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As schools around the world prepare for learning to continue in the fall, educators and service providers are wondering how to best tackle the possibility or reality of virtual learning for the foreseeable future. Many educators are concerned about the steep learning curve that comes with teletherapy and wonder how they might most effectively reach their students. For special education teachers and therapists for students with autism, teletherapy presents a unique challenge as many learning platforms are only geared towards typically developing students.
Art therapy provides many benefits for children with autism because it promotes emotional and mental growth as well as independence and collaboration skills. As an outlet for self-expression, imagination, and creativity, art can contribute deeply to improving a child’s fine motor skills, visual and spatial discrepancies, and coping (ActToday.org) For children with autism, art therapy can be particularly effective, especially because many are strong visual learners and process information differently from their typically developing peers.
Playing outdoors has huge implications for all children. Many researchers cite outdoor play as being a conduit for decreased stress levels, emotional resilience, increased cognitive functioning, increased attention, as well as a host of other sensory-motor, emotional, and social benefits3.
Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscle movements. Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements in our eyes, wrists, hands, and fingers. Many everyday tasks require strength, dexterity, and fine motor skills. Fine motor skills need to be learned and developed as children get older.
Play is often described as the “work” of childhood, where children can make friendships, learn social skills, come to understand expected group behavior, consequences, turn taking, and cooperation, not to mention have some fun! Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can reap these same benefits by playing games with other kids, though many do not naturally gain the aforementioned skills simply by being exposed to games or other play objects, as might their non-disabled peers. As with many concepts, games and their component skills may need to be explicitly taught, supported, and adaptations made in order for a child with autism to experience success with the activity.
Safety and preparation for emergency situations is a concern for any child, but especially for children with autism, who may be unable to communicate or respond correctly in emergency situations.
The beginning of a new school year can be a difficult time for some children with autism. Shifting from the comfort of home to an environment packed with loud voices, stiff chairs, slamming doors, and a new structure can trigger anything from distraction and discomfort to full meltdowns.
How can you help your students discover stillness? joy? authenticity? Positive psychology is the science of well-being, which applied, can bring more positivity and happiness into your classroom. Try investing in these easy “rituals,” or habits, to transform your classroom into an oasis where your students can learn to flourish, no matter their challenges.
Summer camp can be a positive and enriching experience for children on the autism spectrum, providing an alternative to the rigorous school year routine and opportunities for peer interactions. However, finding the right fit for your child can be intimidating and does require research and planning - here are some steps to help get you started.
It is no secret that sports are a big part of most people’s lives. More than 100 million people in the United States alone tune in to watch the Super Bowl every year. However, being a sports fan and playing a sport are two completely different things–especially in the eyes of a parent. You probably know enrolling your child in a sport has tremendous benefits such as endurance, strength, and general fitness. But as you might have guessed, for many children with autism, finding the appropriate sport can be challenging.
Parents and teachers can feel confused and uncomfortable when students shout, cry, or act in ways that appear developmentally or culturally inappropriate. It’s helpful to learn who you can turn to for training or advice on behavior management and it’s equally useful to learn a few strategies to help children regulate their emotions and, in turn, their behaviors.
If you’re like me, there’s nothing more appealing than a home renovation show where a grand reveal shows furniture that is perfectly staged and pristine. As a teacher, this enthusiasm for design and decoration carried over to my classroom even though I was often tasked with making the best out of discarded furniture, fixed bookshelves, and dollar-store items rather than a design team and unlimited budget. Over the years, I learned what design concerns and investments in furniture and materials were worth my time, resources, and energy and what was not. Ultimately, classrooms are just as, if not more important, than any grand home makeover as it is within those spaces that we, as educators, provide the learning opportunities and experiences of our students.