Teaching Children with Autism

teaching young students

Lets just put this out there, I LOVE TEACHING, especially kiddos with autism. You see these amazing children are so eager to learn. They are like little sponges. My son who is now 13 was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, and I knew from the moment he was born he was one of the most intelligent individuals I had ever met. I remember sitting in specialist offices and hearing people tell me all the things he would never do, and coming out feeling so defeated. Until one day, I heard my little boy speak his first word, and something clicked, I knew that my son was going to do more than anyone ever thought he could. That he wanted to learn. He watched everything that I did and mimicked it with incredible accuracy.

New teaching adventures

My husband and I decided to start using these observation moments and opportunities for him to learn, things such as his colors, numbers all the way to how to cross the street, and swimming. Our son had a love for Thomas the Train, so anytime we could incorporate Thomas into our learning, we knew we would have his undivided attention.

My son is who introduced me to the world of ABA when we developed our team of people to work with him. On that team were a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and a behavioral analyst. I learned so much from them that I was able to integrate into our home life. Things such as breaking tasks down into steps. I still remember getting our first visual schedule like it was yesterday, it was life-changing. My son would get so excited when he completed his wake up schedule.

boy building plane, boy following directions, boy learning
This seems like a lifetime ago, but watching him build this all by himself with such accuracy had my heart welling up with so much joy.

We were taught how to deliver instructions to him, “make sure you have his attention and give him time to respond to you, it may take him a moment to respond”, to give simple instructions without a bunch of filler words, because not all of those words may be comprehended. The most valued thing I learned was to always follow through with instructions, this was a hard one to get the grandparents on board with because they loved to spoil him and give in to everything he wanted. We were so lucky to have such a strong supportive team early on in his life.

Still teaching and learning every day

This year we decided to start homeschooling our son, and these small things that we learned way back in the early stages of his diagnosis, have helped us to make this a wonderful educational year for him. In the 7th grade, he loves doing physics-based science experiments and surprisingly has chosen Latin as his language to learn. This same child that I was told would never do certain things, has proved the world wrong every step of the way. I am thankful for the tips I was given during his early years as they have followed us all of these years.

boy with cat, boy doing homework
Even though he is a teenager now, we still break tasks down for him. This day he was working on his Latin work, (all pictures are teenage son approved).

Now as a BCBA I get to watch kiddos learn new things every single day. I get to be part of that team that I had and want to give back what they gave me. I never want to tell a parent what their child can not do, but instead, “just sit back and watch how they will amaze you”. We taught our son from an early age to be proud of his diagnosis and never hide it. He used to call it his superpower and honestly he still kinda does. I am so proud of how far he has come over the last 13 years, and I am so thankful that someone gave me the tools that I needed to teach my son, whether it be a life skill, like crossing the street, or a Latin declension. Learning is learning.

Written by Tabitha Ebbert, BCBA and most importantly mom to a really great kiddo.

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