Autism in the Classroom: Autism & Integration

Children with disabilities such as autism have been increasingly included in the general population of class rooms, being integrated with neurotypical kids. In order to eliminate the risk of kids with autism being the target of bullying by the neurotypical children it is important to explain to the kids in the general education classrooms what it means to be autistic. A clear explanation and understanding that people on the autism spectrum simply think and learn a little bit differently from other people yet are not lacking in intelligence is important in reducing them being singled out and mistreated.

Explain in the classroom to the neurotypical kids what being autistic means and allow them to ask questions. Answer any question they ask as honestly as you can. Let them know that people who are autistic have the same feelings as people who are not autistic but they have a more difficult time expressing their feelings in words. Let them know that kids with autism are often very shy and it would mean a lot to them if they would include them in conversations and even ask their opinions. Let them know that their brains process information differently, however they still come up with the same answers and feelings as everyone else.

Explain to the class that you cannot catch autism from another person. It is not a disease but just a different way of thinking just like many people look different they also think differently from one another. Let them know that they can even learn something from people who are different from themselves if they will take the time to talk with and listen to them.

Reach out to parents and teachers of the neurotypical kids, and even talk with some of the kids themselves, and ask for their help in making the child with autism feel included in social and learning activities along with everyone else. Explain how good it will make the child with autism feel. Often, when a child is asked for their special help they will feel that they have an important job to do to help someone else and will ask the cooperation of their peers to help make the autistic child feel included as well. This can be an excellent opportunity for kids to learn about tolerance and caring for each other.

Find out what the children with autism and the children who are not are interested in and enjoy. Find common interests and try and incorporate the subject into the activities that are shared with all of the kids. This may help the kids who are neurotypical see that they are not as different as they originally thought.

Have the teacher or the adult in charge be a good role model for the other kids. When the adult treats all of the children regardless of disability or not, equally, the other children will likely follow suit.

Have a discussion with the kids about diversity. Explain to them that all people are different in many ways from one another, while everyone shares some similar interests and feelings. Explain that it would be a boring world if everybody were exactly the same.