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4.

1 Support student participation
4.2 Manage classroom activities
4.3 Manage challenging behaviour
4.4 Maintain student safety

1
Assessment Task 2
What roles does a teacher take when educating Autistic children in the primary
classroom?

In recent times there has been a growing number of children diagnosed with
having Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and as an educator it is possible that you
will have at least one child with this diagnosis in your classroom. Autism Spectrum
Disorders are lifelong developmental disabilities caused by brain abnormality
(Dawson et al., 2002). The disorder can be defined by difficulties in social interaction,
impaired communication, restricted or repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory
sensitivities (Rosenberg, Westling & McLesky, 2008). With approximately 1 in 160
children being diagnosed with having ASD, teachers need to be aware of how to cater
to their individual learning needs as well as the rest of their class. It is increasingly
important that primary teachers learn about these disorders and how the
characteristics can impact the individual child in the school environment. Therefore,
this essay will focus on the role a teacher should take and the techniques that can be
implemented in order to assist students with ASD to be successfully integrated into
the classroom experience. This essay will focus on the teachers role in educating
Autistic children in the primary classroom; specifically being a classroom manager,
the teacher as the instructor, their role in encouraging social skills and creating a link
between school and home life.

Teachers take on numerous roles in the classroom, but it is arguable that one
of the most important roles a teacher will take on is that of classroom manager. For
any student an organized, attractive and learning focused classroom will make
learning easier as resources will be organized and easily accessible. Therefore, several
factors need to be taken into consideration when attempting to create an environment
that supports not only mental, but also physical and emotional learning. When talking
about the classroom environment we are not only discussing physical structure but
also the daily routine of the classroom. To begin, there are certain adjustments that
you can make to your physical classroom layout that will ensure that each student,
especially a student with autism, will be able to feel comfortable whilst they are
learning. According to Lori Ernsperger the physical layout of your classroom should
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4.2 Manage classroom activities
4.3 Manage challenging behaviour
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be clutter free and organized in a way where „both group and individual learning can
take place‟ (Ernsperger, 2003). The classroom should also be organized in a manner
that allows students and staff to travel around the room safely in transition periods.
Transition periods can often be a stressful time for children with Autism as it brings
about a sense of „the unknown‟. One suggestion from Autism Victoria (now trading
as Amaze) is the use of a timer or song in these transition periods (Amaze, 2011).
Another suggestion is allowing them to hold a „transitional object‟ for example a
small toy of their choice. This helps the child feel in control and will help keep their
mind on the toy and possibly alleviate the stress of transitions from one class to the
next. Similarly, this sense of control can be established in the classroom when a
student knows what direction they must walk in pathways and where they are allowed
to be. For example, students are not allowed to sit between the chairs or students must
all sit on the red floor mat. When directing students to sit on the floor, students with
Autism benefit when they know their boundaries. A way of doing this is by marking
out an area with masking tape on the floor of where the class should be sitting or
using coloured arrows on the floor so students know which way to travel around the
room. The teacher as classroom manager plays a part in every classroom and all
students benefit from a structured day however Autistic children thrive on structure
and it is essential that the teacher takes on this role daily.

Teacher‟s instructions are very important in any classroom; however, often
even the simplest instructions will not be understood. Poor response to spoken
language is accepted as one of the strongest indicators of early autism in very young
children (Potter & Whittaker, 2001). Similar to working with younger children in the
primary setting, students with Autism sometimes require a simplified or modified
version of your instructions. For example, a sentence “please put your mathematics
books away so that we can work on our writing that we didn‟t finish yesterday” is
complex and a child with autism may not be able to process all of this information as
quickly as other students. A simpler phrase such as “books away, we are beginning
writing” would be more understandable. Heather MacKenzie believes that if a child
does not respond immediately then the message may not have been received and this
is often the case when teachers do not „clearly state their message‟ (Mackenzie,
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4.3 Manage challenging behaviour
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2008). AMAZE states when teachers are instructing they should be refraining from
using sentences that contain an implied meaning where a child must make inferences.
For example, “glue dries out if you leave the lids off” may result in a child seeming
disobedient and reluctant to do what they are told. However, a clear instruction like
“put the lid on the glue stick when you aren‟t using it” will allow the message to be
interpreted and understood (Amaze, 2011). This is generally due to a child with
Autism only understanding language in terms of its literal meaning (Kelly, 2001). For
many teachers taking on the instructor role, it is challenging as you attempt to instruct
the class and ensure that each individual is grasping what is being said.

