Teaching the Anxious Student with High-Functioning Autism: Tips for Educators

If you have a student with high-functioning autism (HFA) in class who is experiencing social anxiety, here are some ideas for assisting him or her:

~  Allow the child to take a "break" (e.g., go get a drink) if he seems to become overwhelmed

~ Allow the child to arrive late if it makes the transition easier.

~ Allow the child to sit with classmates that she is familiar with or is friends with.

~ Assign a "lifeline" peer to the HFA child who can help answer his questions if called upon in a group setting.

~ Communicate with parents about what you observe.

~ Develop and follow a regular predictable classroom routine.

~ Encourage completion of activities and assignments, yet allow extra time when needed.

~ Encourage friendships between the HFA child and friendly, outgoing classmates.

~ Encourage the child to keep a written log of assignments and due dates.

~ Ensure that you have a zero-tolerance rule for bullying and discrimination of any kind.

~ Make the HFA student your special helper to give her a role in the classroom.

~ Read storybooks about self-esteem and bullying, or watch movies with the same content.

~ Have a preset time each week that the child can talk with you or another staff member about how he is feeling and his fears.

~ Help the child confront feared situations with gentle encouragement.

~ Identify a "safe place" that the child can go to if feeling overwhelmed, and have a signal and exit strategy for these situations.

~ If your HFA student misses a lot of school due to social anxiety, allow gradual reintroduction at a pace that she is comfortable with.

~ If possible, decrease homework load.

~ In your interactions with the child, speak softly and calmly.

~  Modify instructional methods if necessary (e.g., explaining an assignment one-on-one with the student).

~ Pair children for activities rather than allowing the HFA student to choose pairs, to prevent the "special needs" child from being left out.

~ Promote self-esteem by offering praise for small accomplishments and rewarding participation even if the child gives a wrong answer.

~ Regular meetings between parents, teachers, counselors and other school staff are important for planning classroom strategies for the HFA child.

~ Team with parents to develop calming techniques and relaxation strategies.

~ Your "special needs" student may require social skills training or instruction in relaxation techniques delivered by a special education teacher or other team member.


Join Our Facebook Support Group

Top 5 Most Popular Videos