ASD Educator Resources

Guiding Principles for educating students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Ongoing assessment is a multi-faceted and continual process. Individuals with ASD do not always show us or demonstrate what they know. Remember ASD is an output disorder, presume competence always.

Below are some resources for both determining educational eligibility which is done through the Centralized Evaluation Team process along with building, classroom, and student data tracking forms to help with assessing and tracking student achievement.

Centralized Evaluation Team (CET) Process

Quality of Educational Programming for Students on the Spectrum.

Universal Supports Assessments and Planning Tool (USAPT)

USAPT involves the implementation of classroom or building-level evidence-based supports and strategies. These strategies are considered critical for the vast majority of students with ASD, and have been identified as highly effective practices in teaching and supporting students with ASD in integrated environments.

Classroom Environment and Teaching Assessment (CETA)

The CETA tool assesses the implementation of evidence-based classroom practices that provide a solid foundation for learning for students with ASD.

Effective Practices Assessment and Planning Tool (EPAT) for Young Children

EPAT allows teams to rate the implementation of critical practices necessary for effective programming for young children with ASD.

Individual Student Data Collection Forms

The Individual Student Data Collection Forms provide an efficient system to evaluate student performance through data collection and analysis all in one form. The three areas targeted are Independence, Engagement, and Social Interaction since these behaviors have a significant impact on the quality of life for students with ASD.

Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support for Students with ASD

This START module is a team-based training on the principles of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Participants will gain an understanding of the 3-tiered model of PBIS as well as the problem solving process of functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and positive behavior support plan development. Participants will learn to collect relevant data and use that information to guide the development of behavioral strategies. Specific behavioral strategies effective for students with ASD are addressed.

Access PBIS-related materials and resources for students with ASDs. There are resources and tools available for Universal supports, appropriate use of paras and teaching assistants, data collection and FBA tools.

Social Skills training is designed to help children on the spectrum become more aware of the impact their actions have on others and to develop strategies for thinking before they act. Students with ASDs often struggle to understand others’ feelings and thoughts. When conducting social skills training with individuals with ASDs, concrete language is most effective (Thompson; Making Sense of Autism). Remember: social skills can only be developed and maintained by having experiences and opportunities with peers, check out the peer to peer section of this webpage. Consider these resources designed to help children on the spectrum acquire social skills.

Titles available in the LISD ASD Lending Library:

The New Social Story Book by Carol Gray – Carol Gray developed Social Stories in 1991 to promote social understanding in children with autism spectrum disorders. Now, nearly twenty years after their inception, Social Stories have become a standard approach for teachers and parents all over the globe, and the stories are more effective than ever. Carol also teaches you how to write social stories yourself. Years of experience and trial-and-error have led to updated Story guidelines. Carol explains her fine tuned process in the included ten-step learning module which is perfect for parents and teachers.

The Social Skills Picture Book; Teaching Play, Emotion, and Communication to Children with Autism by Jed Baker – Dr. Jed Baker embraces the philosophy in The Social Skills Picture Book, a dynamic teaching tool that engages the attention and motivation of students who need extra help learning appropriate social skills by demonstrating nearly 30 social skills such as conversation, play, emotion management and empathy. Through his work with autistic and disabled students, Dr. Baker has proven that students of all ages learn more effectively when pictures are used to supplement verbal descriptions and instructions.

Model Me Kids – Videos for Modeling Social Skills that were developed for children with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS, Non-verbal Learning Disorders, Social Anxiety, and Learning Disabilities and Delays. Topics for ages 2-8 include: Faces and Emotions and Going Places (playground, dentist, etc). Videos geared for ages 5-12 include: I Can Do It (appropriate behaviors during challenges) and Time for a Playdate. Topics covered for ages 9-17 include: Friendship, Social Skills Tips and Tricks, Confidence, and Conversation Cues.

Speaking of Speech – access free materials that support development of social skills and pragmatics. This site has an extensive collection of pre-created social stories

From Tutor Scripts to Talking Sticks by Paula Kluth and Sheila Danaher

Peer Buddy Pro for Successful Secondary School Inclusion by Carolyn Hughes and Erik Carter

Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum by Brian R. King

Social Skills Groups for Children and Adolescents with Asperger’s Syndrome A Step by Step Program by Kim Kiker Painter

The Social Play Record by Chris White

Peer Support Strategies for Improving All Students’ Social Lives and Learning by Erik W. Carter, Lisa S. Cushing, Craig H. Kennedy

Building Social Relationships by Scott Bellini

Accommodations and Modifications are often a necessary measure to ensure the success of our students on the spectrum within the Least Restrictive Environment. Modifications are changes in what a student is expected to learn, while accommodations are changes in how students access information and demonstrate learning. All children deserve to be successful!

The Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) initiative presents a Differentiated Output Hierarchy outlining a 5-step process. The Differentiated Output Hierarchy is a systematic, organized approach to support student’s active engagement in the general education curriculum. The Differentiated Output Hierarchy supports the concepts defined in differentiated instruction.

Differentiated instruction is defined as the planning of curriculum and instruction using strategies that address student strengths, interests, skills, and readiness in flexible learning environments “At its Core….Differentiation is simply high-quality, thoughtful teaching that builds on our best understanding of how students learn and what teachers can do to maximize each student’s learning” (The Common Sense of Differentiation, 2005). Tomlinson (2000) suggests that differentiated instruction is a way of thinking about teaching and learning.

