Today in our Ocaquatics Online School, we would like to celebrate all the amazing abilities that our swimmers with autism have. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder which affects the way the brain develops and processes information. At our swim school, we have many children diagnosed with autism, and we love working with them! Here are some tips on how to teach children with autism:
Children with autism thrive in a structured environment. Establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible. Activities are successful when they’re broken into small steps. Remember to define the beginning, middle and an end of the class.
Always keep your language simple and concrete. Use as few words as possible. Avoid using sarcasm and idioms, and give very clear choices.
Children with autism may take extra time to process verbal instructions. When giving a direction or asking a question, make sure you allow for extra processing time.
Children with autism pay attention to detail and lots of toys can be very distracting. If you are using toys, use one activity at a time.
A picture speaks a thousand words! Use them whenever you can. Children with autism learn faster and with greater ease when you use visuals.
- VISUAL SCHEDULE/LESSON PLANS
Children with autism feel in control and secure when they know what to expect. Visual schedules and lesson plans help swimmers know what’s ahead. You can take pictures of the skills the swimmers need to learn, laminate them and have them ready for them. Never underestimate the power of consistency. Remember that consistency is a key component of success. Visuals help us so much with that.
While a typical child easily moves from kicking to doing full freestyle, it can be a very big deal to a child with autism. Give warnings to reduce the stress of transitions. Some ways you can do this is by verbal instruction example “In 5 minutes, it’s time for play time” and then again “One more minute till playtime”. If a child is particularly struggling with a transition, it often helps to allow them to hold onto a “transitional object” such as a preferred small toy or an object of their choice. This helps a child feel in control and gives them something to look forward to. Using visual schedules helps with transitions too.
- REWARDS BEFORE CONSEQUENCES
We all love being rewarded and children with autism are no different. Rewards and positive reinforcement are a wonderful way to increase desired behavior. Help swimmers clearly understand which behaviors and actions lead to rewards. If possible, let your swimmers pick their own reward so they can anticipate receiving it.
It helps to be creative when you’re teaching children with autism. Use their interests as motivators. Try to always keep the lesson plan structured, but adjust it to their interest. Example if they like animals, they can kick like a dolphin, etc. While it might take some imagination and prep time, watching them succeed is definitely well worth the effort.
Prompting are special cues before or during the performance of a behavior that help direct attention to an activity and help the behavior to occur. Modeling is the demonstration of behaviors to be learned. It can be used alone or with verbal instructions and prompts. Try using other children for modeling the right way of doing things. It encourages them to do it better and it gives them a visual of what they should be doing.
Have fun teaching them! The final goal is for children to be happy and learn. Always keep this in mind and pick your battles wisely. Try to focus on what they do well, and little by little you will see them learn everything you want them to.
Children may have many varied conditions that influence daily functioning, so focus on a child's ABILITIES, not their disabilities.
Always reinforce appropriate behaviors! CATCH THEM BEING GOOD and they will try to keep doing that!