ASD Teacher: Guide For Success
Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s 3 words that most people don’t truly understand. Unless you have a direct relationship with someone who has Autism, it’s hard to really comprehend what it is and how to best work with individuals who have Autism. Being an ASD Teacher is an extremely difficult job but also a very rewarding one. It takes a lot of hard work and you must be emotionally and mentally strong because oftentimes ASD Teachers don’t get the credit and appreciation they deserve. Here are some tips to help you have a successful school year as an ASD Teacher.
Be proactive with parent communication.
- Start the year off right… introduce yourself… your responsibilities, your goals for the year, and give parents a chance to talk to you about concerns or share important information etc. You can send a case manager letter, email, or make a phone call.
- Be open and available. Develop a method that works for you & your classroom to stay in communication with parents. This could be a weekly note in their agenda books, a daily report sheet that you check boxes off and send home in a folder, or even emails. Do what works for you. Just remember, it should be REASONABLE. Don’t commit to something that is impossible for you to keep up with, you have other students and responsibilities. Remember that students with Autism may have a difficult time telling their parents about their day or what’s going on so open communication is a plus.
- Be proactive about communication. Invest time in building a positive rapport and gaining parent trust. They are trusting you with their most prized possession, their child. The more they trust you, the easier your year will be!
With classroom and students:
Be consistent with your students.
- When students know what they can expect from you is known and consistent, they begin to feel safe. Students with autism need to know that your reactions will always be consistent. This helps them to feel safe and
Always be clear and concise in your directions/expectations.
- Part of being an ASD Teacher is knowing that your students need clear directions. When they know exactly what is expected of them, they can meet the bar you’ve set for them and beyond.
- Being able to explain everything in terms that your students will understand is key. Students with Autism are very literal. Explain things exactly as they are. Most students with Autism need black & white, gray is too wishy washy and leaves too much room for interpretation.
Be patient, baby steps are good!
- All students progress at different rates. Our students do not progress the same as their same aged, typically developing peers. Something that seems small could be HUGE for our students.
- Our students benefit from repetition! So be patient and keep on teaching, they’ll get it!
Multi-modal approach to education is a plus!
- The more ways you can teach your students, the more benefits and opportunities they will have for success. Students learn in different ways, so learning your students is one of the first things you should do so you can instruct them how they learn.
- As an ASD Teacher, it’s good to remember in every lesson, always try to incorporate all the ways of learning, so you can reach everyone (visual, auditory, kinesthetic).
With your team:
- The TEAM. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who share the same vision as you. Your co-teachers, service providers (Speech, OT, PT, etc.) should all work together to provide a united front.
- You need a strong, united, team. When everyone on the same page and shares the same core values when it comes to education & teaching students with disabilities, you’ll do great things!
- As the ASD Teacher, you’ll be the main go to person and link for keeping the entire team in the loop. Be open and do what you’d expect other teachers to do for you.
Teaching responsibilities & for yourself
- Keeping data & documentation. As an ASD Teacher, you’ll quickly learn how important documentation is to your job. IEPs are legal documents, remember that. You need to keep data of everything you are doing (student goals, student progress, instruction provided etc.). This is not meant to scare you, but to prepare you of the possibility. If worst comes to worst, you can be called to court so you’ll want to have everything documented and in writing. You’ll also be expected to present documentation at IEP meetings or in quarterly progress reports.
- Staying organized as an ASD Teacher or Sped Teacher is KEY. With so much paperwork, staying organized is the best way to keep everything in order and keep you sane.
- Don’t take things personally (you’ll encounter tough parents, situations etc. but understand that as long as you are doing your job, trying your best, and keeping your student’s best interest at heart, that’s all you can do). Some situations will be bad whether it was you or another teacher in your position. Don’t take it personally- it would’ve happened whether you were there or not.
- Don’t let your job overtake you and trickle into other parts of your life. I know as an ASD Teacher, or any kind of teacher, we oftentimes bring work home with us, think about our kiddos on the weekends or at the store when we are looking for classroom supplies etc. I’m not talking about the good things about the job– Don’t let the STRESS of the job affect the other parts of your life.
With great work comes great reward. Being a teacher for any age group, subject, or disability comes with varying levels of difficulty and challenges. Being able to see the bigger picture and what you are helping your students work towards is important. You are helping them improve their quality of life and to be independent. You understand your students & are one of their biggest advocates. Keep on teaching!