Reaching and Teaching Kids with Autism

"Let's see about writing down a worry you have on this card and washing it away on the Worry Wash Line."

Reaching and teaching kids with autism can be challenging. Engaging students by allowing them to express “enthusiasms” draws them into other subjects.

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – Teachers!

If you have ever worked with children on the autism spectrum, you know that it can be difficult to reach and teach these special students.

According to Barry M. Prizant, author of a recently published nonfiction book titled, Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism (Simon & Schuster 2015), many professionals have mistakenly interpreted the behavior of people with autism as bizarre; behavior in need of fixing or changing.

Prizant advocates for professionals and parents to change perspectives.

Changing some educators views may help them reach and teach kids with autism. “To help them” (children on the spectrum), he writes, “we need to work to understand them, and then change what we do.”

In a review of Prizant’s book, Associated Press reporter, Rasha Madkour describes the first half of Uniquely Human as focusing “on understanding autism, with affirming examples like viewing a child’s intense interest in a subject – that might be derided as an ‘obsession’ – as an ‘enthusiasm,’ something that can be built on as a hook to engage in other subjects.”

Key words there…engage in other subjects. I’ve had success in engaging students with autism in grades 3 – 5 in writing by inviting them to express their “enthusiasms” for sports, movie characters and more.

Madkour writes that Prizant paints a picture in his new book of “people with autism (being) especially vulnerable to everyday emotional and physiological challenges, and (having) difficulty learning how to cope.”

Prizant asserts that helping a child manage anxiety requires a “gradual, empowering approach” that Madkour interprets as acknowledging the experience and providing support.

One example of reaching and teaching (think of the adaptations effective teachers of special needs children make in their classrooms) that Madkour pulled from Prizant’s writing in Uniquely Human

“A girl who was afraid of amusement parks was given the option to attend without going on any rides. Her parents showed her pictures of areas she liked and offered noise-dampening headphones. Giving the girl a sense of control helped her relax.”

Speaking of parents, the second half of Uniquely Human draws on the experiences of families affected by autism as well as insights from people with autism.

In many ways, Prizant’s writing echoes the observations of Temple Grandin, herself an author who is also known as “the world’s most famous person with autism.” How so?

Dr. Grandin’s book, DIFFERENT…Not Less (Future Horizons, Inc. 2012), forms questions and answers that revolve around acknowledging the

Temple Grandin, in a horseshirt, a fitting connection to her PhD in animal science from Colorado (US) State University

Temple Grandin in a horse shirt, a fitting connection to her PhD in animal science from Colorado (US) State University. Grandin benefited from family and teachers who reached her to teach her by engaging in her passion for animal care.

themes that Prizant’s book explores. Her themes focus on the nuts and bolts of how educators can embrace strategies that direct children (with autism) to vocations where their skills will help them shine.

These are no-nonsense ideas based on the challenges that Dr. Grandin personally faced as a child and young adult. They point to reaching and teaching to overcome obstacles.

♦ Think/learn about ways to modify your students’ learning environment to accommodate sensory challenges.

♦ Discover how to recognize and accommodate neurological differences in your classroom setting.

♦ Share information you have/learn about meeting the needs of children with autism (in appropriate, tactful ways) with their parents.

♦ Learn to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary behaviors in students with autism and Asperger’s (a form of autism).

♦ Explore ways to enhance your current best practices to help kids (with autism) develop their talents into the beginning of a career path.

Temple’s suggestions could also be put into the form of helpful questions, as in HOW can I modify the learning environment to accommodate my students who have sensory challenges?

Managing a classroom full of children who bring different learning styles to school can be a challenge, but knowledge is power, and books such as Uniquely Human and DIFFERENT…Not Less have a lot of know-how to offer.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Please send comments, share this post, and subscribe to

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Students are acting sluggish in class.

Solution: Show "The BIG E," for ENERGY, an enlarged letter E (or other first letter for the word energy in your alphabet), available in craft stores. Remind the class that energy is a must-have item to get good work done. Tell the class to show you "The BIG E!"

Related Posts: Show Off "The Big E"