I've become pretty confident in my ability to assist adolescent Autistic/Aspergers students with superb verbal skills and mild-to-negligible behavior issues.
Student is now pretty good at sniffing out when others are teasing him under the guise of "just being friendly" and is able to tell them...
I'm not a teacher, but I am a mum of two kids on the ASD rainbow. I can tell you from experience that ASD manifests itself in ways as unique as each child. Therefore, improvisational skills are a fantastic advantage.
Some things that may help in the overall strategies:
1) Get the class on your side. Books like All Cats Have Asperger's can be an introduction to ASD and how some behaviors of Aspergic kids can be found in the fully autistic. Explain Autism and how it can make life a little harder for those who have it. Just like any disability, knowledge is key to preventing bullying or exclusion.
2) Confab with a helpful parent/guardian. Given that the kid in question is scared of adults, you may be dealing with someone at the 'beat it out of them' level of ignorance somewhere in the home scene. Tact is a great helper when dealing with people who don't understand ASD.
3) Make a safe space. For my youngest, who had meltdowns in the early years, I suggested and achieved a "soft corner" where my little girl could de-stress. It included a bean-bag, a cuddly toy, and a faux-fur pillow. Your little autiste (my term) may need a toy cubby or a similar one-kid space. Make it clear that this is X's safe space and anyone caught invading it without permission is headed for time-out.
4) Have sensory aids. Lots of autistic kids have trouble with loud noises. I personalized a set of ear muffs, which I loan to the school for the times when the world gets too loud. You may have to work with the child on your own if the family is unhelpful. You can do lots with stickers, beads and a hot glue gun.
5) Set up a reward system. Positive re-enforcement works marvelously. If your kid isn't a reader, then pictograms work as well. Prizes can be anything from stickers and stamps to safe sensory activities.
6) Know the time limit. If an autiste can only handle tasks in five-minute windows, work with it instead of trying to convince oatmeal to flow uphill. Yes, it means re-framing the tasks you set out for the whole class, and I won't pretend it isn't a pain in the anatomy... but it will make class time less stressful in the long run.
7) Know the warning signs. This is one only familiarity can help you with, alas. ASD kids have what I like to think of as an escalating chain of de-stressing behaviors (eg. Verbal stimming) that you can use to gauge whether or not it's time to intervene(use the three D's - Delay, Derail, Distract). There's a huge difference between I'm dealing with this habits and This is starting to not be OK habits.
This is an awful lot not about books. I know. But I do recommend you get a hold of Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robinson. If only for the marvelous word Nypical.
Oh, and avoid any material from Autism Speaks. They don't speak for autistes, they want to eliminate them.
On the three D's:
Delay: delay the oncoming storm with encouraging words, or telling them they can try 'one more time' before going to something else. Never make them feel 'bad' or 'wrong' that the disturbing thing is disturbing them.
Derail: derail the chain of causation with something attractive (VERY dependent on the child in the situation) as a reward for 'doing so well' at whatever. You can even use verbal stimming for this if you can.
Distract: distract them from the distress with a different (and attractive) activity/object. Improvisation is definitely your friend. I once prevented a meltdown by singing about being scared and then being 'a brave little girl'. It caused my elder child a lot of embarrassment, but my little autiste did not have a meltdown and that counts as a success.
And above all else - learn everything you can, then share everything you can. Be fully prepared to dumb it down if you have to. And if someone insists on ignorance, ask them if their ignorant strategies would work on any other disability. Then ask them how Autism is not a disability.
Winning the fight against ignorance is often the biggest battle.
No, I WOULD NOT recommend JER's "Be Different" for a kid who's been shamed or terrified into this level of insecurity.
That book might as well have been called "Why It's Super Important for Other People Not to Think You're Weird." I couldn't even get through the first part of it, it was that shaming and gross, and I'm an adult who thinks I'm fairly secure with myself.
More likely he needs to just know that he's safe and accepted. OP, that he seems to see you as a safe person is a good sign. Is there any way that when he gets upset, he can just come to you, no questions asked?
It's also important that adults don't make him feel cornered or trapped. As long as he's not in imminent danger, there's no reason he should be having to run away from adults, because they shouldn't be giving chase. I concur with the need for a safe space.
Also, the motion of rocking is soothing to a lot of autistic people. See if, when he runs to you, he likes being rocked back and forth.
And this might be the job of someone other than you...but I hope someone's trying to figure out what's going on at home for him. (Some "therapies" that parents subject their kids to for 20-30 hours a week in addition to school can be very overwhelming and psychologically abusive.)
Sorry, I meant to say that JER’s book is an OK tool for teaching adults what ASD can be like “on the inside” from someone who’s experienced it. Plus ‘nypical’ is a pretty damn cool word that doesn’t carry the shaming implications present in 'normal’.
I agree with everything you’ve said here, chavisory. Safe environment first, above all things.