Next week is World Autism Awareness Day: a day that means a lot to me. This year is the first year, in many years, that I have not taught a student with autism. Last year, I rewrote one of my favourite texts, All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten, to share how teaching students with autism have made me a better teacher. This year I’m going to do something different. I realized this year that many strategies that I used when teaching students with autism, really benefit all students. So here’s the updated version of my take on All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten.
All I Really Need To Know About How To Be A Better Teacher, I Learned From Teaching Students With Autism: Version 2
All I really need to know about how to be a better teacher, I learned from teaching students with autism. Even though I don’t teach any students with autism this year, here are the things that I learned that continue to influence my teaching:
- Routines matters.
- Preparing for changes in routine helps reduce stress.
- A visual schedule helps students better understand and take control of their day.
- Talk less.
- Use visuals more.
- Have clear, consistent expectations.
- Respond to the students. Some days are harder than others. Accept this. Make changes to still make these hard days, successful ones.
- We all need independent work areas.
- Take a deep breath. Use a quiet voice. It’s amazing how our volume influences the volume of others.
- Have high, but realistic, expectations for all students. All students need us to believe in them, and they need to know that we do.
- Work as a team. We can learn a lot from each other.
- Differentiate. It’s hard, but it’s possible. All students deserve the right to experience success.
- Teach compassion.
- Demonstrate the importance of acceptance. Help students see that every child matters.
- Reflect a lot. Try something, make changes, reflect on it, and try again.
- Work with parents. They know their children best. The insights that they can share will definitely help.
- Persevere. Embrace the saying, “Let’s start fresh.”
- Avoid labels. Gifted. Learning disabled. Autistic. The list goes on. Regardless of the label, children are children first.
Everything you need to know about teaching and learning is in here: classroom management, differentiated instruction, self-regulation, and most of all, putting students first. I’m a better teacher because of what I’ve learned from teaching students with autism. On World Autism Awareness Day, let’s remember what makes all of our students unique and wonderful, and how sometimes, looking closely at the needs of one student may really benefit all of them.
How has working with children with autism influenced how and what you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!