Welcome to Inclusive Education.


ASD and learning

http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd-and-learning/

Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience its impact in unique ways. They are likely to need support in communicating, interacting with others, and processing information.

Their strengths may include strong visual-spatial skills, non-verbal problem-solving skills, and visual and auditory memory.

This guide focuses on areas for specific support and on whole-class strategies that benefit all students. Links to in-depth resources and specialist support services are included.

Categories

Specifically about
ASD
Highly relevant to
Behaviour
Also related to
ADHD
Removing barriers to learning
Innovative learning environments

Information about autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may need support in making sense of the world. ASD has been described as a "hidden" condition that affects every aspect of a person's life.

Student with ASD taking photo of a maths activity to share with her teacher. The photo will be used to support a conversation about the activity later in the day.

Source: Ministry of Education

Suggestions and resources

Overview of ASD

Autistic spectrum disorder or ASD is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that may affect communication, social interaction, and cognition (thinking).

The impact of ASD varies from person to person, and its effects vary for an individual depending on the situation and the person's emotional state. Asperger syndrome is part of the autism spectrum.

People with Asperger syndrome often speak fluently and may need less support with communication. However they may have difficulties interpreting non-verbal communication.

Students with ASD may also have additional needs due to sensory impairments.

To find out more about some of the new thinking around ASD, read the fact sheet from the Australian Positive Partnerships initiative called DSM-5 and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Overview of ASD
Autism described (NZ) (video)
What is Autism?

Karen Brady of Autism New Zealand Inc. explains autism.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Autism New Zealand (NZ)

Autism described (NZ)
Asperger’s syndrome described (NZ) (video)
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Matt Frost of Autism New Zealand Inc. explains Asperger’s syndrome.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Autism New Zealand (NZ)

Asperger’s syndrome described (NZ)
Understanding the spectrum (video)
Sensitivity to individual difference

This comic redesigns the Autism Spectrum. It provides an insight into the the variability of learners with Autism.

No captions or transcript available

Source: The Mighty

Understanding the spectrum

Resources and downloads

New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder guideline

This Ministry of Health booklet has information for people with ASD, their families, health professionals, support service providers, and those involved in education. It covers diagnosis and treatment of ASD, supporting and teaching children and adults with ASD, employing people with ASD and living with ASD.

What are you doing? A film about autism (film trailer)

A short Australian film trailer created by Autism Awareness.It aims to teach school aged children about acceptance and understanding of their peers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). No captions or transcript available.

Tony Attwood

An Australian website for parents, professionals, and people with Asperger's syndrome and their partners. Tony's book, Asperger's syndrome – a guide is explained, along with other texts he has authored.

Fact sheet 10: DSM-5 and autism spectrum disorder

A fact sheet from the Australian organisation Positive Partnerships on new research relating to understanding and defining autism spectrum disorder.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Information from Autism New Zealand. Included are links for educators, features, and behaviours associated with autism.

Overview of indications of ASD

Every student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is unique. They differ in:

  • the level of support needed in each learning area
  • their family setting and circumstances
  • their level of intellectual ability
  • possible associated needs relating to dyslexia, dyspraxia or sensory impairments, such as hearing loss or low vision
  • individual factors, such as age and personality.

People with ASD range from those needing significant help with all day-to-day tasks, to those living fully independent lives.

As well as being different within and across the three characteristics of communication, social interaction and cognition, students’ abilities, interests, personalities, and cultural and family circumstances all influence their learning and behaviour.

Overview of indications of ASD
Sensory overload (video)
Interacting with Autism Project

This animation gives the viewer a glimpse into sensory overload, and how often sensory experiences shape everyday life.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Interacting with autism

Sensory overload
What is it like to have ASD? (video)
Rosie’s world

13-year-old Rosie explains what it's like to grow up with autism – a condition which affects how children see life, and the way they relate to others.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BBC (UK)

What is it like to have ASD?

Resources and downloads

New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder guideline

This Ministry of Health booklet has information for people with ASD, their families, health professionals, support service providers, and those involved in education. It covers diagnosis and treatment of ASD, supporting and teaching children and adults with ASD, employing people with ASD and living with ASD.

What does ASD look like? quickcard-English

This guide identifies signs that may indicate ASD and suggests action you can take. Links to information in Cook Island Māori, Samoan and Tongan. A Ministry of Health publication.

My life with Asperger's: Daniel Wendler at TEDxUniversityofArizona

Daniel Wendler talks about growing up with Asperger syndrome. No captions or transcript available.

Definition of autism spectrum disorder

Information about ASD from the Australian Positive Partnerships Initiative.

Essential tips (image)
ASD
Understanding ASD

This downloadable pdf created by Sue Larkey provides examples of how ASD may affect learning.

It also outlines useful tips for teachers.

Source: Ten essential tips for understanding ASD (Australia)

Essential tips
Sensory overload in the classroom (video)
What autism feels like

Erin Clemens has personal experience of ASD.

In this video she creates a simulation of the impact of sensory overload in the classroom on students with ASD.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Erinclem (US)

Sensory overload in the classroom
Barriers to learning (NZ) (video)
A personal perspective

Matt Frost was Deputy head boy at his school. He also has autism.

