A new school year brings change for all students, but some students, such as students with autism, need a little something extra to help them with the back-to-school transition.


But a combination of autism supports, technology, and tips can help students with autism, and their teachers, begin a new school year with success.

No two students with autism are alike, and students on the autism spectrum can have widely-varying abilities and strengths.

In fact, the most important thing is to understand the communication strengths and challenges of children with autism, said Linda Hodgdon, a speech-language pathologist and autism consultant who has authored books on using visual strategies with children who have autism.

The majority of students with autism are visual learners.

“The students who are probably the most misunderstood are the students who are the most verbal–people think they understand everything, and they don’t,” Hodgdon said during an edWeb webinar on teaching students with autism. “They still need help.”

Along with Lauren Stafford, vice president of research and professional development for Monarch Teaching Technologies, which produces visual learning software VizZle, Hodgdon reviewed five key areas in which visual teaching strategies can have a big impact on students with autism.

Communication is one of the biggest challenges for students with autism. Many educators talk too quickly and fail to gain student attention before they begin talking. Hodgdon noted that young children absorb about 120 words per minute, high school students absorb about 145 words per minute, but teachers and parents tend to speak at 150-160 words per minute–leading to information overload and lack of understanding.

The environment is important to students with autism, and teachers can use a tool such as Classroom Architect to lay out a virtual classroom to see how their room arrangement will impact students. This tool can help teachers determine whether their classroom will be free of sensory distractions and how they will mark or arrange different work and play stations.

(Next page: Tips and apps for students with autism)

Laura Ascione

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