Academic Skills
Most students, including many students with ASD, benefit from participating fully in classroom activities. However, many students, especially those with ASD, can learn and absorb information in ways that are not immediately apparent. All students should be encouraged and supported in actively engaging, to the fullest extent possible, in the learning process. Differentiating instruction (www.caroltomlinson.com), providing cooperative learning strategies (www.kaganonline.com) when appropriate, and providing varied instruction for all kinds and levels of learners, will support greater participation for all students.

No Tech Tools and Strategies

  • Establish predictable, productive classroom routines. Provides for:
    • less anxiety about what to expect
    • enhanced participation
    • smoother transitions
    • increased learning
  • Accommodate presentation format
    • break larger assignments into smaller steps
    • minimize visual overload by decreasing number of problems per page and removing unnecessary illustrations
    • be cautious using open-ended or abstract questions like "tell how you feel" and "why"
    • ensure handwriting or font are crisp and easy to read
    • look at allowable accommodations for the STAAR tests (State of Texas proficiency assessment for students.) You can view the accommodations allowable for all assessments in the state of Texas by clicking here. Type 3 accommodations must be requested directly for the Texas Education Agency (TEA.)
    • accommodations for the STAAR Alternate Assessment are called "Presentation Supports and Materials" and may be accessed here.
  • Focus on strengths/use special interests
    • special strengths or interests of a student with ASD can provide meaning, motivation and self-esteem when incorporated into assignments. Just Give Him the Whale! by Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz is a good resource.
  • Use specific, concrete directionspresented in more than one way (verbal and written or visual)
    • students with ASD often have unique interpretations of teachers' directions. Avoid misunderstanding and possible conflict by using clear directive words that leave nothing to be assumed or interpreted.
  • Provide models and demonstrationswhenever possible
    • clear, visual examples of what is expected help many students to understand assignments better
  • Preteach
    • provides familiarity and a pre-made cognitive "filing system" for information

Lite Tech Tools and Strategies

  • File Folder Activities/Structured Teaching Format provides the student with independence to focus on many academic tasks through the use of file folder activities. File folder activities can be part of a broad approach called Structured Teaching. The key is to provide a structure for the presentation and independent completion of activities or tasks. See www.teacch.comfor information about structured teaching.
    • long strips of Velcro placed on the inside pages of a laminated file folder with picture/symbol/word cards with Velcro on the back
      • matching tasks, sorting tasks, and sequencing tasks focusing on appropriate content (e.g., colors, shapes, alphabet letters, common nouns, familiar people, categories, relationships, concepts from a science unit, etc.) are all appropriate.
    • create activities that focus on reading comprehension skills, math skills, and others.
  • Highlighter tape
    • highlight key words or sentences pertaining to a reading comprehension question in the text
    • different colors of highlighter tape can be used to encode different significant concepts (e.g., red to mark dates, yellow to mark people, etc.)
    • different parts of speech can be highlighted with different colors (e.g., yellow for nouns, green for verbs)
    • paragraphs can be color coded to relate to specific study questions (e.g., orange for number 1, green for number 2, etc.).
  • Magnetic letters, words, and numbers
    • use to complete assignments and answer questions - This is especially critical if the student is not yet ready to write ormagneticpoetry.jpg keyboard, but can read whole words and create sentences if not hampered by the need to “write.” Beacon Ridgeand Magnetic Poetryare two common sources.
  • Acrylic Riser: If the student is struggling with tracing or writing, a clear acrylic riser can be used to allow acrylic_riser.JPGthe student to follow the movements made by a teacher or therapist, who works from the inside of the riser. This is a precursor to being able to trace already completed shapes or lines.

  • Work system- helps develop independent work skills by enabling the student to see how much has been done and how much still needs to be done. Part of the Structured Teaching approach.
    • an “in” basket can be placed on the left side of his desk with worksheets, file folders, or "work boxes" that need to be completed
    • an “out” basket is placed on the right side of the desk.
    • the last item in the “in” basket can be a choice card with two choices of things he likes to do.
  • Interactive Books
    • create vocabulary cards with matching pictures interactive_books.jpg
    • create character cards
    • add Velcro strips with picture, letter or word choices to match to appropriate spots on the pages
    • add sound, texture, or moving parts
    • Greenhouse Publications offers interactive books for children in PK and Kindergarten
  • Number lines, counters, math manipulatives, and multiplication tables
number_line.jpg

  • Raised line or graph paper
    • Do a web search for "graph paper" or "lined paper" for free templates and downloads

