Meeting the Needs of Students with Autism
America’s best teachers are always looking for new ways to bring learning to life. An art project, a hands-on science experiment, or a special field trip can transcend textbooks and flash cards. No one knows this better than those teaching students with autism.
April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States, and teachers are finding new ways to help students with this disability overcome the challenges they face in the classroom. Some things you might not know about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):
- One in 88 children is affected by autism.
- Autism is five times more common in boys than girls, affecting one in 54 boys and one in 252 girls.
- Autism affects all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups.
- Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding allocated to other less prevalent childhood developmental diseases.
- There is no medical cure for autism.
At DonorsChoose.org, we’ve received more than 18,000 project requests specifically for autism-related learning needs. Fifty-two percent of those requests are for pre-k to second grade classrooms, showing just how important it is to work with these students early in their education.
“All of my students are living with autism. They struggle with task focus, concentration, and body control,” writes Ms. Clemmons, a special education teacher in St. Louis, in one of her project essays. “Their minds are bright, but sometimes they are overstimulated by the school atmosphere. I have requested sensory balls, a weighted blanket, and sensory seats of different kinds to help my students.”
The item that teachers request most for their autistic students is an iPad. Various models of iPod touch devices also rank in the top five. Tablets and similar devices help these students learn to communicate, maintain focus and remove distractions in a way that previously was not feasible or affordable in the average classroom.
The second most-popular item costs just $1 but can be priceless for a student with autism — it’s a book called Bullying in Schools. Bullying is a popular topic across all grade levels on DonorsChoose.org, and is particularly critical for students with autism who have difficulty communicating and following social cues and norms.
We have a special section of our site dedicated to autism projects in honor of Autism Awareness Month. However you choose to do so, I hope you’ll join me in thanking the many teachers who help students with autism attain the quality education they deserve.