I'm to begin teaching a 2nd/3rd grade moderate/severe autistic class. What do I do?!?

Question:It's my first year teaching and I will be taking teaching credential classes at the same time. I'm having a hard time figuring how I'm going to teaching these 6 students. I will have plenty of aides, but how do I develop lesson plans and actually teach them? I've searched online, libraries, and am not finding anything really helpful. Also are the learning state standards the same for autistic children? Thanks for any help!

Answers:
I am going to be very honest. If you do not have the educational background in special ed, had any experience in teaching other than student teaching and the school and district are not providing you with the information and assitance you need to teach these children, you need to reconsider this position. Moderate to severe autistic children face a myriad of challanges and it take a well educated, experienced and supported educator to work with them. It sounds as if you have very little understanding of autism, the behavioral interventions you will need or the best ways to present information. These kids are at a point where they can not afford to be placed with someone who has to figure this out as she goes along. This is not a field to enter into as a way to get free tuition unless you are sure this is what you want to do. If you are planning to take this, get your credentials and then move onto a normal class as soon as possible, please do not do it.

If I am wrong, I do apologize. That being said, the school will provide you with copies of each child's IEP. This will include the targeted goals for each child in most academic areas, as well as in speech and behavior. You will be expected to use these goals in developing curriculum and lesson plans. The behavioral plan for each child will also tell you what to expect as far as acting out towards others, themselves and property and the way to handle it. In general, this will be different for each child. You will need to come up with a general curriculum that you can then adapt to one-to-one teaching with each child. All of this is not easy...even expereienced teachers find it challanging. You should have a mentor assigned to you...use them for all they can offer. Schedule time to talk to all the specialists working with your students..speech, OT, PT..and get thier ideas and input. Read as much as you can in books that include commentary from parents and teachers with practical suggestions. Go back through the archives here and see what has been posted. Look up information on applied beharioral anylasis, education for children with learning disabilities and alternate forms of communication. Your school should provide you with access to any books, websites and the like they use. You will more than likely need access to a site that provides simple images for use in visual schedule and communication books.

All of this sounds overwhelming..as I said it is. You will need to be smart enough to know that you need help...and aggressive enough to make sure you get it. Good luck.


Hope: While I agree many general ed teachers have done outstanding jobs with inclusion students, this young lady is teaching 6 moderate to severe students in what would appear to be a self contained class for autism. That can indicate that these are students with more intense needs and issues. Many of the suggestions being given are what we know to be the basics of teaching kids on the spectrum,,read the IEP's, firm schedules, meeting with parents, etc. If this is informatation she has not heard or known, it would seem she did not get even a basic class during college on special ed..a huge issue in today's educational climate becuase nearly every class will have up to 25% of it's students on an IEP or 504. It also seems to point to the fact that her administration team is not supporting her as it should. This is clearly a new teacher going into a very challanging classroom...she should be working one on one with a mentor to answer these questions and develop her plan for the year. At the very least, they should have given her the testing and curriculum standards as they apply to her class as without them she really can't develop much of a curriculum.

I support any person who wants to go into special ed. However, and I admit there are always things we don't hear or read in postings online, this young lady seems totally unprepared for this move, which could mean she had no intention of being a special ed teacher. Many of our best teachers come to the field in similiar situations. But just as many come in, spend a year struggling and leave, leaving some of our most succestible students to try and make up what may have been missed,overlooked or just not taught as the teacher was unprepared on how to run such a class. I would rather have someone so unsure take the time to talk to her supervisors and peers, get a few extra classes under her belt and build her confidence before entering this class.
You probably already know from your schooling that no 2 autisic children are the same. So it will be hard to plan until you meet them and learn their specific disabilities. Yes, there should be separate standards for learning disabled which your school district should supply to you. You may want to contact the principal who hired you to get those materials early.
You should really meet with the parents one on one or try to get their input as to where they would like their child to be at the semester and at the end of the year- realistically. It will help you know where to start off because all children are different within their disability
you will have to access where each child is individually before you make lesson plans for them.
have you heard of discreet trial? this is one way that autistic children learn and you will probably use this technique with all of them. it's just a matter of where they all are.
Also, one of the most important things you will need to do for your students is to have a routine set up for them, from day one.

