Main educational strategies- The Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder of biological origin and an important genetic component that qualitatively affect various physiological functions of the individual: social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, symbolization and imagination, modes of rigid behavior, inflexible and stereotyped and restricted and obsessive interests.
In fact, it is more correct to call this syndrome as an autism spectrum disorder, since each person can be placed in a specific point of a broad spectrum, which leads to a great diversity in terms of skills and competencies . For example, some types of ASD involve a certain degree of intellectual deficiency while, on the contrary, it is usual for those affected by the type of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome to have an IQ higher than the average.
The educational needs of students with autism spectrum disorder
Precisely because of the existence of these great differences in level of intelligence, abilities and potential of children with autism, it is difficult to establish educational strategies , guidelines and methodological patterns that are valid and effective for all students diagnosed with ASD . The experts consider that the most beneficial thing for these children , with the exception of the most severe cases, is that they carry out their education in the ordinary classroom.. For teachers, having a child with autism among their students is a personal and professional challenge, while for their peers it can be a unique experience of coexistence with a different person, an example of the diversity they will encounter in the future in their labor and social relations. Both the teacher and the center should not forget that all boys and girls with autism are part of the group of students with special educational strategies and that, regardless of their potential and individual intelligence, will always present, in greater or lesser degree, problems in the following areas :
- Problems of social interaction , consisting of a certain degree of isolation and lack of social and effective contact with people, as well as lack of empathy and inability to express their own feelings.
- Alterations of behavior , repetitive or disruptive behavior and obsession with certain topics normally of little interest to the rest, such as series of numbers or the position of stars and planets.
- Cognitive alterations , which mainly affect aspects related to abstraction, symbolic function, language, attention and memory.
- Deficits in communication and language (verbal or non-verbal), which may be non-existent or have significant anomalies in intentional or meaning.
- Motor problems , with great variations between one case and another, are problems of movement and coordination.
These problems result in specific educational strategies whose main objective is to alleviate, enhance and improve as far as possible the alterations in the cognitive, intellectual and social level of these students. To achieve this, the teacher has three basic tools : adaptation of the curriculum, special methodologies criteria and specific activities.
Educational strategies for children with different degrees of autism
The general objectives of educational strategies in autistic children should be aimed at achieving the following goals :
- Promote maximum autonomy and personal independence of boys and girls.
- Develop self-control of one’s behavior and its adaptation to the environment.
- Improve the social skills of the students , promoting their ability to develop in the environment and understanding and following the norms, keys and social and emotional conventions.
- Develop functional, spontaneous and generalized communication strategies .
- Encourage communicative intention and reciprocity in communication .
- Develop basic cognitive processes such as abstract thinking, attention and memory.
Based on these objectives, the teaching team of the center must make a customized adaptation of the curriculum based on the following aspects:
- The degree and type of autism of the student and their characteristics and potential.
- The possibilities of functional development of each child.
- The evolution of the student.
- The family and social environment of the boy or girl.
The educational context in which the boy is immersed: capacities in personnel and infrastructures of the center, possibility of receiving attention and extracurricular support, etc.
The learning methodology used must, on the one hand, adapt to the rhythm and difficulties on the cognitive, communication and social level of the child and, on the other hand, influence experimentation and contact with others and the environment, since it is the better way to break the secrecy that characterizes these guys and facilitate functional learning. Some methodological actions in this line that experience has proved very effective are:
- Learning in natural settings .
- Take the student’s own interests as a starting point.
- Predicting situations that favor or trigger communicative acts .
- The typical trial-error learning system does not work with autistic children. In these cases, it is better for the teacher to provide the necessary support so that they can carry out the task and then gradually remove them.
- Pay close attention to the expression and understanding of one’s own and others’ emotional states.
- Establish very structured tools and situations .
- Avoid elements of distraction.
- The extemporization organization must also be very structured , facilitating predictability and anticipation.
- Use agendas so that the student can have very well organized time , can predict situations and it is easier to control their behavior.
The activities focused on autistic children must be very functional , be very well organized and structured and stand out for their clarity and simplicity . With regard to materials, care should be taken that they alone show the child the tasks he must perform. The visual supports (drawings, photos, posters) are very useful in autistic children as a guide and element not only reminder, but also motivational reinforcement of daily actions and tasks.
The works in table must be repetitive , well structured, trying that the boy interacts with his companions and where the visual elements predominate and with which he can experiment.