- A Brief Explanation of Discrete Trial Training
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome Who Present Behavioral Challenges
- Applied Behavior Analysis: A Focus on Outcomes
- A Challenge to Reframe our Thinking About Behavior
- Concerning Consequences: What Do I Do When...?
- Consequences, Behavior, and My Birds
- Don't Forget About Self Management
- Ever Had a Crisis Kind of Day?
- Movement Difference: A Closer Look at the Possibilities
- Movement Differences Among Some People with Autism: an Impetus to Re-Examine Behavioral Issues
- Observing Behavior Using A-B-C Data
- Positive Behavior Supports Creating Meaningful Life Options for People with ASD
- Ten Steps Towards Supporting Appropriate Behavior
- The Challenge of Combining Competing Input in the Classroom
- "Your Attitude Just Might Be My Biggest Barrier"
- Applied Behavior Analysis: The Role of Task Analysis and Chaining
- Tips for Choosing a Provider for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- What to Consider When Looking for a Qualified ABA Provider
- “If They Could Only Tell Me What They Are Thinking.” The Need for Augmentative Communication for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Assessment Day: Questions About the Communication Development of Your Young Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Aiding Comprehension of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders During One-on-One Interactions
- Can Social Pragmatic Skills Be Tested?
- Comprehension of the Message: Important Considerations for Following Directions
- First Steps and the Journey to a Diagnosis of ASD for a Child under Three
- Functional Categories of Delayed Echolalia
- Functional Categories of Immediate Echolalia
- Initial Guidelines for Developing a Communication Intervention Plan for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Significant Limitations in Communication Ability
- Long and Short Term Strategies for Reducing Specific Repetitive Questions
- Successfully Using PECS with Children with ASD
- Meeting the Challenge of Social Pragmatics with Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Opportunity to Communicate: A Crucial Aspect of Fostering Communication Development
- Reading with Your School-Age Child: Building Vocabulary One Word at a Time
- Social Communication and Language Characteristics Associated with High Functioning, Verbal Children and Adults with ASD
- The 21st Century Speech Language Pathologist and Integrated Services in Classrooms
- The High Functioning Person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A "Tourist" in His Native Country
- The Role of the School Speech Language Pathologist and the Student with Autism
- Using a Visual Support to Enhance WH Question
- Visual Resources for Enhancing Communication for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities
- Visual Schedules and Choice Boards: Avoid Misinterpretation of their Primary Functions
- Visual Supports: Sources for Symbols for Receptive and Expressive Communication
- What is the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS?
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- PICO - A Decision Making Tool For Selecting Apps
- Helping Your Child to Develop Communication Skills
- Evidence-Based Practices for Effective Communication and Social Intervention
- Important Predictors
- The Use of Technology in Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Collaborative Teaming
- Educational Programming
- Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Advice from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Teachers Regarding Literacy Instruction
- Advice for Peer Tutors
- Applying the Ziggurat and CAPS Model in Your School District
- Aspects of Support for Learning
- A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
- Can Schedule Usage Training Include Elements of Literacy Instruction?
- Clean Up Your Act! Creating an Organized Classroom Environment for Students on the Spectrum.
- Change is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
- Classroom Choreography: The Art of Scheduling Staff and Students
- Complexities of Instructional Support
- Creating a Circle of Support
- Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
- Developing Long Term Relationships Between School and Parents
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parent’s Perspective
- Educating Students with Autism: Are There Differences in Placement?
- Establishing Long Term Goals: What Are We Hoping to Achieve
- For General Education Teachers: Helpful Questions to Ask About Students with ASD
- Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
- "Ham It Up and Get It Cookin!!" Thoughts From Dr. Greenspan
- Home-School Communication
- "I Can Do It Myself!" Using Work Systems to Build Independence in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- “I Wake Up for MY Dream!” Personal Futures Planning Circles of Support, MAPS and PATH
- Life After High School...So Now What
- Literacy Resources
- Lovaas Revisited: Should We Have Ever Left?
