As much as I love the unpredictability of teaching, there are certain elements of my world where predictability and routine reign. I never know the responses I will get to my questions, and I never know what interesting conversations will arise. However, I could tell you for instance, exactly what each of my students will order for their lunch tomorrow! There are certain elements of their world that my students need to be able to control, in order to deal with the rest of the unpredictable world they live in.
There is a golden rule in my room, one that should never be broken. If you can’t promise something with absolute certainty don’t mention it at all. A promise is a promise and should be kept. Many of our students have had negative school experiences. Their trust is fragile; we need to be aware of that. We need to build it, carefully one day at a time.
Yet change, however uncomfortable it makes us, is inevitable. Our students know that, that is a big part of what makes it hard for them. If one change has happened, what might happen next?
In our room, change is carefully planned for, compromises are made and alternatives created. Students are told in advance, so they can prepare themselves for what will happen. For many the change is still upsetting, but it’s that little bit less catastrophic than not preparing them. It’s fairer, more reasonable, less likely to disrupt learning, less likely to result in total meltdown.
Students with autism need your help with this. It’s once again differentiation; differentiation that won’t take you any planning or marking time, differentiation that won’t involve you making extra worksheets. Differentiation that will make a world of difference.
If you know you will be out of school, or on a course, or that the class will be taking place in a different room please let students with autism know with as much notice as possible. It seems like a small thing, so small many don’t even think to mention it, but it’s huge. This tiny amount of effort will make a massive difference; to students with autism, to their support assistants and most of all to their relationship with you.
So next time there’s going to be a change, think a little, say a little, make a difference…