Being a parent of a child with Autism can be overwhelming and one of the biggest fears many parents have is “My child just can’t learn xyz.” Though children with Autism learn differently, it is important to understand this one thing: Autism does not directly inhibit their ability to learn. Autism simply changes how they learn and how we must help teach a child with Autism.
It boils down to two types of learning people use; explicit and implicit learning. Implicit learning is learning that we do without any conscious effort. In implicit learning, we might touch a stove and burn ourselves, realizing it’s hot and avoid touching it again. We may be driving in rain for the first time and take a sharp turn and slide, then learn to take those turns slower. It is this implicit learning child with autism have difficulty with. Don’t fret, many experts support that they can still excel at explicit learning.
Explicit learning is what we are formally taught. When a speech therapist teaches a child to stick their tongue on the back of their teeth to make the “t” sound, we are using the child’s skills at explicit learning to help develop that sound. It is important to remember that explicit learning does not mean that they will excel at the skill after the first time being taught. The most important thing when teaching your child anything is to make it fun, be repetitive, and be EXPLICIT. That’s right, explicit learning works best when you are structured and give clear instruction of what is being taught.
Some children with autism often think in black and white (this goes back to how they have difficulty with implicit learning, making those grey area connections by themselves), so make sure you are clear with your child. Have fun, keep a good structure, and be patient.
If you have any concerns with your child’s development please call TEAM 4 Kids at 800-376-3440 to schedule a free screening.
Kristen Eng, SLPA