How to motivate autism students for schoolwork : 5 powerful strategies to try today.

You are fairly settling to the new lifestyle of juggling amidst remote work schedules, attending Telehealth sessions, and coordinating with the school teacher for distance learning as well.

You have taken charge of homeschooling your kids at different levels and age for the rest of the academic year.

However, your child with special needs is showing frustration and anxiety to do school work or practice any work that you provide him/her?

How to motivate autism students for schoolwork : 5 powerful strategies to try today

“Being autistic doesn’t mean being unable to learn.
But it does mean there are differences in how learning happens.”

Jim Sinclair, Adult with Autism

1. Give choices:
Let your child be the boss

This is how the conversation goes between me and my son, Girish with autism, when it’s time to do his school work:

Giving choices to do school worksheets.

Me – We have to do school work.

Girish – (firmly) No, I don’t want to do any school work.

Me – (Pointing to the schedule) look it’s in the schedule. I will give you a choice, what do you want to do first; English or Math?

Girish – English, I will do English.

It’s a win-win for both! This strategy works like a charm to get his school worksheets done. I see that he is more confident when he makes his own choice. With confidence comes excitement to work.

This approach works in many other situations too. E.g., to choose between two dress to wear for the day, two different art projects, etc.

Decision making is an essential feature of building confidence, develops your child’s sense of value, teaches responsibility, and also develops problem-solving skills.

Also Read: Top 4 essential therapies to start ASAP for your child in the spectrum

2. Visual schedule of the schoolwork

Yes, schedule again. Kids with autism thrive on schedules. You might already be having your childs schedule for the day right. If not, get the details about the everyday schedule during lockdown here.

If you have more than one school work to be done, then make a visual schedule that will decrease your child’s frustration.

Points to remember while working on the table

>> Praise him/her that you are proud of the choice he/she has made.

>> Keep reminding what is the work.

>> As your child finishes the work, ask him to check it off from the schedule.

>> There is always a possibility that your child gets upset very soon while doing the schoolwork, in that scenario, keep reminding with encouraging words, “you got this, you are almost there, remember you get a break soon”.

>> Remind your child, how many more you have, you can say, “Well done, you have 3 more work to do then you will get a break!”. Do a count down as they do the next work. “2 more to go/this is the last one and then you will be done”. This is for their own predictability.

Predictability builds a positive psychological impact. Predictability always motivates Autism students not only for school work but to be efficient throughout the day.

Also Read : 5 efficient strategies tried and proven to benefit your Autistic child during the lockdown

3. Frequent breaks

One of the most beneficial methods I have found that works productively with my son is to give him frequent breaks.

A break is an opportunity for a child to go to a pre-designated place either in the same room or in a different place to calm down, taking care of sensory needs, or sometimes as a reward for finishing his/her work or any demand placed on the child.

Break time ideas

  • Quitely sitting and listening to music or white noise (waterfall/rainfall) sound is remarkably calming.
  • Maybe your child is dehydrated, a cup of water will refresh him/her.
  • Playing with bubbles is very calming.

Pay close attention to your child and see what she/he may want for a break to regulate themself.

4. Rewards

ABA, i.e., Applied Behavioral Therapy, uses rewards as a tool for building skills in children with autism. This approach can be beneficial if you choose highly motivating rewards; the choice of reward varies from kid to kid. While some children with autism prefer toys or snacks, others consider time with a favorite activity or device time. Yet, others work hard for praise, high fives, and hugs.

Token system that leads to Rewards can be an effective motivators. Children with autism are often resistant to doing something new. The desired reward can encourage children to overcome their anxiety by helping them to focus on the result rather than the process.

There are many token system you can try. I use a simple white laminated sheet to create a token system. You can also print out from here to get a more sturctured one.

Remember, Rewards should follow the work achievement instantly.

5. Spruce up a bit, make it fresh and call it HomeSchool

Remember, this is a new lifestlye you are going through. For your child school was the learning place for Math and English and Home was for playing and relaxing.

Based on his level of understanding come up with a creative way of explaining to your child about the new living for the rest of the school year.

Show the excitment – Tell your child that you are so excited to do school worksheets with her/him in her new HomeSchool just like how Daddy or Mommy has HomeOffice.

Involve your child to decorate her HomeSchool – so let’s spruce up a bit and make it fresh.

Ask your child to help you setup the new work place. This could add up to the excitement. You don’t have to over do it maybe a corner of a room can be redecorated as HomeSchool? with some colorful pictures on the wall, bins for papers, pencils, crayons etc.

With a proactive approach and positive behavior practices, your child will be doing school work without much frustration in his/her homeschooling routine.

How is your homeschooling with your child so far? Share your tips to help others.

Also Read: Tips for parents to help your child with Autism thrive – 2


Take Away –

5 powerful strategies to try today to motivate autism students for schoolwork.

  1. Give choices: Let your child be the boss
  2. Visual schedule of the schoolwork
  3. Frequent Breaks
  4. Rewards
  5. Spruce up a bit, make it fresh and call it HomeSchool

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