Brooke Beyma is a psychology major, minoring in education, with an interest in pursuing a career as a school psychologist. In the following article, Brooke Beyma discusses how these professionals can support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in and out of the classroom.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is seeing increased awareness within education at all levels. And school psychologists are learning the various ways to support learners with ASD.
Although every person afflicted with the disorder is different, there are some universal factors that can help students get the most out of school. This includes helping them to navigate social and emotional situations – providing a toolbox in order to regulate effectively. Increasing general awareness can also help others to provide an understanding and supportive environment.
Brooke Beyma Says to Provide Structure
Having structure and routine is important to everyone, but this is particularly essential for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Having a schedule that is easy to understand can help students feel safe and navigate their day successfully.
Brooke Beyma says to try to make sure that the student’s timetable stays the same, and consider the use of visual aids where necessary to help with understanding. For example, a student may find it helpful to have a picture of the teacher and the door to their classroom placed next to that lesson in their schedule.
Of course, although some would prefer it to be that way, not every school day is the same as the last. Changes such as not being able to go outside for recess because of bad weather, or a teacher being absent are often unavoidable.
Consider problem-solving with the student on what they can do when a change occurs that they do not expect. This could be through hypothesizing potential situations, or simply creating a universal plan for change, including items such as reminders of self-regulation techniques and where the student can go if things become too much for them.
Brooke Beyma explains that when changes are planned, make sure to let the students know ahead of time so they can be emotionally prepared. Remember to remind them regularly of changes that will take place over a longer time frame, consider creating a countdown calendar.
Offer and Practice Self-Regulation Techniques
To help students when they feel overwhelmed or distressed, practice self-regulation techniques with them so that they have a toolkit to be able to use to calm themselves in the classroom.
Brooke Beyma notes that depending on the individual, the techniques may differ, so it is important to find those that work for that particular student. Practice the techniques when calm, and away from triggers first so that they can be effectively learned and is easier to recall in times of distress.
School can be a social minefield for any student but for those with ASD who may not be able to pick up on certain nuances or social cues, they can be especially daunting or problematic.
Brooke Beyma says to be prepared to be a mindful mediator and listener when it comes to social situations that have not gone as planned, including increasing understanding among peers and classmates.
Social stories can also help those with ASD to be able to navigate situations that they may find difficult, such as understanding when to speak in class, how to play with others in a game, and so on.
Those with ASD can often have various sensory sensitivities, and so many find some situations or sensations to be distressing, such as a crowded and noisy cafeteria. In someone with heightened senses, the combination of lots of different voices, people, general sounds, and smells of various foods can be overwhelming.
Brooke Beyma reports that working together with the school to create reasonable adjustments, such as ear defenders, a quiet lunch area, or even the use of sensory or fidget toys can help to dampen other stimuli and keep the student focused and calm in the classroom.
Create an Autism-Aware School
The most effective way to support a student with ASD is to make sure everyone is on board. Support inclusivity and education on the condition within the school, and also celebrate differences on the whole to increase awareness and acceptance.
Brooke Beyma says it’s important to be an open door to teachers and other support staff who may seek advice and support on how best to meet the needs of a learner with ASD to ensure student success as well as providing teachers with the skills to be able to help learners throughout their teaching career.
Supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not just a matter of providing accommodations or interventions; it requires a deep understanding, empathy, and a commitment to inclusivity. By fostering a supportive environment, promoting social and emotional well-being, implementing evidence-based practices, and collaborating with families and professionals, we can create a path to success for these students.
It is through our collective efforts and dedication that we can empower individuals with autism to thrive, reach their full potential, and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to society. Together, we can make a difference and build a more inclusive and accepting world for all.