(This is the fourth of a series of posts I am doing based on an Autism Spectrum Disorders course I took at UW-La Crosse.)
I attended elementary school during the mid 1960's. The emphasis was on rigid structure and all students were expected to conform to the teaching method not the other way around. It was that way because it seemed the best way to do things at that time. TEACCH principles are based on physical structure, visual supports and routines that are individualized to meet each student's abilities. By considering strengths, interests, learning styles and frustrations the resulting program facilitates independence and learning.
Visual supports help a student anticipate, understand and take part in activities. Reinforcements can be built in to help students with self regulation. Structured teaching, work systems and activity organization facilitate independence. Another thing they facilitate is peer support and communication. In all the years I have worked with parents of young people with special needs a constant has been a desire for understanding/acceptance from their child's peers. Visual supports are a communication aid for everyone interacting with the student.
Examples of classroom structure, and different kinds of visual schedules, are shown on CESA 7's Web Site Autism pages. Autism Internet Modules is a great resource created by educators for educators. It's free to register and there are modules on all aspects of ASD. The individual modules usually take 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete. The modules are a good tool for parents too. If parents and teachers are studying the same material collaborating on the student's individual education plan is much easier.
Parent and Teacher communication is essential to the success of students with ASD as it is for all students. One of the class modules was "A Familial Perspective on Autism Spectrum Disorders" presented by Dr. Audrey Mouser Elegbede. She talked about how her family handled, looked for answers and dealt with her son's ASD diagnosis. My job is assisting families as they work with school staff to develop individual education plans that support their child's needs. My next post and the future focus of this blog will be about communicating with and supporting families. It can be a delicate dance, especially at the outset.