Dr. Temple Grandin’s Tips for Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Our Doctor gave me a list of Dr. Temple Grandin’s tips for teaching children with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I transcribed the sheet for online use.

An introduction to Dr. Temple Grandin and her incredible insight on the minds of autistic children. Here are her special tips for teaching adults and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – condensed from her words… her teaching tips include:

1. Many people with autism are visual thinkers. I think in pictures. I do not think in language. All my thoughts are like videotapes running in my imagination. Pictures are my first language and words are my second language. Nouns were the easiest words to learn because I cold make a picture in my mind of the word.

2. Avoid long strings of verbal instructions. People with autism have problems remembering the sequence. Directions with more than three steps have to be written down.

3. Many children with autism are good at drawing, art and computer programming. These talented areas should be encouraged. Talents can turned into skills that cam be used for future employment.

4. Many autistic children get fixated on one subject such as trains or maps. The best way to deal with fixations is to use them to motivate school work. If the child likes trains, then use trains to teach reading and math.

5. Use concrete visual methods to teach number concepts. To learn fractions my teacher had a wooden apple that was cut up into four pieces. From this I learned the concept of quarters and halves.

6. Many autistic children have problems with motor control in their hands. Neat handwriting is sometimes very hard. To reduce frustration, let the child type on the computer. Typing is often much easier.

7. Some autistic children will learn reading more easily with phonics, and others will learn best memorizing whole words. Children with lots of echolalia will often learn best if flash cards and picture books are used so that the whole words are associated with pictures.

8. When I was a child, loud sounds like the school bell hurt my ears like a dentist drill hitting a nerve. Children with autism need to be protected from sounds that hurt their ears. The fear of a dreaded sound can cause bad behavior. Sometimes sound sensitivity to a particular sound can be desensitized by recording the sound on a tape recorder. The child must have control of playback of the sound.

9. Some autistic people are bothered by visual distractions and fluorescent lights. The can see the flicker. Use the newest bulbs you can get.

10. Some hyperactive autistic children who fidget all the time will often be calmer if they are given a padded weighted vest to wear. I was greatly calmed by pressure. For best results, the vest should be worn for twenty minutes and then taken off. This prevents the nervous system from adapting to it.

11. Some individuals with autism will respond better and have improved eye contact and speech if the teacher interacts with them while they are swinging on a swing or a rolled up mat. Swinging should always be done as a fun game. It must NEVER be forced.

12. Some children and adults can sing better than they speak. They may respond better if words and sentences are sung to them. Some children with extreme sound sensitivity will respond better if the teacher talks to them in a low whisper.

13. Some nonverbal children and adults cannot process visual and auditory input at the same time. They should not be asked to look and listen at the same time.

14. In older nonverbal children and adults, touch is often their most reliable sense. For example, fifteen minutes before lunch give the person a spoon to hold.

15. Some children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder will learn more easily if the computer key-board is placed close to the screen. This enables the individual to simultaneously see the keyboard and screen.

16. Nonverbal children and adults will find it easier to associate words with pictures if they see the printed word and picture on a flashcard.

17. Some autistic individuals do not know that speech is used for communication. Language learning can be facilitated if language exercises promote communication. The individual needs to learn that when he says words, concrete things happen.

18. Many individuals with autism have difficulty using a computer mouse. Try a roller ball pointing device that has a separate button for clicking. Autistics with motor control problems in their hands find it very difficult to hold the mouse still during clicking.

19. Children who have difficulty understanding speech have a hard time differentiating between hard consonant sounds such as ‘D’ in dog and ‘L’ in log. Even though a child may have passed a pure tone hearing test, he may still have difficulty hearing hard consonants. Children who talk in vowel sounds are not hearing consonants.

20. Several parents have informed me that using the closed captions on the television helped their children to read. Recording a favorite program with captions would be helpful because the program can be played over and over and stopped.

21. Some autistic individuals do not understand that a computer mouse moves the arrow on the screen. They may learn more easily if a paper arrow that looks EXACTLY like the arrow on the screen is taped to the mouse.

22. Children and adults with visual processing problems can see flicker on TV type computer monitors. They can sometimes see better on laptops and flat panel displays which have less flicker.

23. Children and adults who fear escalators often have visual processing problems. They fear escalators because they cannot determine when to get on or off.

24. Individuals with visual processing problems often find it easier to read if black print is printed on colored paper to reduce contrast. Experiment with different colors.

25. Teaching generalization is often a problem for children with autism. To teach a child to generalize the principle of not running across the street, it must be taught in many different locations. If he is taught in only one location, the child will think that the rule only applies to once specific place.

26. A common problem is that a child may be able to use the toilet correctly at home but refuses to use it at school. This may be due to a failure to recognize the toilet. Hilde de Clereq from Belgium discovered than an autistic child may use a small, non-relevant detail to recognize an object such as a toilet. It takes detective work to find that detail.

27. Sequencing is very difficult for individuals with severe autism. Sometimes they do not understand when a task is presented as a series of steps. It must be taught by touch and motor rather than showing him visually.

28. Fussy eating is a common problem. In some cases the child may be fixated on a detail that identifies a certain food. Try putting different but similar foods in the cereal box or another package of favorite food.

Sometimes the frustrations of trying to teach an Autism Spectrum Disorder child can be daunting. Dr. Grandin’s tips are a real eye-opener to the thought process of the Autism Spectrum Disorder child or adult. I highly recommend considering these tips or offering them to your loved one’s teacher or instructor.

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