Trisha Katkin is a special educator who has seen how the influx of students with autism has changed the responsibilities of educators. She says that so many teachers are put into positions they are not ready for when it comes to teaching students with autism. She’s using her 15 years of experience working with autistic students and 3 state teaching certifications to help prepare other teachers and set them up for success.
She offers a variety of online courses, and her signature course, “The Autism Quilt,” is the equivalent of 30-full day conferences. She packs her training with actionable strategies that can be immediately implemented. She gives tips and tricks for working with students with autism and includes specific examples and remedies for a variety of common issues.
“I walk educators through each solution, step-by-step,” Trish says. “And they have lifetime access so they’ll receive any updates and changes. This is so important since thoughts, ideas, and strategies are always changing when it comes to working with students with autism.”
For example, when you are trying to handle a busy class with students that are all on different wavelengths, it’s challenging to figure out how to accommodate everyone. Trisha says educators are told to “differentiate!” Differentiation is the process by which one accommodates students and their various needs. It’s what you do as a teacher to try and get everyone everything they need in order to be successful.
Trisha believes that the key to differentiation is to know what type you need. Some argue about the true number of types, but here she discusses four ways to differentiate in special ed and inclusive classrooms:
Content differentiation begins when you think about what you want your students to learn as a result of the lesson, activity, or assignment. Once you know what the end goal is, you can alter the content of the task to best meet the students’ needs. This may mean changing the amount of problems on a test or leveling the content to meet a variety of abilities in your classroom. Content differentiation doesn’t always mean changing the task. It also encompasses changing the way the student accesses the task. This may mean pre-teaching or re-teaching a concept in small groups or giving a student a resource for them to use while they complete the task.
Process differentiation is what the student uses to engage with the curriculum being taught. It’s what you give the student to help them “process” the concept. Ask yourself, “what does this student need to best understand this concept?” For your visual learners, you may need texts with lots of pictures, flow charts, or graphs. For your auditory learners, you may have them listen to audio books or a podcast. Helping a student get started on the project or assignment is also an example of process differentiation. Tap into your students learning styles for this type of differentiation and use it to best assist them in understanding, internalizing, and solidifying a concept.
Response differentiation is also known as Product differentiation. It is what the student produces in order to demonstrate their knowledge. Response types in a typical classroom may be assessments or tests, which do not allow for much differentiation for learners with various needs. This type of differentiation is when students produce types of work using their natural strengths and learning styles. For example, when given an assignment to demonstrate knowledge in a certain subject, a very visual student may be required to create a poster with lots of pictures while a kinesthetic learner may act out the same information to display their knowledge.
4- Learning Environment
When differentiating for students, changing the learning environment can be extremely effective. Consider various sensory needs when organizing your classroom. Many students on the spectrum for instance, would prefer a tidy, well-labelled classroom where visual chaos is at a minimum. Highly distractible students may need to have their desk moved closest to you or the board and away from high traffic areas. Smart lighting solutions such as light curtains or dimmer switches would be effective for sensory defensive students. Plan your classroom mindfully. Create a natural flow with your furnishings and make sure shelves are appropriately affixed to the wall.
Want even more ways to differentiate? Get Trisha’s FREE 17-page workbook FULL of ideas, tips, and strategies for differentiating curriculum in the classroom HERE! (Great for educators and, if you’re a parent, grab it to share with your child’s teacher.)
Discover free tools to bring the topics of autism into the classroom. Autism EDU includes digital comics, student handouts, curriculum and activity guides.
Jodi Murphy founded Geek Club Books a charity with an autism education and empowerment mission. She is also the co-founder and advisor for Zoom Autism Magazine, a quarterly digital magazine for the autism community and a regular contributor to The Mighty news media. She has been a freelance marketing specialist for the last 30 years working for clients in a variety of industries, a journalist in the design/luxury lifestyle industry, and co-founder of Nesting Newbies, one of the first independent lifestyle digital magazines. Her most important role and her life’s passion is being the mother of two adult children—one who is on the autism spectrum. Her focus is on affecting change through storytelling and technology. Her dream is a world where those on the autism spectrum are valued and given every opportunity to shine using their talents and abilities.