Tips to Support Children with Autism in Youth Programs
Leading the Way: Autism-Friendly Youth Organizations
Here are some ways youth programs and organizations can best support participants with autism. This excerpt comes from Leading the Way: Autism-Friendly Youth Organizations.
Be Welcoming and Supportive
- Meet the child where he is and learn from him.
- Respect him as an individual.
- Do not talk about him in his presence as if he isn’t there.
- Set clear expectations and boundaries.
- Be consistent.
- Develop and implement structure.
- Practice and provide repetition to help with understanding and to build skills.
- Expect growth. Keep your standards high.
Develop Strategies to Compensate for Challenges
- Offer preferred seating or placement and allow for additional response time.
- Provide organizational supports like written schedules, lists, visual cues, and specific verbal directions.
- Be aware of a child’s sensory needs. Avoid or prepare for triggers like fire alarms.
- Give breaks for selfregulation.
- With small steps and supports, allow the participant to exhibit success.
- Reward what you want to see with positive reinforcement. Use the child’s interests to engage and motivate him.
Educate and Communicate
- Educate other youth participants about autism.
- Promote acceptance and understanding among peers and staff.
- Support social development with roleplaying, modeling, and rewards. Make sure to include typical peers.
- Communicate with family members and caregivers.
- Ask questions and share what works. Problems solve what isn’t working.
- Always keep learning and be creative.
- Relax and have fun.
- Celebrate success.
- Treasure the individual.