In a 3rd grade classroom of 36 students, it's very likely that at least 1 student will have autism.

If their symptoms are subtle enough, it may not be obvious by just looking at or interacting with this student.

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You don't have to be an expert to learn how to support an autistic student. Use the following strategies for effective intervention! 😀

What is autism?

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), also known as autism or "being on the spectrum", is a neurodevelopmental condition that may make navigating social situations difficult. It can also show up as having unique interests and certain repetitive behaviors.

Some common behaviors that students on the spectrum show are:

  • Unintentional rudeness by misspeaking or interrupting others in conversations

  • Seeming awkward by misreading social cues, body language, tone, or facial expressions

  • Dressing for comfort in sensory-friendly clothing that may not meet class expectations

  • Appearing disorganized by accidentally being late to class or missing deadlines

  • Overstimulation from sensory triggers such as classroom fluorescent lighting or bells ringing

Quiz: Jamila

Jamila (they/she), is a student in your class who:

  • misreads the body language of classmates

  • is frequently late to class or misses deadlines

  • often interrupts others during discussions with many questions

  • wears comfortable clothing that doesn't always match the dress code

  • uses headphones and music to self-soothe during overstimulation

  • appears uncomfortable under bright classroom lights when they work

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Based on your understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), how would you interpret Jamila's behavior?

What school experiences might an autistic student have?

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Students on the spectrum are more likely to get bullied than their peers. Because of this, autistic students might also refuse to go to school at significantly higher rates to avoid negative social experiences.

Some ways to support autistic students in bullying prevention include:

  • Class discussions about bullying and its impact

  • A class safety plan for any student to learn how to exit bullying situations

  • Role-play practice scenarios that teach students how to speak up

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Autistic people have strengths. They're often known to be detail-oriented and very honest. They also might have strong logical thinking skills and the ability to memorize information quickly.

An autistic student in your class may benefit from:

  • Detail-oriented assignments that allow for recalling event details or lesson specifics

  • Allowing class time for questions so students can ask for clarification on activities

  • Assignments with special interest topics that let students explore their favorites

What are more specific ways to support autistic students?

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Autistic students are often visual learners and may benefit from:

  • Printed symbol images for activities, such as book symbols for reading time

  • A timetable or class schedule to show time duration of daily activities

  • Large clocks or timers that break down time for everyone

  • Short video demonstrations showing the class activity beforehand

Checkmark icon. Do:

  • Create predictable environments

  • Use various visual supports

  • Give structured activities

  • Establish consistent routines

  • Communicate changes as they occur

  • Allow sensory tools, like headphones

Cross icon. Don't:

  • Change the physical classroom often

  • Use auditory instructions only

  • Give open-ended activities

  • Have too much spontaneity

  • Avoid communicating details

  • Restrict sensory tool use

Take Action

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Support autistic students!


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