If the student has been diagnosed with mild ASD (level 1 severity), this student most likely will be able to meet academic goals based on normal intelligence and motivation. Please be aware of the following common ASD characteristics: students with ASD have a need for routine and may become anxious when there is a change of plans. They have limited social skills and may prefer to work by themselves. Many learn better with visual aids and often interpret information literally. Lastly, individuals with ASD may have sensitivities to bright light, loud noises and touch. Helpful hints for teaching a student with mild ASD:
- Allow the student to work alone.
- Use visual learning strategies as much as possible, to avoid reliance on oral communication.
- Offer a detailed learning plan for the student and follow the plan; this student may prefer to be self-directed once the plan is clear.
- Avoid unnecessary changes. If changes must be made, provide advance warning and give the student a chance to question them, express feelings, and walk through new arrangements if possible.
- Recognize this student may need more guidance in addressing abstract concepts. Work with him or her to develop rules, models, learning aids, or protocols for representing and applying new subject matter.
- If the student displays frustration by acting out or talking inappropriately, provide a separate spot to study, if possible. Apply behavior management techniques if he or she must remain in a classroom with others.
- Allow the person to perform any rituals he or she needs to get comfortable in the learning situation, provided they do not interfere significantly with education tasks or environment.
- Avoid touching the person.
- Expect fewer interpersonal rewards from a person with ASD than you normally expect from students.
- Remind yourself that this person has feelings; he or she just doesn’t express them the same way as others.
- Be clear and precise in describing your expectations of the student. He or she will attend to your words for understanding, not to your voice or other nonverbal signs.
- Identify a family member, if available, to consult with for help in understanding the particular student’s needs. Early on, ask what kind of learning environment the person can handle and what learning modalities appear to work best. (Classrooms of a certain size may not be desirable because of the amount of stimulation present.)
- Ask the student if they had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 Plan when in K-12. If so, request a copy to determine what accommodations were recommended. Implement the accommodations in the classroom and for testing.
Some of the instructional strategies described in the chapter on ADHD will apply to students with ASD, particularly if attention is an evident problem.