Over 1 in a hundred people are estimated to have a condition within the autism spectrum. This implies that about 3 million people would have at least a relative or two who suffer from this disorder. Like all other people with ‘unique challenges’, autistic people need to be supported and encouraged. Like every other adult, they experience certain levels of stress as they take on new phases of life. The difference is that they are prone to be more sensitive, thereby more likely to feel depressed or overwhelmed. That said, they should not be prevented from going to university.
What is autism?
Known as the Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism is used to describe a group of neuro-behavioral conditions that encompass problems with social interaction, coupled with rigid, repetitive behavior. Autistic people often get anxious when their regular pattern is disrupted, and can easily give up projects even if they were doing well initially. This can be attributed to their constant feelings of anxiety which are heightened by extreme situations involving stress and excitement.
Helping autistic youths in the university
For a good number of youths, university life is their first grasp at handling the strings of their lives. They are exposed to a number of new circumstances – new roommates, classmates, new budgets and new pressures everywhere. While this might eventually turn out well enough for others as they gradually adapt and learn to resist the unwanted, the case is different for autistic people.
Due to the contrasting opposites regarding autism and education, an autistic student is more likely than an ordinary student to give in to pressures and drop out of classes. Depression and suicidal tendencies are higher in these group of learners because of their heightened sensitivity to new schedules or routines. This is why they need to be guided and constantly encouraged. The few things listed below can be of immense help to them and their instructors:
Maintaining the free space
If there’s one thing to keep in mind while teaching students with autism, it’s their heightened level of sensitivity. Autistic students are prone to get nervous in crowded spaces or classrooms with lots of visual distractions. As an instructor, it is important for you to find out what sets off your student’s anxieties and try to deviate from them. Make the teaching environment as conducive as possible; give them time to get in tune and comfortable with new surroundings.
Another thing to take note of is the issue of change. Students with autism might not take sudden change so well; their default ‘rigid and repetitive behavior’ setting is likely to interfere with that. It is also going to interfere with how they deal with new topics. A way to help them deal with this involves giving them a heads-up on new topics, and even new locations in the event of certain changes. Help them out with materials that will help them acclimatize themselves to future topics and put them off the edge. They would be more relaxed and their focus levels will improve.
3. Precision is key
When working with autistic students, do your best to sound precise in what you teach. Vague sounding information is another turn-off for these people. Of course, a bit of ambiguous information could be helpful sometimes, but it’s important not to overdo it, as you risk heightening their discomfort levels.
4. Be accommodative
There are times these students might feel like they need to take a break from everything for a short while. Your attitude and manner of approach will determine how encouraged they are to express this concern freely. Let them know that they could take a moment or two when overwhelmed. Ask them at intervals if they need some time of quiet, and be kind enough to let them get this time if needed.
5. Learn about them
Organising well-arranged lessons for autistic students is only a part of the whole process. Of what use is making comfortable people whose condition is elusive to you? The best way to help someone in a situation is to learn as much as you can about the situation. Get books, talk to support groups and institutes which study ASD. Find out the best ways to behave around autistic people. When you understand the condition, you will have an easier time creating strategies that will help them stay on track in their studies.
BIO: Emily Watts is a writer from eduzaurus.com whose one of key passions is writing about helping special people adapt. She believes everyone deserves to be supported by life irrespective of their challenges.