A teacher is maximising learning for students with autism in his science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) classroom.
Recently, Springside P-9 College Learning Specialist Steven Bennett completed the Inclusive Classrooms Supporting Students with Autism blended learning course. He has been using this learning in his classroom with great results.
In Steven's first year of teaching, Steven participated in professional learning to better understand autism and his students with autism. A few years later, Steven wanted to refresh his knowledge so he applied for the Inclusive Classrooms Supporting Students with Autism course. He has been using his skills to create the best learning environment for students of all abilities.
Today, Steven's STEAM classroom is an inclusive, calm space for students of all abilities. Steven says his students 'are now excited to come to class, because they have a range of tools to help them find their own pathway.'
'Every student can and has the right to learn as much as they can possibly achieve.'
Inside an inclusive classroom
Steven's classroom has a flexible seating arrangement. Students can choose to sit where they can engage and learn the best. Specifically arranged seating minimises sensory stimulus for students who need calmer spaces. They can also choose to sit with their friends.
Every table has a range of sensory tools, including playdough, stress balls, buttons and other objects. Steven says that students can use these as alerting or calming tools. They are beneficial to all students, not just students with autism.
Steven says he considers flexible learning opportunities. One way he shows this is by using visual supports for different learning needs. 'I also use coloured cups and paddle pop sticks as non-verbal ways of demonstrating current understandings of a topic,' Steven says.
He has also introduced assistive technology so students can record class notes. Students have access to laptops with touch pens so they can draw on the screen, screen readers and voice-to-text tools. Steven also incorporates varied ways for students to show their understanding. 'They can draw, write, sing, dance, bake, build, paint or present in any other way they can think of,' Steven says. 'This allows students to put their best foot forward working with a strengths-based approach.'
'If a student can explain everything they have learnt in a drawing, and that is their strength… why ask them to write an essay that would just raise stress levels and cause anxiety?'
The Supporting Students with Autism course is part of the Inclusive Classrooms professional learning program for teachers. Inclusive Classrooms supports school staff to bring inclusion into the classroom and support students with diverse learning needs at school. Teachers can apply for a Term 3 course in 2019 Professional Learning Catalogue via
Inclusive Classrooms before August 5. You can also register your interest in a Term 4 course after August 5.
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