Are you wondering if you are teaching autistic kids? Need to know more about symptoms as they manifest in class? Here is a list of signs and symptoms of autism to help you confirm whether you are teaching autistic kids.
This list of autism symptoms was prepared by Georgina Rayner, a highly respected advocate for autistic children, and herself a former teacher. You just know that she “gets it”.
I’ve adapted her list slightly to separate out the red flags best noticed in school. Parents can benefit from the list of autism symptoms as well though, and I’ve identified the symptoms that they will most likely notice in a separate section at the end. You may find it helpful to print off this page to share with parents.
Autism Symptoms in the Classroom
– a checklist
- Signs of stress: crying, temper tantrums
- Reclusive and/or depressed
- Extremely anxious
- Anxiety driven behaviour (fidgeting, pacing, clicking pens, mumbling, appears to be in flight or fight mode at all times)
- Excessively fearful about being centred out
- Unusually clingy and insecure
- Frequent visits to the time-out bench, principal’s office or isolation room
- Unable to go to their room and carry our a prescribed task as they forgot by the time they got there
- Take forever to complete a task as everything else in the area caught their attention
- Moves from toy to toy or play station to play station and does not stay focused for any length of time
- Asks frequent questions but does not appear to listen to the answers
- Displays unusual or no response to emotional situations
- Discipline has no impact on behaviour
- Unusual ability to hear – Heightened ability to hear certain noises, but unable to hear properly in slightly noisy or cavernous rooms, like gymnasium
- Dislikes loud noises, prefers a quiet play area
- Tells you he feels dumb or stupid
- Forgetful, loses his belongings and homework
- Has trouble getting started
- Awkward pencil grip – pressure right through the paper
- Reluctance to try or do puzzles, but may be very good at them when challenged
- Unusually clumsy – an accident looking for a place to happen
- Toe walking, hand flapping
- Student is too verbal
- Needs to learn to take their turn
- Doesn’t concentrate on work: unfocused, disorganized, uses time poorly
- Prefers to be read to as opposed to trying to read
- May be able to read at a very advanced level but still have a lower level of comprehension
- Work has many reversals and is impossible to read
- Chews on the front of t-shirt
- Has very advanced verbal abilities and poor writing skills
- May be referred to as the little professor for advanced knowledge on a subject
- Creates issues of presumed competency
- Hyper focus or preoccupation (space, Lego, transformers, etc.)
- Unusually repetitive motor movements (hand flapping, finger twisting, whole body movement)
- Tics (may include odd ones like the need to touch genitals)
- Inability to take social and/or emotional ownership of behaviours – they don’t get it!
- Has poor social skills and few friends, but is desperate for friends and lacks abilities to make friends
- Very inflexible, has great difficulties with transitions
- Unable to handle the unstructured times of the day such as recess, lunch, playground, gym class
- Extreme sense of fairness
- Has problems with abstract concepts and metaphors
- Has little or no awareness of body in space, personal auras
- Overly sensitive sense of smell
- Abilities in music, art, drawing
- Strong interest in technology, computers, construction etc.
- Extremely tactile, likes the feel of certain things
- Does not like to be touched
If you suspect you’re teaching autistic kids, then the autism symptoms above will help you identify a potential autistic child in your classroom. So what do you do now? Georgina Rayner, a former teacher, and a parent of two special needs kids, has advice for you. If anybody can help you in teaching autistic kids, it’s her! This is her advice:
First steps to take if you suspect you are teaching autistic kids.
Another wise thing to do as soon as you identify a child with autism symptoms is to create a mechanism to create and track appropriate goals, and also a way to communicate effectively with parents. Having a parent and teacher communication book will give you an easy way to track information. (This communication book was designed especially to meet the needs of special needs kids.) When it comes to reporting time, a parent-teacher communication book will prove invaluable.
Use it to track IEP goals, and easily track changes in the students behaviour and results. It’s also helpful for transitions between classes and as a quick guide for substitute teachers.