Mid Tech Tools and Strategies

Voice Output Communication Aids (see also Receptive Communication and Expressive Communication)
  • Sequential or Muli-Message Devices
    • Each step of the sequence of a story problem or math problem can be pre-recorded on each of the four buttons in sequential order. The four corresponding sequence number pictures are placed in front of the individual, but not in order. As the individual presses the first button in the left-to-right sequence of buttons, they hear the auditory message for the first sequence number. The individual can then select which picture corresponds to that message as the first number in the sequence story problem and place it on top of the first button via Velcro. This process continues with the subsequent buttons and numbers. Printed math sentences can also be used.
    • These devices can be used as a motivating way to focus on phonics. Each button can be prerecorded with a sound from a three- to four-letter “sound” word (e.g., “dog”). The student then chooses the corresponding letter card to match to the recorded sound. For example, the first button of the Talk Pad is recorded with the sound “d.” The student chooses from a selection of the three letters that comprise “dog,” as well as the entire written word. He or she then puts the letter that matches the sound on the first button, using Velcro. The student progresses through each button in the same manner. The final button says “dog”, and the student matches the whole written word “dog” to this final button. The same technique can be used for a simple math problem or parts of a science concept.
    • VoicePod - The VoicePod from Attainment is a digital recording and playback system ideal for photos, languagevoice_pod.jpg cards and communication symbols. It features thirty-six reusable, two-sided sleeves with an ID strip to access recordings. The VoicePod provides a motivating and novel alternative for focusing on sequence stories, which are typically difficult for the student with ASD. The student listens to the sentence on the card, which describes a picture that is part of a story sequence. The student can then put the appropriate picture in sequential order for the story, according to the message given on the VoicePod. It can also be used to practice spelling words, math facts, history dates, and any key concepts from subject area classes.
  • Word Processing programs and tools - Great options for students who struggle with writing. (See Motor Skills.)
  • Calculators - Can be an excellent way for students to access more advanced math content when fluency and calculation skills might hinder progress.
  • Spell Checkers- spell checkers have built in algorithms that work well for students who spell phonetically
  • Overhead Projectors - Still in use; can provide a unique way to approach teaching and an opportunity to stand and engage more of the body while working on problems.
  • Smart Pen- These are relatively new and enable students to digitally record their notes and transfer to a computer for review. Some even record speech.
  • Audio books
    • Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems from Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse in Mp3 (audiobook) format. You can: download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go, listen to the Mp3 files on your computer, view the text on a webpage and read along as you listen, and print out the stories and poems to make your own book.