- Making the Most of Morning Meeting
- Motivating Students Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Moving from Preschool to Kindergarten: Planning for a Successful Transition and New Relationships
- Peer Support Programs
- Promoting the Educational Success of Students with Autism: The Role of the Parent-Staff Relationship
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels
- Practical Steps to Writing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: And Writing Them Well
- Practical Recommendations for Utilizing a Range of Instructional Approaches in General Education Settings
- Recognizing Different Types of Readers with ASD
- Reframing Our Thinking and Getting to Know the Child
- Restricted Repertoires in Autism and What We Can Do About It
- School Cultures that Support Students Across the Autism Spectrum
- Service Learning: Something to Think About
- Supporting Staff Using Coaching Model
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome
- Teaching Students Who Are Low-Functioning: Who Are They and What Should We Teach?
- Theory of Mind in Autism: Development, Implications, and Intervention
- There is No Place Called Inclusion
- The Road to Post-Secondary Education: Questions to Consider
- Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism
- Tips to Consider When Including a Student with ASD in Art, Music, or Physical Education
- Transition: Preparing for a Lifetime
- Transition to Middle School
- Transition Time: Helping Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Move Successfully from One Activity to Another
- Understanding the Design and Power of a Personal Schedule
- Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents
- Who Are We Working for Anyway? Avoiding Personal Agendas at Meetings to Better Support Individuals Across the Autism Spectrum
- Structured Teaching Strategies: A Series
- Growing Up Together
- How to Open A Combination Lock/Locker
- Supporting Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Postsecondary Transition
- Curriculum Materials and Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Implementation and Effectiveness of Using Video Self-Modeling with Students with ASD
- Video Self-Modeling How To and Examples
- Advocates: Qualities to Look for and Choosing the Correct One for YOU
- Considering an Overnight Camp Program for your Child on the Autism Spectrum?
- Finding or Starting a Support Group
- Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Your Son/Daughter on the Autism Spectrum
- Selected Bibliography for Families of People within the Autism Spectrum
- Selected National Resources for Information on Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Selected Resources for Understanding and Supporting Siblings
- Setting the Stage for Parent-Professional Collaboration
- Siblings Perspectives: Some Guidelines for Parents
- What About the Dads?
- When Your Child is Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- What to Do If You Suspect Your Son/Daughter Might Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- For Parents: Preparing for the School Year
- Self Help/Medical
- Teaching a Young Man to Shave
- An Introduction to Possible Biomedical Causes and Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders
- The "M" Word
- Mealtime and Children on the Autism Spectrum: Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads
- Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite:
- Taking Your Son/Daughter with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to the Dentist
- Teaching a Young Woman to Shave
- Anxiety and Panic Struggles
- Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Having THE Talk with Your Child with ASD
- General Information
- Assessment Processes for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Purpose and Procedures
- Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder
- Disability Information for Someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Customized Example
- Getting Started: Introducing Your Child to His or Her Diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome
- Increasing Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders Continues in Indiana
- Standardized Tests and Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Article 7, Title 511
- What’s in a Name: Our Only Label Should Be Our Name: Avoiding the Stereotypes
- For Physicians: Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders and Working with Schools
- Behavioral Issues and the Use of Social Stories
- How to “Lose the Training Wheels:” A New Way to Teach Bicycle Riding
- Living in Fear: Anxiety in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Local Community Resources to Enhance Activities
- Making (and Keeping) Friends: A Model for Social Skills Instruction
- Making Camps Accessible for All
- Play in the Lives of Young Children with Autism
- Play Time: An Examination Of Play Intervention Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Social Activity Groups: Another Approach for Helping to Bridge the Friendship Gap
- Teaching Social Skills through Theatre
- The Collective Outcomes of School-Based Social Skill Interventions for Children on the Autism Spectrum
- The Value of Movement Activities for Young Children
- We All Need Exercise
- Finding a Friend in School
- Bullying and Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Incorporating Typical Peers Into the Social Learning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Articles by Temple Grandin
- An Inside View of Autism
- Choosing the Right Job for People with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome
- Evaluating the Effects of Medication
- Genius May Be an Abnormality: Educating Students with Asperger's Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism
- Making the Transition from the World of School into the World of Work
- Social Problems: Understanding Emotions and Developing Talents
- Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism
Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
Contributed by Kara Hume
The amount of time a student with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is actively attending to and interacting with his/her environment has been cited as one of the best predictors of positive student outcomes (Iovannone, Dunlap, Huber, & Kincaid, 2003). When a student is engaged it is more likely that connections are being formed, productive routines are being created, and interactions are occurring. When unengaged, students lose out on important learning opportunities and may become distracted, disruptive, or may demonstrate challenging behaviors. When these challenging behaviors occur, it is important that elements in the environment are examined—including variables related to the curriculum. Curricular variables may include the length of the instructional activity, the difficulty of the content, the types of materials, the organization of the task, and/or the relevance of the information presented (Dunlap, Kern, & Worcester, 2001). Following are some practical strategies, supported by research, designed to increase active involvement in students with ASD by modifying the instructional activities.
