This Wiki was created by Aaron Rosenke, Bobbie Mappin, Logan Vanderham, and Kayley Bowie.

1. What Is Autism

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Autism is a mental disorder, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. One in 88 children are diagnosed with autism and the symptoms are usually noticed between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. Typically, autism affects individuals in 5 key areas:
  • Communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Social skills
  • Behaviours
  • Learning
  • Medical issues

Because this disorder has a dramatic impact on a child's ability to learn, it is imperative that teachers understand the conditions surrounding autism and know how to accommodate these students.


2. Classroom Implications

In order for an autistic student to benefit from classroom instruction, there must be a good fit between the child and the school. A "good fit" involves compatibility of a child's characteristics and family context, and the values of both the family and school.The ultimate goal of educating children with autism is to help them achieve personal independence and social responsibility.

4 levels of finding a "good fit" for autistic students:
1. Values and philosophy
2. Evaluate quality indicators and evidence
3. Child and family specific characteristics and needs
4. Targeting indivdual outcomes: matching child's goals and strategies

Sensory Stimuli:
  • Responses to sensory stimuli may be very different because one or more of the child's senses are either over-reactive (hypereactive) or under-reactive (hyporeactive). This can be overwhelming and may cause the student to experience anxiety.
  • Being aware of a student's stimulation characteristics is important in understanding the student and planning programs.
    • Tactile - May not enjoy being touched, overreact to texture of objects, clothing, and food.
    • Auditory - Extreme responses may be caused by innocuous sound. Ex. chair, bells between classes, intercom.
    • Visual/Olfactory(smell) - Either enjoy a visual/smell or they do not.
    • Vestibular/Proprioceptive - May have poor balance and fear movement. Difficulty adjusting to stairs or ramps. OR may seek intense movement. Ex. whirling, spinning, movements that others may not tolerate.

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Developing an IEP (Individual Education Plan):
Effective programs include comprehensive communication assessment and intervention.
It involves assessment by a speech and language pathologist, informal observations and classroom-based evaluation. A team of people need to be involved with the student including the classroom teacher, parents, student if appropriate, special education teacher, and sometimes teacher assistants.

IEP Contents:
1. Personal and educational data
2. Information on strengths and needs
3. Long-term goals (future vision of an adult) and short-term goals
4. Transition goals, including vocational skills
5. Resources and strategies used to work towards goals
6. How progress will be assessed and evaluated
7. Assignment of responsibility for carrying out specific aspects of the plan
8. Review and evaluation of plan

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)
  • Research shows that children who received 25 - 40 hours per week of ABA had a better outcome than students with eclectic instruction
  • Behaviour analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place.
  • Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behaviour is followed by some sort of reward, the behaviour is more likely to be repeated.
  • ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person's perspective.
  • It is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism.

3. How To Assess

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3.1 Strategies

  • Early behavioural intervention generally leads to important improvements in IQ and adaptive behaviour for most children with autism.
  • Teachers and parents need to be open to trying various interventions until they find the strategies that fit best.
  • Autism intervention has the best results when parents are trained in teaching methods and involved in their child's education.
  • Minimum of 25 hourse of intervention per week for 12 months a year with individualized attention on a daily basis (to ensure progress)
  • Focus on spontaneous communication
  • Instruction in and coordination across homes
  • Proactive approach to challenging behaviours

Instruction should emphasize paying attention, imitating, comprehending, and using language in play and social interaction. Autistic children do not learn social skills from observation or participation. So, specific skills need to be targeted for instruction and support in social situations. When planning teachers need to consider problem behaviour for a specific child and have well thought out environmental adaptation to decrease problem behaviour. Visual material should be incorporated into teaching practices.

Testing Adaptations
Testing can be confusing and stressful when proper supports aren't offered.
Some suggestions include:
  • Provide breaks
  • Allow them to bring a cheat sheet
  • Read the test to them
  • Drawing pictures
  • Have them take a cooperative test with a peer
  • Ask the student how they want to be tested

3.2 Applications

Authentic Assessments
In an inclusive classroom there are multiple ways for an autistic student to show their knowledge.
  • Portfolios
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  • Learning logs
  • Anecdotal reports
  • Observations
  • Collaborative exams
  • Labs
  • Journals
  • Puzzles and games
  • Surveys
  • Photographic essays
  • Collages
  • Interviews
  • Drama/performance

Individual Strategies
  • Teach about autism
  • Help with movement problems (using touch cues, using music, model or give sample of a task, give visualization or imagery)
  • Teach to their strengths and areas of expertise
  • Provide safe space (learn to find relaxation when anxious)
  • Provide nonverbal support and cues
  • Give options for expression (give opportunity to use scribes or computers)
  • Keep a very structured schedule so they can anticipate what's next
  • Have a designated "chill out zone" in the classroom

Success indicators of autistic student education:
1. Improved ability to generalize
2. Increased independence
3. Making friends
4. Academic progress
5. Decreased behavioural problems

4. Resources

These videos are supplementary (not necessary) and can be watched if you are looking for further information.

Video: Teaching Students With Autism

The above video lists 10 tips/strategies for teachers when dealing with autistic students (ie, incorporating visuals).

Video: Solutions For Autism in the Classroom (Dr. Adel Najdowski, PhD.)

The above video is 46 minutes long (so it's not a quick watch) but it is a very detailed, in-depth discussion of the following points:
  • The most effective treatment for ASD: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • ABA-based teaching strategies
  • Dealing with challenging behavior
  • Assessing curricular needs for your students with ASD
  • Designing curriculum lessons for your students with ASD

If you are working with an autistic student in your classroom and are looking for information on teaching strategies and curriculum, this video is an excellent resource.

Video: ABA Autism Classroom Case Study (Pennsylvania, 2012)

The above video is 6:50 minutes long. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is used in this classroom curriculum case study to teach children along the Autism spectrum. It follows several classes of autistic children over the course of one school year to document each classroom's effectiveness in the student's academic and social development.

Website: Educate Autism - Click here
The above website, Educate Autism, is dedicated to helping those working with children with autism by providing free teaching materials, various tutorials to help you make your own teaching aids and articles to provide information about teaching methods and behavioural principles.

Website: Practical Autism Resources - Click here
The above website offers hundreds of free printable activities, templates, graphics, associations, etc. to use with autistic students.

Observation Checklist (PDF file):

5. References

Autism Speaks. (2012). Applied Behaviour Analysis. Retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2000). Teaching students with autism: A resource guide for school. Victoria, BC: Queens Printer

Kluth, Paula. (2003). "You're Going to Love This Kid!": Teaching Students with Autism in the Inclusive Classroom. Baltimore, MD: Paul H.
Brookes Publishing Co.

Plumley, K. (2009). How to Assess Progress of Autistic Students. Retrieved from

Talk About Curing Autism. (2012). Retrieved from

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