Students with Autism and Project Based Learning Schools

Introduction

We live in a big world where competencies in teamwork and collaborative problem-solving are increasingly in demand by employers, but there are hard questions behind these ‘soft skills’. How can educators promote pedagogies that develop pupils’ social skills while creating an inclusive environment for students who struggle with peer interaction?

What is Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (P.B.L) is an instructional methodology that encourages students to learn and apply knowledge and skills through an engaging experience. PBL presents opportunities for deeper learning in-context and for the development of important skills tied to college and career readiness.

Project Based Learning and Students with Autism

Autistic students struggle to maintain focus in classroom lessons. However, after a year of weekly lessons at Topcliffe School, a student by the name of Cooper can now concentrate for more than 20 minutes in the classroom and furthermore, her social skills have significantly improved (Osborne, 2014)Project Based Learning in Arizona (P.B.L). The parents and teachers can track the child’s progress by recording all the results and tracking the responses. The second phase of the project involved the Picture Exchange Communication System (P.E.C.S.). This is whereby the autistic children choose an image in order to derive information from the robot or another student. It is an educational game that is fun and exciting. The robot asks the children to identify a card with a specific animal on it animal recognition. For example, the robot might say, find me a monkey, and the student will look through a pack of cards available then hold the correct one up. If they are correct, the robot congratulates them and dances. It is important to realize that PBL through robot and PECS collaboration builds trust and effectively helps the students mimicry and listening skills. Additionally, it teaches students to stay focused and teaches educators to control the classes.

The robot and P.E.C.S. activities were found to support varied learning styles. For example, they enabled autistic students to stay focused, practice mimicry and listening skills. Additionally, the picture exchange system turned out to be a great tool to use with students such as Cooper, who had trouble expressing her thoughts. The activities also focused on multiple intelligence such as functional skills and a focus on student strength. The facilitation of learning was enhanced by both teachers and parents. For instance, as part of the P.B.L., students were taught functional math through iPads (video self-modeling). The use of technology especially video was important in autistic learning. Another technique that was integrated into the classrooms was the use of three choices at a time for students when solving a question. This allows them to feel comfortable and avoid over-stimulation. At home, parents were also advised to engage technology such as iPads and toys to aid in their kids learning. From this perspective, it is clear that the learning tasks are authentic and meaningful.

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