Template for Approaching Your Teachers About Autism

Template for approaching your professor about autism. In this simple and effective handout, contributor and lecturer Dr. Julia Leverone has put together a list of common behaviors college professors might see from an autistic student in the classroom. She also provides a list of 20 ways that a professor might support students who have an autism diagnosis. If you like the idea of presenting this handout to your professors but are worried about how to initiate conversation, check out Dr. Leverone’s video on navigating office hours here. (At the end of this list of behaviors and supports, you’ll see a link to a pdf for easy printing.) 

15 Common Spectrum Behaviors

  • Difficulty reading body language
  • Difficulty grasping others’ standpoints
  • Difficulty identifying and understanding moments of humor
  • May have anxiety over group work
  • Difficulty waiting to take turns in conversation or to ask questions
  • Difficulty with verbal and written expression
  • May have poor handwriting
  • May not be willing to verbally respond
  • May not inflect voice
  • Difficulty making inferences
  • Difficulty cross-applying rules or techniques between activities or classes
  • Difficulty adapting to change, especially if rapid
  • May be oversensitive to disruptions
  • May have anxiety over small details
  • May shut down or not complete activities due to confusion

20 Ways an Instructor Can Help

Generally, professors can strive to be predictable in their instruction, set classroom rules and routines, be clear and specific, reiterate main points, and be patient!

  • Request that students approach you to discuss their accommodations
  • Invite questions and participation explicitly (if reticent)
  • Mediate over-participation by establishing a rule or expectation
  • Specify when it is appropriate for an excited student to share about specialized interests
  • Encourage the student in his/her/their interests by allowing these to form part of an assignment somehow
  • Offer a compliment when a student participates successfully/in turn
  • Allow typing as an alternative to handwriting
  • Protect students from teasing by other students
  • Offer a written, accessible schedule for the semester
  • Provide instructions more than once and in differing formats
  • Be very detailed about grading criteria, etc.
  • Provide progress reports
  • Provide samples/examples
  • Ask to make sure you’ve been clear
  • Avoid ambiguous language
  • Extract important points for students (from syllabus, assignments, and lectures)
  • Demonstrate how course elements work together to serve larger, course/major/career purposes
  • Break large tasks into manageable, consumable parts
  • Provide early, multiple warnings of change
  • Present a new activity promptly to avoid fear of the unknown

Template for Approaching Your Teachers About Autism

Would you like to see more handouts? Let us know what kinds of similar supports would be useful in the comments!

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Julia Leverone, M.F.A., Ph.D., is a Dallas-based university lecturer of language and writing (Spanish, poetry, and essays), and is a poet and translator herself. She also has community college teaching experience and tutors students one-on-one in various disciplines. Her Facebook handle is @JuliaLeverone and her website is julialeverone.com.

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