For pupils on the autistic spectrum, going to school can be a real challenge, with classroom environments being unsuited to most people with autism. However supporting students with autism in the classroom can be much easier than you think, using sensory products and being aware of the specific challenges of autism in the classroom. Below we have outlined these key challenges and provided suggestions on how to support a child with autism in school should they struggle with any of them.
Challenges of Autism in the Classroom
- Reacting to anger
Experiencing extreme anger and having “meltdowns” is not uncommon for those pupils who have autism. The feeling of anger can sometimes come and go very quickly, and trigger a variety of feelings or actions, including feeling, stressed or from lack of attention or understanding.
When it comes to autism classroom resources in order to help calm a pupil down, sensory products such as bubble tubes can be a great help. The gentle vibrations and the engaging bubbles and colours of these tubes help to centre and calm users, making them a great addition to any classroom or as an entire sensory room within a school.
Having an entirely dedicated sensory space in a school is extremely beneficial for pupils with a variety of different abilities. Schools, such as Greenside School in Stevenage, have pathed the way for sensory rooms in schools as a way of trying to help skills develop through an interactive environment changing the way pupils view their time in school.
- Social and communication problems
Verbal communication, particularly in social situations, can be very hard for any autistic person, therefore making friends and engaging with peers can be extremely difficult in the classroom.
The best way to prevent any bullying or misinterpretation from other students is through educating them on some of the symptoms of autism and how that can be portrayed so that an autism-friendly classroom environment can develop. You can refer to our blog which outlines the characteristics of autism, as a reference.
In addition, in order to help the development of social skills within an autistic pupil sensory tools such as an interactive fanlite, which allows pupils to explore the idea of communication through response.
There are many other sensory products that encourage a form of interaction, which can feature in a sensory room as a collective, Portfield Primary School decided to introduce a MiLE sensory area within their school. Their Headteacher said, “pupils will be able to develop their communication, independence and physical skills in a fun and creative environment.” You can read more about their amazing experience in our case studies.
- Repetitive behaviours
Unstructured time or tasks not falling within a usual routine can be confusing for autistic pupils, with lunch and break times being particularly unnerving.
Having a dedicated sensory room or space to go to in these times if pupils feel lost or overwhelmed, is a great way to ensure autistic pupils don’t feel confused. If a sensory room isn’t an option, smaller sensory areas that are comfortable and calming like a fibre optic softie is the perfect remedy for this.
- Sensory processing
Having difficulty with sensory processing is one of the key symptoms of autism, occurring within multiple senses sometimes. Senses, in this case, are usually defined as being either hypersensitive or hyposensitive, with the degree of each being specific to each individual as well as their surroundings and emotions at the time of processing.
As sensory rooms are customisable, having one in a school is invaluable to anyone with sensory processing disorder or experiencing sensory overload. You can feature any sensory products you like to make the room the most beneficial to users, and in touch with as many or as little senses as you require.
For information on how to help those with autism in mainstream schools and also how sensory rooms have helped those in special schools, like Hounslow Special School, please check out our blog. Or, contact us at Experia for more information on our room design service.