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How educators can support students with autism through online learning

Transitioning to virtual school isn’t always easy for students and parents. It requires a change in routine and even learning styles, making things extra challenging for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

These tips show how educators can support students with autism through online learning so everyone feels prepared to conquer their digital school year.

Give an Explanation

Change can feel turbulent, especially for kids who don’t get to make decisions about their lives. Their parents or school board decided to transition them to virtual learning, but they may not understand why they aren’t walking into a classroom every day.

While you read about how to support students with autism, start with the basics. Give them an explanation for why you’re teaching over video chat. Tell them stories about other students grappling with the same change and why it’ll be so good for everyone.

They’ll feel more comfortable listening to lessons and completing assignments when they understand what’s going on.

Stick With a Schedule

Most people do better when they have a schedule. Routine is comforting for students with autism because it’s predictable, which is even more helpful while getting used to a new way of learning. Establish a schedule at the beginning of the school year and prime students before each school day begins.

Priming is a great way to know how to support students with autism in online school. It’s a method that previews a student’s daily activities to remind them what they can expect. Going over this each morning will calm anxious students and give them grounding information that guides them through their day.

Involve the Families

Virtual learning gives students more control over their environment. It may transform how they excel in school if their families support them with helpful measures.

Parents can eliminate bothersome sensory distractions so focusing is a breeze. Bad smells or loud sounds won’t be an issue like they are in the classroom because fewer environmental factors are out of the student’s control.

Set up video conferences with parents or guardians to discuss online learning for students with autism. Pointing out helpful tips like controlling the environment or setting up virtual playdates with classmates helps families work together to support their kids through this transitional period.

Adapt Learning Plans

You’ll know how to support students with autism once your lesson plans adapt to your new teaching environment. Modify your Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to match new goals.

Before, a BIP may have encouraged a child to sit still during the school day. The updated plan could reward kids for remaining still during 15-minute virtual lessons. As long as those learning plans teach and reward good behavior or academic progression according to what your students individually need, they’ll assist with the transition to online learning.

Write Your Expectations

Students with ASD may struggle to read social cues. They could feel awkward or embarrassed about not understanding what you want them to do just through verbal or physical communication. Online learning for students with autism becomes more manageable when they know their teacher’s expectations.

Write one to three goals for each student to conquer every day and celebrate when they achieve them. Clearly explaining what they should do and encouraging excellent behavior reinforces their communication skills and makes school more enjoyable.

Make a Calm Zone

Many teachers designate a calm zone in their classrooms. Students may sit in a special chair or a corner with toys to destress after overstimulation. Educators can do the same thing while learning how to support students with autism in online school.

Young people will still have bad days and challenging moments even when they’re home all day. A digital calm zone could be time spent on an approved website where students can fill in virtual coloring books or participate in mindfulness activities.

Find a few calming strategies designed for online use and implement them whenever your students need help during challenging times.

Support Students With Autism Through Online Learning

Educators can support students with autism through online learning by adapting along with their classroom. Modify behavior plans, get families involved, and clearly explain what new routines and expectations will look like.

When teachers refine their communication skills and meet students where they are, you can establish a digital classroom that feels like home for everyone.


About the Author

Ginger Abbot special education

Ginger Abbot is an education and lifestyle writer with a passion for learning. Read more of her work on Classrooms.com, where she serves as Editor when she’s not freelancing.

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