Teaching is one of the most important careers in our society. Without teachers, there would be a significant gap in the availability of a skilled workforce and a dilution in the values we uphold in society. Yes, teachers and the education system play one of the most significant roles in promoting and maintaining a community’s norms and values. Therefore, these individuals serve a dual purpose. Not only do they educate our children to become upstanding professionals, but they help individuals to become well-rounded members of society as a whole.
However, one area of teaching proves to be equally challenging as it is rewarding. And that is teaching differently-abled students. Individuals on the Autism spectrum and other learning disabilities can face an extremely challenging time in educational institutions if the learning environment is not conducive. As people become more socially aware, educators need to create more inclusive learning experiences. And if you are looking for ways to do just that, you’ve come to the right place.
So, how do you create more inclusive learning experiences to facilitate students with ASD?
Understand the needs of the child first
The first step to creating an effective learning environment is to educate oneself about the condition. People often think that reading a few articles on Google or watching YouTube videos might give a holistic understanding of Autism. Doing so could not be further from the truth. To understand ASD, it would be best to educate yourself in the field academically. There are a plethora of educational portals and universities that offer online facilities to further your education and get equipped with the necessary skill set. If you have a heart for teaching and a soft spot for special needs students, consider a masters in applied behavior analysis online as a stepping stone. As mentioned earlier, prior academic knowledge and experience about the condition will help tackle challenges along the road.
Pay special attention to intellectually challenged individuals
If you are dealing with a diverse class, it would be best to divide your attention accordingly. Assuming some students have understood the lecture, consider spending extra time with differently-abled students individually to ensure that they understand what you are teaching. Children with ASD have problems with social inclusion and communication. Therefore, they probably won’t convey to you that they didn’t understand the lesson. You might need to approach them and ask them if they have understood voluntarily. Even if they say no, try and reiterate what you have just taught in class to reinforce the message. Give them more time either when everyone else is working or after class to gauge where they stand. Consider taking some remedial sessions with them as well if the school would allow it.
Create a culture of group-based learning
One of the best ways to create an inclusive learning environment is to encourage collaboration amongst students. It will also make the job easier for you in the long run. Have smarter students help and mentor those who are slow and differently-abled. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illnesses – 5 (DSM -5) states that autistic individuals suffer from social shortcomings. They cannot perform essential social functions, nor do they understand the emotions and roles attached to social functionality. Therefore, you might notice that these individuals do not have a lot of friends or social skills.
If they do not practice social skills at this age, they may never develop this ability in the future.
Therefore, it would be good to put them into groups with students who can help them out. Pick out a few responsible individuals in the class and assign them mentorship roles. Create and encourage group activities to enhance collaborative and social skills.
Utilize visual learning tools
Though visual aids can significantly help those with ASD, using videos and images is beneficial for the entire class. They help to break the monotony of text-based learning and create a more engaging experience.
Verbal and written teaching can often be a drag for the students in the class. On the other hand, individuals are naturally inclined towards videos and images. These techniques make it easier to process and retain information, especially for differently-abled students. Incorporating video and image-based learning at a younger age is an excellent way to familiarize autistic students with technology and become self-reliant.
For the students to remember what you are teaching them, make them part of the educative process. Having differently-abled students partake in activities directly related to the coursework is a great way to help them learn. Not only are they learning about the function of the task during the exercise, but recalling information is much easier once they have physically experienced the lesson.
Activity-based learning will help the students score high on the Autism Spectrum and those without learning disabilities. It is one of the most effective teaching styles used worldwide to promote an inclusive teaching experience by combining practical techniques with theoretical concepts.
Today, social stigmas around ASD and other known learning disabilities are shattering. Creating more inclusive social spaces and workplaces are the need of the hour. And this can only be made possible if education systems are more inclusive. Giving attention to differently-abled students should be one of your top priorities as an educator. An inclusive teaching experience for a diverse group of students can be one of the most rewarding careers. You contribute to the development of these individuals in social and occupational roles. It helps them become more independent and enhances the physical and mental well-being.