Strategies for learning and for social and emotional well-being for people on the Autism Spectrum
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 alternative 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 behavior, 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 interest in teaching 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 behaviors. Arrange for a more in-depth evaluation of behavior, 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, the hum of fluorescent 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 behaviors in specific situations.
- Explicitly teach and practice social skills, such as how to read body language and expressions. Use direct instruction paired with social stories, modeling and role-play.
- Identify ways to increase positive behaviors, such as using material reinforcers (e.g., snack, preferred activity).
- Provide increased supervision during free time (e.g., like playtime, recess).
- Provide a separate space for breaks or regular physical movement breaks outside if needed.