Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (2023)

Meet the Expert
Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (1)
Patrick Dwyer

Autistic PhD Student

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Patrick Dwyer is an autistic PhD student at UC Davis whose research focuses on autism. His research uses methods like electrophysiology, eye-tracking and questionnaires, and he is particularly interested in sensory processing and attention in autism. Patrick also facilitates a peer-support group for autistic students at his university. If you are interested in more of Patrick’s thoughts on all things autism and neurodiversity, check out his blog at autisticscholar.com.

School poses challenges for all students at one point or another, but for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), challenges can be more frequent and have significant impacts on academic and social development.

According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, an estimated 1 in 54 children in the U.S. are autistic. However, many schools and educators are not equipped to support these students as they work their way through the school system and into adult life. Around one-third of autistic students enroll in college, making early preparation in primary and secondary school—and continued support through college—crucial to student success and autonomy.

This guide breaks down some of the most significant factors that impact students with ASD, and provides support tips and resources for elementary, middle, high school, and postsecondary institutions and educators. Also get unique expert insights from autistic doctoral student and autism researcher, Patrick Dwyer, on navigating school with ASD and effective ways to support autistic students.

How Autism Spectrum Disorder Can Affect Learning

School poses unique challenges for all students, but certain characteristics of autism can make learning more difficult for students with ASD. ASD is indeed a spectrum, and its facets can manifest differently in each student and impact them to vastly different degrees throughout their lives. Getting familiar with ASD can help students, teachers, and parents understand effective ways to approach academic and social learning in school.

Adaptability

Adaptability means taking responsibility for daily tasks and performing them independently, even when circumstances vary. The inability to react and respond to change can impede this performance, and make social interaction and self-advocacy more difficult. Students with ASD may struggle with adaptability, even high functioning, high IQ students.

How this affects learning in K-12 students with ASD

Adaptive skills typically aren’t taught until autistic students reach adolescence, which limits their opportunities to develop essential skills in responsibility, accountability, social interaction, and appropriate response to the unexpected. Adaptive skills become increasingly important as autistic students progress through the school system, so starting early can make transitions less stressful.

How this affects learning in college students with ASD

In college, many students experience increased independence and must adapt to new challenges. Important information may not be explicitly stated, for instance, and students must be able to create logical sequences to solve problems. Collaborating with others and navigating complicated social cues are also critical adaptive skills in college that, if underdeveloped, can severely inhibit learning and mental health.

Focus

Focus affects students with ASD in two primary ways: narrow focus and difficulty paying attention. Students may focus their attention very strongly on a few things that grab their interest, or they may be disengaged and unfocused on people, tasks, and topics outside of their specific interests.

How this affects learning in K-12 students with ASD

Both academic and social success can hinge on a student’s ability to pay attention to their surroundings, peers, and teachers. Those who struggle to engage in lessons may get very little academic benefit from being in school. Similarly, by not engaging with peers in an expected neurotypical way, autistic students may struggle socially.

How this affects learning in college students with ASD

College may be an exciting time for autistic students who have focused interests that can be explored through a degree program. However, students may struggle to pay attention when the subject does not interest them. Joint attention, like listening to a lecture while taking notes, is also a common expectation and challenge for college students with ASD.

Language Development

Common language development issues among autistic students are language delays, atypical language production, and social or conversational language challenges. Reading and writing skills are also often impacted by language development issues.

How this affects learning in K-12 students with ASD

In lower grade levels, language development may not be as prohibitive, as many activities are visual or involve movement, not just spoken and written language. However, as students move into upper primary grades and into the secondary school systems, lectures and essays become more common, which can be a barrier for students with ASD.

How this affects learning in college students with ASD

Similar to the impact on upper secondary students, college students with ASD may find difficulty with the lecture- and essay-based structure of many college classes and programs. Students who go into more hands-on programs like computer science may excel in their major classes but have a tougher time in general ed or core classes.

Motor Skills

Some autistic students can have problems with both fine and gross motor skills. While tasks like clicking a mouse or standing without wavering might not pose an issue, walking quickly between classes or writing legibly can be daily challenges.

How this affects learning in K-12 students with ASD

Activities that involve writing by hand may be particularly difficult for students with ASD. As students get older, inhibited motor skills may impact a student’s ability to take notes effectively, carry textbooks, participate in lab-based work, or get to class on time.

How this affects learning in college students with ASD

In college, students with ASD can often type their notes or use a note taking service. However, students may still struggle with lab work, navigating campus quickly, vocational internships, and other physical and hands-on activities.

Sensory Perception

Students on the autism spectrum may take in a lot of sensory input at a time or have enhanced sensory perception. This can cause intense overstimulation, which can lead to shutdowns or meltdowns. Sensory perception issues can be a significant contributor to anxiety in autistic students.

How this affects learning in K-12 students with ASD

Noisy classmates, school bells, PA systems, bustling hallways and decorated classrooms with a lot to look at can overwhelm the senses. Many autistic students have very sensitive hearing, so scraping chairs, alarms, bells and PA feedback can be startling and cause headaches or abstract mental pain. Students with ASD may be more sensitive to flickers in fluorescent lights that teachers and neurotypical peers wouldn’t notice.

