Resources are provided with this practice
Students on the autism spectrum often have specific sensory needs that, when unmet, can lead to inattentiveness, meltdowns, and inappropriate behaviour.
Making adjustments to accommodate these needs reduces the need for behaviour management and helps students to engage, attend, focus, and self-regulate during class. Adjustments can also significantly benefit all students by creating a more comfortable environment.
This practice will help students to
increase classroom attendance
This practice will help teachers to
maximise teachable moments
How the practice works
Apply this practice with your students
The tabs below provide information to support your implementation of this practice. The sequence aligns with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership's High-Quality Professional Learning Cycle. You can find out more about high quality professional learning in the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders.
Observing student behaviour
Students on the autism spectrum might have sensory needs relating to hearing, seeing, feeling (touch, temperature, body awareness) or smelling. Students can be:
- hypersensitive – they experience sensory input more than the average person, e.g. they may perceive noises more loudly than you do
- hyposensitive – they are less responsive to particular sensations and need more of that sensory stimulus to recognise the sensation and/or feel comfortable.
Common sensory differences in students on the spectrum include:
- aversion to noise, bright lighting, or physical touch and crowding
- sensory-seeking behaviours including fidgeting and rocking on a chair.
When observing student behaviour, learning, or classroom performance, consider whether some students may benefit from sensory support.
Consulting with students, families, and specialists
Sensory needs vary from person to person. Consulting with students, parents/carers, and specialists such as therapists will help you to:
- identify appropriate sensory supports
- gain advice on a range of adjustments and supports.
It works better if the teacher:
- asks for input from the student, parents/carers, and specialists around the student’s sensory supports.
It doesn't work if:
- the teacher assumes what sensory support might be useful for the student without consultation
- the teacher removes sensory supports to punish the student.
Materials informing this practice
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1. Adjust the seating plan of the classroom and seat the student:
- under a bank of lighting that is turned off
- at the end of a row where they won’t be touched
- on the side of the room furthest from the hallway.
- using a filter for the lights
- dimming the lights or removing some of the fluorescent tubes
- offering a variety of seating options.
3. Allow students to:
- take sensory or movement breaks where they can remove themselves from the classroom if they are overloaded
- wear headphones if they need to minimise noise
- use fidget objects
- chew gum to satisfy the need for oral sensory input
- sit on fit balls instead of chairs
- listen to soft background music.
4. Do not insist on eye contact when talking to the student – they may be able to process auditory information and express speech better if they don’t have the additional task of focusing on eye contact at the same time.
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Reflect on your student goals
Please enter student goals in B. Set Goals
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<% student_goal.reflection %>
Reflect on your teacher goals
Please enter teacher goals in B. Set Goals
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<% teacher_goal.reflection %>
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This practice is from the core research project
20 Aug 2020
12 Nov 2020