Autism Awareness Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a middle school teacher, you probably want to familiarize your students with the many kinds of diversity in the world around them. This lesson offers activities specifically related to autism awareness.

Autism Awareness in Middle School

Are you a teacher in a middle school setting? If so, you're probably familiar with many of the typical characteristics of adolescents. Your students are likely to be newly abstract thinkers, interested in big concepts and ideas. They're also working hard on individuating and developing their own relationship to the world around them.

Middle school students are also often peer oriented and interested in forming close relationships. As a middle school teacher, you'll probably want to help them understand some of the differences they'll encounter at school, in their community and in other situations, like autism.

Middle school students may find a lesson about autism an eye-opener, or they may already have relationships and experiences with peers and others with a diagnosis. Either way, the activities in this lesson are designed to appeal to the developmental needs and capacities of middle school students while promoting autism awareness.

Activities for Autism Awareness

Each activity described here is followed by a brief description and some ideas for how students might benefit most from the project.

Autism Research Project

This research project may appeal most to your verbal learners; it's also an effective activity for helping students learn more about the characteristics of autism. Begin by asking your students to share everything they know about autism, then ask them to brainstorm any questions they may have about the subject.

Chart students' questions and ask your class to help you organize the questions into categories; break them into groups based on the resulting categories. Help students conduct research online and in the library to determine the answers to their questions.

Have students make PowerPoint presentations or posters to share their findings with classmates. Each group will learn from the others, which will leave your students with plenty of expertise on the subject.

Reflective Activity & Writing Project

Middle school students are ready for really working on understanding the experiences and points of view of people different from themselves. Ask your students to reflect upon a typical day, imagining how at least three different scenarios from the day might feel or pan out if they had autism.

For instance, have students think about what they would feel like in class, the school cafeteria, or the grocery store. They can also think about what modifications to any of these environments might make them easier to navigate for a student with autism.

Finally, ask students to write a journal entry or an essay describing what they thought about or learned from this experience.

Guest Interview

For many middle school students, autism will become less of an abstract or a mystifying phenomenon if they have a chance to talk with someone who has autism. When you choose someone to be interviewed, think about local autism advocates and leaders, and make sure that person is comfortable with the idea of an interview.

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