Making education fun & inclusive for ALL abilities; particularly those with spectrum disorders - ASD
All children learn in different ways and as with everything some techniques and approaches work better for some people than they do for others. Of course, this is heightened for those with autism but the most important way to support any child’s learning is by making education fun.
So, how can we help make education fun?
Those on the autistic spectrum still learn and develop but are often faced with different challenges; taking a different approach to learning can really help with this. The best way to support any learner is to find what works best for them and utilise that strength – this is no different for those on the autistic spectrum.
It is not uncommon for a child with autism to struggle with certain everyday situations. Things such as a sudden change to their usual routine or items that they are familiar with unexpectedly being moved or altered can cause increased levels of anxiety due to their heightened sensory responses. During these times of agitation, fidget style toys such as Jacob’s Ladder or Fidjigami can help encourage a sense of calm and reduce stress levels by providing a visually stimulating distraction. These types of toys can also help development, improve fine motor skills and help maintain focus.
Plus-points of a digital world!
The invention of touchscreen devices and tablets, paired with the development of specific apps has provided a real breakthrough for children with ASD, subsequently this has improved their ability to communicate more effectively, in ways that would have been much more difficult in the past. The Autism Education Trust has put together a list of apps that are helpful for those on the autistic spectrum.
It is important to remember that each person has a preferred style of learning, and children on the autistic spectrum are often believed to have a stronger visual learning style. This means that sometimes they can struggle more with verbal expression and communication. The use of games such as Story Cards, Imagidice and Alphabet Jigsaw are great ways to help younger autistic children express themselves with less pressure on the verbal aspect of things. This is an encouraging way to evoke self-expression in a way they feel comfortable and in control.
Focus on the positives
Anna Kennedy, mother of two spectrum boys and founder of Anna Kennedy Online, understands how this can have a positive and a negative impact on a child’s life and how best to support them and use this in a constructive way – (also visit the National Autistic Society's website). Autistic children, more often than not, like and even obsess about routine and repetition; this helps the feel comfortable and safe.
Visual benefits & inclusivity
Fun games using visual imagery and activities that focus on repeating patterns and colours, like the visual agility game Q-bitz, can be a great way to develop learning whilst allowing an autistic child to remain in their comfort zone. Encouraging game-play through family games, especially those that can be adapted for mixed abilities, helps bring harmony and inclusivity along with a sense of belonging and confidence.
If you’re interested in attending the Autism Expo on 10th March at Brunel University, Uxbridge, head to the Autism Expo website for more information.