Autism and learning through self-discovery

Autism and learning through self-discovery is a topic that has received much debate.  Many say that a child with autism will ignore or avoid a task if they do not understand the item and or if the task does not fall into their “interest” area.  The aspect of inappropriate play with items also causes difficulties for the child.

We would agree that it is difficult to introduce new activities to children with autism but need to add that it is not an impossible task.

As a teacher or caregiver we need to understand the “making” of the student on the spectrum and we furthermore need to understand that what we deems as “appropriate” use of a resource will not necessary mean that the child will play with that resource in that way.  The first trick will always be to get the child to show an interest in the new activity – no matter how they choose to play/use it.

Learning through self-discovery is import and must always form the first step.  During the time of self discovery the teacher will be there to help guide the child but don’t be tempted to correct the child and/or to interfere in the self-discovery phase.

When it comes to children with autism we recommend the following process of introducing new activities to the learner:

  1. Start by placing the new activity near the child (in plain sight), don’t force the issue of a new activity with the child, rather just allow the child to be comfortable with the new object in his/her space.
  2. Allow for self discovery without interfering.
  3. Once the child has stopped looking, playing and/or using the resource – pack the activity in the cupboard until the next day.
  4. When the resource/toy is brought out again, take the activity and go and sit on the floor and start playing with the product (appropriately) without asking the child to join you. Continue doing this every day until the child comes over to you and engages in the activity.
  5. Once the child has joined you on the floor you can start showing the child the appropriate way of using the recourse.  Should the child continue to avoid using the resource appropriately then find a way to teach whilst the child is playing with the activity in his/her way.
  6. Keep repeating the activity until the child has mastered it.

Remember that self-discovery is the most important part of the early learning process for ALL children no matter

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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.