Autism Spectrum Disorder: Strategies for Success at School

Environmental considerations

  • Make their day as predictable and structured as possible. Set up regular classroom routines and rituals. This can reduce anxiety because the individual knows what to expect

  • Provide the student with prior warning when routines are being changed (i.e., their teacher being absent). Give them plenty of warning that a change is approaching and explain how things will be different. The student will require reassurance at times of change, and people working with them need to be aware of this

  • When providing information orally, use visual supports to allow the student to comprehend the material and concepts more easily. Visual aids are also more likely to maintain their attention for longer periods

  • Ensure there is a visual daily timetable on the whiteboard, or on their desk that uses both pictures and words

  • Use the student’s special interest to motivate learning

  • Consider any sensory sensitivities the student may have. This may include sensitivities to light, sound, touch, taste and the need to move. Provide accommodations for these, which may include, allowing the student to have movement breaks, stand while completing work, use fidgets, wear headphones and setting up a calm corner

  • Set up a calm corner in your classroom. This space can be used when the student needs time to calm down and relax. This space should be comfortable and have sensory toys that can help sooth them. Set a timer for around 5 minutes before getting the student to reintegrate back into the classroom

  • Implement a calm card. This card is a five-minute pass out card. The student may only use this when they need to escape a distressing situation to prevent their own behaviour escalating. The calm card should have three strategies on the back of the card which are specific to the student’s preferences to calming down. If they abuse it, they lose it

  • Consider modifying homework expectations. Individuals with ASD often see the end of school as just that – the end of school. Therefore, it can be very difficult for them to understand that they have to do school work at home. If homework is non-negotiable allow the student to complete work they have already mastered (practice) rather than ask them to do work which requires learning new material. Assignment work needs to be well planned and broken down into small sections- arrange the questions/topics in small chunks with visual supports and ask the student to complete a number of small exercises rather then giving it all at one.

Social Skills

  • Explicitly teach the student social conduct through social stories, modelling and role-playing

  • Help the student develop specialty areas in which they can be an expert. Encourage them to study a topic of interest and provide opportunities in the classroom so they can share their expertise

  • As much as possible, without being obvious about it, foster positive friendships between the student and other students who are likely to accept and like them. Self-esteem and resilience grow from friendships and positive social interactions

  • Support the student in building a social network. Enrol them in activities in which they will be seen as contributing positively to the group

  • Many of our social rules are unwritten (e.g., if you enter a movie theatre with several open seats, you do not choose a seat right next to someone). As these types of social rules arise, discuss them with the student and write them in a rulebook to review periodically


  • Children with ASD find the unstructured nature of recess and lunchtime challenging. Therefore, give them concrete choices about lunchtime activities they can engage in. Offer lunchtime clubs for the student to be involved in. Further, allow them to have downtime during recess and lunchtime to assist them to relax and recharge. The student may want to only spend half of their lunchtime outside and then the other half of the time helping their teacher prepare for the next lesson or pack away the morning’s materials.

Communication

  • Communicate on a literal level. Use clear and specific wording and avoid idioms when making a request or asking a question of the student. For example, avoid using phrases such as, “Take a seat” or “Put this over there.” Rather, use direct and unambiguous statements: “Sit in the chair” and “Put the piece of paper on the table.”

  • Talk less, slow the pace and listen more


  • When asking a question, allow for adequate wait time before you ask another question. Asking too many questions in quick succession may overwhelm. If the student does not understand your question, repeat it using fewer words. If they still do not understand you, use nonverbal communication such as a drawing on the board, a picture, or gestures to illustrate the meaning of the question

  • Provide the student with warning before you call on them to speak in class. Allow the student time to plan what they want to say and have them alert you when they are ready to contribute

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