Autism in the Classroom: How Teachers Can Tell When a Student Has Autism

April is World Autism Month, and people, organizations and even buildings the world over are donning blue as a sign of support for sufferers of the condition.

As a teacher, recognizing that a student has a mental disorder and helping them navigate school and schoolwork with their condition, can be an overwhelming task. Sometimes the signs are so subtle that even severe conditions go unnoticed for years.

When it comes to Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, like most other disorders, early diagnosis and treatment can go a long way in assuring that the victim can lead as healthy, normal and unaffected a life as possible.

Evaluating and testing for Autism involves a careful process, and should always be carried out by capable specialists.

As a teacher, however, you see children in an environment where they spend a large part of their day – school. It is also a social setting that can be daunting for many students, leading to them showing more outward signs of a disorder than they might at home or in other contexts.

Autism is usually detected in a child’s pre-school years. Parents and doctors often intervene when infants and toddlers show signs like delayed speech development, specific behavioral patterns, and other symptoms.

If, however, the condition goes undiagnosed, here are signs that an older child or teenager suffering from autism might exhibit in the classroom or at school:

Look out for verbal cues like:

  • The child has difficulty maintaining the flow of conversation and taking turns speaking.
  • He or she only discusses a limited range of subjects and might have unusually detailed knowledge about some of those subjects.
  • He or she might speak differently to peers – using vocabulary much higher than you would expect a child of their age to do, or speaking in an old-fashioned way
  • The child might struggle to follow instructions past one or two steps
  • They may talk in a monotone, or with little voice modulation

Look out for non-verbal cues like:

  • Little or no eye contact when they are being spoken to
  • Little use of gestures of expressions when conversing

Look out for social and behavioral cues like:

  • The child might spend break times alone rather than with peers
  • They might prefer the company of older or younger students, perhaps even teachers, rather than other children their own age
  • They might show signs of compulsive behavior – like lining items up on their desk or always doing certain activities in a particular order.
  • They are easily upset by change, especially in routine, daily things that they are used to
  • He or she might make repetitive or unusual body movements, or even make repetitive noises like clearing their throat, grunting, squealing, etc.

While these are a few signs that might tell you if a child in your class or school might have autism, this is certainly not an exhaustive list.

Children with autism are often uncomfortable in social environments like school. Many of them even resist going to school, although this is a behavior that you, as a teacher, might not ever see.

At school, these children might retreat and appear extremely reserved, and just come off as shy, which leads to a further delay in detecting the problem.

It is vital that parents, teachers and all other caretakers in a child’s life communicate with each other, and discuss any potential signs that a child might have autism, or any other disorder that needs medical intervention.

At taddrees®, we ensure that parents can connect with SEN specialists who are qualified to work with children with special needs. All the tutors listed on our app undergo a stringent selection process, and our SEN-specialized tutors even more so. Find a tutor today.

Change can only come about when a community collectively takes responsibility. Awareness is critical, but action makes it what makes the difference.

If you notice that a child is being bullied, or doesn’t quite fit in, make an effort to find out why. As a teacher, you might be a greater influence in a student’s life than you know.

As always, keep learning. And let’s all keep making the world a more conducive space for everyone to thrive.

As your act of support for World Autism Month, share this article with every teacher, parent, and every school-goer you know to help raise awareness.

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