At the recent US Autism and Asperger’s World Conference that took place in St. Louis the first weekend of October, autism advocates and researchers such as Temple Grandin spoke about various educational strategies that could be applicable to people on the autism spectrum. Many of these strategies, however, are also applicable to “neurotypical” individuals, are people who do not exhibit autism symptoms. Here is an overview of some of these educational strategies useful to people who are on and off the autistic spectrum.
Expect Good Manners From Your Children
According to Temple Grandin, who recently had her life documented in an Emmy award winning television movie, children who are autistic need to learn appropriate behaviors in public. In fact, autism researcher Stephen Shore makes it clear that children on the autism research must be trained in the unspoken rules that are part of interacting in society. These same expectations and rules need to be part of educating all children. Education isn’t just about learning “book smarts,” but learning to interact socially. This is especially of importance in our age of electronics, in which children may interact more on the Internet than in person than ever before.
Limit Exposure to Television and Video Games
Speaking of electronics and the Internet Age we live in, an important aspect of the educational process is limiting how much time children on and off the autism spectrum are exposed to television and video games. As Temple Grandin pointed out, children might gravitate towards these mediums, but they can interfere with their development cognitively and developmentally. In fact, they can be used as rewards, but television and video games can’t be seen as a baby-sitting function or as an end in themselves. Instead, children should be encouraged to do real life activities that help them become productive members of society.
Encourage Children’s Strengths
Autistic children tend to have strong “deep” interests and often have clear talents, but all children have strengths than can be encouraged. Temple Grandin advised that children should be encouraged to display these strengths in a portfolio. As she pointed out, her autistic behaviors tended to distance herself in social situations, but her past accomplishments, collected in a portfolio, tended to get her jobs. Children can also be encouraged to join organized groups and learn to interact socially based on common interests. Not only do children on the autistic spectrum practice social skills in situations where they can reduce certain social anxieties and fears, but it can encourage them to have pride in skills they are good at. Non-autistic children can also benefit from such activities in order to develop social skills, pride and increased abilities.