Another role that a teacher will take on when teaching an autistic student is
that of communicator. Students with Autism often have difficulties in communicating
and socializing. This at times can result in students with Autism reacting
inappropriately in certain social situations. Behaviors such as hand flapping and
rocking back and forth are often seen by students who use this as a coping
mechanism. Similarly, aggression and self-injury are possible causes for concern.
Unfortunately, this behavior often leads to many students finding it hard to socialize
with their peers. Many students with ASD prefer to play alone and when compared
with non-disabled students, „children with Autism are four times more likely to be
bullied, and twice as likely to be abused by adults, peers and siblings. (Kaweski,
2011). In this situation parents and teachers often collaborate together to reduce the
risk of the child being subject to bullying. Behaviors such as hand-flapping are unique
mannerisms that are often noticed by students and are a cause for bullying and social
unacceptance. Teachers could attempt to bridge this social gap by teaching the
students games that enables the child to join in with their peers such as the rules of
„chasey‟. While in the classroom remember that you are a role model and lead by
example by showing that bullying will not be tolerated and acknowledging highly
social classmates who are caring and inclusive. Overall, your role in their social
communication is to encourage and strengthen their skills both in the classroom (for
example with group work) as well as outside in the yard.

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As mentioned previously teachers and parents often collaborate on a deeper
level when striving for success in the educational system. Both teachers and students
benefit from parental involvement as the parents are the experts on how their child
engages and they are able to provide valuable information for the teaching staff. One
of the major roles any teacher will play is forming a trustworthy relationship not only
with their students but also their parents. Parents of a child with Autism will often
have extensive knowledge of triggers and stressors that will impact on a child‟s
learning and behavior during their time at school. The most valuable information
parents may be able to provide the teacher is how to calm a student with Autism as
when they do become distressed are often hard to calm down. Teachers might try
sending the student into a quiet area to read a book or listen to music. While parents
might suggest allowing the student to leave the room. Therefore, a major role for a
teacher of a student with Autism is to create a link between home and school life.

Throughout this essay the role a teacher plays in educating an Autistic student
was discussed with emphasis on the teacher as a classroom manager and instructor as
well as their role in encouraging social skills and linking home and school life. To
conclude, through research, a proactive approach and parental support teachers will be
able to take on all of these roles while they educate Autistic students in an appropriate
and engaging way.


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4.1 Support student participation
4.2 Manage classroom activities
4.3 Manage challenging behaviour
4.4 Maintain student safety

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References

Amaze. (2011). Retrieved May 3, 2012, from http:// www.amaze.org.au
/discover/about-autism-spect rum-disorders/resources/

Dawson, G., Webb, S., Schellenberg, G. D., Dager, S., Friedman, S., Aylward, E., et
al. (2002). Defining the broader phenotype of autism: Genetic, brain, and
behavioral perspectives. Development and Psychopathology, 14(3), 581–611.

Ernsperger, L. (2003). Keys to success for teaching students with autism.
(pp. 01-33). Future Horizons Inc.

Kaweski, W. (2011). Teaching adolescents with autism;practical strategies for the
inclusive classroom. (pp. 14-20). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Kelly, A. (2001). Talkabout: A Social Communication Skills Package. Oxford:
Speechmark Publishing Limited.

Mackenzie, H. (2008). Reaching and teaching the child with autism spectrum
disorder: Using learning preferences and strengths. (pp. 192-200). London,
England or Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Potter, C., & Whittaker, C. (2001). Enabling communication in children with autism.
(pp. 35-39). London, England: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Rosenberg, M. S., Westling, D. L., & McLeskey, J. (2010). Special education for
toda'ys teachers, an introduction. (2 ed.). New Jersey: Pearson College Div.