Working with Students with Autism/Autistic Students

There is a well-known expression in the autism community “if you’ve met one student with autism you’ve met one student with autism” that being said, many individuals with autism/autistic students, their key areas of strength tend to include: attention to detail, a strong visual memory, and a passionate interest in one or more topics. They are often exceptionally honest and may have difficulty understanding when others tell “white lies” or break rules. On the other hand autistic students/students with autism may also demonstrate challenges. They may have difficulty understanding social expectations and unwritten rules in social situations. They might also have difficulty maintaining eye contact. Students with autism/autistic students typically have a preference for routine and may need to engage in calming behaviors when faced with unexpected situations. Lastly, autistic students/students with autism often have difficulty engaging in “what if” brainstorming or generalizing information without a lot of supporting concrete information.

Tips for working with students with Autism/Autistic Students

Autistic students/students with autism may have additional differences in combination with those listed above. Below are a few strategies that may assist you in working with individuals with autism/autistic students.

  • If you have concern about a student’s behavior try to remember it is likely rooted in neurological rather than behavioral basis.
  •  Provide any revisions to the syllabus or changes in test dates in writing.
  •  Reach out to Disability Support Services for assistance with communication if you are having difficulty communicating effectively with the student.
  • Consider flexibility with group work. Would allowing the student to work alone result in a fundamental alteration of the learning outcome for the course?
  •  Use concrete language.
  •  Due to sensory sensitivity, many unexpected things can be distracting to an autistic students/student with autism. As a result, try to avoid creating an environment that may lead to sensory overload.
  • Treat the student as an individual. Strength, needs, and accommodations are unique to each person. If working with a student with autism/autistic students is new to you try to be calm and welcome the opportunity to learn something new.

Information was adapted from the following resources: