Hands on projects for autistic students have shown to be very effective teaching tools. These methods are uniquely suited to the learning style of many children with autism spectrum disorders, applying a multisensory approach to teaching a range of skills. With a bit of creative thinking, hands on techniques can be used to reinforce learning in a wide variety of areas, ranging from basic self help, communication, and social skills to academics.
Advantages of Hands On Projects for Autistic Students
Many children with autism tend to be visual learners. For people with this learning style, traditional methods of instruction can often be quite challenging. For example, while the average child learns language through social interaction, mimicking the words they hear in everyday conversations, children with autism often fail to absorb speech and language skills as readily.
Often, children with autism do not imitate others in the same way that average children do, making it necessary to take a more direct approach. Signed speech, which uses sign language in conjunction with spoken language to visually reinforce new words and concepts, is a hands on approach to teaching speech and language skills. Hands on projects use that same principle of multisensory learning, combining visual, tactile, and verbal stimuli to teach new skills and concepts, appealing to the learning characteristics of many autistic children.
Hands On Projects Ideas
Hands on projects can be integrated into nearly any learning experience. Use these ideas for younger children:
- Telling a story while working together to illustrate it with simple drawings can aid in comprehension while keeping children engaged in social interaction.
- Paper cutouts, used to act out a story read aloud, can be great literacy and comprehension reinforcement. The child can help make the cutouts as a hands on project.
- Drawing and coloring flashcards can help in the development of fine motor skills while teaching letter and number recognition.
- Decorating the flashcards with fabrics and objects of varying textures can add tactile elements to the lesson.
- Mixing instant puddings or homemade play dough can help children learn to follow simple instructions with the help of tactile stimulation to maintain attention.
- Building in a sand or water table helps children learn about textures or overcome sensitivities to those textures while building and using creativity.
- Sorting objects by color or shape helps children learn about patterns and gives them a sense of pride when the job is completed correctly.
Use the following ideas for older children:
- Older children can benefit from cooking or baking projects, learning math skills through measuring ingredients and gaining competency in following directions. Also, getting to eat the finished product is a tangible reward for a job well done.
- Art projects that correspond with lesson plans for the day can be very helpful in reinforcing academic subjects, such as making clay models of animals or objects learned about earlier in the day.
- Learning to play musical instruments can help fine motor skills and singing along can reinforce speech and language skills.
- Hands on science projects can aid in the comprehension of complex concepts in both science and mathematics, bringing them to life for the visual learner.
- Model building, painting, or drawing projects can bring history or social studies lessons firmly into focus for autistic children, and lessons on plant biology can be brought home with a plant-growing project.
- Playing catch or kickball helps older children develop physical muscle skills as well as hand-eye coordination.
Short attention spans are common in children with autism, another issue that is often eased with the use of hands on projects for autistic students. Active learning can be a great help in keeping children focused, alert, and engaged, making it easier to stay on task. If attention span becomes an issue when hands on projects are underway, divide each project into small steps with breaks given after each one. Lengthening those intervals between breaks gradually can help the child slowly build a more appropriate attention span.
Hands on projects are wonderful tools for children with visual learning styles. In fact, nearly any child can benefit from the combination of activity and education that these projects bring. In an integrated learning environment, hands on projects can help children with autism interact and cooperate with other children, promoting understanding and fostering those vital social and communication skills. Not to mention that hands on projects are often just plain fun for all involved.