A place for teachers and other providers of special education services to support each other, share information, and discuss topics, including assessment.

Online Student Discussions and Autism - Adaptations?

Brent Spencer Grade 8 Middle School Teacher from British Columbia, Canada

Hi,

This year, I explored doing literature circles book talks online using a discussion board program. I split the class into groups of approx 4-5 students, and assigned each group their own discussion board on my class website.

There, they were able to post a thread of interest about the book, ask questions, etc., and the other students would respond ... they would have a discussion online.

Because some of the students couldn't log in at home, we had the discussions in the computer lab.

I had some positive results with it - students who often don't communicate in class discussions gave very good reflections and responses online, and other students would ask them questions that go them to clarify their ideas in more detail - I found it very valuable. I also liked that I could reply as well, and follow the threads of the discussion, something that's difficult to do during live book talks, when I can only sit down with each group one at a time.

Anyways, my question is ... what sorts of adaptations should I be considering if I have a student with autism? I have taught students with autism in the past, but am trying to learn more about it so I can make adaptations to make the experience with the technology more accessible to the student's needs. Any suggestions?

Thanks!
Brent

(P.S. One adaptation I was considering was trying to use a program that uses symbols, and when you click it, they turn into words. That way, a student who struggles with typing speed in an online discussion could just click on the symbol instead of typing out the whole word. I know there are programs like that for word processing, but does anyone know of one that has online applications, for things like e-mail, messanger, etc.?)

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