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Learning methods and techniques for children with autism

Therapy and education of children with autism

Autism is a multifaceted neurodevelopmental disorder, usually manifesting in the first three years of a child's life. Its causes are not yet known; it is only known to occur in one in 100 children. Symptoms of autism vary widely and occur in different intensities, and there are no diagnostic tests, so diagnosis is very difficult.
Proper diagnosis
The sooner parents observe worrying symptoms, the sooner therapy can begin and the better results can be expected. Diagnosis is made on the basis of three groups of symptoms:
- Disorders of entering social interaction
- Disorders of communication - verbal and non-verbal
- Absence (or limitation) of age-typical behaviors, interests and activities.

Concern should be raised by the child's "absence", not speaking despite attempts to make verbal contact, not responding with gestures, not playing with peers or siblings. The child may be apathetic or, on the contrary, hyperactive. These are signals to go to the doctor. The family pediatrician, after examining the child and taking a history, should refer the parents to the appropriate clinic. During the diagnosis, a specialist, or more often a team of specialists, observes the child and makes a judgment based on this.
Behaviors characteristic of autism may be indicated, but it should be remembered that every child is different, and the listed behaviors do not necessarily indicate a disorder on the spectrum. Children with autism may play differently from their peers. Lack of speech should also be a concern. In addition to a lack of speech onset, there may also be poor facial expressions and infrequent displays of emotion. Parents of children later diagnosed with autism often mention that even in infancy there were times when the child wandered around with his eyes and seemed absent-minded.
Of course, not all of these symptoms have to be present; they can appear in very different combinations and of varying severity. No two children with autism are identical. This is why the disorder is so difficult to diagnose.

Implementation of compulsory education

Currently, there is no unified system of educational support for children with autism. The development of such a system is extremely difficult, if possible at all, due to the great diversity of this group of children in terms of intellectual, communication and social skills.
The implementation of compulsory education for children with autism is carried out in several ways, including individual teaching, in remedial teams, in special schools and in mainstream schools.
As of September 1, 2017, the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of August 9, 2017 on the principles of organizing and providing psychological and pedagogical assistance in public kindergartens, schools and institutions (Journal of Laws, item 1591) and the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of August 9, 2017 on the conditions for organizing education, upbringing and care for children and youth with disabilities, social maladjustment and at risk of social maladjustment (Journal of Laws, item 1578) are in force. Both regulations specify in detail the principles of pedagogical and psychological assistance for students with disabilities, including autism. A complete novelty is the so-called individualized path of assistance, concerning those children who can attend school, but due to limited functioning are unable to follow the full curriculum. The student follows a program at school to the extent adapted to his or her abilities and needs. A team, operating in a public psychological-educational counseling center, is authorized to issue an opinion on the need to cover the child. In addition, the changes relate to the creation of therapeutic classes, which can now be created not only from the beginning of the new school year, but also during the school year.

Methods of working with a student

A child with autism may have trouble tolerating changes in the daily rhythm, so it is necessary to provide him with constancy and predictability, giving him a sense of security. A good method is to prepare daily schedules, lessons, other activities - in a way and at a level adapted to the student's level. He also needs to orient himself in the school space, which is helped, for example, by drawing a plan of the school and labeling the school premises in an understandable way. It is also necessary to keep the student interested in the tasks and set the timing of the tasks, e.g. using sound, etc.
A student with autism should occupy such a place in the classroom that will make it most easy for him to focus his attention on the teacher, such as the first bench, away from the window or wall newspapers or other information, posted on the wall. Bearing in mind that a child with autism may better assimilate the visual form of the material, appropriate drawings, photos, practical experiences, etc. should be prepared for the textbook text.

It is necessary to provide the student with autism with information in a concise, short, simple way - without metaphors and allusions, using pauses for assimilation. After asking a question, the student should have time to respond. Speak to the child calmly, not loudly (especially if he has hypersensitive hearing) and encourage independence. It is worthwhile to develop a system of rewarding the child for correct completion of tasks, parallel to grades, which may not have motivating value for the child. Rewards are especially important when the student shows his own initiative. It is worth taking into account the time of concentration on the task and gradually increase it. A child is rarely able to endure an entire lesson hour. It is important to use alternation of tasks: difficult-easy, taking into account the interests of the child. The child's potential should always be taken into account.

It is extremely important to make other students in the class aware of how they should react to the behavior of a peer with autism, to support the student in establishing relationships with other children and in participating in the life of the class. Equally important is constant contact and exchange of information with the student's parents, who should cooperate with the school in the therapy and teaching process.

The text was prepared by Katarzyna Zgorzelska

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