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Instructor Tip Two: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Students on the autism spectrum face significant social challenges. Those challenges include understanding others perspectives, sharing space and making eye contact. Many high functioning individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (often characterized as Asperger’s) usually have extreme social anxiety and usually have difficulty negotiating with others. Interacting and working in pairs or groups is a significant challenge as well. The social challenges can become overwhelming for students on the autism spectrum.

Also, these students likely will not understand the classroom etiquette that is often unwritten or assumed. Students on the spectrum will often misinterpret facial expressions and other non-verbal cues.

It’s important for instructors to recognize some of these challenges so that he or she can work appropriately with students on the spectrum. For example, honoring the student’s chosen level of eye contact w/o judgment can be helpful. If there is group work assigned for class the instructor might assist in the formation and monitoring of pairs or groups of students to assure the proper inclusion of the student with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Sometimes it’s helpful to provide written rules for asking questions to give the student on the spectrum as concrete guidelines.

For more help, more information about the PASS Program, or more information about the FUTURE Program, contact us at klass@utk.edu or 865-974-6177.

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