You need to *always* do things in the same order every day. Changing up their routines will upset your kids, and will likely result in breakdowns and a spike in behaviors.

And because a fair chunk of kids with autism (though not all) are non-verbal having pictures to show the schedule can also be helpful (picture of a book for storytime, picture of a sandwich for lunch time, etc.). You can either put these directly on each desk, or have one master schedule posted at the front of the room.

Every child needs routine to thrive, but especially for children with autism, routine is key to reaching them.
Get their IEP's before school starts..this will give you an idea on what type of class you are going to have...ie, readers, non readers, verbal, nonverbal, behavior, etc. Ask for your district's curriculum for this class.maybe they are using the gen. curriculum w/ accomodations..they may have a modified curriculum. Ask for a mentor teacher ASAP to ask the little questions. Start your first day with a clear schedule in mind. Adhere to it...the students will need the structure after coming off of break. If the schedule is not ideal, you can gradually change it to fit your/students needs. Talk with your aides and therapists about what the last teacher did..what worked, didn't, etc. Good luck.
There are no two people alike, autistic or not. If these 6 children are going into 2nd/3rd grade, speak to the teachers they have had the previous years, and see what worked for them.
In general, kids with autism are visual learners.
Temple Grandin, an autistic adult, wrote a book called Thinking In Pictures. In the book she explains how it feels to be autistic and the challenges she faces everyday with acute senses. She explains how fluorescent lights made it hard to concentrate.How certain sounds,not always loud, hurt her ears. How someones touch was like sandpaper to her.It has been a long time since I read her book so I don't remember if smells bothered her but I know they effect my child.I would suggest no cologne or perfume.
As mentioned,all kids are different but the environment can play a big part in the child's behavior and their ability to learn in that environment.Pay close attention to the sights and sounds around you.
Talk to the parents,no one knows the child like the parents.Go over the IEP with them and the other professionals that should be involved.Speech therapists,behavior therapist etc.
Be calm ,firm, patient and creative.
I don't agree that you need to be trained in special ed., you just need to be special teacher to want to work with these children.My child is autistic, and some of his most productive school years were in the regular education class with teachers( and a one/one aide) that never met a child with autism until having my child in their class.In the end I think you will find it quite rewarding.
www.autism.com is a web site for the Autism Research Institute.You will find tons of information there about autism that may be helpful to you. Good Luck!
Look on line for information on "Verbal Behavior." This is a very good and fairly easy way to teach language to ASD children.

Also, make sure you divide the group into ability groups and plan your lessons accordingly. These should be at separate tables. Teach for fifteen minutes and then provide a sensory activity such clay or manipulative's. You must TEACH the kids to play with toys, so make that part of your lessons every day. When you are ready to change groups, have the teacher and assistant move to the new groups, unless you need to recombine the groups for a different subject. Then just move one or two kids.

You should teach reading to the kids that can read, letter recognition to kids that can't and shape matching for kids that can't understand letters.

Math with manipulative's at all levels.

Handwriting. I suggest the curriculum Handwriting Without Tears. Again present at different levels. Some kids may only be able to scribble with felt pens. Etch-A-Sketch is another good tool.

Unlike you and I, autistic kids like sameness, so keep your routine the same every day. Train the kids to the routines starting with the first day of school and continuing until they have it learned. Also teach them to walk to a sit in the cafeteria before you take them there for the first time. For kids who can't handle the stimulus, provide a manipulative after he/she eats.
Are you taking over my classroom? I just left a 2nd/3rd grade autism class (mine was high functioning/Aspergers though) to teach high school.