High Tech Tools and Strategies

  • Video Taping
    • provide students with visual images of many academic processes from writing to creating projects to working in a team
    • a wide assortment of cameras and editing programs are available to make creating videos easy
  • Computers
    • often highly motivating and engaging for students with ASD
    • computer-based learning lacks the ambiguities and distractions of other teaching methods
    • research has shown that using computers can increase attention and decrease anxiety-related behaviors in students with ASD
    • computers provide a predictable, concrete learning environment that is often self-directed and self-paced
    • computer use can provide students with a sense of control and consistency in a world that generally affords them little of either. Using the computer (and Internet and software programs) can be incorporated into home and classroom learning in more ways than we can enumerate: as a reward, as a means for more in depth learning, as an activity in independence, as a curriculum option, or as a social setting (online or games).
  • Interactive Learning (software or online) or e-books
    • Software
      • Edmark titles available at Riverdeep
        • Bailey's Book House (PreK - 2)
        • Sammy's Science House (PreK - 2)
        • Trudy's Time and Place House (PreK - 2)
        • Millie's Math House (PreK - 2)
        • Destination Math (K - 12)
        • Destination Reading (K - 12)
      • Scholastic
        • WiggleWorks software (grades PreK-1 and grades 2-3) provides each student with a scaffolded learning experience. Each WiggleWorks title is available on the computer with support options for every child, no matter what his or her instructional needs. Built-in tools and activities support children’s developing phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills. The 84 WiggleWorks titles include realistic fiction, nonfiction, and folktales. The program contains a software manager that helps teachers monitor student progress and adjust student access, teaching plans, a teacher's guide and assessment tools.
      • Earobics (PreK - 3)
      • My First Incredible Amazing Dictionary
      • Attainmenttitles
        • Story Town - teachers create talking, animated stories
        • My Own Bookshelf - teachers create multimedia stories
        • Show Me Math
        • Show Me Spelling
      • Don Johnstontitles
        • Start-to-Finish Literacy (gr. 5-12)
        • Start-to-Finish Literacy Starters (pre-emergent to conventional)
        • Incite! (social studies gr.6-12)
        • Simon S.I.O. - phonics instruction for gr. PK - 8
        • Wordmaker - vocabulary instruction for gr. K-8
      • Intellitools
        • Intellitools Classroom Suite (PreK - 5) incredibly powerful suite of programs which enables teachers to create highly interactive activities, lessons and assessments.
        • Math Pad and Math Pad Plus (K-8) - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and the same basic operations using fractions and decimals
        • Number Concepts (K-8)
    • Online ebooks
      • Reading Bear is a new free site to teach young children how to read using phonics reading_bear.pngprinciples presented in short video segments. After each video is a quiz and, occasionally, review videos fall in the sequence of instruction.
      • Starfall(Preschool - 2) - phonics, phonemic awareness and vocabulary development
      • Ghost Forest- interactive stories in many languages (not Spanish)
      • Raz-kids(K-6) - interactive, leveled readers. Must be a member of www.learninga-z.com at $80/year
      • Accessible Book Collectionanother for-fee subscription service at $50/year providing books in accessible formats for students with motor/print disabilities
      • Tarheel Reader interactive story books written by educators and students. Books can be downloaded in PowerPoint format for use on classroom computers or read online. If read online, you can select to have the book read out loud with a synthesized voice or no sound
      • Awesome Library’s Awesome Talkster, an animated online talking character for e-books, provides visual synchronized highlighting so students of all ages can follow the text
      • Bookbuilder by CASTcan be used to create digital books
      • Learning Ally [formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic] provides services to individuals who cannot read standard print because of visual, perceptual, or other physical disability; how to access their services, and information on the collection of audiotape books maintained by Learning Ally.
      • Bookshare has a enormous collection of electronic text for those with a print disability; membership required
      • Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, and Book Ragshave online free summaries, character analysis, essay suggestions, and important quotes for thousands of books
      • Internet Public Libraryincludes links to picture books, short stories, poetry, myths, fables, magazines, and information about authors
      • Project Gutenbergincludes e-text files of popular literary works
    • Writing Tools - Students with ASD often need some form of support when writing whether it is a large key keyboard for easier input or a word processing program that reduces perseveration on producing the perfect cursive "s". The software programs here are suggestions for aiding in the the mechanical process of writing as well as the recursive process of creating novel writing.
      • Turbo Type is a word prediction software that will work with virtually all text editors and most programs that allow text input. It may be purchased for $20 but there is also a FREE download.
    • Online Learning: The learning and teaching opportunities available through the Internet are amazingly numerous and varied. Free lessons and even courses of study in almost any subject area are available online. In addition, virtual schools, distance education classes, webcasts and podcasts can provide instruction with more personal connection to teachers, presenters and other students. Many formats, including Moodles, blogs and wikis, can be used for creating online learning environments.
      • Visual Fractionsincludes online tools for learning fractions, PowerPoints to help teach fractions, downloadable worksheets, and downloadable software for creating circle fractions
      • Illuminations is a collection of online, standard-based virtual manipulatives and lessons to make math come alive in the classroom
      • BlockCad is a free Win virtual Lego land