How this affects learning in college students with ASD

Decorated classrooms, bells and PA systems likely won’t be issues in college, but poor lighting and noisy crowds can be. Echoes in large auditoriums and flickering lights can be distracting or distressing, even for students with ASD who have more control over their response to overstimulation.

(Video) Autism Spectrum : Tips For Teachers : Nip in the Bud

Social Skills

Students with autism may have trouble reading facial expressions, body language, and social cues, making interaction with peers more difficult. Many students with ASD also prefer doing activities by themselves and self-isolate, and may deal with bullying.

How this affects learning in K-12 students with ASD

Young students may misinterpret their peers’ intentions or, on the other hand, say and do things they don’t realize are hurtful. This can make it difficult to be part of their peer community. As students move into adolescence, differences between peers may become more pronounced, and peers can become less empathetic, making school feel unwelcoming.

How this affects learning in college students with ASD

With the increased independence that accompanies college, social skills play a vital role in student success. Without the social skills to successfully communicate with teachers and peers, students may feel isolated and have trouble with their classes. In college, students may also have to learn how to navigate professional, romantic, and collaborative academic relationships for the first time.

How Schools Can Support Students with ASD

With a better understanding of how ASD affects learning, educators and schools can support their autistic students more effectively and make informed decisions about creating equitable learning environments. Here are some tips and ideas educators can use to support students at different points in their education.

Kindergarten through 5th Grade

Entering elementary school is the first of many significant social and academic shifts autistic students will navigate. Development in these years lays the groundwork for success in adolescence and adulthood, so good support is crucial.

5 ways teachers can support younger students with ASD

1

Talk to parents. They can help you understand their child’s strengths, challenges, interests and triggers.

2

Use visual aids to communicate.

3

Provide a safe, calming space that can be used as a retreat.

4

Treat misunderstandings, outbursts, and meltdowns as teachable moments rather than cause for punishment.

5

Minimize stimuli in the classroom. This can include seating autistic students near windows for better light, teaching neurotypical classmates about appropriate speaking volume and avoiding distracting computer screensavers.

What schools can do to support students with ASD

  • Look to successful programs as models for your school. ASD Nest in New York has a unique approach to supporting autistic students. Classrooms led by two teachers trained in special education are composed of a handful of neurodivergent and neurotypical students. Classrooms have a safe area for students to go if they need to regulate, and if one teacher needs to sit down with a student, the other can continue teaching class, more or less uninterrupted.
  • Give autistic students and their families different options for educational placement and help them decide the best mode of education for them. Mainstreaming, specialized classrooms, specialized schools and traditional coursework delivered online are a few types of education delivery that can work for students with ASD.
  • Support programming and initiatives that help teachers and neurotypical students understand autism and develop sincere, nurturing friendships.
Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (2)

These can be good years. I feel like neurotypical children are less judgmental of others at this age, and more likely to include those different from themselves. That said, we can always do more to encourage neurotypical students to be accepting and welcoming. Moreover, I think it’s important to start thinking early on about students’ individual strengths and needs. Instead of forcing autistic students to assimilate to the demands of their environment, which by default is set up with the needs of neurotypical students in mind, we can, to use Thomas Armstrong’s phrase, try to construct ‘positive niches’ for everyone.

Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (3)

Patrick Dwyer

6th through 8th Grade

Middle school marks a considerable shift in school structure, academic content, and social dynamics. Focused support during this transition can have a significant impact on the academic and emotional wellbeing of autistic students.

5 ways teachers can support pre-teen students with ASD

1

Follow your students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and Specially Designed Instructions (SDIs). They’re meant to help both you and your students.

2

Collaborate and communicate with one another. You may be more familiar with a student’s strengths and interests. Share that information with the student’s other teachers so they can improve engagement and performance. Collaboration can also help establish consistent rules and expectations, which typically differ from class to class and can create confusion and stress for students with ASD.

3

Support students with technology and visual aids.

4

Be clear and explicit without shaming your student. Autistic students often have trouble making inferences, so precise, literal instructions can make things easier for both you and your student.

(Video) Including Students with Autism in General Education Classrooms: Tips for Teachers - By Josh Taylor

5

Offer priming materials so students can prepare for class in advance. Let students get familiar with the day’s lesson early to keep surprises to a minimum and give extra time to take in content.

What schools can do to support students with ASD

  • Make a “home base” room available to students, and make sure all teachers are trained in helping students know when and how to access the room. This can ease students stress, anxiety and overstimulation; reduce disruptions; and serve as a healthier alternative to punishing students for behavior issues.
  • Enact friendship groups, like Best Buddies, as well as anti-bullying campaigns and policies. Facilitating sincere community-building between peers can benefit all types of students.
  • Employ and collaborate with autism specialists.
Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (4)

At this age, neurotypical students are pretty judgmental and not as prosocial as one would like! I and other autistic students have found it to be a pretty toxic environment for anyone different from the norm. For anyone who wants to be in the mainstream (which I think is absolutely anyone’s right, if it is their preference), schools have to be highly proactive in stopping bullying and in setting up opportunities for autistic students to forge meaningful peer connections on the basis of shared interests, experiences, etc. This could be an interest-based club, or a group of other neuro-diverse students – but if the latter, it shouldn’t be a social skills lunch group dedicated to helping students overcome their social ‘deficits.’ It should be a group in which neuro-diverse individuals can take pride in their identities, perhaps meet role models, and learn about the history of their community.

Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (5)

Patrick Dwyer

9th through 12th Grade

Any of the strategies for middle school teachers and institutions may be helpful at the high school level, but adding these techniques can also help students prepare for life after graduation.

5 ways teachers can support high school students with ASD

1

Adapt work as needed, but don’t underestimate your students. Have high expectations of them and offer equitable support where appropriate.

2

Work with the school psychologist to develop effective, supportive classroom schedules and strategies.

3

Collaborate with students as well as their parents and other staff to create goals, both academically and for the transition out of high school. Determine what you can do to help your students meet those goals.

4

Incorporate pair work activities into lessons.

5

Pay close attention to your students’ strengths and interests. Incorporate them into your lessons where possible, and with these strengths and interests in mind, see if there are other ways to engage students. For instance, you may be able to connect students with apprenticeships or elective classes that suit their strengths.

What schools can do to support students with ASD

  • Offer and promote programs that give students the chance to build relationships and practice social and life skills. Peer community and activity groups should enable and encourage interaction outside of school, too.
  • Develop transition plans early. Often, transition plans aren’t developed until halfway through high school, but the additional time to prepare and scaffold skills can ease the process. Let students drive their plans, and work with teachers and community resources to see the plan through.
  • Offer and encourage professional development to teachers and staff so they can be better equipped to support autistic students.
Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (6)

By now, we should be focusing on transition to adulthood. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the autistic student to be taking more of a leading role in this process, to whatever level their ability allows. Ideally, we want the autistic student to have a self-determined career goal, some kind of aspiration they are committed to and that they are motivated to achieve, and they should ideally be centrally involved in the planning to make that goal a reality. It is simply not sufficient to have a few transition meetings every once in a while, especially if the autistic person themselves is barely contributing to the transition process.

Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (7)

Patrick Dwyer

College and Postsecondary Education

College educators may expect a certain level of autonomy from all students, but understanding autism and making appropriate adjustments for autistic students can help foster that autonomy while increasing academic success.

5 ways teachers can support college students with ASD

1

Provide very specific, literal instructions for assignments and policies.

2

Be willing to alter procedures or offer alternate modes of lesson delivery to students. Providing students with a written or recorded version of the lecture or class, for instance, can be helpful without patronizing or underestimating the student.

(Video) Autistic Students: College Access and Success Resources and Supports

3

Allow for breaks. They’re good for all students, but reliable breaks can help students with ASD avoid overstimulation and excessive fatigue.

4

Be available to answer questions, explain aspects of lessons that may need extra coverage and offer advice if appropriate. For example, you may see a student’s strengths and be able to suggest specific classes, professors or work study opportunities.

5

Consult with your Disability Services office for guidance and ideas. They can provide valuable insights and point you to additional resources.

What schools can do to support students with ASD

  • Have transition and support programs in place to help students understand and get used to the new learning and, in some cases, living environment. Programs can also help autistic students prepare for life after college.
  • Offer internships and work study opportunities. Make sure that coordinators, advisors or employers are trained and experienced in working with autistic students to offer the best support.
  • Have a resource and service office specifically for ASD students. This can keep the general Disability Services office from getting overloaded and allows room for issues unique to students with ASD to be addressed. This can also be a relaxing environment and a place to build community, help students find roommates or study partners and connect with older mentors.

The Education Rights of Students with ASD

Students on the autism spectrum have legally protected learning rights. These rights can differ by location and may change as students progress through the school system, so it’s good to get familiar with them early. Knowing these different education rights can help autistic students and their families advocate for themselves and access a fair education.

Learning Rights of Students K-12

One of the most significant pieces of legislation that protects autistic students in school is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under the IDEA, children with disabilities, including autistic children, have the right to a free public education appropriate to their needs.

Free appropriate public education, or FAPE, is one of the main tenets of the IDEA. Students, their families and their schools must work together to determine what is appropriate given the student’s needs and the school’s resources. This means giving students access to the least restrictive environment (LRE) for their learning.

The LRE refers to a learning environment in which students have the most opportunity to interact with neurotypical, non-disabled students. This is also known as “mainstreaming.” If students and families do not think their school’s LRE offers the most benefit to their needs, they can consider other learning options, like special education schools or learn from home options.

Early intervention (EI) and special education services are also covered under the IDEA. Early intervention services are funded by federal grants to address the development of autistic children through age two. An Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) delineates a child’s needs and the services they will receive to meet those needs. Once the child is three years old, they are no longer eligible for EI but can take advantage of special education services.

Special education focuses specifically on education access rather than holistic cognitive development, but it is also highly individualized. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents strengths, weaknesses, goals and services used to support a student. The IEP is a collaborative agreement between a student and their family, educators and schools that changes and follows them as they progress through school. The IEP is an important advocacy tool, too, because students and parents can refer to the agreement if educational needs are not being met.

Autistic students may also have the right to extended school year services (ESY), which help keep their education going through school breaks, and assistive technology (AT) in the classroom. Beneficial AT must be documented in the student’s IEP.

Students who do not qualify for IDEA protections may still qualify for educational accommodation under the ADAAA, which is detailed below.

Learning Rights of Students in Postsecondary Schools

Once students leave high school, they are no longer protected under the IDEA. Instead, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) offers certain rights and protections through secondary school and beyond.

