Within this module you will receive ideas around how to best set up your classroom structure and management to promote inclusion of students living on the Autism spectrum. Environments that provide clear expectations and predictable routines promote increased engagement and on-task behaviour for individuals with ASD. Ideas presented in this module are generated from reliable resources and my own classroom experience.
- How the learner profile of a student with ASD is similar to others not on the spectrum
- What Environmental Accommodations may be required for a student with ASD
- What responsibilities the Classroom Teacher has when working with an Educational Assistant
- How Daily Structure may differ for students with ASD
- How Structured Learning will promote independency in the classroom
- What to consider when assessing a student with ASD
- The importance communication plays between home and school while teaching a student with ASD
Topics to Be Covered
- Learner Profile
- Environmental Accommodations
- Educational Assistants Working with a student with ASD
- Daily Structure
- Structured Learning and Other Independent Tasks
- Assessment of a student with ASD
- Communication Between Home and School
Teachers are responsible for providing carefully planned programs that are effective and appropriate for each individual student.
Individual Learning Profiles can based on the Ontario Student Record, Individual Education Plan, data from parents and previous teachers, observation of literacy and numeracy skills, data from criterion-referenced assessment tools, as well as, other reports such as psycho-educational reports, speech/language reports, medical reports, etc.
Therefore, the Learner Profile of a student with ASD cannot be based soley on the diagnosis of ASD. (Ministry, 2007)
After the completion of the Individual Learning Profile the teacher should then design instruction for the student that takes into consideration the particular needs of the student and then capitalizes on the student’s strengths. (Ministry, 2005)
Many school boards have started to request that teachers compile learning profiles for their students and they are often stored centrally to be shared with the following classroom teacher. It is important to not only review the latest profile but to add and change information on the profile as strengths and needs change for the student.
The classroom teacher holds primary responsibility for all students in the classroom as they contribute first-hand knowledge of students’ strengths, needs and interests. They are then are responsible for creating the best possible learning environment. (Ministry, 2005)
Students with ASD function better within predictable environments. Strategies for structuring their learning environment could be:
- Posting individual rules in a visually accessible location
- Developing a visual schedule for daily activities
- Provide visual warnings before transitions
- Have a specific place where materials will be stored
- Introduce unfamiliar tasks in a familiar setting
Types of Environmental Accommodations could include: individual workspace, strategic seating, proximity to teacher, use of headphones, special lighting, quiet setting, etc. Specific accommodations that the student is dependent on should be listed in their current individual Education Plan.
All teachers will discover their own personal way of presenting classroom management. The teacher of a student with ASD will need to include the students’ strengths when developing a management plan.
Task completion and behavior will be the greatest indicator of the success of the current classroom management plans. When it comes to a student with ASD conforming to the standard many times the teacher must look at how to adapt the plan to include the student successfully.
As students with ASD often have social challenges, having an inclusive whole class approach to your management plan will promote others to engage with the student with ASD sharing in consequences and celebrations of the plan put forth.
It is suggested that a plan with visual cues or concrete token type concepts would be more effective for the student with ASD rather than a verbal contract to carry out the classroom management plan.
Educational Assistants working with ASD Students
Not all students on the Autism Spectrum require an Educational Assistant, although this support is provided for many.
When working with an Educational Assistant it is the teacher’s responsibility to do the following:
- Share information regarding learning goals and contents of the Individual Education Plan
- Find out the assistant’s skills and strengths and make good use of them in the classroom
- Be willing to make or take suggestions and to give examples
- Plan in advance for the assistant
- Have assistant work with other students while the teacher spends time in direction instruction with the assigned student
- Establish regular routines and duties for the assistant
- Encourage initiative on the part of the assistant
- Correct tactfully and criticize constructively
- Encourage the assistant’s professional development
Differentation of instruction is a teacher’s response to a learner’s needs guided by general principles of differentiation, such as respectful tasks, flexible grouping, and ongoing assessment and adjustment. (Ministry, 2005)
It is good practice to take into consideration the sensory needs of the student with ASD. Through guidance of other professionals (i.e. Occupational Therapist), create a daily Visuals should be used to clearly define the daily routines for the student with ASD. Throughout the classroom the student should be able to easily locate and follow the routines required of him/her.
Transitions from one task to another or from one environment to another prove to be difficult for student with ASD. Preparation of the transition through use of visuals, sensory or verbal cuing should be planned for the student. While moving through the transition it may be helpful to give the student a specific task, responsibility, or object to hold to lower his/her anxiety of the transition.
The appearance of Structured Learning can change according to a students’ strengths and needs. It’s common factor is that learning tasks are organized physically into small chunks to provide the student with the sense of predictability and success.
The completion of tasks is directed to the student through the use of a visual schedule of what needs to be completed and in what order. Often a reward is shown at the completion of the task or series of tasks as motivation to complete the work required.
Work is organized physically into compartments i.e. bins, drawers, folders, boxes. This way work does not overwhelm the student when they are only presented with a small task within each compartment.
According to the individual’s learning profile work will then be organized on a rank of easiest to most difficult, hands – on to other modes of task completion, tasks that the student is familiar moving to unfamiliar, etc.
Once the student becomes familiar with the system chosen, the goal would be for the student to complete tasks with optimal independency.
Assessment of an ASD Student
Assessment of learning takes place for all students. Assessment is connected to summative assessment, used for reporting achievement, usually expressed in marks or letter grades, used for accountability. (Ministry, 2005)
When teaching a student with ASD it is important to note that the classroom teacher is the one responsible for assessing the student. Therefore, it is vitally important for the classroom teacher to be aware of the assessment methods that are most successful for the student through formative assessment and frequent work with the student.
Communication between all who work with a student with ASD can promote better assessment results as you discover the unique ways in which the student is able to best learn and communicate his/her knowledge.
Presenting tasks and information in different ways as well as providing this variety when extracting knowledge from the student will give the student an opportunity to show their learning.
If the student is working on alternative goals from their Individual Education Plan be sure to track their success and report on their achievement accurately to guide following alternative goals.
It is important to consider the following when assessing a student with ASD:
- Recognize that verbal responses may be the most difficult and least accurate
- If a verbal response is required, do not insist on eye contact
- Allow student to read a passage several times before asking comprehension questions
- Begin assessment at a level of success than increase difficulty
- Provide student with sample questions to practice the format
- Allow the use of the computer in answering questions
Communication Between Home and School
Parent participation can enhance program planning and assist in the determination of educational goals, methods, and motivational strategies that are most appropriate and effective for the student.
Parents of children with can provide a wealth of knowledge to educators such as:
- Developmental history
- Health issues
- Range of professionals who are or have been with the student
- Child’s like, dislikes, special interests
- Sensory sensitives
- How the student has learned skills at home
- Behavior and communication strategies that have been successful at home and in other environments
- Perspectives on the student’s personality
Students with ASD have challenges in the area of communication. Information between home and school should not be left to the student. The classroom teacher is responsible for the content of home/school communication. Therefore, it is important to meet with parents to discuss the format they would like this to take place by
In summary of this module it is important that the classroom teacher look at the learner first despite any identification the student has been given. The guidelines provided throughout this module are best practices that have been outlined in Ministry documents and used in classrooms of learners with ASD learners to great success. Classroom management and structure is required to be specific around the student’s needs and strengths to be effective. Getting to know the learner will promote successful achievement for the student with ASD.