ASD Tip of the Month

2020-2021 Archive


For the past six years, the autism center has provided a monthly tip to support and encourage you as you educate children and youth with autism. We are excited to share with you our favorite tips from the past.


September 2020:

Wendy’s Favorite - Support Executive Function Skills: November 2016-17

Executive function skills are important for every person and can be very helpful for people with autism. That’s what makes this tip one of my favorites! “Do you have a student with autism spectrum disorder who is challenged with being organized, taking notes, and having needed materials? Executive dysfunction may be the cause. Executive function (EF) skills are cognitive processes that include organizing, initiating, goal setting, shifting attention, and self-monitoring. To support EF self-management skills, try visual supports such as checklists, scales, and graphic organizers. For EF time-management skills, explore the use of timers, schedules, and calendars. Challenges with information management can be helped with study guides, electronic file systems, dictation programs, and rubrics. And finally, materials management skills can be built with checklists, color-coding, email, and photo supports.”

Executive Function Resources include:


October 2020:

Julie’s favorite- Think and Teach Visually: September 2014-15

This month I am reinforcing one of my favorite tips, “Think and Teach Visually”. When we present information verbally, the words are available for a brief moment. When we present information visually, it can be there for as long as the individual needs it. “A picture is worth a thousand words! Most individuals with ASD are visual learners and respond better to visual supports rather than just the spoken word. If someone does not understand or respond to what you are saying, write it, draw it or ‘picture it’ out!”

Although there are many ready-made visual supports available, creating your own visual aids is a great way to meet your student’s or child’s needs. Remember, we all use and rely on visual supports! Make it a point this month to look into creating visual supports for your students or family members.

  • Autism Resource Gallery of Interventions:
    Behavior Contingency Maps, Choice Boards, Graphic Organizers, First-Then Boards, Stress Thermometer, and more. Download the templates to create an intervention tailored to the unique needs of an individual.
  • Autism Internet Modules:
    Visual Supports
    Incredible 5-Point Scale
  • OCALI’s lending library:
    Visual Supports for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Materials for Visual Learners by Bernard-Opitz and Hausler
    Visual Supports for People with Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Cohen and Sloan.’
  • OCALI’s 4 Minutes at 4:00 p.m.
    “Getting Through the Day with First-Then”

November 2020:

Amy’s favorite: Embrace Special Interests - October 2014-2015

I LOVE this tip! I love hearing about the interests of others, such as bird watching, scrapbooking, exercising, baking, or painting. Special interests are a part of who we are. Individuals with ASD also have special interests that should be embraced and appreciated.

‘Whether it is air conditioner parts, carnivorous plants, hood ornaments or clocks, many individuals with ASD have a very intense focus on a special interest. These interests typically are very specific to the individual and generally not of great interest to others of the same age group. Use special interests as you build learning opportunities in the home, school and community so that individuals are motivated to learn and demonstrate their strengths and skills to others.


December 2020:

Denise’s favorite: Take Care of your Body October- 2019-2020

This tip reminds me that we need to take care of ourselves first before we can expect to take care of others. This includes our significant others, children, friends, and family. As a caregiver to my husband for over 25 years, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of taking care of both my physical and mental well being. Using tips for breathing, nutrition checks, daily exercise, developing activities/hobbies, and keeping in contact with special people has been a part of nurturing that healthy outlook on life.

‘“Changing habits to include exercise, rest, and nutritious foods can be a challenge. If you start small, you might find it to be a little easier as you make these habits part of your daily or weekly routine. Begin by taking a 10-minute walk (possibly at lunchtime), stepping outside for a few minutes of fresh air, eating a healthy snack during the school day, trying a new five-ingredient recipe, and laughing. You may find that laughter is the best medicine! Consider starting your day or week by sharing a meme that best portrays how you are feeling or one that just makes you chuckle.”


January 2021:

Wendy’s Favorite: Remember Wait Time November- 2015-16

One of my favorite tips is “Remember Wait Time”. This is an important tip for all people that support individuals with autism to learn about and use. Learning to give a person time to process what has been said or asked can help conversations and school work.

‘Wait time is essential for individuals with ASD. Allow individuals the time to process information and prepare a response or action before repeating/rephrasing the question or directive. Consider the auditory processing speed of a person with ASD as that of a computer... when you repeatedly hit the command button on a computer it does not make it go any faster, it actually slows down the process. Thus, commit to the 10 second rule and give an individual at least 10 seconds to respond before intervening.’


February 2021:

Denise’s favorite: Support Communication by Using “What to do Words” - May 2017-2018

For many individuals with receptive and expressive language difficulties, question asking can be very confusing. Question answering takes the ability to understand each question type and how to appropriately respond. Think about it! If you didn’t know that a ‘who’ question requires a response about a person or a ‘where’ question is about a place, you would be responding incorrectly. In place of question asking, use ‘what to do’ words. As the speaker, you provide the words that support actions, emotions, names, everything!

“Interpreting abstract ideas and concepts is frequently difficult for individuals with ASD. One way to help them is to restructure abstract ideas by adding concrete information. For example, instead of asking 'how do you feel?', you could say “You look happy. You have a big smile on your face. Tell me what makes you happy today?” Modeling directives, sometimes referred to as “what to do words”, provides concrete information on how to engage in social communication.”


March 2021:

Julie’s Favorite: Make Time for Relaxation - March 2015-16

Sometimes we all need to take a break from stressful situations. Maybe you go to a certain chair, outside spot, or particular room to de-compress or manage your emotions. We all have preferences for what makes us feel safe and better. Students and family members want those same opportunities. That’s why this tip is one of my favorites!

“Incorporating relaxation times throughout the day can be very beneficial for individuals with ASD. ‘Time away’ from the stressors of the classroom, work setting or a community event may reduce anxiety, support a behavioral concern and provide a period of quiet time and respite. Home base, a ‘chill zone’ or designated safe place can serve as a relaxation area. It is designed to be a safe place, free from stress, to calm, take a break, or recover.”