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When working with children with autism, it is important to find the style and teaching method that they use to learn information. “Studies have shown that uncovering and supporting children’s favored learning styles can improve performance in all areas” (McCabe, 2015, p.1). There are at least three types of learners with autism: visual, auditory tactile or kinesthetic.
A strategy for a visual learner with autism is to focus on sight instruction. Visual learners learn best through books, charts, videos, color coding method and pictures. The children are apt to gain more knowledge through the use of visual aids such as schedules that are visible both at home and in the classroom. These children benefit from seeing everything labeled at home and in school settings.
A strategy for the auditory learners with autism “children benefit greatly from listening or speaking activities, such as talking, audiotapes, role playing, and saying things out loud, or repeating” (McCabe, 2015, p.1). The children learn from the sense of hearing within the environment. These children often get accused of not paying attention because of lack of eye contact or not taking notes. “Children who learn best from auditory means do not necessarily require other methods of learning a task and are simply able to take in information from auditory means” (McCabe, 2015, p.1).
A strategy for the tactile or kinesthetic learner with autism would be to provide children with activities that they can move around, working with their hands by doing projects or working with the objects. The best teaching method for this strategy is to have a variety of work stations for the children to choose from. “All children can really benefit from hands on activities during instruction to make more abstract ideas appear more tangible in nature. To a kinetic tactile learner, seeing and touching is learning” (McCabe, 2015, p.1).
Edgar Dale developed a theory of the way children learn called the “Cone of Learning” (McCabe, 2015). He believes that children can learn from several different methods and styles at the same time. That the style of learning does not always have to be individualized within the learning method. He believes that children with autism only have one primary learning style.
A child with autism can be assessed for the most beneficial learning style and teaching methods through observation in the classroom environment to see how the child best absorbs the information. “By understanding and teaching to specific learning styles, negative behaviors can be avoided in the classroom setting” (McCabe, 2015, p.1). If it is difficult to assess the specific learning style through observations, then a sample of each style should be incorporated within an activity. “This type of teaching also allows for those children with crossover styles to be able to absorb information from more than one method” (McCabe, 2015, p.1). By being aware of a child’s learning style, it helps the child to learn the information being taught which increases self-esteem and increases positive behavior in the classroom.
Successfully, teaching and assessing children with autism will take stamina and patience. Often, children with autism display behavior issues due to not being taught with the appropriate learning style. According to Ackerman, (2007), “The first thing a teacher should do to determine how to handle a behavioral challenge is to assess (the a in PRAISE) the situation in which the misbehavior occurs” (Ackerman, 2007, p. 17). The teacher can then make decisions on if the behavior is linked to learning styles or methods that does not work for the child or if it is caused by a different factor. Galatians 6:9 (King James Version) says “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not”. Children with autism need for us as teachers to keep looking for answers that best meet their individual learning needs.
Ackerman, B. (2007). P.R.A.I.S.E.- effectively guiding behavior. Colorado Springs. CO.: Purposeful Design Publications.
McCabe, B. (2015). The learning styles of children with autism spectrum disorder. [Electronic Source]. Retrieved on September 20, 2018 from https://autismnow.org/blog/the-learning-styles-of-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder/