SOLUTION CHART for Social and Communication Difficulties for People on the Autism Spectrum

This chart identifies issues with social and communication skills for people on the autism spectrum and strategies to help the person. It is important to give consideration to the unique learning characteristics of a person, to provide support when needed, and to build on the person’s many strengths. Also, if you are unsure of the process of how to teach a concept to a person on the autism spectrum, it would be helpful to read the article The Steps in the Process of Learning for a Person on the Autism Spectrum.

Difficulties with Use of Language 

  • tendency to make irrelevant comments
  • tendency to interrupt
  • tendency to talk on one topic and to talk over the speech of others
  • difficulty understanding complex language,
  • following directions, and understanding intent of
  • words with multiple meanings
Strategies for Language Understanding 

  • use comic strip conversations or scripts to teach conversation skills related to specific problems
  • teach appropriate opening comments
  • teach student to seek assistance when confused
  • teach conversational skills in small group settings
  • teach rules and cues regarding turn-taking in
  • conversation and when to reply, interrupt or change the topic
  • use audio-taped and videotaped conversations
  • explain metaphors and words with double meanings
  • encourage the person to ask for an instruction to be repeated, simplified or written down if he does not understand
  • pause between instructions and check for understanding
  • limit oral questions to a number the student can manage
  • watch videos to identify nonverbal expressions and their meanings
Insistence on Sameness Strategies for Change 

  • prepare the person for potential change, wherever possible
  • use pictures, schedules and social stories to indicate impending changes
Impairment in Social Interaction 

  • difficulty understanding the rules of social
  • interaction
  • may be naive
  • interprets literally what is said
  • difficulty reading the emotions of others
  • lacks tact
  • problems with social distance
  • difficulty understanding ‘unwritten rules’ and
  • once learned, may apply them rigidly
Strategies for Explaining Social Interaction 

  • provide clear expectations and rules for behaviour
  • teach (explicitly) the rules of social conduct
  • teach the person how to interact through social stories, scripts, modelling and role-playing
  • educate peers about how to respond to the person’s social disability in social interaction
  • use other people as cues to indicate what to do
  • encourage cooperative games
  • provide supervision and support  for the person at breaks (or recess), as required
  • use a buddy system to assist the person during non-structured times
  • teach the person how to start, maintain and end play or social time
  • teach flexibility, cooperation and sharing
  • teach the person how to monitor their own behaviour
  • structure social skills groups to provide opportunity for direct instruction on specific skills and to practice actual events
  • teach relaxation techniques and have a quiet place to go to relax
Restricted Range of Interests Strategies for Using Interests 

  • limit perseverative discussions and questions set firm expectations for the classroom, but also provide opportunities for the student to pursue his own interests
  • incorporate and expand on interest in activities and assignments
Poor Concentration 

  • often off task
  • distractible
  • may be disorganized
  • difficulty sustaining attention
Strategies for Improving Concentration 

  • provide frequent feedback and redirection
  • break down assignments
  • provide timed work sessions
  • reduce work assignments
  • seat at the front of the room
  • use non-verbal cues to get attention
Poor Organizational Skills Strategies to Improve Organization 

  • use schedules and calendars
  • maintain lists of assignments
  • help the person to use ‘to do’ lists and checklists
  • place picture cues on containers or doors or tables
Poor Motor Coordination Strategies to Adapt to Motor Coordination Issues 

  • involve in fitness activities; person may prefer fitness activities to competitive sports
  • take slower writing speed into account when giving work assignments (length often needs to be reduced)
  • provide extra time for tests
  • consider the use of a computer for written work, as some people may be more skilled at using a keyboard than writing
Academic Difficulties 

  • usually average to above average intelligence
  • good recall of factual information
  • areas of difficulty include poor problem solving,
  • comprehension problems and difficulty with
  • abstract concepts
  • often strong in word recognition and may learn
  • to read very early, but difficulty with comprehension
  • may do well at math facts, but have difficulty
  • with problem solving
Strategies to Enable Academic Participation 

  • do not assume that the person has understood simply because he/she can re-state the information
  • be as concrete as possible in presenting new concepts and abstract material
  • use activity-based learning where possible
  • use graphic organizers such as semantic maps, webs
  • break down tasks into smaller steps or present it another way
  • provide direct instruction as well as modelling
  • show examples of what is required
  • use outlines to help person take notes and organize and categorize information
  • avoid verbal overload
  • capitalize on strengths, e.g., memory
  • do not assume that they have understood what they have read – check for comprehension, supplement instruction and use visual supports
Emotional Vulnerability 

  • may have difficulties coping with the social and emotional demands of life
  • easily stressed due to inflexibility
  • often have low self-esteem
  • may have difficulty tolerating making mistakes
  • may be prone to depression
  • may have rage reactions and temper outbursts
Strategies for Emotional Encouragement 

  • provide positive praise and tell the person what she/he does right or well
  • teach the person to ask for help
  • teach techniques for coping with difficult situations and for dealing with stress
  • use rehearsal strategies
  • provide experiences in which the person can make choices
  • help the person to understand his/her behaviours and reactions of others
  • educate other people
  • use peer supports such as buddy system and peer support network
Sensory Sensitivities 

  • most common sensitivities involve sound and touch, but may also include taste, light intensity, colours and aromas
  • types of noises that may be perceived as extremely intense are: sudden, unexpected
  • noises such as a telephone ringing, fire alarm  high-pitched continuous noise
  • confusing, complex or multiple sounds such as
  • in shopping centres
Strategies for Coping with Sensory Issues 

  • be aware that normal levels of auditory and visual input can be perceived by the person as too much or too little
  • keep the level of stimulation within the person’s ability to cope
  • avoid sounds that are distressing, when possible use music to camouflage certain sounds minimize background noise
  • use ear plugs if noise or reaction are very extreme
  • teach and model relaxation strategies and diversions to reduce anxiety


Adapted by the Autism Spectrum Directory from Saskatchewan Education: Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum

Copyright Autism Spectrum Directory

Related Articles:

Reference: The Steps in the Process of Learning for a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone Apps for Non Verbal Communication

Social Impairment Can Be Improved by Teaching How to Pay Attention to People Instead of Things

Social Skills Activities for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

How People on the Autism Spectrum Learn

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Positive Behavior Management

Complete List of All Articles on Autism Spectrum Directory


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