Engagement of students with ASD is less likely unless careful planning in the design of educational materials and activities occurs. Traditional teaching procedures and resources, such as standard lectures and worksheets, may not be appealing or easy to understand for students with ASD. Several additional considerations may be required.
Organization: Students with ASD may have greater difficulty in organizing and sequencing materials due to deficits in executive functioning (Mesibov, Shea, & Schopler, 2005) and/or challenges in modulating sensory input. Worksheets with a great deal of information, or large quantities of materials that may fall or become mixed together may be distracting or overwhelming for students. It is often necessary for staff members to assist in organizing materials, and to present them in a minimally stimulating manner. The placement of materials in containers, folders, baskets, or trays may be beneficial, as well as limiting the amount of information and size of the work space to reduce stimulation.
||Organization of a math worksheet: limited number of problems and limited amount of space; worksheet is organized so student knows where to put responses.|
||Organization of an alphabetizing activity: materials are placed in containers and stabilized on tray; limited letters (A-E); no extraneous information; work space is defined.|
||Organization of an art activity: steps are listed sequentially for student to follow.|
||Organization of desk area: all materials are placed in color coded folders and binders; school supplies are placed in a container on the desk.|
Clarity: Students with ASD may also have difficulty interpreting the importance of information and give undue attention to details (Mesibov et al., 2005). It may be necessary to emphasize the most important aspects of the task or activity in an effort to make the meaning more salient. This may require the use of color coding, numbering, highlighting, or adding additional visual cues.
||Clarifying the sequence of steps: numbers (along with the container) are used to identify the order of steps in setting the table.|
||Clarifying the item to recycle: both pictures and an example of the actual object are used to highlight what item should be placed in each drawer.|
||Clarifying the name when sorting mail: both pictures and written words are used to highlight where mail should be delivered.|
Wide Range of Materials
Using a variety of materials is important for students with ASD for several reasons. Students may become rigid in their use of a material if a range of options is not presented. For example, if students are learning to sort objects by color and only colored bears are used, the skill may not generalize to sorting colored paper, colored socks, or colored cubes. Using multiple exemplars for each skill is essential if generalization is to occur (Horner, Dunlap, & Koegel, 1988). A range of materials can also make the difference between students simply being present, and students participating and being engaged (Kluth, 2003). When a variety of materials are used, students have a chance to be successful and learn in a way that suits them.
Several studies have indicated that varying materials can decrease challenging behavior and increase time on-task (Kern, Childs, Dunlap, Clarke, & Falk, 1994; Dunlap, Foster-Johnson, Clarke, Kern, & Childs, 1995). Kern et al. (1994) found that when a student was asked to complete tasks requiring fine motor skills, he engaged in challenging behaviors. When a laptop computer or tape recorder were provided, self-injury decreased and all assignments were completed. Similarly, Dunlap et al. (1995) found that when a student was required to assemble ballpoint pens, problem behavior occurred. When the materials were changed, and the student assembled sandwiches instead, on-task behavior increased. Kluth (2003) provides some examples:
|IN ADDITION TO TRYING:||TRY USING:|
|Books||Adapted books (laminating pages, rewriting text to make it easier of more relevant), magazines, comic books, advertisements, audio books, movies||
|Worksheets||Adapted worksheets (highlight information), laminated sheets and EXPO marker or grease pencil, small chalkboard or wipe board, overhead projector||
|Pencils||Computer, typewriter, rubber stamps, magnetic letters or words, pencil grips||
Incorporate Strengths and Interests
When designing instructional materials it is essential that the strengths and interests of students with ASD are considered. The inclusion of both elements will assist in increasing both student understanding and motivation.