Classroom set up:
Do NOT decorate the classroom like a typical classroom, the less clutter on the walls, the better. Keep shades closed, door windows covered to reduce distractions to students (they will notice everything!). Make DEFINED areas in the classroom (reading area, math area, and so on) - use colored tape (like gaff tape) on the floor to delineate areas. On your chalkboard, IN THE SAME LOCATION ALWAYS, have the lunch order, the daily schedule, student jobs, and so on listed. Assign hooks to each student for their backpacks. Make a list of classroom rules short and sweet WITH pictures (see if you have Boardmaker software). Your rules should be very clear (Keep your body to yourself, Raise your hand and wait to be called on, Use walking feet, Stay in your seat,and so on)
With the rules, you will have to have a list of rewards for doing a good job and consequences for not following the rules. In a nutshell...keep everything as consistent as possible with NO surprises for the students.

Daily:
Go over the schedule first thing in the morning and periodically throughout the day. Also, be sure to forewarn students of schedule changes, classroom visitors, assemblies, and so on in advance and remind them frequently (otherwise, you'll have major meltdowns). You will have to reward students constantly as they show appropriate behavior (sitting still, making eye contact, being a good friend, and so on) - as far as rewards, you'll have to figure that out since some kids are motivated by stickers, candy, or 5 minutes on the computer. I purchased a large roll of carnival-type tickets from Staples for tokens, When I observed a student showing positive behaviors, I handed them a ticket which they would write their name on. The tickets were collected in a "chance bag" and 6 (or the # of students you have in your room) were drawn daily. The kids were constantly reminded that with more tickets and appropriate behavior, the better their chances of being drawn. They then redeemed their tickets for something in my prize box (stickers, pencils, chocolate kisses, plastic snakes, bouncy balls, a certificate for (5 minutes on the computer, 10 minutes free time, homework pass, and so on). Be sure that when you hand over the reward, you explain WHY they are being rewarded so as to repeat the behavior again "Good sitting." You will find that you will be better understood if you keep to simple phrases and throw away ALL idioms/metaphors (those are disastrous) and requests (Could you please sit down). To a child who does not want to sit down, "Could you..." is an option. Just say "Johnny sit down," guide him gently with your hand to his seat. When he is seated say" Good sitting" and reward him. You will also have to have "movement" time scheduled throughout your day. If you have not been provided with them already, Google "sensory toys" - ask your school occupational therapist as well. Your students will have some MAJOR sensory needs that need to be satisfied throughout the day. In addition to stimulatory toys, a game of Simon Says, hopping on one foot, floor or wall pushups will help your students tremendously. You may also want to look into getting each child fidget cushions for their seats and weighted neck pillows or "lap dogs." If you are not familiar with sensory issues, read "The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz...it is fantastic!

Keep on mind that with autism also comes a variety of other issues (some kids have many, some none) like obsessive compulsive disorder, violence, defiance, ADHD, communication disorders, food alergies/allergies in general, and so on.

Teaching:
I had to teach exactly what typical 2nd/3rd graders received in the general education setting. many times it was challenging, especially when I had to teach something involving figurative language or information regarding abstract thoughts. However, I believe this depends upon your school district...ask your principal or who ever is your supervisor.

You will love teaching these children! Many times you will go home crying and exhausted, but more often than not, you will see them for how special they are and appreciate how unique their abilities and thought processes are.

Good luck with the new school year!
Hi, and wow I remember when I first started 14 years ago and, with the same type of population. Any way go to this site it has many answers to your questions. When surfing go to Autism and the blog and on line shopping, resources galore. Remember to read the child's IEP and their specific goals then plan around it. The aids are to assist you with your plans with each child they are assigned to but; also keep in mind what may work today may not tomorrow and, your frustration begins. It is also wise to observe your students and, see what they can do. Be observant and write your plan for this type of population accordingly. I wish you well you will survive I did!

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