As some children develop and learn new skills, there can be challenges along the way. Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may especially face some of these challenges within the classroom environment. However, there are a few strategies that can be utilized in the classroom to help make these children feel more grounded and secure. This in turn may decrease stimming, reduce their anxiety, and increase their ability to focus on what is happening around them.
Helping a child with ASD feel more settled in the classroom opens a window of opportunity for overcoming other challenges commonly associated with ASD within the realm of academics; in particular, reading and fine motor functions. Children with ASD tend to grasp objects, like writing utensils, either too early or too late. This can sometimes result in letter formation deficits. Writing their name, cutting and pasting in a craft, or painting a picture for a birthday card can be a tough or exasperating task. When engaging in academic activities, children with Autism function best when innovative equipment and techniques are utilized. Here are some examples:
- A peapod is great in a classroom for group circle time activities. It can be used to help children with ASD calm down to engage in group activities by promoting relaxation. The peapod also provides proprioceptive input as well as gentle rocking, which children with ASD love!
- Balancing boards are terrific for attention and focus because they provide vestibular input. When a child’s vestibular system is stimulated, they are able to focus and become more alert. Not to mention, there are many fun games that your child can play using this board!
- Compression vests provide deep proprioceptive input, which is calming for the body. Try using them to help your child increase his body awareness. With improvements in body awareness, your child will have a better understanding of where his body is in space and how one part of his body moves in connection to another part. You may discover that your child’s gross motor movements, like jumping or kicking a ball, will improve with his heightened body awareness.
- If a child is having difficulty with a task, then you can provide hand over hand assistance to facilitate or reinforce the action. The term “hand over hand” means placing your hand on top of your child’s hand and guiding the motion to complete the task. This is because children with ASD learn best by doing, rather than watching. When you begin to think outside of the box in caring for, treating, or teaching a child with Autism, the ideas are endless!
For more information, you can read previous blog posts in this series.
Barthel, K. (May 2017). Autism from the Inside Out [Lecture]. Hosted by Therapeutic Services Inc.