      • Lego Digital Designeris free program you can download to create your own Lego toys.Until January 2012, you can order Lego kits of your virtual creations.
      • National Library of Virtual Manipulatives– housed at Utah State University, this is an incredible resource for teaching mathematics to students of all ages
      • FunBrain has online educational games for kids of all ages in math, grammar, science, spelling and history
      • At $20 per month Time4Learning offers homeschooled children of all ages curricular instruction in all areas
      • e-Learning for Kidsis a global, nonprofit foundation dedicated to fun and free learning on the Internet for children ages 5 - 12. They offer free courseware in math, science, reading and keyboarding. Best of all, it is available in Spanish
      • Free English and Spanish lessons available on the internet are listed at Your Dictionary
      • ISER or Internet Special Education Resourceslists several different options for online learning for students with special needs. Be aware that the sties have not been vetted nor are they endorsed by ISER.
      • The Online Education Databasehas compiled free online schooling for older students from respected universities
      • HelpKidzLearn is a collection of free software for young children and those with learning difficulties to play online. The software is split into four sections: Games and Quizzes, Stories and Songs, Creative Play, and Find Out About
      • MIT's OpenCourseWarefor learning is free online math and science instruction
      • Jacob's Lessons is this really cool website developed by a dad to teach his toddler computer schools. Mom is a behavior analyst working with young children who discovered the activities were a great way to teach computer skills to kids on the spectrum.
      • Science Piratesis a highly interactive game to help middle school students understand scientific processes. The topic explored is food safety, but the students navigate through many processes to establish a recommendation for hand-washing behavior. Scientific processes investigated include observation, developing hypotheses, developing testing of variables, experiment design, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations. Links are available to national standards.
      • Instagrok is a search engine that finds educational content on any topic and in multiple formats (webpages, images, videos, and forums.) It filters out non-educational content, eliminates profanity and prnography, and displays search results accoridng to difficulty (school, high school, and college.)
  • Adaptive Hardware- Some students with ASD might require adapted computer access, that is, access via a different mode than the standard mouse or keyboard. Listed below are devices that can assist students in accessing the computer
    • Touch Window: This touch screen can be easily mounted on the computer monitor with the student simply touching the screen to emulate mouse actions. Use of a touch screen can assist a child who experiences difficulty understanding the abstract relationship between mouse actions and screen actions. With a touch screen, the concrete relationship between what the student sees and what the student directly activates is established (Reed, Gierach, Walser, Sheets, Cumley, Lynch & Wirkus, 1997.) Many computers, both desktop and notebook, can be purchased with touch screen capability.
    • IntelliKeys: This is a popular alternative keyboard that easily connects to a computer and works with either Macintosh or intellikeys.gifWindows. The student simply pushes various locations on an overlay placed in the IntelliKeys to access programs. Standard overlays for the alphabet, numbers, mouse directions and for use as a single switch hit are included with the IntelliKeys. However, various overlays can also be created to go with numerous software programs through the purchase and use of additional IntelliTools software programs. In addition to acting as an alternative keyboard, the IntelliKeys has four switch jacks located on the side of the keyboard so that a single switch or multiple switches can be connected to the computer through the IntelliKeys.
    • Big Keys LX and Big Keys Plus: Big Keys Plus is an alternative alphabet keyboard that has been specifically designed for young children. The keys are large (1 inch square) with the various alphabet letters color-coded to help children more readily find specific keys (vowels in one color, consonants in a different color). The keyboard is also arranged in ABC order for easy access for younger children. Big Keys LX is designed for older individuals. This keyboard is available from Enablemart
    • Trackballs: Trackballs come in various sizes and shapes and allow the individual to move the mouse around the screen by rolling a stationary “ball” around with either their fingertips or hand. Some individuals with ASD can more easily learn to Trackball-Kensington-ExpertMouse5.jpginitially understand mouse operations via a trackball, with eventual skill transfer to use of a standard mouse. Trackballs can be purchased from numerous retailers for varying amounts.
      Of the hardware mentioned, the IntelliKeys is perhaps the most versatile. A student who utilizes concrete objects to communicate can use it. Miniature objects or parts of objects can be attached to an overlay with Velcro so that the student can activate the computer to say a sentence, sing a song, or tell a story, simply by reaching for and touching the object. It can also be used by a higher functioning student to sequence facts, retell a story, or demonstrate steps of a science experiment. By creating appropriate overlays, the teacher can set up the IntelliKeys so that a student can answer comprehension questions for reading, social studies, health, etc., utilizing whichever visual representation system is appropriate.
  • Software -There are numerous software programs available that can focus on a variety of skill areas such as language skills, attending skills, problem solving skills, fine motor skills, academic skills, as well as provide appropriate leisure time activity ideas. This is not a comprehensive list of all software available.
    • for Reading
      • Picture It by Slater Software
      • Edmark Reading Programs by Riverdeep
      • Survival Signs by Attainment
      • Read, Write, Grow! by Ablenet incorporates literacy, writing and assessment. It allows students to read and write using non-traditional methods including switches, picture-symbols, speech generating devices like BIGmack and a variety of software access options
