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Helping students with autism navigate a socially distanced classroom

Some well-planned strategies can help students with autism thrive as school resumes--even with social distancing measures in place

While many educators and students are returning to the familiar classrooms left abruptly in March, teaching this upcoming year will be anything but business as usual. In a recent edWebinar, Aimee Dearmon, Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), says the disruption of routines, schedules, classroom layouts, and necessary social distancing protocols will be very difficult for our most vulnerable students with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Related content: Strategies for teaching students with autism

Even under the best circumstances, these populations struggle to adjust to changes, and now the struggle will be exacerbated due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Dearmon emphasizes that schools and educators need to develop safe and healthy classroom action plans for students with autism and other disabilities that include environmental arrangement, classroom organization, rotations, hygiene, and material sharing.

The biggest challenge with developing classroom action plans is establishing the same level of support to these students while maintaining social distancing. Educators need to craft strategies and processes that meet health guidelines and ensure that students understand and adapt to new routines and behavioral expectations.

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