Students with autism need specific and directed teacher interventions in the classroom. When teachers provide a structured and safe learning environment for autistic students, the academic and behavioral outcomes are measurable. Interventions must be individualized for each student.
When teachers use the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to construct an academic and behavioral program that works for each student's educational needs, then true inclusion occurs for autistic students in classrooms. Students with autism are unique in the behaviors and academic challenges they present. Teachers must become knowledgeable about the researched spectrum range of autistic behaviors and even more knowledgeable about the individual autistic students they serve each day in their classroom.
Interventions that Work in the Classroom
There are a diversity of interventions that teachers can use in formulating a general list of support systems for students with autism, so the list can be expanded and applied according to what students need for effective inclusion in mainstream or self-contained classrooms. The list of interventions are differentiated to meet each students learning and behavioral needs.
- Individual interventions are defined in each student's IEP. Just as students with autism aren't interchangeable, nor are their presented behaviors. The IEP will contain specific interventions that teachers can use to monitor, redirect or stop unacceptable student behavior. Teachers must be realistic about whether specific interventions will work consistently in addressing behaviors. If a student with autism is insistent on walking out of the room every five minutes, the teacher will not choose an intervention that has a peer running after the student to bring them back into the classroom. This could create liability issues for the teacher and the District.
- Create positive interventions that reinforce positive behaviors. For instance, if the teacher wants the student to stay on task without interruption in 15 minute increments, then the teacher can have the IA (Instructional Assistant) provide the student with extrinsic reinforcers that reward the student for staying engaged in the learning process.
- Provide the student with time out options and locations in the classroom. Each classroom should have designated areas with Instructional Assistant support for students to go to when they need a time out or just want to be alone during class time.
- Instruction must be consistent and structured for autistic students. The learning objectives must be clearly presented and the student should be checked for understanding and application of the learning expectations. If students need to carry a calendar that includes the assignments and homework due dates, then the teacher can assign the Instructional Assistant or find time to help the student create the calendar and use it daily.
Teaching interventions are necessary in working with students with autism who will present a range of behaviors that may impede their own learning or distract other students in the learning process. By providing a range of interventions in addressing their learning needs, teachers can create viable curriculum and instruction in maximizing autistic student's learning abilities and building learning capacity that differentiates and individualizes each student's measurable outcomes.
Interventions that truly work will address each student in every way necessary to achieve learning performance and outcome. Effective interventions and instructional implementation create a safe learning and teaching environment for both students with autistic learning needs and teachers in the classroom who serve them.