By: Michelle McCaskill, Laura Newell, & Cathy Youngblood

AUSTISM (definition according to IDEA, 2004)

Autism is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has a serious emotional disturbance.

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Autism: Sensory Overload Simulation

Characteristics of Autism - 3 main domains

(S. Kumar, A. Kumar & Singh, 2010)

Social Skills

  • Do not interact with other people in a typical fashion
  • Difficulty interpreting the social cues of other people (meaning of a wink, or a frown)
  • Appear to not notice other people
  • May want to make friends bus lack core social skills to initiate, respond to, and maintain social interactions.
  • Difficulty seeing other's perspectives
  • Difficulty regulating their emotions (spontaneous outbursts of aggression, self-injury, or sadness)

Communication Skills

  • Limited verbal language (one word, short phrases)
  • Echolalia- repeat what they hear verbatim
  • May have large vocabularies (Asperger) but not be able to sustain conversation
  • One-topic, does not allow for others to engage
  • Difficulty interpreting body language, tone of voice, and turn of phrase of other students

Repetitive Behaviors and Routines

  • Subtle to blatant (ex: repeated head turning when they appear to be alone, or vigorous body rocking)
  • hand flapping, finger flicking, and tip-toe walking
  • Strict adherence to a routine or consistency in the environment (ex. may play with toys in a non-typical way)
  • Any change in routine may result in challenging behavior ( time, venue, meals, routes, personal hygiene, bedtime routines)
  • Specific interests (such as train schedules, dinosaurs, or specific TV shows)

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What are the differences in "Autism" and "Asperger Syndrome" ?


Knowing these deficits in students with Autism, what are some ways you could help these students in your classroom?

Room Number 371977

Assess Preferences

  • Twice a year
  • Find likes and dislikes
  • Invaluable in designing the classroom routine, selecting instructional strategies and even when attempting to reduce challenging classroom behavior

Establish a Classroom Routine

  • Alternate high interest and low interest activities for the student (Do not expect the student to spend extended periods of time engage in low-preference activities)
  • When transitioning between high and low interest activities, use a neutral activity to ease the transition.
  • Have consistent regular classroom routines (Ex: entering the room, going to lunch and finishing work)
  • Provide a written daily schedule with pictures (review at the beginning of the day) **Involve the student in making this schedule, leave periods blank during the day and let them choose preferred activities (as rewards)

Teach Communication Skills

Learn about augmentative and alternative communication
Students with delays in social communication often use a different mode of communication.
  • Picture wallets
  • communication boards
  • voice output communication aids to communicate

Teach Social Skills

  • Initiating conversations with other
  • Responding to initiations
  • Maintaining conversations
  • Responding to criticism

Social Problem Solving

  • Taught using a combination of role-play, feed-back, modeling, and verbal instruction with the teacher or a paraprofessional.

Social Story Interventions

  • Individualized short story designed to clarify a particular social context, the perspectives of others in that context, and the social skills to be performed.
  • Usually use role-play, modeling, and feedback
  • Provides a description of a social context and social exchange and be directive in telling the student how to behave.

Interventions for Increasing the Academic Engagement (Goodman & Williams, 2007)

Auditory Engagement

-Using songs to facilitate transitions

-Using songs during listening activities

Visual engagement

-Increasing independence

-Using visual schedules

-Incorporating models for play

-Maintaining academic group focus

-Following information presented on boards

-Following stories read aloud

-Identifying salient information

Social engagement

-Requiring responses

-Encouraging choice making

-Facilitating peer interaction

Physical engagement

-Providing objects to hold

-Incorporating opportunities for movement

-Including Imitation Activities

COSMIC behavior observation tool (Pasco, Gordon, Howlin & Charman, 2008)

The COSMIC behavior observation is a tool to measure social interaction behaviors in the natural setting. Ecological validity refers to observing students in real settings to better measure their social interactions as close to reality as possible.

Concept Mastery Routine (Laushey, Heflin, Shippen, & Fredrick, 2009)

The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of the concept mastery routine (CMR) when used to enhance the social skills of children with autism in the elementary school setting. CMR involves explicit teacher instruction using visual graphic organizers containing pictures that are associated with the concept as well as the use of mnemonic devices to correspond with step by step procedures.

LISTEN strategy (Al-Shammari, Daniel, Faulkner, Yawkey, 2010)


-Discuss the inappropriate behavior with student

-Make a checklist of correct behaviors

-Student observe the desired behavior


-Student engaged in a role-play activity with teacher


-Student memorizes the steps of the checklist


-Teacher has planned practice times for the student in the classroom


-Teacher has planned a social activity outside of the classroom for the student


Social Skills Interventions for Play (Licciardello, Harchik, & Luiselli, 2008)

Children with autism generally struggle to engage in appropriate social interactions with their peers during play time at school, making it difficult to establish friendships. Targeting social initiations during interactive play, teachers and paraprofessionals use a three part intervention that included pre-teaching and modeling appropriate interactions, prompting the student to initiate interaction and finally, rewarding or praising the student with a tangible object if the student exhibited at least one positive interaction during the play period.

Behavior Support Plans (Crosland & Dunlap, 2012)

Behavior can be managed through RtI and Positive Behavior Support plans. School-wide support is needed to succeed. Prevention, support and delayed contingency interventions provide the tools need for inclusion to be successful.

Prevent - Teach - Reinforce (Strain, Wilson & Dunlap, 2011)

The model, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce (PTR), is based on the use of individualized assessments of students to create a behavior plan that addresses the antecedents of a behavior (prevent), instructional strategies to respond to a behavior (teach), followed by a motivating reinforcement (reinforce).


Al-Shammari, Z., Daniel, C., Faulkner, P., & Yawkey, T. D. (2010). Improving Inappropriate Social Behavior of Autistic Students Using the LISTEN Intervention Strategy. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37(4), 286-249.

Crosland, K., & Dunlap, G. (2012). Effective strategies for the inclusion of children with autism in general education classrooms. Behavior Modification, 36(3), 251-269. doi: 10.1177/01454-55512442682

Goodman, G., & Williams, C. M. (2007). Interventions of Increasing the Academic Engagement of Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders in Inclusive Classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(6), 53-61.

Kumar, S., Kumar, A., & Singh, A. (2010). Understanding autism: An introduction for parents. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, 1(3), 1-13.

Laushey, K. M., Heflin, L. J., Shippen, M., Alberto, P. A., & Fredrick, L. (2009). Concept mastery routines to teach social skills to elementary children with high functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(10), 1435-1448.

Licciardello, C. C., Harchik, A. E., & Luiselli, J. K. (2008). Social skills intervention for children with autism during interactive play at a public elementary school. Education and Treatment of Children, 31(1), 27-37.

Pasco, G., Gordon, R., Howlin, P., & Charman, T. (2008). The classroom observation schedule to measure intentional communication (cosmic): An observational measure of the intentional communication of children with autism in an unstructured classroom setting. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, (38), 1807-1818. doi: 10.1007/s10803-008-0569-3

Strain, P. S., Wilson, K., & Dunlap, G. (2011). Prevent-teach-reinforce: Addressing problem behaviors of students with autism in general education classrooms. Behavioral Disorders, 36(3), 160-171.

Vaugn, S. (2013). Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders/ Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Teaching Students Who Are Exceptional, Diverse, and at Risk in the General Education Classroom 6th Edition NY: Pearson