little girl waving to white laptop - teaching children with autism online

How to teach children with autism online

How can you teach children with autism online? 

As a teacher who’s working in Special Education, you may have the necessary skills and know-how—but what if your students’ learning environment changes? For example, what if your classes have to be online now? How will the kids transition?

We know a hundred other questions and concerns are running in your mind right now. If you’re preparing to teach kids with autism online for the first time, you have stumbled upon the right resource.

Here at All Digital School, one of our goals is to help teachers, students, and parents navigate the world of online education. Besides our resources, we also have guides and a community forum. We also have a Facebook group and a Facebook page. In fact, this post is written just for you. 

Below, we will guide you on how to navigate this new teaching experience. 

What to expect when you teach children with autism online

mom teaching his son an activity on white table
Parents will even be more involved.

We know you’re skilled with handling kids with ASD, but you will encounter many setbacks now that you will teach them on the internet. Therefore, before we give you tips, you should know what to expect when you teach children with autism online. 

1. You will work with the parents more frequently. 

If you have communicated constantly with your students’ parents, expect its frequency to increase now. A handful of your decisions will practically involve them. Particularly, you will need to work together on deciding the schedule of your online meetups with the kids, meeting with them, creating lesson plans, and doing assignments. 

2. You’re going to deal with way too many changes. 

Expect to deal with a deluge of adjustments. Not only will you scrap old schedules and introduce new routines to your students—but you will also witness changed behavior. As a result, arm yourself with a support network and a handful of resources from autism education experts.

3. You will research and gather resources all the time. 

Speaking of resources, you should also expect to find yourself gathering a lot of materials and guides in the near future. We’re talking about you joining groups and communities, downloading PDFs, reading articles like this one, and perhaps taking online courses. 

Related: COVID-19 Remote Learning: Most Common Challenges of Transitioning to Online Classes 

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t let this transition discourage you. Knowledge is power. In the next section, we will provide you with some tips on how to teach children with autism online.

How to teach children with autism online

Using these tips, you can use your teaching expertise in the physical classroom and then incorporate it into online teaching.

Accommodate the parents, first.

dad and son waving at laptop - teaching children with autism online
Help parents first, so they can help their kids even more effectively.

Besides initial parent-teacher meetings, you might also have to conduct training sessions with the parents before you teach children with autism online. 

Not all parents know how to use Zoom or quickly catch on to a new learning management system. Since they are heavily involved in their kids’ new methods of learning, make sure to accommodate them as well. You can do this by conducting a short orientation. 

For example, if you have created a process on how the online classes can take place, you have to explain that to them. Schedule a call via Zoom, record it, and email a downloadable summary of that orientation to them.

As for the tools, it’s also much more preferable to use the ones they are already familiar with. On the other hand, if you can’t help but use a new tool, you should still take time in teaching them how to use it. But if you don’t have the time, you could just provide a short overview or send a quick video tutorial about the tool’s basics. 

If you want to edit videos quickly, you can check out zShot, a free video editing tool with a document scanner, photo editor, slideshow maker, and collage maker. 

Get sample homeschool curricula for special ed kids.

mom teaching his giggling son - teaching children with autism online
Homeschool parents of kids with ASD know the ropes of alternative learning environments.

Homeschooling for special ed kids has been here for a long time. Why not take a clue from how they’ve been running things?

Now, we’ve always stressed here that homeschool is different from distance learning, which is what you’re doing now. However, distance learning is also often situated in a home environment. 

Therefore, you could still study homeschooling special ed kids. After that, you could easily apply what you’ve learned when you teach children with autism online. 

Here are some good homeschool curricula: 

1. TeachTown

A combination of parent-led and computer-based learning. Their Meta-Play Method program is specifically designed for kids with ASD. It consists of videos, sample lesson plans, and teachers’ kit. Besides that, they also have the Transition to Adulthood, which prepares students with disabilities to transition to adulthood. 

2. Time4Learning

If your students have Asperger’s, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), or high-functioning autism, then you could check out this curriculum. They have programs that cater from Pre-K to high school students. Their curricula are also customized based on a child’s type of condition or disorder, just like this program for kids with Asperger’s.

3. Moving Beyond the Page

MBP is a curriculum designed for gifted children. Their program is concept-based and encourages students to use different learning styles, tap into their multiple intelligences, and practice critical thinking. It’s also an interdisciplinary curriculum, where they can connect two different subjects and discover how they work hand in hand. 

Related: Ultimate Guide To Homeschooling High School Students

Pick a schedule together and stick to it. 

little girl waving in front of a black laptop - teaching children with autism online
Give your students and their parents an allowance.

It’s preferable that you stick to your old schedule even though you’re teaching classes online. However, you must also consider the time that your students’ parents will take for preparation. 

For instance, if you’re holding an online class via a video conference app, they will still have to open their laptop or their smartphone and launch the application. If you’re teaching via a learning management system, they will still take a few minutes to open their laptop and log in. 

These things will affect your schedule, so most likely you will have to give them an allowance. When you’re meeting with their parents, you could ask what’s the most desirable schedule for them.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering about the best tools to use for scheduling classes, you can check out our guide for that: The Ultimate Digital Tools You Need to Teach Your Class Remotely.  

