Based on the Heartland Model for Teaching Students with Autism, developed by the Heartland Area Education Agency in Iowa, USA
Merges best practices from a variety of methods, primarily TEACCH ( T reatment and E ducation of A utistic and related C ommunication-handicapped Ch ildren) Developed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Each student has an individual picture schedule, most often located at his independent work area. The tagboard strip holding the schedule pictures is the student’s personal color and/or has his photo or printed name at the top.
The pictures are attached to the schedule strip with Velcro, and can be removed and carried to the next location/activity.
A larger, identical picture is taped at each location within the room, and has several Velcro dots underneath, where the student attaches his schedule picture.
At the conclusion of each activity, the adult gives the student a “check schedule” card (depending upon the student’s level, this may be a small tagboard strip of the student’s individual color, possibly with his name, or simply a checkmark or other visual cue).
The student goes to his schedule, puts the “check” card in an attached envelope or cup, removes the top picture from the schedule, takes it to the illustrated location, and places it on one of the Velcro dots.
There are many ways to represent the schedule. It should be in whatever format is most meaningful for the particular student. As it becomes possible, take steps toward a format that is convenient and similar to what is used by same-age peers.
The work system “talks” to the child. When the student arrives at his independent work station, the set-up should “tell” him what it is he needs to do without any extra explanations or directions from the teacher.
The goal of the independent work station is have a set place where the student accomplishes work independently, with enough structure and visual cues to eliminate the need for adult assistance and prompting. Though initial teaching will be necessary for the student to learn the process for his work system, the adult should reduce her involvement as quickly as possible.
Visual Instructions – Provide the student with information about what to do and the sequence of steps to complete the task. Visual instructions will help the student to be flexible and to generalize a skill.
Typically, because of strengths in visual skills, and weaknesses in auditory processing and language skills, students with autism become much stronger readers using a sight word approach rather than phonics .
To help strengthen the association between a word and its meaning, pair words with pictures
Many of the strategies listed for reading comprehension activities can also be used for other writing activities. Additionally, alternatives to handwriting can allow the student to communicate his ideas and knowledge more effectively.
The goal of all we have covered so far is to enable the student to be as independent as possible, and to reduce the dependence on prompts from others in order to carry out activities. When prompts are needed, use only what is necessary to allow the student to carry out the activity, and move as quickly as possible toward increasing independence.
Specific practice of positive behaviors and frequent reinforcement are important tools in helping students with autism learn social skills, self-control, and responsiveness to external demands. These skills are essential for gaining the social acceptance that will provide the best opportunities for inclusion in community and vocational roles.
Because of difficulties with reading social cues, regulating feelings and behavior, and generalizing skills from one context to another, individuals with autism need to systematically learn how to behave in specific situations.
Social feedback typically does not have the same “power” that it does for individuals without autism, and therefore careful management of positive and negative consequences becomes necessary for optimal learning to occur.
Consequences should emphasize the reinforcement of positive behaviors rather than the punishment of negative behaviors.
Punishment is used to decrease or weaken undesired behaviors.
Examples of punishment appropriate in school settings:
Overcorrection – requiring student to complete a task beyond the natural parameters of the consequences of his behavior (e.g., tears and drops pieces of paper -> required to pick up own paper bits and place in trash, plus all other scraps from the floor).
Response cost – Loss of an expected reinforcer, token, or privilege
Speech/Language Pathologist – addresses broad range of functional and social communication, need for alternative forms of communication (e.g., high-tech augmentative communication devices (computerized talkers), and low-tech (Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) boards)