How to Help Children with Autism as a Substitute Teacher

The office told you that you had a student with autism in the class and to call if you needed help. He’s not happy you’re there because you aren’t his teacher and you don’t know how to do things the “right” way. Right now he’s at the back of the classroom, walking back and forth, squeezing his hands together. What can you do?

1. As long as he’s not hurting anyone or bothering anyone, allow him some time to do his own thing.  Change can be very difficult for  him and he may need some time to process (not unlike my grandfather!)

2. As much as possible, stick to the class schedule. Go over the schedule at the beginning of the day so that he, and the rest of the class, knows what’s going to happen.

3. Give 15, 10 and 5 minute warnings when the activity is going to change so he knows how much time he has and what will happen next. (My grandfather prefers 5 years notice!)

4. Make sure the class is not too noisy and that there is not too much movement or running around. A calm environment will help – and it’s good for the teacher too!

5. Invite him to join the class by using “First, then” sentences e.g. “First you do your spelling sheet, then you can use the iPad for 5 minutes.” This only works if “then” is something fun!

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