Students who qualified for IDEA protection automatically qualify for protection under ADAAA, but those who didn’t qualify for IDEA may have protected learning rights under ADAAA, too. Under ADAAA, schools must provide reasonable accommodations to allow students to learn most effectively. These requirements are the same as those listed under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 helps ensure equitable access to education and prevents discrimination toward people with disabilities in federally-funded settings, including most schools.

Students who qualify for ADAAA support receive a 504 plan. This plan is similar to an IEP in that it outlines appropriate services to which a student is entitled, but there are some key differences between the two documents. The IEP is individualized and includes special education plans, whereas the 504 outlines which services and supports a school will use to make education more accessible to a student. 504 plans do not have to be written agreements, and they can be less formal than IEPs.

In 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was reauthorized and included changes directed specifically toward students with disabilities. Students who attend a comprehensive transition and post-secondary (CTP) program at a not-for-profit higher education institution are eligible to receive federal financial aid. They do not need to have a high school diploma or GED, and they do not need to be pursuing a degree or certificate.

Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) were also created under the HEOA. Through TPSID, students can get support for academics, employment, social activities and independent living.

ASD Learning Tips and Insight from an Expert

Resources and Support for Students with Autism: Strategies and Tips for Schools Success (8)

Patrick Dwyer

Patrick Dwyer is an autistic PhD student at UC Davis whose research focuses on autism. His research uses methods like electrophysiology, eye-tracking and questionnaires, and he is particularly interested in sensory processing and attention in autism. Patrick also facilitates a peer-support group for autistic students at his university. If you are interested in more of Patrick’s thoughts on all things autism and neurodiversity, check out his blog at autisticscholar.com.

How can college students advocate for themselves and ensure their learning rights are met?

Important question! I would say the key thing is being willing to approach people. Of course, some of us prefer to keep our invisible disabilities secret, and while I respect people who make that choice, it does make it pretty much impossible to advocate for oneself. The largest single component of advocacy is being willing to approach professors, the college’s disability office, etc., and making your needs known. Even if you don’t think you will need accommodations, it might still be a good idea to make sure you are registered with the disability office, as this will allow accommodations to be implemented more quickly if you find yourself in a situation where you do need them. It might also be useful to have some understanding of how the college is structured and what organizations on the college campus could provide you with different kinds of support, as well as to know what legal rights to accommodation you have in your jurisdiction. In the US, this would mean knowing your rights under the ADA.

How can parents of autistic adults ensure their college students can exercise their rights?

This is tricky. Parents face the dilemma of whether they should step in and smooth the path for their children, or take a step back – which might allow their children to learn more independence or it might cause them to stumble. I know this is hard. Unfortunately, right now, I’m concerned that many autistic kids aren’t expected to make a lot of decisions or advocate for themselves in childhood, and then suddenly in adulthood they have to be making the decisions and advocating for themselves without any experience in doing so! I think it would be better, on the one hand, if autistic kids had more practice making decisions and being more autonomous as children. On the other hand, I also think parents can play a vital role in supporting their adult autistic children in college, assuming of course that the student wants their parents involved. Basically, I believe the transition to independence needs to be more gradual: that it should start earlier and end later.

What advice do you have for postsecondary schools and educators in terms of creating learning environments that are both effective and inclusive?

Schools should remember that their systems and structures are designed with the needs of neurotypical students in mind and that these systems and structures don’t necessarily work well for autistic people. The design of campus buildings can be an issue; many of us have sensory sensitivities that can make it difficult to function in crowded hallways and lecture halls, and universities should keep sensory needs in mind when designing new buildings.

There are also numerous unwritten expectations that neurotypical students are expected to just pick up on. It would help if more universities set up dedicated transition programs for new students so that these expectations can be taught. Universities should also make sure students can transition out of university into a job or into graduate school; many autistic students don’t realize (because the expectation is unwritten) that they should be getting volunteer or job experiences as well as succeeding in their classes. A work experience program for autistic students would be extremely helpful.

Finally, if at all possible, regular meetings with a university staff mentor who could help autistic students with time management and planning would be very useful.

I’ll also mention things I don’t think are quite as helpful. I don’t think social skills programs are that useful in college; I believe the best path to social success for autistic college students is to find the right social community, not to work on “social skills” that help us appear more neurotypical. I also think “peer mentorship” programs where a neurotypical peer is paid to befriend an autistic student need a little bit of rebranding. The very term “mentor” elevates the neurotypical above the autistic “mentee,” and in my view this idea that the autistic student is inferior is problematic. I don’t oppose the idea of these peer connections, but I dislike the assumptions behind the terminology. Lastly, I think it is quite unfair for colleges to charge autistic students extra for any of these programs; disability supports should be free.

(Video) Autism (ASC) Classroom Strategies | 10 Suggestions for Schools & Teachers | SEMH Support & Wellbeing

What impact does community have on learning? How can autistic students find community at different stages in life and school?

Some autistic people are introverts, and some of us are extroverts, but regardless of exactly how much social connection we need, all of us need some level of social connection to others. At college, however, it can be difficult to find those social connections. You likely won’t find much social connection from others sitting next to you in classes; most social interaction in college takes place outside the classroom. It can be unstructured and difficult to navigate. However, one much more structured sort of interaction can come through organized clubs on campus, where you could find other students who share some of your interests. Some colleges even have clubs organized by and for autistic students.

