Strategies for Learning and for Social and Emotional Well-Being for People on the Autism Spectrum

Strategies for Learning

  • Ensure the person has some way of telling you what he or she wants or needs. In collaboration with family and speech-language pathologists, determine if augmentative or alternate communication supports need to be explored.
  • Provide information in visual forms, including written words, pictures, symbols or photos. Investigate software packages for graphic symbols.
  • Use pictures to illustrate important information, such as schedules, appropriate behaviour and location of materials.
  • If the person experiences echolalia (repetition of the speech of others), provide appropriate words that can be used instead.
  • Ensure that each task you give the person has a clear beginning and end, clear instructions, ample time for completion and a model or illustration to follow.
  • Break large tasks into small, discrete steps and teach and reinforce each step. Create a set of sequenced pictures illustrating the steps, if needed.
  • Structure tasks at an appropriate level for the person (e.g., where he or she can be successful 80 to 90% of the time).
  • Help the person become more independent by:
    • giving choices, as much as possible
    • teaching skills in different settings to ensure understanding and generalization across environments
    • teaching functional life skills (e.g., dressing, grooming), if necessary.
  • Provide hands-on activities rather than paper and pencil tasks.
  • Use the person’s areas of interests to teach new skills (e.g., if the person loves trains, get him or her to count trains to develop number skills).
  • Redirect attention if the person becomes overly focused on an area of interest.
  • Use a consistent, agreed-upon response to manage disruptive behaviours. Arrange for more in-depth evaluation of behaviour, if needed.
  • Label and organize personal belongings, classroom and household materials and the physical environment so that the person knows where things go and where activities occur.
  • Reduce distracting stimuli (e.g., wall decorations, hum of florescent lights).
  • Cover or put away activities when they are not available to the person (e.g., computer). Present only the materials necessary for a task and remove any other items from the person’s work area.
  • Consider changes to the environment or specific tools to assist with the person’s sensory needs.

Strategies for Social and Emotional Well-Being

  • Engage the person and family in planning for transitions between grade levels, different schools, different activities and life experiences.
  • Provide clear expectations, consistency, structure and routine for the entire class. Rules should be specific, direct, written down and applied consistently.
  • Provide a schedule of daily and monthly activities to help with communication and to reduce anxiety. Keep to the same schedule, as much as possible.
  • Warn the person about changes (e.g., to the daily schedule, transitions from one activity or room to another) before they occur as changes often can upset a person with ASD.
  • Be aware of peer relationships and provide support and guidance, when necessary. Some people may be unaware or misunderstand incidental information and social nuances.
  • Use social stories to help explain and encourage appropriate behaviours in specific situations.
  • Explicitly teach and practise social skills, such as how to read body language and expressions. Use direct instruction paired with social stories, modelling and role-play.
  • Identify ways to increase positive behaviours, such as using material reinforcers (e.g., snack, preferred activity).
  • Provide increased supervision during free time (e.g., like play time, recess).
  • Provide a separate space for breaks or regular physical movement breaks outside, if needed.

Source: Autism Spectrum Disorder Information for Teachers

Related Articles:

Complete List of All Articles on Autism Spectrum Directory

Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Write a Social Story

Comprehensive List of Social Stories and Visual Scripts for Daily Living and Social Skills

Reference: Websites for Flashcards, Picturecards, and Social Script Graphics

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

Reference: List of iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone Apps for the Autism Spectrum

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

Thinking in Pictures – Visual Schedules for Students on the Autism Spectrum

iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone Apps – Non Verbal Communication and Social Skills by Pictures

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