Science Activities for the Autistic Child
Students of all backgrounds must be educated in the sciences, but a child diagnosed with autism faces additional challenges when trying to learn this sometimes difficult subject matter. According to Autism Speaks, one in 110 children is diagnosed with autism, so all teachers will at some time have a student in their classroom who is autistic. Planning hands-on, engaging science lessons will help these students to learn, retain and enjoy the learning process.
1 Soda Bottle Band
Many children with autism enjoy music and find it interesting and soothing. Teachers can provide glass soda bottles for all students to fill with different amounts of water to create different tones by tapping the side with a spoon. Teachers can incorporate a lesson on sound and wavelengths, and why the different bottles make different notes.
Along with skills of hypothesizing and experimenting, students can record data and make conclusions based on their work with the soda bottles.
2 Chemistry Lab
In chemistry, students learn when you combine one or more substances, the result is often a new and different substance. A to Z Kids Stuff in "Art Recipes" provides simple instructions for using common household materials to make substances such as goop or slime. Students will feel success and independence while making these products by themselves, and will use math skills for counting and measuring as well. Since many children with autism experience sensory issues, many of these products are used in an occupational therapy setting. Allowing students to learn how to make these products can extend learning and therapy to home.
3 Dig in the Dirt
The biology of plants can be learned on many different levels, but students will learn more effectively when actively involved. With plastic cups, potting soil and assorted seeds, students can plant their own seeds and record observations in a daily journal. Students will learn the parts of the plant such as roots, stem, leaf and flower. They will also see firsthand the effect of water and sunlight on a plant. According to Kids Gardening, children who are involved in plant growth not only learn the biology of growth and develop a love of nature, they also can develop social interactions during the process. Since social skills are often a struggle for children with autism, this activity can be very beneficial.
4 Life Cycle of a Frog or Butterfly
Obtain caterpillars or tadpoles from nature or from a science supply store, and students of all ages will get enthusiastic about the changes they observe. Students can study the life cycle of a butterfly or frog, and then daily observe and record what they see. This is an activity that can be adjusted to many different academic levels, and students with autism will feel empowered by their ability to care for these creatures and be involved in their transformation.
5 Sink or Float?
Many children with autism find water soothing and enjoyable. Take advantage of this by teaching a hands-on lesson about buoyancy. Buoyancy is a force that causes some objects to float because of their density. With a large basin of water, Brain Pop in "Sink or Float" suggests providing items such as toothpicks, coins, plastic utensils, metal utensils and other household objects. Students can hypothesize about whether an item will sink or float, experimentally place the object in the water and record their results.
For advanced students, experiment with the buoyancy of different fruits. Also provide unopened cans of diet and regular soda to allow students to experiment with in the tub of water.