Matt talks about how his learning at school could have been better supported.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Te Toi Tupu (NZ)

Barriers to learning (NZ)
Areas of support needed

Students with ASD may:

  • prefer routine and structure, and like to do things in a particular way or order
  • dislike change or moving from one place, or activity, to another
  • find it difficult to organise themselves, their possessions, or to tackle and solve problems
  • develop strong interests in particular subjects
  • have unfamiliar mannerisms (such as flapping their hands) or movement patterns.
Areas of support needed
Whole class strategies (image)
Screen Shot 2016 12 12 at 11.36.16 AM
How ASD can influence learning

ASD affects the way a brain receives, processes and responds to information.  Usethese whole class strategies to support all your learners.

Source: Ministry of Education

Whole class strategies

Resources and downloads

New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder guideline

This Ministry of Health booklet has information for people with ASD, their families, health professionals, support service providers, and those involved in education. It covers diagnosis and treatment of ASD, supporting and teaching children and adults with ASD, employing people with ASD and living with ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A resource for educators

This resource gives teachers an introduction to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and how it might affect a student in any classroom or school setting.

How ASD can influence learning

This resource provides teachers with key information and classroom strategies to support ASD learners.

Back to top

Identifying needs and strengths, and accessing support

Get to know the student and take an evidence-based approach to identifying where they need support. Work in partnership with the student, their whānau, and those with expertise and experience.

Matt Frost talks about his experience of autism and what worked well for him at school.

Source: Te Toi Tupu (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Sample learner profile (image)
Learner profile
Who am I?

A learner profile can be created in any format including:

  • a document with photos
  • a slide presentation with a series of pictures
  • a video
  • a blog.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Sample learner profile
What to include in a learner profile

The purpose of a learner profile can be agreed by the student, their whānau, and the teacher.

Depending on its purpose, a useful profile (whether an official document or simply inquiry on your part) can include:

  1. important people

  2. cultural connections and experiences

  3. languages spoken

  4. things the student is good at

  5. memorable life experiences

  6. how they like to unwind and relax

  7. likes and interests

  8. dislikes and things they avoid

  9. how they like to learn and what helps

  10. things that make it hard for them to learn

  11. what they do when they need help.

What to include in a learner profile
Benefits of learner profiles

It’s useful to develop a profile of all of your students, and to use this as the basis of a class profile.

A learner profile tells teachers about students. It sits alongside assessment data. It helps school staff to build relationships with students and to understand things from a student perspective. This can inform planning, classroom layout, timetabling, and supports to enable students to participate and contribute in all classroom learning.

Developing a learner profile means your students can:

  • express who they are
  • address assumptions
  • express their aspirations and passions
  • have a say in what goes on for them.

Senior students may prefer to just have a conversation. Take time to get the student’s views of what will support their learning.

Benefits of learner profiles
Surveying students

In the video Student Profiles, Canadian secondary teacher Naryn Searcy describes how she asks students about how they learn most effectively. She also asks students what is important to them beyond school.

She uses this information in her planning:

"I personally do a survey at the beginning of every class every semester, just everything from personal background to their history in the subject area to things they like to do outside of school, usually put a whole bunch of activities down there that we would potentially do in the class and ask them to rank it, you know what would you enjoy doing, what would you not like doing.

So just to get an idea of who is in the classroom to begin with and what they would benefit, or what they want to see in the class, what would work for them."

Source: Student Profiles - UDL supporting diversity in BC schools (Canada)

Surveying students

Resources and downloads

Stephen’s letter

Stephen introduces himself to his teachers before starting at Garin College in Nelson.

Rachel's learner profile (NZ high school)

An example of a secondary student’s learner profile.

Laiza’s transition

An example of a primary school student’s learner profile, developed by the adults around her.

Developing learner profiles

This document provides general support and guidance when developing a learner profile. It includes prompts and questions, along side purpose and benefits for students.

Most effective when used together

Building on parents’ knowledge (image)
Student using a cat themed visual timetable
Continuity between home and school

Cat-themed learning materials for Freya, inspired by A girl and her indispensable cat, a newspaper article by the student’s mum.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Building on parents’ knowledge
Suggestions for working with whānau

Suggestions for working with parents, caregivers, and whānau

  1. Communicate and share information in a meaningful way, demonstrating understanding and support for parents’ concerns.

  2. Value what parents and caregivers have observed and assessments they have had done outside school.

  3. Involve parents and caregivers in determining strategies to support student learning and well-being at school.

  4. Work with programmes or materials parents and whānau use at home to maximise consistency and support for the student.

  5. Develop a system for passing on information about students’ needs, progress and next steps from one teacher to the next.

  6. Share information about out-of-school programmes that may help boost self-esteem (for example, classes or groups for music, art, sport or other non-academic interests).

Suggestions for working with whānau
Questions for parents

Connect with the family to understand the strengths and needs of students.

Practical elements:

  • the language/s spoken at home
  • medications and allergies
  • equipment used at home
  • what they do at home to support learning.

Student’s likes and dislikes:

  • likes, interests, what they’re good at, need help with, can do independently
  • dislikes, what can upset them, how they express this, calming skills
  • favourites (TV programmes, hobbies, books, songs, sports).