Many students who receive special education supports and services struggle with reading comprehension, written language, organization skills, etc. The hierarchy provides a framework to allow students to show what they know even with these deficits. There are five levels in the differentiated output hierarchy:

  • Open Ended – Open-ended questions may be the most difficult for students receiving special education services. Many students who have trouble with written language skills or have trouble processing spoken language will not be able to answer open-ended questions as presented in the curriculum. If the student is having trouble with open-ended questions, it is the time to move through the differentiated output hierarchy.
  • Visual Organizational Strategies – Visual strategies should provide the student with a kick-start, which may assist the student in organizing the answer. For example, showing the student how many words or sentences are required to answer a question or complete a paragraph.
  • Closed Strategies – Closed strategies organize the student’s output within the curriculum. Closed strategies also narrow the depth of the curriculum and allow the student to utilize recognition skills versus recall skills to output the information.
  • Choice Strategies – Choice strategies provide the student with a visual method to recall the information. Choice strategies should be utilized in a combination with other hierarchy strategies.
  • Yes/No Strategies – Yes/No strategies change the format of an open-ended, multiple choice, etc. type question into a Yes/No format. The Yes/No format requires the overlay of other hierarchy strategies. A Yes/No strategy may have to be taught to a student.

Grade-level examples of the Differentiated Output Hierarchy

Use the Grading Matrix to plot necessary accommodations and modifications for each student with ASD.

Evidence-Based Practices for Children and Youth with ASD is an eight-page document that gives a brief description of each practice. 

The Evidence by Age and Domain table illustrates which practices have research that support effectiveness for various age groups and targeted skill area.

While many interventions for autism exist, only some have been shown to be effective through scientific research. Interventions that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices (EBPs). Every identified practice is not necessarily appropriate for every learner. Practices are most effective when carefully matched to a learner’s specific needs and characteristics. The National Professional Development Council on ASD is in the process of developing online modules for each of the 24 identified evidence-based practices. These modules are available on the Autism Internet Modules (AIM) website.

Educational Supports for Students with ASD

The Lenawee Intermediate School District along with the Regional Collaborative Network was the host site (Jackson ISD) for the 2016-2017 Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project’s Intensive Training Series. The Educational Supports for Students with ASD module provided participants with a foundation of educational strategies that build upon the strengths of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which lead to successful learning. Participants were provided an opportunity to experience ASD through sensitivity awareness activities which led to a better understanding of the learning challenges for these students. Participants learned to provide curricular accommodations and modifications so students with ASD have access to appropriate grade-level curriculum. A framework for developing an individualized academic modification and grading plan for a student with ASD as well as practice in creating such a plan was also provided.

What Are Visual Supports?

Making auditory information visual

Visual supports consider the preference and strength of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to process non-transient and visual-spatial information. When we present information verbally, the words are available for a brief moment. When we present information visually it can be there for as long as the student needs it.

An effective instructional tool

“Visual supports organize a sequence of events, enhancing the student’s ability to understand, anticipate and participate in those events. Visual supports supplement verbal instruction, clarifying the information for the student and increasing comprehension. Visual supports can be used to cue communication, providing reminders of what to do and say in a situation.” - Quill, 1995

A way to solve problems

What do you hear yourself saying over and over?

What do you hear students asking over and over?

Where are student performances breaking down?

“If you’ve told a child a thousand times and he still does not understand, then it is not the child who is the slow learner." - Walter Barbee

Who Needs Visual Supports?

We all do! Think about the visual supports we use every day: cookbooks, maps, day planners and calendars, phone books, grocery lists, memos, notes, and reminders.

Students with ASD and visual learners need visual supports, but most of our students would benefit from visual supports.

When Do We Use Visual Supports?

Throughout the day, throughout our lives.

We don’t eliminate visual supports. We can make them more portable and age appropriate as our students get older, but we don’t get rid of them. Experience has taught us that when students transition to new environments, i.e., different classes, schools, work sites and independent living it is much easier to change schedules than to reintroduce the whole idea of operating from a schedule. 

Visual Supports Come in Many Forms

  • Written words
  • Pictures (photos, color pictures, black and white pictures, picture-symbols like those used in the Mayer Johnson Boardmaker program)
  • Gestures
  • Objects in the environment (i.e. supplies that are needed for the next activity are sitting on the table or desk where that activity will occur)
  • Arrangement of the environment (i.e. the chairs are set up in the reading circle)

Points to Remember

  1.  It is only by using the visuals that students will attach meaning to them. 
  2. Sometimes you will see immediate results. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, or months before you see results. Stick with it, but be thinking about the possibility of making modifications. Sometimes one little change can make a big difference.
  3. Some visual supports can be faded over time but it’s a good idea to keep them handy for those times when students need a little extra support because they aren’t feeling well, haven’t had enough sleep or are just having an “off day”. If the supports are kept in place they can be easily changed when students transition to a new, more challenging environment.
  4. Make visual supports age appropriate. Consider the size and portability of the visual as well as the kind of visual symbols you use (i.e. objects, pictures, line drawings, words).
  5. Take all school settings into consideration. Don’t forget recess, lunch, inclusion, etc. You can make visual supports portable and easy to access by keeping them in an envelope that hangs by the door. Teach students to get the envelope they’ll need to take with them to activities around the school.
  6. When using visual supports pair them with spoken language so students begin to attach meaning. But use the words sparingly and match key words and phrases to the objects, pictures or actions.
  7. The higher the stress level the more need for visuals. Using spoken language usually serves to increase rather than decrease stress levels. Using pictures allows us to communicate effectively with the student without adding to their stress.
  8.  Independence is our goal! Visual supports promote independence by providing visual cues which can eventually be used by the student for self-prompting. Verbal cues alone can create dependence on other people.

Additional Resources