Learning for Non-Readers

Most people just explore and learn naturally, but our friends with autism may need a boost to help them notice what is happening around them. The inability to read or write or talk should not stand in the way of learning. We can certainly do individuals diagnosed with autism a great service by assuming that they ARE interested and to search out intriguing, age-appropriate activities.

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For a variety of reasons, some individuals diagnosed with autism are illiterate and some are non-verbal. Under the circumstances, it is easy to assume that a person isn’t interested in a topic or isn’t smart enough to understand science or history or music. When a person doesn’t appear to be interested in the world around him, it can be tempting to simply pop in the same video over and over again. Then we can’t figure out why our friend acts as if he were bored or apathetic.

Here are some ideas specific to science learning for young students with autism.
+ EXPLORE. Many individuals with autism learn best though multi-sensory, experiential learning. When possible, use real objects when teaching scientific concepts. Explore nature by taking a walk, making mud pies, collecting leaves, drying flowers, and looking at stars. Learn about engineering and physics by taking apart a radio, looking at a car engine, or building an electrical circuit.
+ WATCH. Numerous interesting shows are available about every aspect of science. Scout out age appropriate shows about animals, space, transportation, plants, machines, space, and other aspects of science.
+ READ. Take a bit of time to read a book together every day. Again, many books are available about every conceivable topic.
+ CHECK THE WEB! There are literally dozens of thought-provoking websites available that encourage folks of all ages to learn by watching video clips, playing games, making items, and other challenging activities.

TIP FOR THE DAY. Remember that your goal is exposure to a wide variety of enriching topics. Even if your friend with autism doesn’t seem interested or responsive, keep it up. I’ve seen folks “emerge” after years of exposure to engaging topics. And, even if a person never seems to respond, the enrichment certainly beats watching the same video day after day. It also makes life much more interesting and less boring for all of the folks who share time with your friend.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com

One Response to “Learning for Non-Readers”

  1. Nicole Caldwell, M.Ed. 7 November 2008 at 10:21 pm Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more! It is so important for ALL kids to have such enriching educational experiences. Thanks so much; your suggestions are great.

    Nicole Caldwell, M.Ed.
    http://www.PositivelyAutism.com/
    “Celebrating the Sunny Side of the Spectrum!”


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