Teacher approved by Neil Trivedi, Education Consultant with a 1st Class Honors in Mathematics.
Teaching autistic students can be a rewarding experience. However, autistic children present unique challenges when it comes to being receptive to typical learning strategies. Fortunately, there are numerous tools available to assist parents who want to teach multiplication to their autistic child.
Using worksheets is one of the best ways of teaching multiplication to autistic students. Children with autism spectrum disorder display a variety of communication and attention-based deficiencies that can be overcome with the use of visual teaching aids like worksheets.
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Overview of Autism
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological and developmental disorder that typically begins during the early stages of childhood. It is called a “spectrum disorder” because its characteristics and range of symptoms occur along a continuum.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network report in 2020, covering data for 2016. That report estimated the prevalence of autism to be 1 in every 54 8-year-olds or 18.5 per 1000.
As the CDC explained, the ADDM network collected data on 8-year-olds because previous research showed that most children with ASD had been identified for services by that age.
Key findings from the report include the fact that males were more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females. Additionally, the report found that about one-third of the children identified with ASD who had IQ scores also had an intellectual disability of some kind.
Diagnosis of ASD
ASD is diagnosed most frequently by a physician according to criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association.
Core features of ASD include:
- Deficits in social and emotional reciprocity
- Insufficient nonverbal communication behavior used for social interaction
- Deficiencies in the development, maintenance, and understanding of social relationships
Early signs, as per the Autism Society may include:
- Atypical nonverbal communication
- Extreme distress brought about by change
- Persistent interest, usually strong, in a specific item or topic
- Preference for structured play over make-believe
- Repetitive language or movement
- Solitary or parallel play instead of an engagement or cooperative play with other children
Teaching Challenges Presented by Autism Spectrum Disorder
Children with autism present a variety of challenges in a teaching environment. They may have a learning disability and struggle with basic math or have adequate multiplication skills but have math anxiety.
Claire M. Szymkowiak of the University of New York at Fredonia provided valuable insight into her master’s project, published in 2013.
According to Szymkowiak, children with ASD are affected by a triad of impairments adversely impacting their ability to learn in a typical teaching environment, including:
- Impairment in social interaction. This impairment is characterized by difficulty in social conversation, discomfort around other people, and a preference for working independently.
- Diminished or impaired communication. This deficit can include language skills and an inability to maintain eye contact. These communication problems include conversational gestures, with autistic children rarely developing skills beyond nodding or shaking their heads.
- A lack of flexibility. Many autistic children have difficulty adapting to change. For example, they often experience difficulty making the transition between unstructured time to structured lessons or from one teaching method to another.
It is vital for individuals teaching autistic students to create predictable teaching strategies. They may also approach the child’s verbal communication deficiencies using charts or worksheets.
Likewise, non-verbal autistic children often use alternative sources for communication such as sign language, computers, and communication pictures or charts.
Additionally, commercially designed tools like the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) helps autistic children interact by using flashcards, printables, representative pictures, or images.
Benefits of Teaching Multiplication to Autistic Students Using Worksheets
Teachers and family members working with children with autism need to be well-prepared to accommodate those sometimes quirky mannerisms of students with autism.
The use of worksheets to teach multiplication tables to autistic children correlates to their strengths. Likewise, they may diminish their weaknesses. For example, as Szymkowiak explains, as autistic students have difficulty with social interaction, it is important to use visual aids like worksheets.
Additionally, worksheets serve as visual prompts enabling students to overcome a frequent inability to respond to verbal instructions. Likewise, autistic children frequently struggle with organization and providing visual organizers like worksheets is essential.
First and foremost, teachers must keep in mind the fact that autistic children are visual learners. For that reason, worksheets are an effective way to teach multiplication tables and other mathematics.
As discussed above, students on the autism spectrum typically find communication skill sets challenging. Depending on a child’s age and other factors, these communication issues can create behavioral challenges leading to frustrations.
The use of worksheets can both improve an autistic child’s communication skills and diminish the impact of their accompanying anxiety.
However, it is important to note that worksheets suit high-functioning autistic students better than those with an intellectual disability.
For example, at first, autistic students with intellectual disabilities typically benefit more from manipulatives, such as colored pieces of card, Legos, and Play-Doh.
Then, after a time using those manipulatives, they can transition to worksheets provided their sensory stimuli are well-controlled using ear defenders, weighted vests, and cushions.
Free Math Worksheet Sources
Several websites offer free math worksheets available for download and printing. Teachers can always create their sheets, but why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to? This adage is particularly true when free resources are abundant online.
Below is a list of six recommended sites.
This website offers more than 57 thousand math worksheets available in PDF format. The sheets cover a broad spectrum of topics, including arithmetic, geometry, pre-algebra, measurements, number sense, and more. Additionally, interactive math features are available, including flashcards and the Dots and Sudoku math games.
This website offers free math worksheets in PDF format for grades one through six. A full range of math skills is available, including fractions, decimals, geometry, measurements, place values, rounding, and more. Additionally, Roman numerals, the order of operations (PEMDAS), factoring, prime numbers, and money are available for download.
This website offers more than nine thousand free worksheets available in PDF format. The sheets cover a range of topics to include pre-algebra, basic geometry, measurements, Roman numerals, word problems, and more. Additionally, two- and four-minute tests and visual designs such as circle, spiral, and bullseye patterned worksheets are available.
This website offers a variety of printable math worksheets available as PDF and HTML files. The sheets provide a multitude of topics, including arithmetic, geometry, square roots, word games, and more. They are customizable, so you can set the number of problems, range of numbers, and so on. The worksheets generate randomly, so no two are the same.
This website offers tons of math worksheets available as downloadable GIF images. The sheets cover a variety of topics, including basic arithmetic, geometry, and word problems. Additionally, they are available in several themes like dinosaur, farm, jungle, and ocean. Likewise, seasons and holidays are available, and more.
This website offers a wide range of math worksheets available in PDF format, or they can be sent directly to a printer. The sheets cover a variety of topics to include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, word problems, and more. Additionally, 34 worksheet generators are available and easy to use.
We hope you enjoyed our article about teaching autistic children math using worksheets. If you have a child or teach children on the autism spectrum, you might consider bookmarking this article for future reference.
Now that you read this article be sure to check out our article about homeschooling autistic kids during the lockdown. Then, learn about teaching an autistic child to read and discover the best homeschool curriculums for children with autism.
Neil Trivedi is the Co-Founder of Grade9Tuition and an Education Consultant in Mathematics. He has been a qualified teacher for four years and the head of post-16 education across schools in London. Neil earned a first-class mathematics degree from University College London. He has worked with a range of pupils, including those with special educational needs and those from deprived backgrounds.
On top of teaching, Neil is a qualified personal trainer and runs sessions with his clients as more of a hobby than a profession. In his spare time, he likes to travel, go for long walks and take his nieces out for ice cream!
- Medline Plus (National Institutes of Health): Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnostic Criteria
- Autism Society: What is Autism?
- State University of New York at Fredonia: Using Effective Strategies for the Elementary English Language Learner With Autism Spectrum Disorder
- National Autism Resources: The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Need To Know: Worksheets for Children with Autism
- Math-Drills.com: Free Math Worksheets
- K5 Learning: Free Math Worksheets
- Dad’s Worksheets: Math Worksheets
- Homeschool Math: Free Math Worksheets
- KidZone: KidZone Math