As an educator, you’ve been reacting to the diversity of children’s abilities and preferences in your classroom each school year. As classrooms become more inclusive and children on the spectrum are integrated into neuro-normative peer classrooms rather than being segregated in special needs environments, you can make yours more welcoming to all students by implementing autism-friendly class activities. In today’s post, we’ll share some of our favorite classroom ideas that are great for all students.
Multi-sensory activities are fun for most children, and getting hands-on with activities or accessing multiple processing centers helps digest new information while accommodating sensory-seeking behaviors in autistic children. For instance, rather than lecturing about a topic, break it up into chunks and use visuals to help your students process what you are telling them. Challenge yourself to integrate multi-sensory, hands-on tactile activities and music into your lesson plans and class activities. Some ideas include:
Writing in sand tables
Using hands-on building or crafts to reinforce the subject matter
Quiet Recovery Time
Quiet time is a mental reset for all children, and you! While we don’t recommend implementing a nap time, you can build quiet time into your classroom routine, or limit its use as necessary when you notice students are hyper or distracted. Dim classroom lights and practice guided stretching, similar to yoga, and/or guided mindful breathing. If you don’t feel confident in being the guide, use a short video like this one.
Consider creating a student retreat corner for a safe calm-down space. These quiet spaces are becoming more common in classrooms and are practical for de-escalating children who struggle with anger or ADD and reducing sensory overload in children with autism or are neuro-normative but sensory sensitive. This space should include low lighting and a comfortable place to sit, like a beanbag or a large pillow. Sound canceling headphones can help or some soft, soothing music that allows the child to relax and retreat from the stimulating environment of the busy classroom.
Strong Classroom Routines
Children with autism do much better with strong, established routines where they can expect transitions and changes in activities. And, research suggests that most children manage activity transitions better when they know what to expect, which can make you feel less like you are herding playful puppies and more like a teacher of students. A posted schedule or color-coded clock can help. Don’t worry about putting the specifics and what is included during specific times can vary from day to day, but establishing “craft time” or “story time” amid all of the subject learning can help reduce anxiety and offer you a concrete schedule to refer back to.
At SkyCare ABA, we work with educators and schools to promote the integration of children with ASD in the least restrictive environments possible. Rather than hoping teachers figure out the best way to achieve this, we are here to be your partner in taking the next steps and climbing the stairs to success. For more classroom tips and autism educator support visit us online or partner with SkyCare ABA today!