Math Strategies for Autistic Students
When it comes to homeschooling, there are certain subjects that parents just don’t feel comfortable teaching. At the top of the list, you’ll usually find math.
When it comes to autism and math skills, some students are highly gifted. There are others who can memorize certain facts but are unable to apply the information when solving problems and equations. Since there are various autism spectrum disorders, it’s important to consider the child’s current academic abilities as well as their communication, social and behavioral skills when selecting the ideal math curriculum for autistic students.
Below are a few math strategies for autistic students that can help parents successfully teach the subject and keep their children engaged in the process.
Math is one of those topics in which doing is the best way to learn. If your child is young and just learning the numbers or simple addition and subtraction, you may want to use small toys or their favorite snacks to add and subtract. Math counters are a great tool to teach students to add, subtract, and count. An abacus is also a useful item that helps them perform calculations and overcome their math difficulties. These manipulatives are also great for students who are prone to fidget.
One Step at a Time
When teaching math to students with autism, it’s important to make sure they have basic speech skills first so they can understand commands and directions. Don’t overwhelm your child with everything they need to do at once. For students with autism who struggle with communication skills, it is best to provide step by step, simple-to-follow verbal directions. In addition, make sure to give your child ample time to complete one step before moving on to the next. For students who may not be able to communicate verbally, you can also show them what to do first so they can then mirror what you did.
Write it Out
If your child is still working on their fine motor skills, holding a pencil might be a challenge. Having your child trace numbers into the air is a good start. You can also have your child work on a computer or tablet since it may be easier for them to use a keyboard and/or touch screen. For students who have developed their fine motor skills, a small whiteboard and dry erase marker are perfect for learning to count and writing equations.
Printable Math Worksheets
Looking for more ways to introduce math into your homeschool? Download this printable math packet for K-12 students and start practicing or advancing your math skills today.
Make a Plan
For many students with autism, following a routine helps them feel at ease since they know what to expect. Whether it’s doing math after breakfast or before recess, doing so at the same time each day allows them to mentally prepare. It can also help to start math the same way each time. This can be by singing a particular song or starting each lesson by sitting on a special rug.
Math games for autistic students can be very effective, especially when the subject isn’t exactly their favorite. Whether in person, or online, playing games can help your child associate math with fun, thereby increasing their interest. You can try apps, an online curriculum, or even card games/flash cards. You can also try incorporating something your child likes or brings them comfort, perhaps a particular toy or a special blanket.
You Did It
Be sure to give your child praise when they learn a new skill or get a correct answer. This helps motivate students and will help them associate math with good, positive feelings. Remember that for some children with autism, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues are difficult to understand, so be sure you use straightforward, direct language when expressing what a great job they did.
If your child tends to become overstimulated, be sure to choose a teaching environment that is quiet, free of distractions and clutter. Keep in mind that lighting can also play a role in a student’s comfort level, so whether you have to open windows or dim the lights, do what works best for your child. If you find that your child is not interested despite your best efforts, it may be possible that what you are teaching them may not be challenging enough.
Lastly, don’t forget to take breaks when you notice that your child is losing interest or becoming frustrated. Setting up a sensory station can be the perfect way for your child to relax. Remember, these are special memories you are making with your child as you both learn new things together.