    • for Writing with Pictures: Some students with ASD read and/or understand pictures and words before they are able to write or spell. There are very useful software programs for students whose understanding exceeds their physical ability to write.
      • SymWriter by Mayer-Johnson
      • Pix Writer by Slater Software
      • Clicker 5 by Crick Software but available at Mayer-Johnsonin the U.S.
      • Writing with Symbols 2000 has been discontinued but you may still have it in your software collection.
      • Symbolmate is a new symbol-based software from Tobii
      • EdWord is a talking word processor that allows you to combine text with symbols. It is a free download from the good folks at Deafblindonline in the United Kingdom.
    • for Writing with Letters: Often a student with ASD recognizes letters and words before he or she is ready to learn to keyboard
      • on screen keyboard
        • part of the operating systems for both Macintosh and PC computers
        • create on screen keyboards with Intellitools Classroom Suite, Clicker 5 or Writing with Symbols 2000, or the EdWord/EdGrid programs (see above)
        • Click-N-Type is a free on screen keyboard from Lakefolks. It is not only a virtual keyboard but the program has word prediction and word completion to support beginning or struggling writers
    • for Thinking: Children with ASD often struggle to understand more abstract concepts.
      • Inspiration/Kidspiration is software that can help them understand and process information more effectively through the use of concept mapping and flowcharts.
      • www.mywebspiration.com is from the same people who brought you Inspiration and Kidspiration. The Beta version was free until recently. Now there is a subscription of $6 per month or $39 per year per classroom.
      • http://bubbl.us is another free, online concept mapping website that allows collaboration between various users. You can print and email your concept maps.
      • Free Mindis another online concept mapping piece of software.
    • for Math: There are a number of math programs now available that allow a student to complete math assignments. These programs can provide a variety of supports if needed.
      • Intellitools
        • Math Pad
        • Classroom Suite
      • Number Navigatoris an opensource software program that enables children to record their structured arithmetic via the button bar, keyboard or switches without having to resort to the complexities of a spreadsheet. Numbers are entered using the keyboard or switches (via SAW, Special Access to Windows, which is also available to download from the OATS website) into grid locations on the screen. The student then navigates through the grid by means of the arrow keys or the mouse (free)
      • Henter Mathis a company that provides solutions for people with visual impairments and blindness. Their software solutions for math do the job of the pencil. The cursor moves to the right spot on the "paper", guided by the user, and inputs the answers that the user selects. It can edit numbers and variables, insert fractions or square roots or other structures, and copy whole equations or expressions. When used with a screen reader the numbers and actions are read out loud. The user must navigate the screen and provide the input.
        • Virtual Pencil Arithmetic handles addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, with fractions and decimals
        • Virtual Pencil Algebra handles quantities, radicals, exponents, subscripts, Greek letters, absolute values, matrices, fractions, and many editing features.
      • GeoComputer replaces the need for elastics on a GeoBoard and much more! Students can create 2D shapes, then measure the perimeter or area. They can flip or rotate the workspace, or even make 3D representations. Through the use of careful instructions, this program can also help students understand concepts such as fractions or symmetry (free)
      • Tom Snyder
        • FASTT Math targets the development of fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
        • Go Solve uses graphic organizers to help students plan for solving word problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
      • InspireData from Inspiration applies proven strategies of visual learning to data literacy; supporting strong critical thinking
      • GeoGebra is free software for geometry, algebra, and calculus simulations and manipulatives
      • Efofex offers their software for math and science free of charge to students with disabilities.
    • in the Content Area Subjects: There are virtually thousands of software programs now available that can be used to replace or supplement the content being studied in regular education classrooms. Software that provides a rich visual source of information may be the vehicle by which a student can access the general education curriculum along with his or her non disabled peers.
      • Edmark
        • Virtual Labs Light & Electricity for science (grades 6-12)
        • Thinkin' Things software for science (grades 2-8)
        • Oregon Trail for social studies (grades 4-8)
        • Carmen Sandiego series for social studies (grades 4-8)
      • Tom Snyder
        • Timeliner XE social studies and science (grades K-12)
        • Science Court series (grades 4-6)
        • Science Seekers Series (grades 58)
  • Accessory Equipment
    • Interactive white board with Notebook software can provide a wide variety of organizational and curriculum materials that can be extremely engaging for students with ASD.
    • Digital camera: A digital camera can be useful to educators and parents in making two-dimensional visual representation systems for students who more readily comprehend pictures from their customary environments. These pictures can be used as the visual representation system in all of the suggestions included in this manual.
    • Scanner: A scanner can be used by educators and parents to scan in numerous materials, such as books, CD covers, video covers, etc. to meet the student’s individual needs regarding the various suggestions given in this section. In some cases a student with ASD can also use this equipment to complete tasks. Arthur used a scanner in his Work Experience program to scan textbooks for use by others that could not read text, such as individuals with vision impairment or dyslexia. He scanned the books and then carefully checked them to insure that the computer had accurately translated the text.