Teaching English to Autistic Children, or any language, can be a daunting but rewarding task for many teachers, especially those without any experience with autism. It is noteworthy that Autistic children have a hard time with verbal communication and expressing themselves, which presents unique challenges for their performance in languages.
To teach English to autistic children it is essential to plan strategies to address their specific needs and requirements. Use of visual aids, Routine explanations, Realia and Real situations, discussions with other professionals will all help. However positivity and patience are of equal value.
Some Autistic children may need a little extra help, time and patience to fulfil their potential, but to help make sure their learning can be as effective as possible and you as a parent or teacher can build your own confidence and well as theirs we go into a little more detail below.
Use Of Visual Aids to Teach English to Autistic Children.
Use visual aids, such as pictures, videos and realia to teach new vocabulary words. For example, teachers can use flashcards, real objects or apps that have pictures of objects on them. this is beneficial to all learners of English as it turns the abstract of the word into a real touchable or at least visual thing.
When teaching English to autistic children, of which many may be visual learners, it also offers a multiple intelligences approach and reduces the chances of frustration setting in from lack of understanding, if there is a relatable image or item to help explain the vocabulary or grammar point.
Visual cues introduce a word association ( if teaching Vocabulary or grammar items like verbs or adjectives) that can help focus students, all students, minds.
Use Realia When Introducing Topics or Vocabulary
Try to use natural objects when teaching new words, not just drawings or cartoon images. This approach may help autistic children distinguish what is real and what is not.
If you are showing a photograph of, a actual tree for example, prepare the student by saying something like, “We are going to look at a picture of a tree.” Showing images without explanation may be confusing to many autistic students who have difficulty interpreting abstract photos quickly.
If you have the option of using realia in the classroom, then do so, it may not be easy to get hold of a dinosaur for example! but a fossil, or if discussing trees then a branch or twig. It allows the chance to use other senses, rather than just listening and sight and caters for learner diversity in general but especially in autism.
Introduce What Is Happening next In Class
Keep the lesson flowing and take the time to explain what is going to happen in class at each stage, especially if movement, or a change of teaching ( video, talk or song etc) is going to occur. This allows students to follow and be prepared for what is coming.
Have the lesson flow on the board or on screen and point to it as each aspect is approaching or has been covered. This always autistic students to be aware of where in the lesson they are and what is coming next. it helps to prevent confusion, anxiety or frustration, and is good practice anyway.
Teach English to Autistic Children: Keep Sentences Short
Stick to short, unambiguous sentences when teaching English to autistic children. Sentences with complex structures and clauses may be complex for them to comprehend, especially in early years.
Break down longer thoughts into smaller chunks to allow the child to process the information faster. Always check comprehension and make sure the students are following you. You can then adjust as needed.
If you want your student to know that a specific cat is chasing a particular mouse, say, “The cat chases the mouse.” Don’t try to make it seem sophisticated by adding long explanations of why they are doing this or how they are doing it. Focus on one concept at a time. Complexity can be built in when appropriate at a later stage.
Procedural Learning: Step by Step
If the child responds well to learning through steps or procedures, it may be best for you to apply this method in your teaching practice. Teach English to autistic children using procedural learning means using lists, infographic diagrams, stories, and other strategies which require sequential order.
This approach is more like simple instructions where each step builds upon the prior one. The strategy is relatively easier for autistic children because identifying complex concepts is often difficult for these kids; with procedural learning, the autistic child can pick up on skills that may otherwise seem overwhelming or confusing in a formulaic way.
Procedural knowledge is also beneficial if the teacher wants to introduce English grammar rules.
Autistic children often get overwhelmed when there are too many unexpected changes in their environment, which can cause them to get upset quickly. For this reason, teachers need to let the students know what will happen next if they do something.
For example, when starting an English lesson you can say “If you take out your book now, then we can start reading our story.” Doing this makes your student aware of the sequence of events and reduces the chances that they get surprised with an unplanned situation when things don’t go as expected.
Predictable consequences help autistic kids feel safe because they know what will happen next and reduces stressors such as anxiety and frustration.
Debriefing in Autistic Classrooms
After teaching English vocabulary words or grammar rules, the instructor must follow up with a debriefing component of the lesson. Ask your learners “Can you tell me more about this?” For example, if the teacher discusses an object, ask them questions like “What can you do with it?” or “What does it look like?”
You may also want to ask open-ended questions such as “What do you think of ____? If I were ____, what would I do?” That way they can express how they feel about something through their own words and not just by you telling them how you think they should feel.
Teach English to autistic children in a naturalistic setting or environment that is as close as possible to real-life situations. This means that the language taught needs not be “pretend” English, making it difficult for kids on the autism spectrum disorders to process abstract images quickly.
Instead, use language in context by saying something like, “This is an apple, I am eating an apple.” Even better if you grab an actual apple!
While many people would understand what you are referring to if you plainly said the word “an apple,” doing this may be overwhelming for kids on the autism spectrum who are used to learning through concrete experiences. Give them a many chances to Understand as possible.
Be specific when teaching your students about objects, places, and events, so they don’t get confused when managing new and numerous vocabulary or language terms.
All teachers know that high levels of patience are a corner stone of the job. This is even more appropriate with Autistic classrooms.
There may be a slower pace of learning when teaching English to Autistic Children and this is just fine. DO NOT RUSH or PRESSURE them to learn. Be patient, and don’t expect that they will progress at the same pace as other students.
Repeating Teaching Tactics in Autistic Classrooms
Covering the same or similar materials with different approaches will help you reach those students with differing learning needs. Repetition helps combat misunderstanding in autistic classroomswho often have difficulty processing information quickly;
however, make sure not to bore them by teaching the same thing all over again because this can be very frustrating for them. Modify the teaching tactic, so it seems fresh for both parties involved while staying true to course content.
Do not punish the child for using incorrect grammar. Autistics often struggle with everyday communication (talking, writing). They simply can’t help it they don’t understand your expressions.
Do not punish a child for making mistakes, as that will only confuse them about what is right and wrong instead of building up confidence in what they know already. We hope this article helped you understand more about teaching English to autistic children.
There is no magic key teach English to autistic children, the teaching requires similar skills to mainstream classrooms. Add a little extra planning and patience and there is no reason students can not achieve their best.
If you monitor your students, gain as much information from other professionals and plan your lessons to be procedural, topical and interesting then you will be providing am engaging experience for all your everyone including your autistic students