The people in the student’s life:

  • parent and whānau hopes and priorities
  • important people in the student’s life
  • best methods and times to communicate with the family
  • professionals working with the family
  • questions they have and support they would like from the school.
Questions for parents
Valuing parental expertise (video)
Listening and working with families

Parents, Dayna and Phil, found sharing successful approaches and incorporating their daughters interests reduced anxiety and provided consistency between home and school.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Valuing parental expertise
Connecting with families

Invite families to share approaches that are successful at home to build continuity and strengthen engagement and learning approaches.

  1. Consider furniture options and physical supports that work well (for example, chairs, table heights).

  2. Assimilate known interests, such as favourite colours, sports, and music, into the class.

  3. Identify successful calming strategies and replicate these (for example, objects, cushions, dark spaces).

  4. Align eating and personal routines with what happens at home.

  5. Consider visuals that can be used both at home and school to support understanding.

  6. Invite families to bring objects and items from home that are meaningful and offer support for their children.

  7. Engage in conversations to identify potential barriers and ask families for solutions based on their personal experiences and expertise.

  8. Use phrases and communication techniques that are effective and successful at home.

Connecting with families

Resources and downloads

Using hobbies to develop self-esteem

Professor Amanda Kirby describes how to help your child develop self esteem through hobbies in this video. No transcript or closed captions available.

Family/whānau file

A booklet published by the Ministry of Education to help parents of students with additional needs to brief their child’s school.

New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder guideline

This Ministry of Health booklet has information for people with ASD, their families, health professionals, support service providers, and those involved in education. It covers diagnosis and treatment of ASD, supporting and teaching children and adults with ASD, employing people with ASD and living with ASD.

On the same team

In this video Dr Paul Taylor and parent Charmaine Brown describe how effective partnerships between parents, students, and teachers are key in supporting students with autism.

Using e-Portfolios at Onslow College (NZ) (video)
Using e-portfolios to collaborate

John Robinson reflects on the impact of using digital technologies to share information about students among staff.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos(NZ)

Using e-Portfolios at Onslow College (NZ)
Working in partnership

Suggestions for an effective partnership with the learning support coordinator and RTLB

  1. Share your concerns, questions, and ideas.

  2. Take an inquiry approach: discuss assessment approaches, evaluate assessment data together, and consider possible strategies and approaches.

  3. Meet together with the student and whānau and take a team approach to planning and providing support.

  4. Find out about other staff members who have experience of teaching students with ASD, or a personal experience of ASD, who might be happy to advise you.

  5. Ask about recommended resources and online communities.

Working in partnership
Teaching as inquiry

Be a learner as well as a teacher. Inquire into and reflect on the impact of your practice and actions.

  1. What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my student is at?

  2. What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my student to learn this?

  3. What has happened as a result of my teaching and what will I need to do next?

Teaching as inquiry
Data for personalising learning

To assist with personalising learning, build a picture of the student’s:

  1. language and communication skills

  2. literacy skills

  3. numeracy skills

  4. ways they learn successfully

  5. things that inhibit learning

  6. ability to act independently

  7. social skills and ability to form relationships.

Data for personalising learning

Resources and downloads

Working together

Collaborative decision making template, developed by IEP Online Ministry of Education.

Transition plan

An overview of transition planning overview. Information to support transitions developed by Positive Partnerships in Australia.

New Zealand organisations and resources

New Zealand resources and organisations providing support for people with ASD and advice for teachers and families include:

New Zealand organisations and resources
Tips for autism course

Tips for autism is a course where a team of people dedicate three days to learning about and developing interventions and plans to support their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The course is free and available nationwide to teams supporting school-aged children with ASD.

Tips for Autism is funded by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

Tips for autism course
International organisations and resources

International resources and organisations providing support for people with ASD and advice for teachers and families include:

International organisations and resources

Resources and downloads

In my shoes: An everday look at Autism Spectrum Disorder

Information about a series of New Zealand DVDs and useful classroom exercises that provide a glimpse of what it’s like to be a student with ASD.

How is ASD diagnosed?

Ministry of Health information about the process of formal diagnosis of ASD.

STAR SEN toolkit

Practical advice and teaching activities to help secondary schools explore Internet safety with young people with ASD. This toolkit was developed by Childnet International.

Back to top

Supporting key areas of learning and well-being: communication, social interaction, thinking, and positive behaviour

Identify the strengths of students with ASD and create an environment where they can thrive. Plan with the student’s experiences and needs in mind. Regularly review the effectiveness of what you are doing.

People who know the details of my autism are usually more comfortable dealing with me. Also, the more information my teachers have, the more ideas they have to help me learn.

Source: ASD: A resource for educators

Suggestions and resources

Possible challenges

For students with ASD, understanding other people can be more challenging than communicating needs, preferences, and ideas.

Students may need lots of opportunities to use their skills in authentic contexts to develop their communication skills.

Students with ASD:

  1. often develop language later than their peers

  2. often have atypical ways of making themselves understood

  3. sometimes use language in unexpected ways

  4. may have difficulty understanding others

  5. may have difficulty understanding abstract language

  6. may not understand gestures, facial expressions, or body language.

