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Characteristics of a Good Classroom Teacher for Autism Spectrum Disorder

A good teacher for ASD children

March 14, 2014

I have visited several schools recently observing children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who are being integrated into mainstream. I’ve noticed some teacher characteristics that really contribute to a more successful experience. A good teacher for ASD children invariably has the Three Cs.

The Three Cs

Caring

Some teachers look as if they are not enjoying being in the classroom and seem like they’d prefer to be somewhere else. Other teachers demonstrate through their actions, affect and manner that they really care about the students and the students learning. A caring teacher sets a strong foundation for a positive classroom experience for all of the children including a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Additionally a caring teacher is more likely to be flexible in implementing classroom policy because she is less interested in rigid policies and more interested in what will work best for your child.

Competent

Teachers who can teach the material well present it in an inspiring way – as if they are excited about what they are sharing. They teach in organized bite sized portions and regularly check in with the class as to their understanding. Generally they will start with an overview followed by an initial check in with students. In addition to group check-ins, where they call on students who raise their hands, they also break the students briefly into pairs where the children share answers or thoughts with one another. This is not only great for learning but it’s also a terrific way of building social skills for a child with ASD. The teachers will then usually have a worksheet or some form of individual work for the children to focus on. This is followed by a final group or pairs check in as a summary of the material. There is a nice combination of teacher sharing, student sharing and individual work.

Control

When you have a class of twenty or more children it can be easy to subside into chaos. Unfortunately some teachers deal with the natural exuberance of children by becoming angry, irritated and seem to be regularly upset with their students.

Teachers who exert positive classroom control have a different attitude. They seem to have an easy expectation of support and good classroom behavior from the children. And the children respond to this positive expectation.

The teachers who exert positive control come across as respectful toward the students but they also require a respectful attitude toward themselves and the classroom learning environment. When they manage a child’s behavior they generally do so calmly and without the immediate threat of a consequence. In practice, “Jack can I have your attention please.” or “Jack, one more time and you will be sitting up here next to me.” can be said calmly and have a much more positive effect on classroom behavior then if it is said with anger or frustration.

It also helps that they use humor to sustain the classes attention and to get the children’s respect. The children seem to want teachers like this to like them and therefore behave more according to the teachers wants.

Finally moving the classroom in a clear direction also helps to channel children’s energy.

If you’re child is in school, consider whether his or her teacher has the 3C’s of Caring, Competency and Positive Classroom Control.

Additional note: Many parents of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders are surprised to learn that if they insist they will often be allowed to observe their child in the classroom. Alternatively in some cases you might be able to volunteer to offer classroom support on occasion. This can be a valuable way to learn more about your child’s success as well as get clearer on your child’s challenges at school. You can then help your child with these challenges at home.

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1 Comment

  • Heather says:

    My son was born with hydrocelphalus and was non verbal until 5 yrs old. He has an express laungage disorder. I am recently going to be homeschooling him for he was having some issues of being bullied with peers. He is non confrontational with students of his age and doesnt want problems. So i am starting this process. For it caused him to have medical conditions of hives and treated. And to be hospitalized of the reluctancy to deal with peers on a social level. He has always been a good student and received awards and good grades. My concern of being older how to teach him for he rather spend most of his time alone. As he has gotten older its been harder to motivate him to want to interact with others.
    Not only academically but things that are of interest or for fun. I was wondering if you could give me some positive advice on how to handle as a mom and to bring him out of his shell?
    Its been very challenging at times. Thank You!

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