"Do's" and "Don'ts" for Teaching Children with Autism

Don't try to teach before you have an EO (establishing operation). Do begin teaching when you have something (or are something!) the child wants. If you can't "capture" an EO,

The List

1. Don't try to teach before you have an EO (establishing operation). Do begin teaching when you have something (or are something!) the child wants. If you can't "capture" an EO, "contrive" one.

2. Do learn the child. Make sure you understand what he likes and doesn't like. Know how the child typically responds to the environment.

3. Do avoid "confrontation" whenever possible. "Behavioral" doesn't equate to "mean" or "bossy". If you know certain situations are difficult for the child, prepare in advance using a "promise" or by gradually desensitizing the child to the situation.

4. Do attempt to teach the child to tolerate different situations by pairing and desensitizing. "The longer you walk on eggshells, the harder it will be to get off."

5. Do continue to "create" potential new conditioned reinforcers through pairing. 

6. Do make sure that people and talking remain paired with reinforcement.

7. Don't inadvertently teach a child to communicate with negative behavior. Negative behaviors must not be reinforced.

8. Do ask for help if any behaviors appear to be escalating so a functional analysis can be performed and the proper action taken.

9. Don't ask a question if you're not sure the child knows the answer. Do use prompts, mastered targets or fill-ins to transfer to the question.

10. Do teach in the natural environment as much as possible. Children with Autism need to learn to respond appropriately to all of the stimuli in the natural environment.

11. Do "take advantage" of the child's tendency to repeat behaviors to "capture" a behavior to reinforce. (ex: If he always lines up numbers, teach "touch the 2" by giving the SD right before you know he will pick it up then reinforce "correct" responding)

12. Do use real objects and toys for teaching as much as possible. The child needs contact with the stimuli they are learning about in order to avoid "rote responding".

13. Do teach about things the child is interested in. This helps insure the child will have multiple opportunities to learn (acquire) as well as review (maintain) targets and will limit the need to contrive EOs. 

14. Do prompt or "capture" all new target responses. Fade prompting as quickly as possible by "mixing in" mastered responses. 

15. Do avoid dependence on echoic or verbal prompting when appropriate. We want the child to "talk first" as much as possible.

16. Do avoid "incorrect" responding. We don't want the child to "practice" mistakes. Instead, of "test and correct", teach!

17. Do reinforce all "new" responses on a 1-1 ratio then gradually "lean" using a variable ratio schedule of reinforcement. Provide differential reinforcement of new, "hard" responses.

18. Do mix and vary response requirements as soon as possible to teach the child to respond to both the visual stimuli and the questions you're asking/demands you're placing.

19. Do teach the child to respond to multiple properties of the same object.

20. Do start teaching with whatever verbal stimulus will help insure the child is responding correctly. As soon as the response is mastered with an "easy" SD, transfer it to other SDs commonly occuring in the natural environment.

21. Do keep a ratio of 80% "easy" responses (maintenence targets) to 20% "hard" responses (acquisition targets). 

22. Do choose goals, objectives and individual targets that are functional for the child at the current time.

23. Don't let data interfere with teaching. Probe current targets and teach based on the results.

24. Whenever discrimination difficulties arise, determine the cause and teach as soon as possible.

25. Do determine the frequency of probes taken on the acquisition history of the learner. Avoid moving "too fast" or "too slow" through targets.

26. Do limit the number of targets on acquisition at any one time to allow for multiple teaching opportunities. 

27. Do teach to "fluency". Make sure the child is responding within 2 seconds before considering a response, "independent" or "correct".

28. Do assess the teaching conditions (i.e. reinforcement, competing EOs, difficulty of task etc.) whenever a child is exhibiting behaviors which may be escape motivated. If the child is avoiding or attempting to escape from the learning situation, there is something wrong with the "teaching" (NOTE: NOT THE TEACHER). 

 

T. Vail 7/02


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