Possible challenges
Using emoticons (video)
Using emoticons and text language to support understanding

A student with ASD talks about how online communication is often easier to understand. (This is a short 1 min section of a longer video.)

No captions or transcript available

Source: Aspergers in Adults (UK)

Using emoticons
Suggestions for supporting communication
  1. Use fewer words.

  2. Slow down the rate of speaking.

  3. Give students more time to process the information.

  4. Use clear, concise, visual information in the form of written language, with images.

  5. Develop a communication system using pictures, signs, words and symbols for those students who are not able to use verbal language or as a quicker way to communicate when they are upset or frustrated.

  6. Utilise digital tools such as tablets and phones to explore a range of visual communication tools that support classroom routines and give advance warning about changes.

Suggestions for supporting communication
Examples from US secondary classrooms (video)
Understanding autism: A guide for secondary school teachers

Ways of supporting effective communication and social interaction in a US classroom.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Research Autism (US)

Examples from US secondary classrooms
Finding my voice (NZ) (video)
Tihei

"We all got our best way of communicating, you got your way, I got my way.

Some people talk, some people write, some people sing. Me, I freestyle."

No captions or transcript available

Source: Loading Docs

Finding my voice (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Autism spectrum disorder in Aotearoa New Zealand: Promising practices and interesting issues

This book aims to help teachers and other education professionals provide for children and young people with ASD at all levels of education. Chapters include exploring specific strategies including video modelling, and social scripts.

The characteristics of social interaction

Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may:

  1. prefer to not join in play or social opportunities

  2. like to do things on their own for much of the time

  3. respond blankly to greetings, smiles, or waves

  4. not know how to share things (such as toys or games)

  5. have difficulty understanding social rules that guide conversation and social situations.

The characteristics of social interaction
Suggestions to support socialisation
  1. Have students observe others so that they can learn from them.

  2. Provide opportunities for supported social engagement with peers and adults.

  3. Teach specific social understanding skills.

  4. Coach peers to understand the perspective of the student with ASD.

  5. Structure social supports, particularly for situations where the rules or conventions are not clearly spelled out, such as at break times.

  6. Encourage whole-school awareness and understanding of ASD.

Suggestions to support socialisation
Telling your own story (video)
Supporting opportunities for students to tell their own stories

W.A.D – We’re all different – a rap by Ryan Larmour, a 16-year-old Irish rapper who lives with autism.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Ryan10151 YouTube channel (UK)

Telling your own story
Peer support (video)
Supporting one another

This film features the words and voice of a 14 year old student called David, who describes how sometimes he needs someone to remind him to stop talking.

This is one section of a longer video.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Autism Speaks (US)

Peer support

Resources and downloads

Autism spectrum disorder in Aotearoa New Zealand: Promising practices and interesting issues

This book aims to help teachers and other education professionals provide for children and young people with ASD at all levels of education. Chapters include exploring specific strategies including video modelling, and social scripts.

Time management (video)
Using a timer

Encourage students with ASD to use tools such as digital visual timers or their mobile phones to reduce the surprise end of an activity or to pre-empt a transition. Access the Time Timer Apps, or visit the link in the resources section, to find timers that might be useful for your students.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Time Timer (US)

Time management
Visual timetables, Silverstream School (NZ) (video)
Using visual timetables

Visual timetables support spoken instructions, provide a reference point for “what next”, and show changes in the routine.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Visual timetables, Silverstream School (NZ)
Suggestions for supporting organisation

Suggestions for supporting student’s organisation and processing

  1. Label key areas of the classroom, and resources, with visual and text labels.

  2. Use charts, visual calendars, colour coded schedules, visible timers, and visual cues to increase the predictability of regular activities, transitions between environments and activities, and changes in discussion topics.

  3. Specifically teach how to use graphic organisers and flow charts to support breaking tasks into chunks, planning, and thinking in all curriculum areas.

  4. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts, and real objects.

  5. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas in multiple contexts.

  6. Allow time for students to process and think before responding in a discussion.

Suggestions for supporting organisation

Resources and downloads

Graphic Organizers

Advice about how to support students in the effective use of a variety of graphic organisers on the Resources for Teachers website.

Understanding behaviour (image)
Functional Behavioural Assessment
Understanding why students behave the way they do

All behaviours communicate something. Aim to understand and respond to the function (the why) of the behaviour, rather than responding solely to the behaviour itself. 

Source: Adapted from the Practical Functional Behavioral Assessment Training Manual for School-Based Personnel (US)

Understanding behaviour
Suggestions to encourage positive behaviour
  1. Remove or minimise things that can cause distress.

  2. Identify physical activities, relaxation strategies, quiet spaces and timetabled down time.

  3. Develop some cues individually with the student that will signal such things as when they need to move to a quiet space.

  4. Create opportunities for students to take the lead using their strengths and interests.

  5. Help students develop a strong sense of identity and be knowledgeable about their specific learning needs and abilities.

  6. Regularly teach and reinforce classroom and playground rules.

  7. Take every opportunity to give specific positive feedback about attempted tasks that meet achievement goals.

  8. Consider short term contracts to achieve learning goals and task expectations. Negotiate these with the student.

  9. Teach organisation and coping skills.

  10. Teach self-management skills, including alternative ways to achieve goals, managing anger, problem-solving, asking for help, and finding a safe place or person.