What tips do you have for autistic students transitioning to college?

First of all, you should think carefully about what college you want to attend! It can be hard to simultaneously transition from high school to college and to also move away from home. Many autistic students actually start at a community college, a local two-year program from which they might (if they want) transfer to a university later. This helps to stagger the transition into adulthood. I did something a little similar, which was to attend a four-year university in my hometown and then move away from home to attend graduate school, and that worked very well for me. As you think about these programs, it can be helpful to visit campuses and think about whether a particular school looks like a good fit for you: whether you can imagine yourself living there and thriving.

What roles do family and educators play in this transition?

This depends on how much initiative and drive to succeed is shown by the autistic student, of course! If students are highly motivated to attend college and to succeed there, then family and educators should try to facilitate the student’s ambition by providing advice, guidance, reminders, and suggestions while letting the student take the lead. As I noted, it’s often helpful if students can continue to live at home and have some support with daily living.

If the student isn’t taking the lead or showing a clear sense of what they want to do, then family and educators should try to encourage the student to figure out what they want to do in adulthood and the path they could take to get there. This goal might change later, of course, but the point is that the student should be motivated to succeed.

If the autistic student still isn’t motivated after family and educators’ best efforts, then you should probably reconsider whether now is the right time for college. Maybe the autistic individual would rather get a job without attending college, or maybe they are experiencing some burnout and need more time to recover their mental health. Students need some drive and motivation to succeed at college.

What is autistic burnout, and how can it impact learning?

Autistic burnout occurs when demands and stresses become too great. There are a lot of things we have to do that neurotypicals don’t. For example, many of us have to expend a huge amount of effort camouflaging our autism and trying to appear more normal, or coping with sensory overload, and so on. Research on autistic burnout is in its infancy, but it seems like all of these stressors can become too much and overload us, causing exhaustion and reducing our skills and abilities.

How can students, parents, teachers and/or schools prevent autistic burnout or support students experiencing it?

One important thing is to reduce unnecessary demands. For example, is it necessary to expend a huge amount of effort coping with a particular noise? Perhaps, if the noise in question is generated by hordes of students taking a class that you need to take to graduate (although even in this case there might be coping strategies that would help). But is it necessary to expend energy on coping with the loud noise of a party if you aren’t even enjoying the party? Probably not.

Furthermore, like I said, many of the pressures that autistics face are caused by neurotypicals not realizing how stressful certain things can be for autistics. Neurotypicals can help by having a little more empathy for the autistic perspective and adjusting their expectations.

Sometimes accommodations can help reduce unnecessary demands. Indeed, some disability offices allow disabled students to take a reduced course load while still officially counting as full-time students.

Overall, I think we need to adjust the amount of demands and stress we face until we reach an optimal level. We need to feel productive – we need to feel that we are contributing something – but we shouldn’t feel crushed by an excessive load.

Resources and Tools for Students With ASD

There is a wealth of resources available online and in local communities to help support autistic students and their families and educators. The resources below can give students, teachers and parents an idea of what’s available and get them started in their search for additional information and support.

K-12 ASD Resources

Community & School Resources

Autism Speaks Resource DirectoryUse this directory to find education resources in your area, or browse resources by age group.

Community Autism ResourcesCommunity Autism Resources, based in Massachusetts, is an example of a community organization that supports autistic students and offers programs and resources to boost education, work experience and social interaction.

New York City Department of Education – Special EducationThis is an example of a state- or city-specific special education resource page. New York City’s page offers information on different school settings, support and services, IEPs and help for transitioning to different school levels.

Professional Resources

Accommodations and Supports for School-Age Students with ASDThe Center for Autism Research offers a quick rundown of some different teaching strategies and activities teachers can use with their autistic students.

Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism (CSESA)CSESA is a research and development project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Professionals and families can find tons of informative guides, tools and modules to support secondary students in a range of facets.

IRIS CenterThe IRIS Center offers robust education resources like case studies, modules and activities to help educators dig into specific evidence-based practices that meet the needs of autistic students. Educators can also get professional development hours through IRIS courses.

NAESP – Autism ResourcesThe National Association of Elementary School Principals offers tools and information to help elementary administrators support autistic students and their teachers.

Organization for Autism Research (OAR)Educators can access informative guides and professional development resources as well as lessons and activities for autistic students and their neurotypical peers.

Tools

Autism AppsFind a variety of apps to meet specific needs and help autistic students. Narrow your search, read reviews and watch video demos of apps before downloading.

Boardmaker OnlineBoardmaker is a popular tool for creating visuals to streamline communication with autistic students.

DigitabilityDigitability can be a great digital literacy for older students, especially as they prepare for college and work.

Proloquo2GoThis augmented and alternative communication (AAC) app can help students communicate, develop language skills and advocate for themselves. It’s highly customizable and uses a symbol-based system to allow users to communicate effectively.

College ASD Resources

Community and School Resources

College Autism Spectrum (CAS)CAS provides college counseling and work readiness services to autistic college students.

College Internship Program (CIP) Comprehensive Transition Support for Autism and Learning DifferencesCIPs internship and transition programs offer support to autistic students in college and connect them with job training and independent living opportunities and resources.

