My son’s chemistry teacher sent home an extra credit project. They are studying molar relationships and stoichiometry. The project was “Make-a-Mole”. The students were to sew together a fabric “mole”, a mascot to remind them of the mole concept in chemistry (molecules, molecular, etc.) Teacher sent home a single page of written directions (no pictures) and a single page of a pattern.
My son is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and I knew making this “mole” would be pretty difficult for him. There were no pictures. No visuals puts him at a disadvantage right away. Kids on the autism spectrum do best when they see a picture of what they are trying to make. SuperMom to the rescue! I made copies of the pattern because as soon as he started cutting the pattern the instructions on the other side of the page would be lost. We got fabric, pom poms, googly eyes, and yarn. Knowing my son (he learns by doing and he can copy a model), I began to make a “mole” for myself.
I gave him a few sparse directions but didn’t really tell him what to do. He never looked at the instruction sheet. He watched me and wanted to jump right in. He even had all sorts of interesting ideas to make his mole unique.
He made his a dragon mole with wings and a tail like the one in How to Train Your Dragon. When I finished a part on my mole he followed and did his part. There was no struggling with this school project, but I believe that’s because I provided the support that was unique to him.
Do you know your students unique strengths and weaknesses? Are you giving it some thought, and planning ahead when he has to tackle something new, or challenging? Can you help break it down for him? Deliver it in a modality that is his strength (visual)? Consider these supports when working with your autistic student and it will make a big difference.