Visual Information: There is substantial evidence that students with ASD have strengths in processing visual information in comparison to processing language or auditory information (Mesibov et al., 2005; Quill, 1997). When instructions related to a task or assignment are given verbally, students with ASD may have difficulty understanding and responding quickly and appropriately. Providing the information visually, embedded within the activity, instead allows students to continually refer to the instructions and have a clearer understanding of what is expected. Providing the information visually capitalizes on the strengths of students and provides more opportunities for the student to practice the skill independently (without relying on verbal directives from staff). Visual instructions may be given in many forms—from more concrete (the materials indicate what is expected) to more abstract (written words).
||The materials define the task.|
||A jig shows the layout of materials in their correct sequence.|
||A product sample.|
||A written list with pictures.|
Relevance: Incorporating the unique interests of students with ASD into the content and/or layout of instructional activities is another strategy to increase both engagement and meaning. Capitalizing on student interests can provide motivation to complete activities, and students may find the activities more reinforcing than traditional social reinforcement from staff members or peers. The areas of interest may be incorporated subtly (i.e., picture of a Power Puff girl hidden on each text book page) or overt (i.e., the content of the word problems is related to Power Puff girls). Kern et al. (2000) found that students were more likely to complete activities, such as worksheets related to the concepts of “same” and “different” and counting, if Power Ranger pictures were used instead of the standard drawings. A decrease in challenging behavior and an increase in productive behavior was also noted. Including the preferred cartoon characters may have helped to impose meaning into an activity that may have previously lacked importance.
||Reading comprehension activity using Thomas the Train.|
||Fine motor lacing activity incorporating Dora the Explorer.|
||Packaging activity featuring McDonalds products.|
Tips When Making & Using Engaging Instructional Materials
- Consider how all students may benefit from the modifications described above—not just students with ASD.
- Think about how materials can be used across curricular areas or for more than one purpose to ensure the most use.
- If adaptations are not possible for all activities, think about using task interspersal—interspersing activities that have a lower interest level with those that carry a high interest level. Staff is likely to see improvement in on-task behavior using this strategy.
- Think creatively about how activities can be made. Use parent volunteers, student helpers, scout troops, and/or community members. On-line resources such as www.do2learn.com, www.preschoolfun.com, and http://members.aol.com/Room5/tasks.html may be helpful, as well as products found at www.tasksgalore.com and www.hot-ideas.org.
- Consider how you might share resources with other teachers or create an activity lending library in your building/district.
- Instructional activities should relate to your individual assessments of student needs and the curriculum used by your school/state.
Dunlap, G., Foster-Johnson, L., Clarke, S., Kern, L., & Childs, K. (1995). Modifying activities to produce functional outcomes: effects on disruptive behavior of students with disabilities. Journal of the Association for persons with severe handicaps, 20, 248-258.
Dunlap, G., Kern, L., & Worcester, J. (2001). ABA and academic instruction. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities,16, 129-137.
Horner, R., Dunlap, G., & Koegel, R. (1988). Generalization and maintenance: Lifestyle changes in applied settings. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.
Iovannone, R., Dunlap, G., Huber, H., & Kincaid, D. (2003). Effective educational practices for students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18, 150-166.
Kern, L., Childs, K., Dunlap, G, Clarke, S., & Falk, G.. (1995). Using assessment based curricular intervention to improve the classroom behavior of a student with emotional and behavioral challenges. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 7-19.
Kern, L., Delaney, B., Clarke, S., Dunlap, G., & Childs, K. (2000). Improving theclassroom behavior of students with emotional and behavioral disorders using individualized curricular modifications. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Kluth, P. (2003). You're Going to Love This Kid. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
Mesibov, G., Shea, V., & Schopler, E. (2005). The TEACCH® approach to autism spectrum disorders. New York, New York:: Plenum Press.
Quill, K. (1997). Instructional considerations for young children with autism: The rationale for visually cued instruction. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27, 697-714.
The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981 ¬2005 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.
Hume, K. (2006). Get engaged! Designing instructional activities to help students stay on-task. Reporter 11(2), 6-9.