Classroom Management For Teachers Of Children With Autism

31 July 2018
 Categories: , Blog

Autism spectrum disorders can be quite challenging. Because the spectrum is so broad, teachers will have many functioning levels in the same classroom. If your school district has placed all of the children with autism in one classroom and you are the teacher, you are presented with a unique situation. You will need an entirely different set of classroom management materials than teachers who have neurotypical students. You will also have a very different approach on how to set up your classroom.

Think "Minimalist"

Many kids on the autism spectrum have sensitivities to light, sound, and touch. As such, the lights in your room will always need to be dimmer or "dimmable," sounds have to be quieter, and most textures have to be soft or smooth. Decorating the classroom has to be minimalist so that each student is not overwhelmed by what he or she sees. You will need noise-cancelling headphones, sound-proof wall hangings (you can actually make these from artist stretcher bars and felt, if you want), and lights on a dimmer switch in your room. It is also advisable to have curtains on the windows or UV film to dampen the bright sunlight.

Control the Environment Through the Use of Furniture

When you set up your classroom, set it up with the expectation that you will not change the position of much of anything in the classroom. Children with autism require consistency. They thrive on expectations; that is to say, they are at their best when very little around them is different. When your students enter the classroom for the first time, they will immediately take notice of where every chair, table, and piece of equipment is, and that is where they expect it to remain the entire year. 

That said, section off areas in your room with furniture and equipment. Create "walls" where there are none in order to create a sense of individual spaces. Do not forget to create a quiet area where children who are overwhelmed and/or are melting down can retreat to and calm themselves. 

Physical Materials You Must Have

Some children on the spectrum may be "chewers"; everything goes in the mouth to chew on as a means of calming themselves. From shoestrings to T-shirt collars and hard plastic objects, they chew. There are multiple "chewies" you can buy to help them. Other kids hit; there are bop-it bags and slap-happy toys that can help. For every personal quirk each student has, there is a therapy "toy" that can help. Check the IEPs of your incoming students to make sure you have what you need in the classroom to help them.