It can be quite a difficult task for teachers to work out a strategy to facilitate the inclusion of children with autism, especially when they notice children that have become isolated from their peers.
Inclusion Is More Than Just Making Space In A Classroom
When children with autism attend mainstream schools, teachers may have to be extra vigilant that these children don’t feel distressed or anxious because they end up on their own in the classroom, at lunch time and in the playground. This can result in tears or meltdowns for no apparent reason and it is up to the teacher to work out what the problem is. It may not be as simple as the peer group excluding these children, it may be that both the peer group and the children with autism need help to learn how to play and work together.
Every child is an individual of course, and this is no different for children with autism. As the famous saying goes, “when you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism”. It will take time for teachers and teaching assistants to get to know the children as individuals and how they interact as a group.
It can help to explain to the class what autism is all about and engage the class in helping each other with things that they find tricky. Children often really want to help and if teachers appeal for help, there can be a very positive response. This may require very careful planning and consultation with parents and health care workers to assess how this should be executed.
Teachers and teaching assistants may require special training to learn how to observe the quality of the interactions in the classroom. It can appear that children with autism are interacting when in fact they might be isolated within the group observing, playing in ‘parallel, or totally alone.
It may be that teachers need to develop special strategies with small groups of children at a time within the class. It could involve identifying who the leaders are amongst the children and engaging them. Issues can arise with particular activities or approaches to the activities and teachers may have to adapt their teaching styles.
There are many creative solutions, but it may be that teachers and teaching assistants could benefit from some dedicated time away from their classrooms to reflect on the needs of the group. There are many teachers who have not had any formal training about autism and they could really benefit from some structured learning from experts who can tailor the trainings to fill in the gaps in knowledge.
Inclusion is so more than providing a chair and desk within the classroom. It’s about facilitating interactions between peers and helping everyone involved to learn how to get along and feel like part of the group. It’s all about building real relationships.
With our In-House courses, we can come to you and train a group of your staff on your premises to help you develop inclusion strategies. We also offer bespoke programmes which we can alter for your needs, and put them through the accreditation process if appropriate.
We always want to make sure that if you order an In-House day with us, you get the training you need, bespoke to your field and your situation.