Autism Spectrum Disorder: Strategies for Success at Secondary School

Environmental Considerations

  • Ensure consistent routines are in place. Recognising routine is the way students with ASD often make sense of a complex world

  • Make sure the student is aware of their daily time table, what classes and teachers they have and the classroom they are required to be in. Colour coding the timetable based on subjects can assist with this

  • 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

  • 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

  • Accept that alone time is necessary and vitally important for emotional regulation

  • Make sure the student has a consistent person they touch base with each day at school

Learning

  • Use the student’s special interest to motivate learning

  • Use creative ways to engage the student (e.g., not insisting on ‘writing’ but allowing an essay to be dictated, or completed on a computer or iPad)

  • Make sure you are providing visual supports in the classroom (i.e., write instructions and task expectations on the board, provide written instructions on a sheet of paper, email the student)

  • Provide scaffolding for learning tasks, explicitly showing a beginning and ending to a task

  • Be reasonable with homework expectations and consider modifying the amount of homework they are required to do and ensure the homework is relevant

  • 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 than giving it all at once

  • Develop a homework routine and set a schedule of what and when the student studies

  • Avoid open ended tasks and make sure the student is aware of the end of the task. Further, provide guidelines that outline the steps along the way (e.g., write 3 pages, answer 6 questions, read 2 articles). This helps with organisation and also sets parameters for the student to work independently

  • If the student has difficulty starting off tasks, and does not know where to start, how to organise, order and add details, provide them with maps, diagrams, story webs or a template to help with the organisation and structuring of their ideas.


Social Skills

  • Explicitly teach and model expected behaviour and social conduct through social stories, modelling and role-playing. Work through issues with them and teach them what is appropriate rather than being reactive

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

  • Students with ASD often take longer to process verbal information, therefore 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