Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects an individual’s ability to communicate, understand language, play, and socialize with others. It is now considered a spectrum disorder that includes Autistic Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. These diagnoses fall under the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders which also includes Asperger Syndrome, Retts Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. There are a wide range of abilities demonstrated by children with these diagnoses. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder demonstrate the following behavioral features:

  • Communication problems in both using and understanding language
  • Difficulty with social skills in relating to people
  • Unusual play with toys and other object
  • Difficulty with changes in routine (transitions)
  • Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns
  • Difficulties regulating sensory input (sensory integration)

The following strategies may be helpful in working with children with autism:

Use visual materials such as pictures and line drawings for schedules, task analysis, and behavioral intervention.

Social stories- visually based stories that describe social situations, social cues, and appropriate responses to these cues.

Discrete Trial Training – based on applied behavioral analysis:

  • Presentation of a stimulus or cue
  • Presentation of a prompting stimulus if needed
  • The response
  • The reinforcing stimulus

Positive behavioral support-a positive, proactive problem solving approach to improving appropriate behaviors socially and academically. Children are instructed to replace a behavior with a more functional behavior for the situation. The environment is also analyzed for changes to promote behavior change.

Universal Behavioral Support- behavioral practices within a classroom setting should also consist of creating an environment that is positive for all children.

  • Clear expectations for all children for behavior
  • Making sure all children agree to those expectations.
  • Giving children the opportunity to meet the expectations.
  • Rewarding them for doing so.


Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R. &Wehmeyer, M. (2007). Exceptional lives: Special Education in today’s schools. Upper Saddle River, N. J: Pearson Education.