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8 Tips on How to Get a Child with Autism Interested in School

8 Tips on How to Get a Child with Autism Interested in School

For many parents and educators, supporting children with autism through their school year is a journey filled with both challenges and rewards. The goal is not just to figure out how to get a child with autism interested in school but also to keep them curious and engaged, opening up a world of educational opportunities for these young learners.

This guide outlines eight practical strategies for your child’s teacher to create a lively and welcoming classroom, aiming to ensure a lifelong love for learning among autistic children.

1. Make learning fun

Creative teaching strategies such as educational games, interactive technologies, and hands-on activities are crucial for making school enjoyable and stimulating cognitive development and social skills in children with autism.

By turning a literacy lesson into an exciting adventure with a digital storytelling app, teachers can help children participate more actively and retain information more effectively, making school work a positive experience.

Beyond digital storytelling, interactive apps that simulate real-world problem solving, such as building a city or managing a farm, can teach valuable lessons in planning and resource management while engaging the child’s interest.

Role-playing games that require decision-making based on historical events or scientific discoveries encourage active learning and critical thinking, making the educational process dynamic and interactive.

These activities not only make learning enjoyable but also promote cognitive development and social skills, turning schoolwork from a chore into a delightful adventure.

2. Include their special interests

Many autistic children have intensely focused interests, and when these interests are included in their learning, it can greatly enhance their motivation. Modifying lesson plans to include these interests can turn education into passion, making a significant difference in a child’s education.

For example, a fascination with trains can become the basis for math problems involving speeds and distances, integrating a child’s interests into continuous feedback for their progress.

This approach not only makes learning more relevant but also integrates the child’s passions educational, deepening their understanding of the subjects.

3. Encourage interaction with others

Developing social skills is essential for children with autism. Teaching methods such as using open-ended questions and offering choices between activities can build social confidence.

Creating a classroom environment that promotes interaction among students supports the development of these crucial skills. It helps many autistic children in improving their ability to communicate and collaborate with teachers and other children in mainstream classrooms.

A young boy and a girl doing an art project in class
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Structured activities that require teamwork, such as group science experiments or collaborative art projects, can create a sense of community and cooperation. Teachers can facilitate these interactions by creating small groups that allow children to work together towards a common goal.

Encouraging peer tutoring sessions, where children can teach each other about their personal interests or strengths, further enhances this collaborative learning environment. On top of that, it helps students in developing empathy and understanding for their classmates.

4. Allow them to make choices

Giving autistic kids the autonomy to make choices about their learning boosts their engagement and motivation. Whether it’s selecting a book for a project or choosing how to approach an assignment, it encourages a sense of independence and supports their mental health and self-confidence.

This can go beyond choosing books or projects – allowing children to decide on the layout of the classroom or the schedule for the day can give them a sense of control and belonging.

Teachers can offer options for demonstrating their understanding of a topic, such as through a traditional test, a creative presentation, or a hands-on project, accommodating the diverse learning preferences and strengths of each child.

5. Include sensory experiences

Sensory overload is a common struggle for children on the autism spectrum. Addressing the sensory needs of autistic children is key to helping them manage sensory issues and stay focused.

Beyond tactile activities like Play-Doh, educators can introduce sensory bins filled with various materials for exploration during science lessons or use scented markers for art projects to engage different senses.

Providing quiet corners equipped with noise-canceling headphones or soft lighting can offer a break from the sensory demands of a typical school day. It ensures that children have the support they need to stay regulated and focused on learning.

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6. Use music when possible

There are many therapeutic benefits of music, especially for autistic children. Using music as a teaching method can make a huge difference in a positive way regarding the child’s ability to focus, regulate their mood, and interact well socially.

Creating a classroom playlist with input from students can personalize the learning environment, making it more welcoming and calming. For example, teachers can incorporate rhythm and music into lessons on patterns in math.

They can also use them to teach the structure of poems in language arts and to help students memorize historical facts. Melody and rhythm help students remember information better and make learning more enjoyable and accessible.

7. Use positive reinforcement and rewards

Positive reinforcement is an effective tool for motivating and teaching children with autism. Acknowledging their efforts with praise or rewards that resonate with them encourages persistence.

Identifying what truly motivates a child, whether it’s verbal praise for completing school work or a small token for regular attendance, reinforces positive behaviors and supports their education in a meaningful way.

For example, a child who completes an assignment they find challenging might be rewarded with extra time on a favorite educational game or the opportunity to lead a class discussion on a topic of interest.

This approach not only acknowledges their efforts but also encourages continued engagement and persistence, showing children that their contributions are valued and that learning can lead to positive outcomes.

A teacher praising her student
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8. Be patient

Being patient and supportive is crucial to creating a comfortable school environment for children with autism. This means recognizing the uniqueness of each child’s learning process and pace and providing consistent encouragement and support.

Adapting learning plans to include flexible goals and milestones can meet the varied developmental needs of autistic children, ensuring that every student feels supported and valued in their educational journey.

Teachers and parents can collaborate to track the child’s progress, celebrating every milestone, no matter how small, to reinforce their achievements. 

Getting a child with autism interested in school

Adopting a creative, flexible, and understanding approach is essential to spark an interest in school among children with autism. From integrating leisure activities into the school day to consulting with an occupational therapist for specialized support, every strategy contributes to creating a supportive and effective classroom.

By fully supporting the unique needs and preferences of each child, teachers and parents can help unlock their potential, ensuring a successful and fulfilling educational journey.

FAQs

Q: How do I get my autistic child to focus in school?

A: Focusing on short, engaging activities related to their interests and incorporating sensory breaks to prevent sensory stimulation, like time away from fluorescent lights or the bustling school environment, can significantly help maintain their attention.

Q: How do autistic people study best?

A: Structured routines, visual aids like visual timetables, and interactive, hands-on learning experiences that cater to their sensory needs and interests often yield the best results.

Q: Do autistic children have good memories?

A: Yes, many children with autism spectrum disorders possess exceptional memory skills, especially for details related to their specific interests, enhancing their learning process.

Q: What calms autistic people?

A: Sensory activities, like using weighted blankets or creating a quiet, dimly lit space for relaxation, can provide a sense of security. Predictable routines also help reduce anxiety, aiding autistic students in better engaging with their education.

References

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James N. Meindl, Diana Delgado, Laura B. Casey, Increasing engagement in students with autism in inclusion classrooms,Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 111,2020, 104854, ISSN 0190-7409, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.104854..

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