Monday, August 30, 2010

If You Suffer from Autism, Then You’re Doing It Wrong

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.
-- Frank Zappa

Autism is a developmental disorder that is generally characterized by impaired communication and social interaction. Children with autism also demonstrate unusual responses to sensory stimuli. It’s usually diagnosed in early childhood, and is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. According to the CDC, about 1 in every 110 kids have autism, and boys are four times more likely to be autistic than girls. Chances are, if you haven’t yet had a student with autism in your classroom, you will. Preparing for students who behave and learn differently than “mainstream” kids can be a daunting challenge, and no two students with autism are alike. Students with autism respond best to information presented in a clear fashion that emphasizes the most salient points. Such students may have difficulty in focusing their attention on relevant information, so strategies to help them focus on the things they need to learn is highly beneficial.

As with most students, there is no “one size fits all” strategy to teaching autistic students. Teachers need to carefully review the student’s cognitive abilities, their ability to communicate and their preferred method of communication, learning style, and their level of independence in daily living skills. Certain accommodations will likely be necessary, such as routinely preparing the student for daily transitions, repetition and rephrasing of directions and educational content, possible reward systems, breaking down assignments into manageable chunks, and so forth. Materials to help manage and document these accommodations help to smooth the process of integrating a student with autism into the classroom, as well as chart their progress socially, cognitively, and otherwise.

My picks this week are all from, a site devoted to those who teach children with autism. offers a wealth of information and materials for teachers and parents of students with autism. There is also an online discussion list for parents, educators, and other professionals who teach kids with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. creator Jason M. Wallin is a researcher and faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Central Washington University, and has been working for young children with special needs for more than a decade.

Planning Matrix A: Individual Objectives
Use this planning matrix to record objectives -- communication, self-help, social, motor, and cognitive skills -- for an individual child in a simple, single-page format.

Behavior Observation Forms
Use these forms to quickly document observations of behaviors. Such observations can be a good first step in a functional behavior assessment or analysis. This document consists of reproducible data sheets -- two versions of an observation form, and a behavioral intensity rating scale -- as well as instructions for using those sheets.

Chaining Data Sheet
Chaining is the linking together of simple component behaviors into a more complex, composite behavior. Use this form to detail and track a child's performance through the steps of such a composite behavior. Up to fifteen steps can be detailed and tracked on this sheet (sheets can be combined if more steps are necessary).

~Joann's Picks - 8/28/2010~


  1. Thank you for this great collection of resources!

  2. You are welcome. We hope it will help you teach students on the autism spectrum.


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