Our students with autism spectrum disorder obviously struggle with communicating. Even those with a large vocabulary often do not realize how to ask for what they need or want directly. Many students with ASD may say the word but not realize they need to get someone’s attention and make sure they are heard. For this reason, we have our students give an object, picture, or written word to express their needs and wants even when they know the words. Once we are sure they understand not only how to express their needs but also know that communication requires two people. We observe them to see if they make sure their words are heard.
Within our school day, we set up situations where students have opportunities to request their choices.
After a one-on-one work time with his teacher, this student hands a top to request having her spin it. The teacher knows he enjoys watching the movement and will be interested in making such a request. When he hands the top to make his request, the teacher associates a single word, “spin,” as a means of teaching this vocabulary word.
We have students make requests during music times by using objects or pictures. They pick which animal about which to sing for “Old MacDonald” and use pictures to choose which verse they want to hear when singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” We encourage the children to say the word as they choose.
When choosing which crayon, this student has a reminder to use a sentence when requesting.
When requesting sand toys during a playtime, this student has a prompt to include the teacher’s name when making the choice.
A great routine for the classroom is to have students choose what they will eat for lunch. According to the level of the student, they can choose an object that represents the choice, a picture, say the word, or use a sentence to make their request.
This tool from Meyer-Johnson Boardmaker pics allows more able communicators to have prompts to remind them of what they might request or how to respond to requests.
When thinking about designing your classroom, the space, activities, group sessions, individual areas, always be sure to think about how the student may convey his thoughts and wishes. You will find all of the Tasks Galore publications helpful in designing communication within everyday tasks and activities. After all for everyone of us, aren’t we less stressed and better behaved if we understand what is going on around us??!!