Suggestions to encourage positive behaviour
Establishing routines (NZ) (video)
Encourage "on task" behaviours

Support clear classroom routines and systems using visual timetables. Present instructions in more than one way, for example, text and visual, oral and graphic.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Establishing routines (NZ)
Managing difficult times

Appropriate techniques acknowledge the student’s need, provide some boundaries, ensure they get support, and help them manage their actions.

  1. Agree on a cool down zone.

  2. Remove unnecessary demands or requests.

  3. Keep on top of classroom noise and activity.

  4. Know the beginning signs of anxiety for your student, for example, tapping, rocking, loud voice, fidgeting.

  5. Agree an approach or signal for managing unexpected change.

  6. Redirect the student to another activity they enjoy or distract them with a specific task or errand, seamlessly and naturally separating them.

  7. Move closer or move away as appropriate, stand side on rather than face-on.

  8. Give clear instructions that the student is more likely to follow.

  9. Remind them of any self-management strategies they know.

  10. Facilitate relaxation.

Managing difficult times

Resources and downloads

ClassDojo

An online tool to support positive and on-task behaviour in the classroom.

Social stories creator and library for preschool, autism, and special needs

A free app for creating and sharing educational social stories and visual schedules. Download for iPhone and iPad.

Practical functional behavioral assessment manual for school-based personnel: Participants guidebook

This manual, released by Technical Assistance Centre on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, provides a step-by-step guide to understanding Functional Behavioral Assessment.

Understanding autism: A guide for secondary school teachers (part 3)

The third of four segments ("Practices for Challenging Behavior") in Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary Teachers. The videos provide strategies for supporting middle and high school students with autism.

Back to top

Using whole-class strategies to support students with ASD in years 1–6

Take a look at your classroom, including your teaching strategies, assessment processes, materials, and the ways you construct learning tasks. Consider how it feels and works for your students who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Linda Ojala from Silverstream School describes how she designs learning to meet the specific needs of a student with ASD using a UDL approach.

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ) 

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Valuing parent insights (image)
Girl with cat
Continuity between home and school

In the article, "A girl and her indispensable cat," a student's mum describes how the family cat is "a teaching tool" and supported her daughter's transition to school.

Source: Stuff (NZ)

Valuing parent insights
Encouraging participation

Suggestions for encouraging sustained participation

  1. Use your knowledge of students’ interests and create opportunities where they can take the lead.

  2. Break work into chunks. Give ongoing prompts and positive feedback, and provide students with strategies to help them when they get stuck.

  3. Establish classroom routines and, when possible, provide prior warning that a routine is to be disrupted.

  4. When changing the layout of the classroom, provide students with a plan of the new layout and information about when the change will happen.

  5. Recognise avoidance strategies and provide support and encouragement.

  6. Provide easy access to quiet spaces so that students can manage and avoid sensory overload.

Encouraging participation
Harnessing strengths

Students need to be able to focus and communicate to learn. They learn by watching others. Most students start school with strengths in these areas.

The characteristics of ASD mean that these skills are often delayed in students with ASD. They need support to learn and their teachers need effective teaching strategies. These strategies will also have positive effects for other students in the class.

Students with ASD may demonstrate strengths that can be harnessed in the classroom. These include:

  1. strong visual-spatial skills, which help literacy

  2. non-verbal problem-solving skills, which help when structuring tasks in ways that motivate students

  3. auditory memory, which helps when learning socially-appropriate phrases for specific situations

  4. strong visual memory which supports skills such as spelling.

Harnessing strengths
Supporting transitions

Strategies to make transitions (between activities, people, places, situations, and schools) easier

  1. Assess the new environment.

  2. Consider possible sensory issues and ways to lessen their impact.

  3. Plan and collaborate.

  4. Use structures and systems that the student is familiar with.

  5. Incorporate the strengths, skills, and interests of the student as part of the transition.

  6. Pass on quality information about the student’s strategies and skills when they go to a new classroom or school.

Supporting transitions
Visual timetables (image)
Teacher and student discussing visual timetable
Visual timetables and visual checklists provide support for all students

Checking the visual breakdown of a task.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Visual timetables

Resources and downloads

Managing transitions

This web page from Autism NZ offers strategies for smooth and successful school transitions.

UDL – Universal Design for Learning

This video gives a succinct overview of Universal Design for Learning.

Settling our daughter into her class (NZ)

In this video, parents Dayna and Phil share the importance of working closely with teachers in times of classroom transitions.

Illustrating text with graphics (image)
infographic
Supporting understanding

Offer information in more than one way to support understanding.

Use symbols and graphics to illustrate text.

Keep the layout clean and uncluttered.

Source: CORE Education

Illustrating text with graphics
Suggestions for increasing engagement
  1. When introducing new content or information, provide clear information about the purpose of the content and what the student is expected to do in response.

  2. Use blogs, wikis, and online tools such as Moodle to bring together different versions of clearly-labelled content in one place (for example, a YouTube video, a graphic, and some text). Keep the layout consistent.

