Universal Design for Learning (UDL) should be the bedrock and foundation in which we design any distance learning curriculum. I teach in higher education and encourage my future teachers to become flexible educators who use UDL strategies whenever possible!
Universal Design as a Support For All students
UDL strategies can be used for all students in your class to minimize barriers and maximize learning opportunities. I would love for you to watch this video lecture which describes UDL in more depth.
Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!
When I started working with children with autism back in 1997, her book “Thinking in Pictures” was one of my first introductions to autism.
Dr. Grandin was one of the first individuals with autism who could articulate what life is like for people on the autism spectrum. Parents and professionals both clamored for her knowledge, expertise and valuable insight.
I just had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak at the US Autism Association!
Here are the major takeaways I had from her keynote speech:
Limit screen time for children with autism to less than 1 hour per day. She noted that many of the children who could succeed in computer science are sucked in to video games and no longer can access their full potential due to their addiction
Parents need to “start letting go”-foster independence from a young age. She likened this to the adult cow who still wants to nurse from the mama cow. She said we need to “wean our children” so they are not dependent on us
“don’t over-protect”the child with autism
Allow children a multitude of hands on experiences because true learning takes place with hands on experiences not through screens
Teach young children how to “wait” and how to “take turns” and use board games as a way to teach these skills
Having real jobs are important for young adults with autism starting at age 13 (or so).
Don’t get hung up on the label of autism
Focus on the strengths of the child not the deficits-build upon a child’s special interest which could end up leading to a valuable career one day. As an example, a child who is interested in pipes can become a plumber.
Don’t make kids with autism do “baby math” if they excel in math. Allow the child to excel in the area they are gifted in
Encourage friendships through shared experiences such as cub scouts, school clubs etc. A shared interest will help build the friendship
There is NO need to disclose autism diagnosis for milder cases due to some prejudice surrounding autism. Instead, tell what you need “those lights give me a headache”
Stretch students to grow and don’t overprotect them!
Allow for choices
If you were at the conference or have learned from Dr. Grandin yourself, please share what your biggest takeaways are in the comments!
All students who experience autism are unique and have their own strengths and needs. Here are 5 common supports for students with autism in the mainstream classroom:
1. Read, understand and implement the student’s accommodations page of their IEP.
As a classroom teacher you will be given a copy of the accommodations page of the IEP. To review what an IEP is please read What is an IEP?. You are responsible for knowing and implementing any and all accommodations on this page in your classroom. Written directions, an outline of the schedule, and short breaks are examples of accommodations. If for some reason you were not given the accommodations page, make sure to reach out to the student’s case manager (special education teacher) to get a copy of this before school starts.
2. Work closely with specialists to provide support for the student
Something I love about working in special education is that you always have a team of people working to support the student. You are never alone! Reach out to any and all of the specialists who are on your student’s team. The student’s IEP will outline which specialist he or she has on their IEP team. Examples of specialist include Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT) and Physical Therapists (PT).