You have been asked to interpret for an international conference entitled “Challenges in High School Teaching”. During this presentation you are interpreting for an education expert on the topic of autism spectrum disorders and how to deal with autistic children in the classroom.
Listen to Speech
Transcript and reference translation
I must say it’s been really fantastic to attend this conference and see presentations on a whole range of different issues that teachers face every day on the job.
My background is not only in teaching but also in special needs.
As a Special Education Needs Co-ordinator in a mainstream secondary school in Sydney, I am responsible for ensuring that the special needs of pupils are identified and addressed across the curriculum.
In 2010 I completed my PhD entitled “Autism in the Classroom: Teacher and Student Dynamics”.
My aim for today is to try and flesh out some of the most common signs of autistic behaviour and provide some practical advice for teachers on how to deal with it most effectively.
Autism is a neural development disorder which is observable in early childhood.
Students with this disorder withdraw from communicating with their classmates and their teachers.
They also exhibit repetitive behaviour and have a profound fear of change in their environment.
All of these aspects present a challenge that both beginning and veteran teachers may find difficult to overcome.
Autism is a “spectrum disorder” which means that, put simply, some people have mild symptoms whilst others have serious symptoms.
Students with mild autism may be diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
An autistic person may have a high IQ or a highly developed skill such as music or art.
Remember that autism should not be seen as a label, but as a signpost directing you to meeting the pupil’s needs and full psychological, and medical advice should always be sought.
During my presentation I will go through some of the most common characteristics of autistic students that I have encountered both as a teacher and a special needs co-ordinator.
Probably the most significant trouble that autistic students face is an inability to relate to you and the other students.
They might seem aloof, or passive, or even eccentric.
What you need to remember is that they don’t really have an understanding of socialising with other people, but this is itself does not distress them, unless someone makes an issue of it.
On top of this, their speech difficulties are many and varied.
They can range from no interest in communicating, to repetitive language, irrelevant but factual contributions, strange use of language rules, and so on.
This can be tough for a teacher to work with, and you may wish to seek specialist help to explore how best to manage this behaviour in the classroom.
You may also notice that an autistic pupil takes things very literally and you need to be careful that you don’t upset them as a result.
Avoid sarcasm and think about the literal meaning of what you say.
You may have observed the pupil performing repetitive and stereotyped actions, perhaps on entering the classroom or getting stationery out.
Their pre-established routines never change and if disrupted can upset them greatly, so avoid doing so.
Quite often, too, autistic pupils have a good memory, particularly for rote learning.
They remember visual things very well, and find it easier to remember the last lesson by picturing what another pupil did or said.
They need ‘cues’ to help them remember, but once they have these, you can use them as a trigger repeatedly.
What many teachers pick up on pretty early is that students with autism have very good coordination skills.
For example, the autistic pupil can dismantle and reassamble an intricate object with great ease and may have an obsessive need to repeat this again and again.
They find this activity highly rewarding, so try exploring ways to build this kind of task into the work you provide for them.
Some content adapted from 500 Tips for Working with Children with Special Needs by Betty Vahid, Sally Harwood and Sally Brown.