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Know How Your Child Learns Best Today: Learning Styles For Children With Autism


Children with Autism vary in learning styles leading to more optimal performance for individual progress

Thinking of ways to educate your child can prove to be an immense struggle. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty with following instructions, paying attention, and shifting attention between different modalities. During early childhood, children with ASD grapple with being able to attend to more than one form of modality at a time during a task (e.g. reacting to their name being called while completing a writing task). Parents’ efforts can unintentionally lead to inconsequential progress, exhausting their mental and physical strength in future attempts of teaching. Every child with ASD differs in learning abilities and cognitive functioning, hence it is crucial to draw on their strengths and organise activities that motivate learning.


Types of Learners


Defining a child’s learning style is imperative in creating opportunities for them to receive and project optimal performance in their social, cognitive and academic skills. Through different learning style preferences, we can narrow down on learning materials and activities that work best for your child.


Visual Learner:

Research has shown that children with ASD have deficits in abstract tasks that require cognitive flexibility. With visual cues and association, they are able to comprehend visually stimulated concepts. Some children possess higher ability in encoding visuospatial information as compared to auditory processing of information. With such individuals, using visual support in their everyday life and especially in their academics, make a significant difference in absorbing information and being able to comprehend them.


  • Visual support such as picture/ flash cards; images of people, places, objects in both fictional and non-fictional context, enables them to associate visual stimuli with words and phrases which children tend to retain longer.

  • Words can be difficult to comprehend

  • Utilising visual cues like a schedule, images to indicate order and rules that can be prompted and eventually progress into a familiar process for them.


Auditory Learner:

In contrast to visual learners, auditory learners may be less likely to elicit consistent and engaging eye contact but are greatly intrigued by auditory cues. They also tend to be more vocal and repetitive, although not necessarily coherent, they enjoy hearing sounds in general.


  • When purchasing toys, it would be preferable for such learners to have items that produce different melodies and have a volume button so as to prevent the child from getting bored too easily and the possibility of overstimulation from the volume of the music if uncontrollable.

  • Videos can be very useful in engaging a child’s attention and acts as a great motivator for getting them to complete certain tasks that may not necessarily rely on auditory cues alone.


Kinesthetic Learner:

Kinesthetic learners can also be described as learners who are more inclined to activities that encourage a ‘hands on’ engagement. Making learning fun and interactive often lead to positive associations with what learning entails. In comparison to a didactic approach where traditional methods of learning can have a negative connotation, attaching excitement and enjoyability promotes less task avoidance behaviours, and heightens resilience towards tasks.


  • Sensory play can be defined as a multitude of activities that activate and stimulate a child’s senses.

  • Textures specifically play a big role in this form of learning so it is advised that alternating between different items of varying tactile can be more stimulating than different items with similar tactiles.

  • Apart from items like play doh or clay, basic items that we use in our everyday life such as, rice grains, flour, soil, etc, can be easily incorporated as well.

  • Children are able to find joy in the simplest things around them and enable efficient utilisation of resources.


With learning mostly appearing as challenging to children with ASD, it is crucial to get involved in observing the fine details of your child’s development patterns and learning preferences that aids them best. In a nutshell, there is no one size fits all solution and children need time and support to grow and hopefully continue that journey on their own in the near future.


Written by: Tara


References


Winnie Bruce, [Father helping son study at home] [Photograph] Retrieved from: https://www.canva.com/


Attwood Garnett. (2022, May 16). How does an autistic child learn? Attwood and Garnett Events. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://attwoodandgarnettevents.com/how-does-an-autistic-child-learn/


Learning styles & autism. Autism Research Institute. (2021, August 18). Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://www.autism.org/learning-styles-autism/


Quill, K. A. (1997). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27(6), 697–714. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1025806900162


Rao, S. M., & Gagie, B. (2006). Learning through seeing and doing. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 38(6), 26–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/004005990603800604


Thinking and learning strengths in Autistic Children and pre-teens. Raising Children Network. (2021, July 26). https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/learning-about-autism/about-autism/learning-strengths-asd#:~:text=Visual%20learning%20and%20thinking%20and%20autism,-Visual%20thinking%20can&text=These%20strong%20visual%20skills%20might,than%20spoken%20and%20heard%20information.


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