Classrooms Friendly to All Kids
- Age-Appropriate Classrooms
- Build a Visible Schedule
- Create Construction Zones
- Build Quiet Spaces
- Hands-On and Non-Competitive
Every child is different and those on the autism spectrum can be “different-er,” so how can teachers make their classrooms friendly to all kids? With new regulations concerning persons with disabilities and the opportunities afforded them, is it a matter of physical surroundings, of attitudes or both? One of the things that kids with autism cite as making them more comfortable is easy to provide. It is a smile. Making a classroom friendly for these kids requires more than creating a “happy atmosphere,” though. It requires understanding how autism interferes with a child’s social and intellectual functioning. Here are five ways a classroom can be made friendlier for mainstream kids and for those with autism.
Related resource: Top 25 Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online
Kids on the autism spectrum may have learning delays. While teachers might be tempted to build classrooms around these delays, it is important to create an atmosphere that is comfortable for all the children. That precludes the children with disabilities from being singled out. So, while some concessions might be necessary for autistic kids, they should be kept at grade level.
Build a Visible Schedule
Autistic children feel calmer when they know what to expect. Teachers could consider posting a visible schedule of each day’s activities. In classes of older children, that might be a written list or agenda. Younger children might need photographs of the activities to remind them of what activity comes next. A monitor might even be appointed to set up the schedule each day.
Create Construction Zones
According to the website “the conversation.com,” one in 68 children is now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, and 77 percent of parents of those children said their children were in a mainstream school. The trend is toward inclusiveness. Teachers can create areas that contain cues for all students of what is expected of them in that place. They can be color-coded or contain symbols of the activities in those areas. Examples might be independent work or reading areas, team, and discussion areas and play spaces. Having a clear understanding of what they are expected to do is important for autistic kids.
Build Quiet Spaces
Most kids need some time when they can slow things down, but that is especially important for children with autism. They need to de-stress. “Inclusiveness” does not mean that the child with disabilities should be kept in the mainstream classroom all the time. Teachers can build quiet areas where kids can tune out a lot of the noise and stimulation of the class and calm themselves. This can be a partitioned-off area or a child’s tent. It might have a cushion or a beanbag chair for seating and be relatively free of other props or items. Another great item to include is a weighted blanket to cope with anxiety.
Hands-On and Non-Competitive
Kids with autism often feel the need to fidget and move around; this even seems to help them concentrate. Providing a hands-on area might help them direct some of this activity and increase their retention. Activities should be non-competitive things like cooking or art. Sports can even be used if there is no winner or loser. Many people bristle at the idea of a sport where everyone gets a medal, but that is important for children who may not be able to compete at the level of mainstream kids.
Of course, there are more ways to build an inclusive, comfortable atmosphere. These ideas should just serve as a springboard for the teacher’s creativity. Learning happens naturally in a classroom friendly and open to mainstream and to autistic children.