyyy too often. Students that are have pretty significant behaviors, but when you inquire on what method of communication they use, it’s “none”. This is frankly unacceptable, and will make less than desirable behaviors a viable option to get out of work/gain attention/get a favorite item (you get the idea). Work on building the understand that communication (however that may look for a student) will get them the good stuff more quickly and easily than the less desirable actions.
Can you think of anything else that should be added to this list?