Contact Us
16 Jun '21

The Autistic Student-Teacher Relationship: Strategies & Tips from Brenda Smith Myles

Posted by Carolyn in News

Medica CPD was honoured to have the fantastic and world-renowned autism expert Brenda Smith Myles tutor for part two of our ‘Autism at School: How Teachers Can Help Build Student-Teacher Relationships’ course.

Brenda provided knowledge updates and practical strategies on how to develop a positive student-teacher relationship inside the classroom.

Brenda shared tried and tested practical strategies, as well as a list of positive teacher qualities that can help an autistic child or young person flourish and help work on their anxiety, frustration or anger in a school setting.

Some of Brenda’s practical strategies:

1. The ‘safe place’ strategy for autistic children. Let the child choose a safe haven in the school or institute and use it as a place for calm and collectedness. Repeated visits to the dedicated spot will bring about a sense of regularity and consistency.

2. Organisational charts are useful to relay the hierarchical roles and rules set in stone at a school or institution - tell the child there are reasons for it. Spell the obvious to them to help them understand the authority of the school or institution.

3. Brenda’s “social justice” approach. This is when you accept the student’s demands within reason. Be fair to them and let them get what others have too, further instilling calm, trust and satisfaction.

4. Use of feeling cards. Have the student utilise these cards on his or her desk at school to help them exemplify their feelings easily and thus potentially preventing a communication issue that may frustrate the child further.

Teacher qualities to help autistic children:

1. Express empathy

Try and rely less on facial expressions and body language to understand how a student feels and to show how you feel. Learn basic visual supports for communicating emotions.

2. Support independent and interdependent functioning, not dependence

Autonomy over dependency, encourage it more. Not relying on the teachers too much can allow them to develop and stand on their own two feet. Be prepared to explicitly teach skills for independence and interdependence. Don’t assume that autistic students know what most students have learned through “osmosis.”

3. Be trustworthy

Recognize that students with autism may take your words literally. Explaining when words are figurative or when something will be true most of the time can help to maintain trust.

4. Be positive

Studies show that people with ASD often read resting faces as showing anger. You may need to use visual supports and clear words to show your positive attitude toward a student.

5. Feel close to students

Write the student brief notes about how he is important to the class and you. Talk sincerely with the student about her special interests.

6. Accept student feelings

Recognize that students with ASD sometimes have difficulty recognizing or labeling their own feelings. They also often have difficulty modulating their emotions. Be prepared to provide calming strategies. Recognize that discussions about emotions may be especially challenging.

7. Involve student in decision-making

Help student to set goals for learning academic, social, and behavior skills. Graph improvements with the student, so that she can understand her progress.

8. Encourage high-level thinking

Use visuals, such as T-charts, graphic organizers, and lists, in instruction. Allow students to respond verbally instead of in written format.

9. Promote student success

Modify academic work so that it is presented at the student’s level. Structure social activities for success. Incorporate special interests in student work.

10. Limit conflict

Establish clear rules and routines. Students with ASD tend to function best when their world is predictable. Clear rules and routines will decrease student anxiety and thus decrease conflict.

How important are teacher-student relationships for learners on the spectrum? Very. Teachers set the stage for student social success: “Students with ASD who have a positive relationship with their teachers have a higher level of social inclusion, have more peer relationships, and experience fewer behavior problems.”

Forthcoming Medica CPD conference:

Let’s Talk about Anxiety, Self-Harm & Suicide Conference 2021
Date: 30 November 2021
Time: 9.30AM - 4.15PM
Read more:

Follow us!


Awesome CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals.

Book now