Autism in the Classroom: Development

Autism in the Classroom

What challenges a student with autism might have to overcome to excel academically

At Spero, we understand the challenges a student with autism may have to overcome to excel in the classroom. Autism by definition describes a range of differences relating to brain development. These differences impact how children with autism will learn and develop. We strive to identify and understand these obstacles while implementing curriculum that is personalized for their individual success.

Recognizing the issues a student with autism may face in the classroom is the first step toward educational success. Every child with autism presents unique behaviors and needs. But It is imperative that educators have a firm grasp on some common obstacles these children face.

Sensory perception differences

Many children on the autism spectrum encounter sensory difficulties. Over or under sensitivity can affect any of the senses, sometimes simultaneously or at different times. These sensory difficulties can greatly affect behavior and create barriers for development in the classroom.

Sensory or information overload can cause anxiety, stress and even physical pain. At times this can lead to challenging behavior, withdrawal, or meltdowns.

Here are some ways that the senses can be impacted.

Under-sensitive sight

  • Poor depth perception

  • Central vision is clear but peripheral is blurred (or vice versa)

  • Objects lose features or appear dark

Over-sensitive sight

  • Visual distortion or jumping of light/images

  • Fragmented imagery

  • Whole object becomes too much — easier to focus on detail

Under-sensitive hearing

  • Momentary partial or complete deafness in one ear

  • Comfort in noisy places or banging objects

  • May not respond to certain sounds  

Over-sensitive Hearing

  • Inability to ignore background noise

  • Noise becomes so loud that it is distorted

Under-sensitive Smell

  • Inability to smell, including extreme odors

  • May use taste to understand things by licking

Over-sensitive Smell

  • May distance themselves from people with particular odours, perfumes, body washes etc.

Under-sensitive Taste

  • Pica

  • Enjoys extreme foods (very spicy, bitter, etc.)

Over-sensitive Taste

  • Some textures cause discomfort

  • Dislikes certain flavors and foods (may be overpowering)

Under-sensitive Touch

  • High pain tolerance

  • Holds others tightly to feel pressure

  • Smearing

  • Chewing inedible objects

Over-sensitive Touch

  • Uncomfortability or pain when touched

  • Dislikes anything on hands and/or feet

Any one of these sensory issues can have a profound effect on a child's ability to excel in the classroom. It is important that educators understand what children may be experiencing to better understand subsequent behaviors.

Fostering an effective learning environment for students with ASD is crucial. At Spero, we use a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) system to create support for individual behavioral needs and establish a social culture.

Social difficulties

Children with autism often display a wide range of socialization differences. At times a child may completely withdraw from classmates or teachers and avoid any social interactions. Alternatively, a child may have intense or highly focused interests in a very specific topic to the point where it may inhibit their social interactions or even learning.

Children with autism may:

  • Appear indifferent

  • Prefer not to play alone instead of with other children

  • Approach or react to classmates in an unconventional manner

At Spero we understand that social interactions are at the core of child’s happiness. We strive to help each of our students engage in the art of social skills. We have implemented the Social Thinking® curriculum to support the development of social skills.

Communication barriers

Because ASD is a spectrum, the communication difficulties children face vary. Some students with autism may have a hard time developing core language skills while others may have an extensive vocabulary.

Expression can also be a challenge. Recognizing social cues such as facial expressions or tone of voice can be challenging for children with autism. Likewise, they may have problems expressing their own feelings and emotions effectively. Many children with autism have to gradually build up their emotional vocabulary. This can make classroom socialization and play difficult at times.

We know that children with autism learn differently — that is why we provide personalized learning experiences for our students. At Spero we provide a range of individualized services for children (grades K-6) diagnosed with ASD succeed in the classroom. Our adaptive education programs ensure that our students receive the support and mindfulness needed to overcome educational obstacles they may face.