Community Autism Peer Specialist (CAPS) ProgramThis Philadelphia program is an example of peer mentorships for autistic college students that may be available in your area.

How Autistic Students Can Start Campus Clubs to Develop Friendships and Support NetworksThis article from Stairway to STEM offers steps and advice for starting clubs and building community in college. Check out Stairway to STEM’s other articles and resources.

University of Iowa – Support for Students: Neurodiversity and Autism Spectrum DisorderThe University of Iowa offers a nice example of on-campus offices and support services that may be available at your school.

Professional Resources

College Autism Network (CAN)Access research, training and other useful information to help you support college students with ASD. Professionals can also join the College Autism Network Virtual Association of Scholars (CANVAS) to connect with one another and share ideas.

George Washington University Students with Autism in the College ClassroomYour school may have a resource page like this one to help you understand and support autistic students in your classroom.

Tools

AbilityLinks and abilityJOBSStudents looking for supportive jobs and internships in college can use these national job search sites to find positions with employers who are experienced in working with autistic adults.

SonocentSonocent is an advanced note taking tool that converts audio into written notes. This can allow autistic students to focus on listening to lectures while still getting a transcript they can reference later on. Students can buy their own Sonocent plan, or they can see if their school has an account in place. Schools that don’t use Sonocent may be willing to purchase an institutional plan, so it’s worth asking about.

Stairway to STEM PodcastsThese podcasts focus on different aspects of autism in college and can appeal to autistic and non-autistic students alike.

(Video) Supporting Autistic Children in the Classroom | National Autistic Society | Twinkl

FAQs

What are 5 strategies used to work with a child with autism? ›

The 5 Best Teaching Strategies for Autism
  • Support Routines and Transitions. Most children with autism are sensitive to abrupt changes in routine and will learn best in routine situations. ...
  • Use Visual Cues. ...
  • Use Special Interests as a Gateway to Teaching Skills. ...
  • Incorporate Sensory Tools. ...
  • Support social skills practice.
5 Nov 2019

What are some strategies for teaching students with autism? ›

4 Instructional Strategies for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Strategy #1: Limiting Sensory Overload.
  • Strategy #2: Using Rewards and Incentives (Applied Behavior Analysis)
  • Strategy #3: Providing Appropriate Feedback for Students with ASD.
  • Strategy #4: Focusing on Autism Reading Comprehension Strategies.

How do you create autism friendly classrooms using strategies that help all pupils? ›

Making Your Classroom Autism Friendly
  1. 6 Tips to Be Autism Friendly. ...
  2. Keep things calm. ...
  3. Be consistent with your expectations. ...
  4. Use clear language and visual stimulus. ...
  5. Be literal. ...
  6. Relate learning to the child's experience. ...
  7. 'Time-Outs' are neither a sanction or a reward.
8 Apr 2016

How do you adapt learning resources to suit learners with autism in an inclusive setting? ›

Pay attention to their strategies and avoid interfering if possible. Give everything a place. Avoid visual overload. Designate active learning areas – consider creating a “sit to learn” area and a “move to learn” (a child who paces could have a designated area that may be less distracting to other students)

How do you accommodate students with autism? ›

What are typical challenges and accommodations for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
  1. clearly established and ordered routines.
  2. warning and preparation when changes are anticipated.
  3. planning and practicing of communication strategies and social routines.
  4. earplugs or noise-canceling headsets in hallways or lunchroom.

What are three classroom strategies techniques modifications A teacher can support a child with autism? ›

10 Easy-to-Implement Behavior Strategies for Children with Autism
  • Teach time management.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Give choices for non-preferred activities.
  • Use visuals and social stories.
  • Teach coping skills and calming strategies.
  • Practice transitions.
  • Be consistent each day.

What is the best way to support a child with autism? ›

Communication and interaction tips for ASD
  1. Be patient. ...
  2. Teach the child how to express anger without being too aggressive. ...
  3. Be persistent but resilient. ...
  4. Always stay positive. ...
  5. Ignore irritating attention-getting behavior. ...
  6. Interact through physical activity. ...
  7. Be affectionate and respectful. ...
  8. Show your love and interest.

How do you motivate a child with autism? ›

Incorporate learning tasks into preferred topics and activities. Plan tasks and activities that result in meaningful outcomes from the perspective of the learner. Vary tasks and activities frequently as opposed to requiring boring repetition. Conversely, capture opportunities to expand learning when interest is high.

What strategy or tool can you use when you have a new student in your classroom diagnosed with autism to help you prepare to meet their needs? ›

Reduce the sensory stimuli in your classroom by using calm colors and not putting too much up on the walls. This can help to boost concentration abilities for autistic students. Use visuals. Visuals serve as quick and clear reminders about items in the classroom, such as rules, where things go, and resources.

What does an autistic support teacher do? ›

An autistic support teacher plans and delivers educational instruction to students with autism spectrum disorders and emotional disabilities. They may work for a school, counseling center, or other special needs facility.

How do you accommodate students with disabilities in the classroom? ›

Assisting Students with Disabilities
  1. Include a Disability Statement on Your Syllabus. ...
  2. Follow the Instructions on the Accommodation Determination Letter. ...
  3. Meet with the Student in Private. ...
  4. Protect Student's Privacy. ...
  5. Provide a Safe and Fair Learning Environment. ...
  6. Use Student Disability Services as a Resource.

