Four of My Fave Teaching Strategies for Autistic Learners

Sharing four of my fave teaching strategies today that support Autistic learners. I find these strategies to be critical for successful teaching and learning within Special Education. Read on to find out what they are and why I find them essential.

My Four Fave Teaching Strategies

Four of my fave teaching strategies are: Wait time; Structure and Routines; Using a Range of Visuals and Least Intrusive Prompts. Let’s take a look in more detail.

The First Strategy: Wait Time

The first of my four fave teaching strategies is ‘wait’ time. Wait time is critical as many of our students take longer than you would think to process language. Some students will take fifteen seconds or more! Our Autistic students have processing challenges. If we also add in English as a second language, Intellectual Impairment and Multiple Disability, then they may take much longer to process information.

Wait time therefore gives the student a chance to filter out sensory demands and then focus on what was asked. Unfortunately waiting for teachers is hard. Some strategies to consider are counting in your head, reciting a rhyme in your head, thinking of colours and spelling them in your head, saying the alphabet half way through silently.

The Second Strategy: Structure and Routines

Our students who are autistic thrive on structure and routine. Utilising such systems sets students up for success. It provides a sameness which leads to a feeling of security. Routines and structure also decrease anxiety. This reduction in anxiety leads to an ability to focus on the required learning. Another reason to include increased structure and routines is that it encourages independence in our students. Independence is ultimately the end goal.

Photo of portable teaching frame. On the frame is a class picture schedule, a large AAC core board and across the top are the numerals 1 - 10.

The Third Strategy: Use a Range of Visuals

Visuals are critical to the learning of our Autistic individuals. They are used to support receptive and expressive communication. We utilise visuals in a range of schedules. Schedules (from first/then through to whole day strips) support structure and routines. If you require more information and would like some free first/then schedules click the link here. Visuals can also be used to support behaviour. We may wear these visuals on a key chain and show to a student to support positive choices (you can access some free visuals for behaviour here).

Behavior lanyard with key ring and a range of spare symbols

Visuals support expressive and receptive communication via AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication) for non-speaking Autistic students. Commencing AAC doesn’t mean that our Autistic learners will never speak. It means that while we wait and see, we can teach these students how to communicate. Feel free to search for AAC on my site for more. PrAACtical AAC is a fabulous website to learn more.

The Fourth Fave Teaching Strategy: Use the Least Intrusive Cues and Prompts

Autistic students require a range of prompts to be successful in learning. The prompt hierarchy ranges from no prompt (independent) through to full physical prompt. Knowledge of what the cues and prompts are and when to use them is essential to ensure we do not inadvertently make the student prompt dependent. Usually we will look to provide the minimum level of prompt required for the student to be successful (least-to-most-prompting).

Occasionally we will use a most-to-least prompt first. An example of this would be in dressing. We would use backward chaining to physically prompt the student in all aspects except the last part of perhaps pulling up trousers from the thighs up.

What do you think?

Well there we have it. Four of my fave teaching strategies. I wonder if they are yours too? Let me know in the comments.

photo with light aqua colour background and words 4 of my fave teaching strategies (in blue) numbers 1 - 4 in stop sign shapes on left side of photo red background blue numbers, 4 boxes with red outline and white inner, words 1 wait time for processing, 2 structure and routine, 3 use a range of visuals and 4 use the least intrusive cues and prompts

If you are a new teacher either at home or in a school setting, feel free to ask any questions. I invite you to join my email list to receive more information and access some free resources that may support you further.

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Until next time.

Aroha, Ann

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