  3. Present digital text rather than printed text so that students can customise it to suit their personal preferences, for example, larger font, listen to it.

  4. Support text or verbal instructions with visuals.

  5. Avoid using generic handouts or workbooks that can’t be adjusted.

  6. Make instructions, demonstrations, and key content rewindable and accessible 24/7.

Suggestions for increasing engagement
Using text-to-speech (video)
Introduce students to alternative ways to access text

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant, Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard YouTube channel (US)

Using text-to-speech
Vary approaches (image)
A list of ways to show what you know
Be creative in presenting information to students

Model and practise creative ways to present information that supports engagement and understanding.

Source: For the teachers blog

Vary approaches
Finding videos with closed captions

How to find YouTube videos with closed captions using a laptop or desktop computer

  1. Search for YouTube and open the home page.

  2. Type search subject (for example “frogs”) into YouTube search bar and press return key.

  3. On left of screen, click the tab called “Filters” and a menu box will open.

  4. Select “subtitles/CC” under the Features list.

  5. Select a video from the selection of filtered videos presented by YouTube.

  6. Watch the selected video with the closed captions turned on to check for accuracy before sharing with students.

  7. Share closed captioned video with students.

Finding videos with closed captions

Resources and downloads

Representation

In this video on the UDL: Supporting diversity in BC schools website, Canadian teachers share some of the ways they prepare learning materials to address diverse student needs in their classrooms. No captions or transcript available.

Quiet spaces at St Mary’s (NZ) (video)
Quiet spaces to think, create, and collaborate at St Mary’s School, Mosgiel

Innovation in reducing visual and audio distractions.

View transcript

Source: EDtalks (NZ)

Quiet spaces at St Mary’s (NZ)
Suggestions for supporting organisation

Support students’ organisation, management and processing skills

  1. Label key areas of the classroom and resources with visual and text labels.

  2. Use charts, visual calendars, colour-coded schedules, visible timers and visual cues to increase the predictability of regular activities, transitions between environments and activities, and changes in discussion topics.

  3. Make graphic organisers and flow charts available to support breaking tasks into chunks, and thinking and planning in all curriculum areas.

  4. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts, and real objects.

  5. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas in a range of contexts.

  6. Allow time for students to think and process before responding in a discussion.

Suggestions for supporting organisation
Completing tasks

Support students to independently complete tasks using a range of strategies

Give students with ASD the time they need to succeed. Consider reducing the quantity rather than the complexity of the learning for students.

  • Provide instruction in short segments (for example, teach → student activity → teach → student activity).
  • Provide students with a checklist with tasks broken into smaller segments. Highlight key parts of the task.
  • Before beginning a task, have students explain their understanding of what they are doing (they can do this with a buddy).
  • Give positive feedback to students who start promptly.
  • Check on student progress frequently.
  • Ensure that all materials and resources are accessible.
Completing tasks
Using visuals at Silverstream School (NZ) (video)
Using visual timetables

Linda Ojala uses the same visuals in a range of contexts across her classroom. They are a key part of supporting students to know what is happening and organise themselves.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Using visuals at Silverstream School (NZ)
Supporting thinking
  1. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  2. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas and concepts.

  3. Provide extra time for students to think and process before needing to respond in a discussion.

  4. Use mind maps to brainstorm ideas and make connections.

  5. Support group and class discussions with visual annotations to prompt later recall of key ideas.

  6. Offer students a variety of graphic organisers and flow charts to support thinking in all curriculum areas.

Supporting thinking

Resources and downloads

Graphic organizers

A collation of free graphic organisers from the Universal Design for Learning toolkit. These include hardcopy, App organisers, Chrome extensions, and computer options.

Graphic Organizers

Advice about how to support students in the effective use of a variety of graphic organisers on the Resources for Teachers website.

Using netbooks (NZ) (video)
Using netbooks to assist writing

Using a netbook gives Tyler the freedom to write creatively rather than being inhibited by the speed of his handwriting or his ability to form letters.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Using netbooks (NZ)
Personalising learning checklist

Optimise the environment for personalised learning

Identify and minimise potential barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding.

  1. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and build on their knowledge, experience, and strengths.

  2. Develop success criteria with the students and present it supported by visuals.

  3. Encourage and value independent and collaborative work in different formats, such as mind maps, videos, photos, podcasts, and diagrams.

  4. Provide opportunities for students to gain confidence using a range of media so they can select the most appropriate to express their learning.

  5. Make learning support tools available to all students (text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools, storyboards, and so on).

  6. Use collaborative, peer mentoring, and cooperative learning models.

  7. Structure collaborative activities so that each student knows what they are expected to do.

  8. Assess understanding and presentation separately.

  9. Discuss the best environment for students to work in during exams and assessments.

Personalising learning checklist
Using digital collaborative tools (image)
Google Doc with student comments
Flexible collaboration

Offer students tools such as Google Docs that easily support 24/7 collaboration and timely feedback.

Customise their use to meet the individual needs and preferences of students.

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Using digital collaborative tools
Utilising multimedia tools (image)
Student creating a popplet on an ipad
Match tools to student preferences

Seek out multimedia tools such as Popplet that are flexible and predictable.

