The purpose of this book is to provide teachers, paraprofessionals and related service providers strategies for teaching children with autism. This book is intended to be a model for serving young children (ages two to five) in a small, self-contained classroom setting. While the book addresses the needs of early learners specifically, many of the strategies provided can also be applied to older students. Through explanations of teaching strategies, step-by-step implementation guides and case studies, the reader is provided with a comprehensive guide for setting the conditions for optimal learning for the child with autism.
The central assumption of this book is that all children can learn. As Donnellan and Leary admonish us, we must make “the least dangerous assumption,” and that means we must assume that all children with autism can learn. It means providing repeated opportunities for exposure to learning experiences, many opportunities to practice vital skills and an environment that supports and nurtures their style of learning. Each student with autism presents with a different learning profile; the nature of the disability is that it manifests differently in different people. Teachers, parents, and other caregivers must never assume with children with autism, but must always explore and investigate the unique challenges each child with autism presents.
The child with autism is not his or her diagnosis, but is rather an individual with a particular learning profile. Through systematic observation and exploration of the child’s behavior, the teacher working with a student with autism can gather valuable information for designing a series of instructional strategies that optimize the conditions for learning.
Those who are looking for a quick fix or a single strategy that will change everything will not find it here (nor anywhere else). Teaching children with autism requires patience, perseverance and time to successfully meet that challenge. The primary deficits in learning that children with autism display require careful and systematic study on the way to providing the optimal learning environment. Those with a desire to learn the process of teaching children with autism thoroughly will find that the material presented in this book can be a valuable tool to add to the insight, knowledge and practice they bring to the endeavor.