Autism is one of the most prevalent developmental disabilities in the United States, growing from a diagnosis of one in 150 children in 2000 to one in 59 children being identified with autism spectrum disorder by 2014, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For teachers with a Master’s Degree in Special Education, working with children who have autism is likely, and it’s something that can provide valuable rewards in both emotional and career growth.
When working with those who have autism, you can make a tremendous impact on that student’s life and their future success.
You’re Not Limited to Traditional Educational Methods
Children on the autism spectrum respond to varied educational methods. This allows educators to explore teaching strategies that may not be found in many traditional classrooms.
For example, a school designed solely for teaching children with autism called Beyond Autism in Scottsdale, Arizona, integrates activities such as deep-breathing, yoga exercises, music and art therapy. Regular field trips that allow for sensory exploration, as well as chores, cooking and self-sustaining projects like taking care of pets and gardening are all parts of the everyday curriculum, Phoenix Magazine reports.
As parents work with teachers on individualized education plans, they may indicate to educators that life skills are high on their priority list, especially for older students. Integrating these teaching priorities into school curriculums expands the educator’s role.
You Become a Valuable Ally to a Family
As a teacher for students with autism, you are a valuable puzzle piece that can be the catalyst for a child’s success. Parents will rely on you to provide their children with autism specialized teaching that fits their unique learning style and perspective.
Autism advocacy organization, Autism Speaks, says it’s vital for teachers of students with autism to have close relationships with the families of their students. Families provide an essential history of the students, including methods that have garnered positive responses and those that haven’t worked.
The relationship between teachers and families is circular, as what works in the classroom can be communicated back to caregivers, who can apply those successful methods back at home and foster overall growth.
You Expand Your Methods of Communication
Just as the world has visual, auditory and kinetic learners, children on the autism spectrum have even more intricacies regarding ways of best receiving and processing information. Scholastic reports while visual aids such as “if/then” cards can be instrumental in helping children with autism understand social situations, visual cues such as body language may not register when you’re trying to convey something to an autistic student. Instead, direct language may be more effective.
Sensory activities like using a stress ball or bearing weight such as a lap pad or backpack can also aid in communication. Often, multiple types of communication are required throughout each day to effectively keep a student on track while they’re working on various tasks. As someone who works with autistic children, you can sharpen your communication skills and quickly adapt.
You Can Help New Extraordinary Talents Emerge
As many as one in three people with autism may possess exceptional talents, resulting in “savant syndrome” that indicates a combination of significant cognitive difficulties and profound skills, reports autism research site Spectrum.
Many more children with autism than those in traditional classrooms may possess special abilities in areas including mechanical, musical, mathematical and artistic disciplines, and many also have an exceptional memory.
Some of the world’s brightest minds, both historically and those working today, had or have autism, with historians speculating composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, writer and mathematician Lewis Carroll, and artist Andy Warhol having been on the spectrum.
As you effectively work with autistic children and find better ways to communicate with them, as well as give them opportunities to explore talents in these areas, new amazing talents may emerge that could change the world.
You Can Work with Individual Students More Closely
Students with autism require one-on-one attention and personalized teaching techniques to be successful. Paying attention to individual needs with children who have autism is critical to support their growth. Educators serve as advocates for independence, who are there to support victories as simple as self-care. You as a teacher should set unique goals for students based on their current skills, and constantly update skill area objectives with scaffolding steps as gains are made.
What motivates each student with autism must be used as rewards to help focus attention and increase learning gains. All of this requires getting to know your students with autism closely, so you can increase the likelihood of celebrating the progress they make.
Learn more about the online Master of Science in Special Education (Endorsement in Autism Spectrum Disorder) from Saint Joseph’s University and how you can make a difference in student’s lives. Call (866) 758-7670 to speak with an Program Manager or request more information online.
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