Select tools that offer multiple ways to communicate and organise ideas.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Utilising multimedia tools
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students how to support them to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.  

Consider: 

  • the physical environment
  • managing time allocations
  • negotiating breaks
  • use of assistive technologies.  

Also consider pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills such as how to manage the time allowance or how to approach multiple choice questions.

Supporting success in assessments

Resources and downloads

Different ways to publish your stories: Using a variety of tools

UK teacher Jacqui Sharp illustrates some of the ways students and teachers can present digital stories and inquiries, using many different tools.

Assistive Technology (AT) guide

Use this guide to identify more specialised devices that may support your students and how and when to use them.

Back to top

Using whole-class strategies to support students with ASD in years 7–13

Look at your learning environment, including your teaching strategies, assessment processes, materials and the ways you construct learning tasks. Consider how it works for your students who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“People who know the details of my autism are usually more comfortable dealing with me. Also, the more information my teachers have, the more ideas they have to help me learn.”

Source: Student with ASD from ASD: A resource for educators

Image source: Ministry of Education

Suggestions and resources

Using structured approaches (NZ) (video)
Predictable learning pathways

Develop predictable, structured learning pathways to support independence. 

Outline changes to the classroom routine ahead of time.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Using structured approaches (NZ)
Suggestions to encourage participation

Supporting sustained motivation and participation

  1. Use your knowledge of students’ interests and create opportunities where they can take the lead.

  2. Break work into chunks. Give ongoing prompts and positive feedback, and provide students with strategies to help them when they get stuck.

  3. Establish classroom routines and, when possible, provide prior warning that a routine is to be disrupted.

  4. When changing the layout of the classroom, provide students with a plan of the new layout and information about when the change will happen.

  5. Recognise avoidance strategies and provide support and encouragement.

  6. Provide easy access to quiet spaces so that students can manage and avoid sensory overload.

Suggestions to encourage participation
Supporting transitions

Strategies to make transitions (between activities, people, places, situations, and schools) easier

  1. Assess the new environment.

  2. Consider possible sensory issues and ways to lessen their impact.

  3. Plan and collaborate.

  4. Use structures and systems that the student is familiar with.

  5. Incorporate the strengths, skills, and interests of the student as part of the transition.

  6. Pass on quality information about the student’s strategies and skills when they go to a new classroom or school.

Supporting transitions
Valuing uniqueness (video)
Rosie King: How autism freed me to be myself

"instead of punishing anything that strays from normal, why not celebrate uniqueness and cheer every time someone unleashes their imagination?"

Rosie King

Closed captioning available in player

Source: TED Talks

Valuing uniqueness
Harnessing strengths

Students need to be able to focus and communicate to learn. They learn by watching others. Most students start school with strengths in these areas.

The characteristics of ASD mean that these skills are often delayed in students with ASD. They need support to learn and their teachers need effective teaching strategies. These strategies will also have positive effects for other students in the class.

Students with ASD may demonstrate strengths that can be harnessed in the classroom. These include:

  1. strong visual-spatial skills, which help literacy

  2. non-verbal problem-solving skills, which help when structuring tasks in ways that motivate students

  3. auditory memory, which helps when learning socially-appropriate phrases for specific situations

  4. strong visual memory which supports skills such as spelling.

Harnessing strengths

Resources and downloads

Inclusion in secondary school

A web page from Autism NZ that includes information on social issues, coping with physical changes, support for families and whānau.

Understanding autism: A guide for secondary teachers

A US video by Research Autism designed to provide teachers with strategies for supporting middle and high school students with autism. No captions or transcript available.

A successful transition

An example of the preparation and support put in place to support a student with ASD transitioning from intermediate to high school.

Tauranga Boys’ College

Tauranga Boys’ College has been engaged in a process of cultural change to ensure that it provides the best possible support for students with ASD. Included is information on smooth transitions and school wide strategies.

Managing transitions

This web page from Autism NZ offers strategies for smooth and successful school transitions.

Using emoticons and text language (video)
Emoticons and text language can support participation and understanding

A student with ASD talks about how online communication is often easier to understand (one section of a longer video.)

No captions or transcript available

Source: Aspergers in Adults (UK)

Using emoticons and text language
Utilising text-to-speech tools (video)
Introduce students to alternative ways of accessing text

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant, Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard YouTube channel (US)

Utilising text-to-speech tools
Suggestions for increasing engagement
  1. When introducing new content or information, provide clear information about the purpose of the content and what the student is expected to do in response.

  2. Use blogs, wikis, and online tools such as Moodle to bring together different versions of clearly-labelled content in one place (for example, a YouTube video, a graphic, and some text). Keep the layout consistent.

  3. Present digital text rather than printed text so that students can personalise it.

  4. Support text or verbal instructions with visuals.

  5. Avoid using generic handouts or workbooks that can’t be adjusted.

  6. Make instructions, demonstrations, and key content rewindable and accessible 24/7.

Suggestions for increasing engagement
Illustrating text with graphics (image)
infographic
Supporting understanding

Offer information in more than one way to support understanding.

Use symbols and graphics to illustrate text.

Keep the layout clean and uncluttered.