Incorporate your routines.

three kids exercising in front of a laptop at a living room - teaching children with autism online
Kids with ASD love routines because it gives them familiarity.

Even though you’re teaching via Zoom, for instance, you should still try to incorporate your class routines. This will help students who are highly sensitive to change. 

If you sing a song together or do a light exercise before every class, then you could still do it. If you’re just assigning tasks to them via email or a Facebook group, you could still do a quick daily meetup for 10 minutes and ask how everybody is doing. 

This will help bring familiarity when you teach children with autism online. This, in turn, will give them comfort.

Moreover, it’s also ideal to establish a routine before you continue teaching your classes. When they start getting used to the routine, that’s when you slowly proceed with your lessons. 

Don’t let them choose from multiple options.

mom and little daughter in front of a laptop, giggling - teaching children with autism online
Their learning experience should be as simple as before or even more uncomplicated.

When you teach children with autism online, do your best to simplify everything—from the learning materials to the use of apps.

This does not only apply to the students but to the parents as well. They are already dealing with a lot of changes, so letting them make fewer decisions will ease the pressure. 

Therefore, if you could find straightforward but comprehensive kinds of software, then try them out. See if they can cater to your students’ learning styles and needs, then narrow your choices to two or three. After that, choose one learning system to which you will stick. 

If you could do five different tasks on one piece of software, then it might just be worth the monthly subscription fee. Compare that to using five free but different apps. Your students and their parents will take more time to learn using each of those apps—instead of learning and connecting with you. 

Nowadays, lots of learning software and mobile apps have been providing free access and extended free trials to students and educators. Why not take advantage of that? Check them out here.

Video conferencing should be optional.  

little girl video conferencing with classmates
Even kids from general education don’t always like video calling.

We know that video conferencing is the most common medium for online classes. However, as you might have inferred, not every student in special ed might get to participate. What if a handful of your students don’t like video calls, too?

You could always make video conferencing optional only. There are plenty of alternatives to video conferencing when you teach children with autism online. 

Say, your students might be auditory learners. Why not incorporate auditory activities into your new curriculum? 

For example, you could record clear and specific instructions through your voice notes app. Your students and their parents could just listen to it on their scheduled time of learning—instead of participating in a video conference. 

That’s just one alternative to video conferencing. Another option could be… 

…Virtual field trips!

orange video projector
Go to places without leaving.

Virtual field trips are still field trips—except that they’re in a virtual reality environment. Besides video conferencing and recording voice notes, you could assign your students’ parents to take them to virtual field trips. 

Plenty of virtual field trips are available and free of charge today. All you need for this activity is a working laptop, speaker, and an internet connection. If you want to amp up the kids’ experience, you could always use a projector or a large monitor or TV. 

In this post, we’ve listed a guide to virtual field trips. You could explore each of these and see which of them are the most accessible to your students. 

The great thing about virtual field trips is that they are entertaining but still educational. Plus the students don’t need to leave your house just to participate. 

Assign them with sensory activities. 

sensory collage materials
Sensory activities will always be fun whether they’re done at school or at home.

Just because you’re not together in the classroom anymore doesn’t mean you could do fun sensory activities together. 

Your students can still enjoy fun but doable sensory activities at home. In this article, we listed a few simple Montessori-inspired activities your students could try out on their own.  

One fun sensory activity your students and their parents could try is making a Rainbow Sensory Collage. This activity will engage their tactile senses and exercise their motor skills. It’s pretty simple to do and the materials are not that hard to find. Plus, you could also do this together—yes, even though you’re video calling. 

The materials they will only need are:

  • An illustration board or plain cardboard. 
  • Knick-knacks in different textures and colors. Each of the rainbow’s colors should have corresponding objects, including white objects for the clouds.
  • Bottle of glue
  • Kids’ scissors

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Draw a rainbow on the board. 
  2. Label each color.
  3. Gather all the knick-knacks in one big box. 
  4. You can then proceed to glue a knick-knack to its corresponding color on the rainbow.

If your students are doing this activity on their own, they can pick one knick-knack at a time and paste it on its appropriate rainbow color. Meanwhile, if you’re doing it together, you could specify which color you need them to complete first until you complete the colors in the rainbow.

Conclusion

When you teach children with autism online, you will inevitably encounter challenges and setbacks. But knowing your expertise, and patience and passion for your students, you will undoubtedly overcome this. Just follow our tips above and you’ll conquer what lies ahead! 

Related questions

What’s the best autism app for learning to spell?

You could try Zoolingo. It’s a free-to-download app and has over 1000+ activities, puzzles, and preschool games. It’s well-revered by parents, educators, and teachers, too. 

Should you homeschool kids with autism?

Yes, absolutely. It’s even better preferred because there are fewer possible stress factors for the children. As for socialization, you could always schedule meetups with other kids during weekends.

Do you want to know more online teaching tips?

All Digital School is the number one place to search for your online school needs. Want to get the latest scoops and hot takes from teachers and parents? Why not register on our site? 

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Do you know more tips for teaching children with autism online? Don’t hesitate to share them with our fellow teachers in the comments below!

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