Learning-how-to-learn Skills for Autism (ASD)
What are Learning-how-to-learn skills?
Learning is not simply about acquiring knowledge from only within the confined walls of a classroom. For most children, learning opportunities are present in their everyday lives as they interact and learn from the people and environment around them. Thus, learning-how-to-learn skills is a group of skills combined that equips the child to become a more effective and independent learner. This can come in the form of academic, social, and communication skills a child develops during their learning process which are often not directly addressed.
Why are Learning-how-to-learn skills important for children with autism?
‘Learning-how-to-learn’ refers to skills that have a pivotal role in teaching children the process of learning. ‘Learning-how-to-learn’ skills are important for a child to acquire as these skills serve as a foundation for a child to effectively learn all other skills throughout one’s education.
Good ‘learning-how-to-learn’ skills are essential for a child to transit more easily into natural settings like home and classroom.
Some ‘Learning-how-to-learn’ skills include:
1. Learning from Prompts and Feedback
Examples of Prompts
Students are taught to learn from common types of prompts/feedback. At a basic level, there is information in a discrete trial; however, the types of feedback will become more complex, subtle, and less direct.
An example of a child showing learning from feedback is when a child changes his answer to the correct response upon being given feedback
2. Behavior Regulation
Before a child can learn the language, social and academic skills, and disruptive behaviors that interfere with their learning processes must be targeted, such as:
3. Self-Directed Attention
Children need to build attending skills from relying on instructions to establish attention to attending to the correct environmental stimuli at the correct time to effectively splitting attention to multiple targets. An example of a situation whereby a child would require self-directed attention is when a child needs to follow along with a group conversation. These programs targeting self-directed attention will equip children with skills such as:
4. Attention Sustainment and Short-Term Memory Tasks
Skills that facilitate more complex learning and engagement in a wider variety of activities involving programs in different domains are important for a child to acquire. These are the skills necessary for a child to complete multi-step routines, work effectively throughout activities longer in duration, stay on task, and learn to cope with distractions.
5. Problem-Solving and Reasoning
We would also look at increasing the child’s environmental awareness and overcoming literalness and inflexibility while increasing useful problem-solving skills. It is important for a child to increase the capacity to solve problems oneself and know-how, when, and where to seek assistance in order to be an independent learner. Some behaviors we will look at equipping a child are:
How do we determine if a child has good Learning-how-to-learn skills?
Typically, by the time children participate in more formal instructions they would have learned these behaviors. However, the majority of children with ASD require direct teaching to understand these critical skills. Therefore, systematic programs designed to teach these critical skills are essential.
Some questions to ask to determine if a child has good ‘learning-how-to-learn’ skills are:
- Does he sit well for a period of time?
- Does he have difficulties paying attention in class?
- Does he listen and respond to the teacher’s instructions?
- Does he imitate well and learn from his teachers/peers?
- Does he stay calm when he is experiencing denials to items/activities that he wants?