What does an autism classroom need? ›

Creating a well-designed classroom that has clearly defined work stations and visual cues can greatly increase the independence of your students. Make sure you have plenty of visual cues, reduce clutter, and as much as possible remove distracting visuals and auditory stimulation.

What is the best learning environment for a child with autism? ›

Children with autism thrive in a structured and predicable environment. Establish routines early on and keep it as consistent as possible. In a world that's ever changing, routine and structure provide great comfort and support to a child on the autism spectrum. Define routines clearly and review routines daily.

What strategies can teachers use to assist students with special educational needs? ›

Effective Teaching Strategies for Special Education
  • Set clear expectations for all students.
  • Break assignments into smaller pieces to work on in short time periods.
  • Space breaks between assignments so students can refocus on their tasks.
  • Share ideas with parents so they can help with homework.
6 Apr 2018

How can teachers create a supportive learning environment for special needs students? ›

Changing the amount of lighting or brightening or dimming lights can help children with autism or a visual impairment. Adapting furniture by lowering chairs or securing desks and creating slant boards throughout the classroom for writing support can help children with a physical disability or orthopedic impairment.

How can you promote inclusion in the classroom for autism? ›

Each autistic learner is an individual and need to be included in developing their inclusive classroom.
  1. Ensure the classroom routines are accessible e.g. use of visual supports.
  2. Simplify communication.
  3. Use stress scales.
  4. Ensure the whole class has an opportunity to explore diversity and equality.

How do you deal with disruptive behaviors by students with autism? ›

The following strategies help school staff successfully handle the behavior challenges exhibited by children with autism in the classroom.
  1. Follow A Behavior Plan. ...
  2. Incorporate Strengths & Interests. ...
  3. Increase Structure. ...
  4. Set & Explain Realistic Expectations. ...
  5. Time Transitions. ...
  6. Address Sensory Sensitivities. ...
  7. Offer Quiet Space.
27 Feb 2020

What is assistive technology for autism? ›

Examples include battery-operated sensory toys, visual timers, and social skills videos. High-tech AT is digital technology and can include anything from augmentative communication technology for non-verbal people to robots built to increase social skills in children on the spectrum.

How do teachers support children with autism? ›

People with autism often think and learn visually, so making full use of visual prompts (including picture cards and digital technology) can help alleviate difficulties with verbal communication. Always make sure to speak to autistic students in clear, simple language that uses visual cues such as pointing.

How do you support someone with autism? ›

Support your friend if they ask for help. Be sensitive to what they want and need, not just how you think they should improve or behave. Try not to talk over or about them when others are around. Help them work on social skills by trying to engage them in conversations with yourself and others.

How do you encourage an autistic person when they are struggling? ›

For all stages, the autistic learner will be more likely to cope if the following key strategies are in place:
  1. Say less (see Communication section)
  2. Use a visual timetable (see Visual Supports section)
  3. Practise and prepare.
  4. Provide a safe space (see NAIT Safe Space Guidance)
  5. Ask for help.

How Can autism be more productive? ›

10 Tips to Help You Stay Focused: For Students with Autism and Learning Differences
  1. Eat something. To stay focused you need to avoid feeling those hunger pangs that may distract you from the task at hand. ...
  2. Unplug. ...
  3. Have a Mantra. ...
  4. Use Timers. ...
  5. Stress Ball or Other Fidget. ...
  6. Seeing is Believing. ...
  7. Get Inspired. ...
  8. What to Do?

What skills will teachers need to work with students who have ASD? ›

  • 10 Characteristics of Great Autism Support Teachers.
  • Empathy. Empathy is a must! ...
  • Patience. Patience is a virtue! ...
  • Knowledge. Staying knowledgeable on diagnoses and disorders that students have in a teacher's classroom is important. ...
  • Attentiveness. ...
  • Curiosity. ...
  • Adaptive. ...
  • Creative.

What skills are most important for teachers of children with autism spectrum disorders? ›

It appears that the best practice approach when looking at the most important skills for preschool teacher who work with children with ASD, are communication and social skills.

What top 3 skills do you believe you need to be successful as a special education assistant? ›

The qualities identified with top workers in the field of special education often mimic those exhibited by parents: patience, compassion, consistency, acceptance and an passion to see their children do well. Assistants need these qualities and more, as they will be called upon to advocate for their students.

What are the material resources needed in schools to support students with disabilities? ›

Accessible instructional materials are specialized or alternative formats of textbooks and other instructional materials. Examples are Braille, audio, large print, and digital text. Some students with disabilities need accessible instructional materials to access the same curriculum as other students.

What are examples of accommodations for students? ›

Examples of accommodations include:
  • sign language interpreters for students who are deaf;
  • computer text-to-speech computer-based systems for students with visual impairments or Dyslexia;
  • extended time for students with fine motor limitations, visual impairments, or learning disabilities;
24 May 2022

What are the four types of accommodations? ›

Accommodations are typically grouped into four categories: presentation, response, setting, and timing and scheduling.

