April is Autism Awareness month and I use this opportunity each year to further the knowledge and understanding of my school community. Like many special education classrooms, my class of students with autism is in a general education school setting. My students share the environment with their general education peers. When I started working here, I felt that the topic of understanding autism was almost taboo. Students had questions about their classmates with autism but had nobody to ask. They were taught to almost look the other way and ignore them if there was a problem instead of trying to understand.
Several years ago we began offering “autism lessons” for each classroom during the month of april. I explained the idea during a faculty meeting and put a sign up sheet in the office. I offered times for the lessons that were during my prep time or at a time when I could be out of my room for 30 minutes or so. I was in awe with the initial feedback and response – almost every teacher signed up! Since that year we have conducted lessons every year or every other year. The atmosphere of the school has changed completely! Students say hi to my students in the hallway. My students have been invited to class parties. Kids ask my students questions. It is amazing. I feel like we are so much more a part of the school community. Allowing children the opportunity to ask questions and explaining autism in language they understand is imperative to creating an open environment where everyone is accepted! I highly encourage you to try this at your school! I created this Autism Awareness Unit to guide you in this important endeavor!
This unit is jam packed and can be adapted for a wide range of ages and grades:
Included are lesson recommendations and book ideas. I love starting lessons for early elementary grades with a read aloud – there a bunch of awesome books to introduce the topic!
There are 3 levels of Autism Fact Sheets. Level 1 would be ideal for prek – 2th grade. Level 2 would work for 3 – 5th grade. Level 3 would be appropriate for junior high grades! Each fact sheet provides information and facts about autism and can form the basis of your lesson/discussion.
There are also some hand outs specific to sensory needs and being a friend! Two question worksheets are included to use to assess comprehension and understanding and another to work on inclusion issues!
This is my favorite part! I put up these true/false boards all over my school in April! The students in my building love it and it’s a fun way to make learning interactive, introduce the topic, and informally assess their understanding. I mount each board on colored construction paper, laminate the true/false pieces, and velcro two to each page. Every time I walk by I put the answer back so students have the chance to answer all the time! It’s so great hearing kids talk about these in the hallway! There are 25 included!
Like I said I HIGHLY recommend doing this in your school community. It is time consuming but it makes all of the difference. Check out this unit if this is something students in your school could benefit from!
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