10 tips to include & help autistics at school
I often hear autism parents saying things like "...if only they would make some small adjustments...it would make such a difference..." & I often read pleas from autism parents to asd support groups for friends for their autistics.
My own personal plea is for all other parents (the ones of neurotypical children) to please, please, please just ask the mum/parent before you think to yourself ...oh, I won't invite him/her because they probably won't want to come anyway &/or wouldn't cope. You may well be right but trust me, you have no idea how much it means to simply be asked.
top ten tips then:
1. parents of or teachers ask parents to come & assess the classroom environment before the year starts, with or without their asd child. So many sensory things going on in a classroom. Maybe they will even consider coming along to talk to the class as a whole about autism & what it's like to have such an incredible brain but one that is wired a little differently...bonus.
2. plan & prepare a transition period before school starts that includes a visit to the school, the actual classroom, getting to/from lunch, toilets, safe space, transport etc.
3. find out about/share as much as you can about the child & what their actual personality is like. Then what their special interests (potential motivators) are, triggers if known, what their anxiety looks like, known calming strategies, if any.
4. Unlike their peers an autistic child may not make eye contact or look at you when you talk to them or even be able to say very social words like 'hello', and that's ok. Don't give up, it does not mean they have not heard you or do not want to engage.
5. Always say their name first before your chat line or request/question, it will help them know to pay attention eg "James, do you want to play tag?' instead of "Do you want to play tag James?"
6. Ask if there are any small changes that can be made to a game to allow them to join in better eg no clapping loudly or no shouting.
7. Autistics often struggle with groups where everyone is seeming to all talk at once. Help quieten things down or stick to one-on-one or small group conversation.
8. Just because they choose not to join in doesn't mean they want to be alone. If you are unsure just watch them for a bit, be alongside them, copy what they are doing or saying & just be with them, no words needed. They will engage you in their own special way. And it only has to be a few minutes btw. If you are bored of listening to them talk about something you can tell them to stop & that you're going to do something else now. It's ok.
9. Just the tiny little step of acknowledging an autistic every day is such a wonderful thing to do, it will make an enormous difference to their sense of wellbeing. Don't give up. Say hello every day or ask them if they want to choose an activity to do. If they do not respond or say no, it doesn't matter, they will know that you care. HUGE.
10. Be kind, always. Be positive. The only disability in life is a bad attitude!