5 tips for help­ing your child learn to be in­clu­sive

Toronto Star - - LIFE - AMY JOYCE THE WASHINGTON POST

As kids are head­ing back to school with all sorts of new things to ab­sorb, there will be a lot to learn. But one thing we may not con­sider among those new skills they’re gain­ing is learn­ing how to in­ter­act with and pos­si­bly help other stu­dents who learn dif­fer­ently.

With the num­ber of chil­dren di­ag­nosed with autism spec­trum dis­or­der con­tin­u­ing to grow, the odds are that your child will at some point share a class­room with a stu­dent who has autism if he or she hasn’t al­ready. So how do you help your child in­ter­act with or un­der­stand this class­mate?

Joanna San­dusky, prin­ci­pal at the Kennedy Krieger In­sti­tute’s Mont­gomery County School, has some tips for how par­ents can talk to their chil­dren about how to un­der­stand their class­mates, and why they should. She should know: Kennedy Krieger schools pro­vide spe­cial­ized ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices to stu­dents with autism.

1. Ex­plain that ev­ery­one learns in their own

way. Like all in­di­vid­u­als, ev­ery child with autism re­acts to sit­u­a­tions dif­fer­ently. Stress to your child that it’s OK that ev­ery­one is dif­fer­ent.

2. Ex­plain what to ex­pect. Let your child know that be­hav­iours such as lack of eye con­tact or repet­i­tive ac­tions are typ­i­cal for a child with autism. Stu­dents with autism may also com­mu­ni­cate dif­fer­ently.

3. Fol­low the teacher’s lead. Teach­ers are trained to man­age po­ten­tially dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions and be­hav­iours in the class­room. En­cour­age your child to be pa­tient and fol­low the teacher’s lead.

4. Strike an in­ter­est in the stu­dent’s in

ter­ests. Chil­dren with autism will of­ten fo­cus on one toy, ac­tiv­ity or topic. They may not seem in­ter­ested in play­ing or mak­ing friends. In or­der to re­late to the stu­dent with autism, en­cour­age your child to en­gage with the stu­dent in that child’s pre­ferred ac­tiv­ity. It’s also help­ful to try to en­gage the stu­dent in new ac­tiv­i­ties.

5. Be­come a peer model. Peo­ple with autism re­spond well to ex­plicit mod­els of ap­pro­pri­ate or ex­pected be­hav­iour and rou­tines. En­cour­age your child to demon­strate good so­cial skills, fol­low rou­tines and take ini­tia­tive to have pos­i­tive and con­crete so­cial in­ter­ac­tions. This will al­low stu­dents with autism to “fol­low the leader” and help them to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship with your stu­dent.

DREAMSTIME PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TION

Teach­ers are trained to man­age dif­fer­ent class­room be­hav­iours, in­clud­ing how kids with autism in­ter­act.

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