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Posted on Sep 18, 2014 in Autism Spectrum Disorder

How to Teach the Learner with ASD

  • Learners with ASD are a diverse population, requiring individualized assessment and sometimes specialized skills (e.g., applied behavior analysis, systematic instruction, knowledge of evidence-based practices).
  • These students’ experiences in typical academic environments are strongly marked by confusion regarding social interactions, classroom routines, and academic expectations.
  • They often do not learn efficiently from naturalistic experiences (e.g., watching others, trial and error). They may have trouble with language-intensive teaching modalities (e.g., group discussion or coaching), which are common in most classrooms.
  • More than most students, they need educators to provide motivation for them to engage, learn and cooperate in the academic milieu.
  • Problem behaviors in the classroom stem from the core features of ASD including social and communication impairments. It is not personal or simply oppositional behavior.
  • In general, students with autism require teachers to:
    • Clarify expectations
    • Motivate them to cooperate and engage
    • Explicitly teach social, communication, and other skills

Clarify Expectations

  • Adapting the physical environment
    • Visual organization systems for work space (bins; color-coding, etc.)
    • Seating and other ‘geographic’ considerations
    • Quiet space (other spaces in room clearly demarcated)
  • Visual supports for routines and instruction (these are helpful and often critical, even with students who are verbally competent)
    • Visual schedules, adapted to the learner’s level to provide information about the routine and transitions
    • Timers or other means for signaling the precise duration of less-preferred activities.
    • Written or picture-based task lists, adapted directions and checklists
    • Visual cues for positive or corrective feedback
    • Graphic organizers

Motivate Students to Cooperate and Engage

  • One cannot rely too much on natural rewards
    • praise
    • pride in accomplishment
    • peer acceptance
  • Artificial rewards may be needed
    • favorite toys
    • computer time
    • other fun activities
  • Preclude discouragement by shortening tasks or presenting them in smaller chunks (with frequent feedback)
  • When making an assignment, make sure that the student understands how much or how long the work will take
  • Use the schedule (daily, weekly or monthly) to visually highlight the timetable of preferred activities
  • Use visually mediated reward systems (score cards to help keep track of how long and how much work is required until payday)
  • The Premack principle (Grandma’s law)
  • Contracts
  • Behavior management strategies: fidelity to behavior plan

Explicitly Teach

  • Common weaknesses in vital skills
    • Social skills that may need to be taught
      • Waiting/taking turns
      • Greeting others
      • Raising a hand and waiting to be called on
      • Cooperative play
    • Communication skills that may need to be taught
      • Gaining a listener’s attention
      • Reciprocal conversation skills (taking turns, staying on topic, etc.)
      • Asking for help, a break, or what they need before becoming too upset to ask
  • Common modifications to instruction:
    • Arrange many ‘trials’ (opportunities for instruction)
    • Teach for generalization
    • Teach for independence
    • Break complex tasks down into steps
    • Develop strategies for signaling transitions and announcing unanticipated events
    • Use of concise, truncated instructions when introducing new concepts or new applications of learned concepts
    • Most often, less talking is better when a student is frustrated or upset
  • Instructional Interventions that are often beneficial:
    • Social scripting or video modeling
    • Self-monitoring/self-management
    • Peer-mediated instruction
    • Task-analyzing

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