Source: CORE Education

Illustrating text with graphics
Finding videos with closed captions

How to find YouTube videos with closed captions using a laptop or desktop computer

  1. Search for YouTube and open the home page.

  2. Type search subject (for example “frogs”) into YouTube search bar and press return key.

  3. On left of screen, click the tab called “Filters” and a menu box will open.

  4. Select “subtitles/CC” under the Features list.

  5. Select a video from the selection of filtered videos presented by YouTube.

  6. Watch the selected video with the closed captions turned on to check for accuracy before sharing with students.

  7. Share closed captioned video with students.

Finding videos with closed captions
Supporting understanding (NZ) (video)
Classroom approaches to support understanding and confidence

Use a structured approach and make learning intentions explicit at the outset.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education (NZ)

Supporting understanding (NZ)
Minimising distractions, supporting attention

Provide options to support concentration and short-term memory

  1. Monitor and moderate the classroom for visual and auditory distractions.

  2. Present information in a range of ways over an extended period of time (for example, a week) to help students to retain information, build their understanding, and stay stimulated and focused.

  3. Discuss with students the effectiveness of the classroom and make modifications and remove barriers where needed.

  4. Make effective use of visual prompts and cues to support understanding and navigation in online environments.

  5. Make hyperlinks to background knowledge or previous learning to increase connections.

  6. Encourage students to adapt the environment to meet their needs by, for example, wearing headphones, moving to a quiet working environment, or taking a walk to support their thinking.

Minimising distractions, supporting attention
Suggestions to support organisation

Suggestions for supporting students’ organisation and processing skills

  1. Use charts, visual calendars, colour-coded schedules, visible timers and visual cues to increase the predictability of regular activities, transitions between environments and activities, and changes in discussion topics.

  2. Make graphic organisers and flow charts available to support breaking tasks into chunks, and thinking and planning in all curriculum areas.

  3. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts, and real objects.

  4. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas in a range of contexts.

  5. Allow time for students to think and process before responding in a discussion.

Suggestions to support organisation
Using visual timers (video)
Visual cues and prompts

For students with ASD, seeing a visual representation of time passing can support their time management.

Explore the Time Timer Apps for more information.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Time Timer (US)

Using visual timers
Supporting thinking
  1. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  2. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas and concepts.

  3. Provide extra time for students to think and process before needing to respond in a discussion.

  4. Use mind maps to brainstorm ideas and make connections.

  5. Support group and class discussions with visual annotations to prompt later recall of key ideas.

  6. Offer students a variety of graphic organisers and flow charts to support thinking in all curriculum areas.

Supporting thinking

Resources and downloads

Graphic organizers

A wide range of graphic organisers from Education Oasis that can be printed and some that can be filled out online. These are also useful as a starting point for creating students’ own designs.

SET Connections – Executive function resources (Apps/Tools)

Apps to support executive function.

Personalising learning checklist

Optimise the environment for personalised learning

Identify and minimise potential barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding.

  1. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and build on their knowledge, experience, and strengths.

  2. Develop success criteria with the students and present it clearly supported by visuals.

  3. Structure collaborative activities so that each student knows what they are expected to do.

  4. Use collaborative, peer mentoring, and cooperative learning models.

  5. Create opportunities for students to gain confidence in a range of media so that they can select the most appropriate to express and share their thinking and learning.

  6. Make learning support tools (text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools and so on) available to all students.

  7. Encourage and value independent and collaborative work in different formats, such as mind maps, videos, photos, podcasts, and diagrams.

  8. Assess understanding and presentation separately.

  9. Discuss the best environment for students to work in during exams and assessments.

Personalising learning checklist
Utilising presentation tools (image)
Keynote presentation in edit mode
Offer tools with built-in frameworks and structures

Slide-based presentation tools can provide students with a framework for sharing thinking. Each slide can be dedicated to a new idea or element of an assignment. 

Source: CORE Education (NZ)

Utilising presentation tools
Providing quiet work spaces (image)
Student working standing at his desk
Offer a variety of working spaces

Provide quiet working spaces alongside collaborative spaces. Support the use of silencer headphones and the option of listening to music.

Source: EDtalks (NZ)

Providing quiet work spaces
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students how to support them to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.  

Consider: 

  • the physical environment
  • managing time allocations
  • negotiating breaks
  • use of assistive technologies.  

Also consider pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills such as how to manage the time allowance or how to approach multiple choice questions.

Supporting success in assessments
Read & Write for Google (video)
Read & Write for Google - Everything You Need to Know

This video shows all the features of Read & Write for Google, specifically using it for Google Docs.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Educator Dave

Read & Write for Google

Resources and downloads

Universal Design for Learning iPad strategies: Text-to-speech

A video with US educator Kit Hard demonstrating how to introduce text-to-speech to access digital text. No captions or transcript available

MyStudyBar

This is a free floating toolbar for Windows desktops and netbooks that provides a suite of portable open-source applications to support learning.

Free technology toolkit for UDL in all classrooms

A collection of free tools and resources, aligned to Universal Design for Learning approach, that support students in their learning.

Back to top

This is a Ministry of Education initiative

Building a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills, and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century.