Student Leadership

Why is Autism Awareness Important?

SLCA held an autism awareness conference with parents of speakers who have a child with autism. The parents shared valuable information regarding their son with autism, exhibiting a range of strengths that can be directly related to their diagnosis (e.g., learning to read at a very early age, which is known as hyperlexia, and memorizing information quickly and thinking visually). They have also emphasized that parents who have a child with autism should not reciprocate their autistic child. They must talk to their child using correct grammar, asking one question at a time, and considering their perspective of hearing. It all adds up!

How Teachers and Peers Support a Student with Autism?

If a student with autism is unable to communicate in a reliable way, teachers can go to families for help. Parents can share the teaching tips they have found most useful in the home or provide video of the learner engaged in different family and community activities. These parent engagement tips tend to give educators ideas that are more useful and concrete than traditional educational reports and assessments.

Teachers can also provide opportunities for communication by giving all students “airtime” during whole-class discussion. One way to do this is to ask for physical whole-class responses to certain prompts. For example, instead of asking, “Who can tell me a fraction that equals one half?”, the teacher might say, “Stand up if you think you can name a fraction that equals one half”. This strategy not only gives all learners a chance to give an answer, but it allows for some teacher-sanctioned movement, something often welcomed by students with autism. Whole-class physical responses are also appropriate for students who are non-verbal, making it a perfect choice for the diverse, inclusive classroom. If it is true that we learn by doing, then the best way to learn about autism awareness and supporting students with autism is to include them with inclusive learning!

One Take Away from This Conference!

We learned from a parent that once she accepted her autistic son for who he really is, she was able to see strengths and beauty she hadn’t seen before. He suddenly made sense to her. Moreover, once she understood the things he struggled with, it made every milestone that much more significant. It has been such a joy to celebrate his achievements!