Homeschooling a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be challenging. When it comes to keeping your child on task, it can be just as stressful for them as it is for you. However, there are things you can do to help them through this process, which in turn makes things easier for everyone.
Here are five things you can do to help your learner with ASD stay on task:
#1. Discover Their Optimal Learning Style
Everyone has a learning style, or styles, in which they are able to acquire and retain the most information. For example, people can be visual (learning through sight), auditory (learning through hearing), or kinesthetic learners (learning through touch). Learners on the spectrum are no different, which is why finding the learning style most suited to your child can help you keep them on task during educational lessons.
If you find that you’re constantly having to repeat words or commands to your learner, then they may not be an auditory learner. They, instead, may respond better if you show them a visual representation of the word/command to accompany the verbal.
If you’re struggling to figure out their optimal learning style, then it’s best to use all three. For example, if you are teaching your learner mathematical concepts, you would show them a visual representation of the numbers you are working with on paper, verbally describe the problem you are teaching them, and then have them practice the problem with physical objects.
#2. Make Learning Fun
Making lessons fun is a great way to keep any learner on task. Figure out the types of activities that your learner loves to do. For example, if he or she likes to dance and you want to teach them grammar, then you could creatively come up with ways to incorporate the two.
If your learner enjoys playing games on the computer or tablet, then you could find apps or a website that will teach educational concepts through games. However, make sure this is not your main method of teaching, or it may become all they ever want to do. To avoid that, you could make these digital game lessons a reward for completing other normally structured lessons.
Another ideas is: instead of having them write out words or numbers in pencil, allow them to use their favorite colored pens or pencils to make writing more exciting. When you make learning fun for them, you will have less of a hard time getting them to start and stay with a task.
#3. Eliminate Distractions
It’s very important to make sure that your learner is in an environment that is conducive to learning. If you know your learner has a sensitivity to loud noises, you should make sure to conduct your lessons in a quiet place and at a time of day when loud noises are uncommon. Make sure their favorite devices or games are out of sight and out of reach.
If you know your learner has a hard time focusing on work while eating, then have them eat before or after a lesson instead of during. This will also help reduce the amount of times you will have to redirect them.
#4. Create Reward Systems
Rewards can be a great help with motivating your learner to stay on task. It is important that the reward you choose is strong enough to motivate, small enough that it can be reproduced continuously, and isolated as a reward they only receive for completing educational tasks.
For example, if your learner has a favorite game they like to play, then as a reward you could allow them 30 minutes of play time after they complete their work for the day.
If you find that you constantly have to remind your learner of their reward to return them to task, it might help to set up a progress chart to show them how many tasks they have to complete before they receive their reward.
After they complete each task, mark it off on the progress chart so that they know how much more they have to do. Make sure the reward is also shown on the chart as an end goal.
Sometimes learners can lose interest in getting a particular reward, so they stop responding to and doing the work for the reward like they were previously.
If you find that a reward that has worked in the past is no longer working, then it may be time to change it. It may not have been enticing enough, or they may have developed greater interest in something else.
#5. Give Them A Break
We all need breaks sometimes. When tasks get overwhelming or are challenging for us, a break can be a great way to help us recuperate and get back into things. When incorporating breaks into your learner’s lessons, you can take a couple different approaches.
You can allot a certain number of breaks with each task and allow them to request one when they need to, or you can follow a structure similar to: 30 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break.
You could also use timers so that your learner knows when it’s time to take a break and when it's time to return to work, or you could use break cards so they know how many breaks they have.
It is also important to make sure that these breaks are not play time. They should not be receiving their rewards, watching TV, or playing their favorite games during breaks, or you may find it’s a struggle to return them to work.
Instead, these breaks should focus on the senses and giving their mind a break. Doing jumping jacks or jumping on a mini indoor trampoline, using resistance bands, listening to calming music, bouncing on an exercise ball, using fidget devices, or performing yoga moves are all great ways for your child to spend their break time.
If you find yourself struggling to get a strategy to work for your learner, don’t get discouraged. It is normal for learners on the spectrum to be resistant to change, especially when you’ve been doing things a certain way for so long.
To help, make sure that you are developing these strategies according to your learner’s individual needs and desires. Persistence, repetition, and commitment are key in the beginning. Eventually, your learner should to adjust to the new way of doing things.
Have more tips on homeschooling a child with ASD? Share them with us in the comments section below!