What are 5 strategies used to work with a child with autism? ›

The 5 Best Teaching Strategies for Autism
  • Support Routines and Transitions. Most children with autism are sensitive to abrupt changes in routine and will learn best in routine situations. ...
  • Use Visual Cues. ...
  • Use Special Interests as a Gateway to Teaching Skills. ...
  • Incorporate Sensory Tools. ...
  • Support social skills practice.
5 Nov 2019

What are 3 ways structure supports students with autism? ›

This chapter discusses the features of structure that have proven useful in classrooms for students of all ages with autism. These features are physical organization, scheduling, and teaching methods. The key to effectively using each of these features is individualization.

How do you calm an autistic child in the classroom? ›

How to Calm a Child with Autism in the Classroom
  1. Stick to a Routine. Perhaps the best way to keep a child calm with autism is to limit their frustrations in the first place! ...
  2. Practice Deep Breathing. ...
  3. Soothe with the Senses. ...
  4. Provide an Escape from Sensory Overload.
25 May 2018

How do you accommodate students with autism? ›

What are typical challenges and accommodations for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
  1. clearly established and ordered routines.
  2. warning and preparation when changes are anticipated.
  3. planning and practicing of communication strategies and social routines.
  4. earplugs or noise-canceling headsets in hallways or lunchroom.

What do schools do for children with autism? ›

This could include access to a teaching assistant, quiet rooms, extra time in tests or other help with other aspects of their learning, for example handwriting. If you have questions about your child's progress and support needs, the best person to speak to is the school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO).

Which educational environment do most students with autism spend their time? ›

There are various educational opportunities for students with autism: a general education classroom, a resource classroom, a special education classroom, or an autism-only setting. Some autistic students thrive in an inclusive class, while others are better in segregated situations. It all depends on the child.

What characteristics should early education and interventions for students with autism have? ›

  • Individualized Support and Services for Students and Families. ...
  • Systematic Instruction. ...
  • Comprehensible and/or Structured Environment. ...
  • Specialized Curriculum Content Focusing on Symptoms of Autism. ...
  • A Functional Approach to Problem Behaviors. ...
  • Family Involvement.

What are good sensory items for autism? ›

The 10 Best Sensory Toys for Autism
  • Sensory Mats. A great sensory toy for children with autism is a series of sensory mats. ...
  • Chew Toys. ...
  • Sand, Slime, or Putty. ...
  • Pin Art. ...
  • Rainmaker Toys. ...
  • Fidget Spinners. ...
  • Electric Dog Pet. ...
  • Senseez Vibrating Cushion.

What is autism toolbox? ›

​The Autism Toolbox is a resource to support the inclusion of children and young people with autism spectrum disorder in mainstream education services in Scotland. It introduces and describes some of the more common challenges a pupil with autism might face and provides real-life case studies from Scottish schools.

What is autism brochure? ›

The brochure is written in a child-friendly language and includes tips for playing with children with ASD, their strengths and challenges, and other basic information about ASD.

How do you calm down an autistic child? ›

What to do during a very loud, very public meltdown
  1. Be empathetic. Empathy means listening and acknowledging their struggle without judgment. ...
  2. Make them feel safe and loved. ...
  3. Eliminate punishments. ...
  4. Focus on your child, not staring bystanders. ...
  5. Break out your sensory toolkit. ...
  6. Teach them coping strategies once they're calm.
18 Apr 2018

What are sensory tools? ›

Sensory tools are intended to promote regulation, improve focus, and increase participation, therefore enabling your child to be available for learning! The key to a sensory-informed classroom is that it supports the various sensory needs of the students in the classroom in a way that is as natural as possible.

How many children have autism in Scotland? ›

6 Prevalence And Intellectual Ability: The Scottish Context
ScotlandASD population
with IDTotal
Children secondary school (12-15)7352,247
Adults (16-67 a)12,34537,751
Total15,44547,231
3 more rows
26 Mar 2018

What is autism Scotland? ›

Scottish Autism is an organisation dedicated to enabling autistic people to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

What are some autism quotes? ›

Inspirational Autism Quotes
  • Autism is uniqueness and difference personified. ...
  • Sometimes the most powerful therapy is just a pause. ...
  • Kids need to be encouraged to stretch their shine! ...
  • Mindfulness is adding breath and intention to all the goings on of the day. ...
  • Every word or sound uttered is important communication.

What are the causes of autism? ›

Causes
  • Genetics. Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. ...
  • Environmental factors. Researchers are currently exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.
6 Jan 2018

Did you know facts about autism? ›

ASD affects about 1 in 68 children Visit disclaimer page in the United States, with more children identified than ever before. ASD is about 4 times more likely in boys than girls. ASD affects children of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

Videos

1. Helping Parents and Therapists Cope with Autism Spectrum Disorder | Susan Sherkow | TEDxYouth@LFNY
(TEDx Talks)
2. Thriving and Autism: Tips Tricks and Strategies for Success (February 10, 2022)
(Alberta Health Services)
3. Common Teaching Mistakes to Avoid for Children with Autism
(Mary Barbera - Turn Autism Around)
4. Rogers Behavioral Health therapist provides tips to support children with autism spectrum disorder
(Rogers Behavioral Health)
5. But I Don't Wanna go to School! Strategies for Addressing School Avoidance (2018)
(Seattle Children's)
6. Autism: Strategies to Support Social Success
(Witherslack Group)
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