Teaching children with autism at home

two young children lying down on floor sketching with crayonsAs parents we are all used to teaching children several things on a daily basis, from wearing their clothes to how to behave in a public place. However, not many of us would have had to be a teacher on a regular basis for such as long time and with so little preparation as we have to under the current situation.

Although there are more children with autism who are home-schooled, this is not the norm for all children on the autism spectrum. Having to suddenly stop going to school would be difficult to cope for your child. Most of you would have perhaps found a way to manage with the new situation by now. In case, you are still wondering how to manage the situation, this short blog is here to remind some important tips and signpost you to some useful sources.

By Dr Prithvi Perepa, Lecturer in Autism in the School of Education

Top tips: 

  • Prepare for the change: Your child is likely to find the change in their routine very confusing and stressful. Explaining the change in the routine and how the new routine works will be very helpful. A high proportion of children with autism prefer information visually. Therefore, using a visual schedule to explain the structure of the day could help your child to understand what is expected in the current situation. Visual schedules do not have to be pictures of photographs, the main thing to remember is that it is something that your child can see and understand. Find a visual means that works for you and your child, this could be real objects, cartoons or written information. Similarly, how you present the information should be something that your child is used to, and at the same time feasible for you. It may not be possible for you to print and laminate picture cards as your child’s school does. Use a small card board and blue tac to stick pictures for a schedule or take photos on your mobile or Ipad and use those. 
  • Follow the normal routine: Try and include regular school activities as part of the day schedule. If your child’s school has sent your home activities then please follow this on a regular basis. If not, there are a number of online SEN teaching resources which are available free for use. It is important to keep some sense of normality to help your child to cope well with the changes. 
  • Calming activities: Along with using social stories, provide a chance for your child to express their fears so that you can provide them with some strategies. Include some calming exercises which your child likes. This could be whatever is feasible for you and your family, such as cooking, listening to music, watching TV and playing games on computer. 
  • Provide exercise: Exercise is important for all children and is found to be useful to reduce anxiety. Include regular exercise as part of your child’s routine. This could be a daily walk, jog or cycle outside the house. If you have a garden, that provides another place where your child can burn their energy. However, if you do not have the luxury of a garden, then think of having some time for physical activity within your home. There are some online physical activity sessions which are available now, which you could use for inspiration. 
  • Include sensory activities: Your child’s sensory environment may have changed because of the restriction in movement and less traffic on the roads. If your child is finding this change in sensory input difficult to cope with, think of how you could provide the required balance for them. You could include some sensory activities which the child will enjoy. Kids Gym has some useful sensory activities which you can do with your child. https://www.werockthespectrumkidsgym.com/7-rockin-sensory-play-activities-kids-spectrum/ 
  • Engage in family time: Involve your other family members to play with your child with autism on a regular basis. Engaging in fun family activities will help everyone’s mental well being. Choose an activity which you think will be useful for your family, whether it is playing a board game, doing some cooking together or meditating as a family. Your child will need to continue learning to be with other people and sharing with them. 
  • Be realistic: This is an unusual situation which no one was prepared for. Therefore, be realistic in terms of what is possible. Try not to add extra pressure or guilt to yourself. Try and do the best you can, but remember to relax too. Your child will usually be getting some mini breaks during their school time, so it is okay for you not to engage your child in some activity all the time.
  • Time for yourself: It is important that you are having an opportunity to have a break yourself. If you are able to use family members to baby sit then do use them. However, if this is not possible, then try and have some relaxing time while your child is engaged in calming activities or pursuing activities which s/he is able to do on their own. Some of the zoos, theatres and places of interest are providing virtual tours. If any of these interest your child, this could be a good opportunity for you to let your child pursue their interest while you find time for yourself and rest of your family members.