6 Mistakes Autism Unit Teachers and Paras Make…

Do you do any of these? STOP!

6 Mistakes Teacher in Autism Units Make from NoodleNook1

Working with students in self-contained settings or those with severe or multiple disabilities is hard, but I see many people in the classroom make these same mistakes over and over without really thinking there are any consequences. If you stop these 6 mistakes, your students will be the better for it- I promise!

1. Stop Talking So Much!

I see this in the classroom over and over again. We want to explain things to a student, so we do just that… we use a whole lot of words to explain. The problem is that students with multiple disabilities need more time to process language. Adding more and more words can actually slow down the processing time and make what you are saying more confusing. Simplify what you are saying, please.

2. Wait a Minute Please!

We just talked about needing more time to process language. So, right after we verbally bomb a student and ask them a question, we offer them no time to process and produce a response. Wait a minute… literally. After you ask a question, wait just one minute (and this feels like forever). Allowing that extra processing time will give a student a chance at answering!

3. Stop Doing It For Me!

So we asked a really wordy question, gave no wait time, and then when the student didn’t respond right away, we answered for them/picked the one we thought they wanted/ just did it for them. All the student learned was that if they wait long enough (or don’t say anything) people will do it all for them. It is the opposite of independence- it is learned helplessness. What is worse is that we become conditioned into doing for our students and stop offering the chance for them to try it on their own. Start helping students by allowing them the opportunity to try it themselves.

4. Stop Treating Me Like an Idiot!

A student who happens to need extra time to process language, wait time to think about it and respond, and then a chance to try it themselves- and then who fails is not an idiot. Moreover, the inability to talk does not mean the inability to think or to feel. Presume competence. Please. We have no idea what is happening inside the heads of nonverbal students and stories like that of Carly (click here for more) prove that inside students we label as disabled are feeling, thinking, normal people.

6 Mistakes Teacher in Autism Units Make. If you do any of these, STOP!

5. Stop the Meaningless Crap!

If I had to sit and do folder games for 8 hours a day, 187 days a school year, for 22 years… well I can think of better things. Having a folder game that has no purpose but to keep a student mentally sedated is not helping them gain a useful skill or practice something meaningful. I am a proponent of building independence into a classroom and having activities a student can do independently- but make sure there is some purpose, variation, and room for growth embedded in it. Otherwise it is meaningless crap.

6. Stop Sitting Me All Alone!

No one puts baby in a corner… but all day we have students isolated from the herd and that is somebody’s baby. Social interactions are so important and practicing is the only way to improve on that skill. Some of our students, however, only ever talk to grown-ups all day at school. Build in social interactions into the school day- building that skill is so important and needs to be practiced!

6 Mistakes Teacher in Autism Units Make. If you do any of these, STOP!

So, I know none of my Rock Star Readers would ever do any of these things, but if you know of anyone that is, please send them to this article so maybe they can see the light. Want to make sure that no LIFE Skills student is being tortured in the classroom? Tweet this article…

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6 Mistakes Teacher in Autism Units Make. If you do any of these, STOP!
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  1. Andrea

    I found this article very informative. I am the para for a 14 year old boy. I am clarity for #5- stop the meaningless crap. I am not a fan of giving a student games and activities just to keep him/her occupied. Unfortunately, that is what our days are becoming, Would you suggest some other activities I can do with him? His team and I agreed that his education plan should include employable skill building as well as the other academic and social skills. any ideas and other resources will be greatly appreciated.

  2. Pen

    These are great ideas…..connection…communication…awesomeness!

  3. Jennifer

    I agree emphatically, with a slight exception to number one, in regards to number six. Yes, keep it simple, to a point. You must eventually expand language. Unless they are exposed to language as most people use it (#1), then they will be isolated (#6) in everyday situation. Obviously, you need to start simple, then expand to prepare them for social interactions with peers. If you keep it simple, you are not preparing them, hence segregating them from interactions in non controlled environments.

  4. Deb

    Hi, this applies also to the classroom situation except maybe number 5. Another one to go with number six, but may be more in a classroom setting again, is trying to make all the kids with autism friends. Just because they have the same disability doesn’t make them want to be friends, some do not like some things that they may do or say.

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