There are so many different autism teaching methods out there to help us in our efforts to teach our special learners that choosing one can be confusing, if not overwhelming.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of behavior management therapy used in the treatment of autism. ABA uses rewards and positive reinforcement to teach new and desirable behaviors and also beginning academics.
Example of ABA in action: Picture child with autism sitting in a chair on one side of a table and the instructor on the other side. The instructor is trying to teach the child her colors so he holds up a card with a red square on it and says “Red” then he tells the child to say red. If the child says red or any approximation of the word she will get a piece of candy. If the child doesn’t comply she gets no reward. This process will be repeated over and over again until your child complies. In this method, the child must obey at all costs.
I’ll be honest and say that even though this method is probably the method most often recommended because of it’s high success rate in changing negative behaviors, I personally have never liked it. I’ve always felt as if it was a harsh and robotic method. It reminds me of dog training classes and my daughter is not a dog!
In fact some adults with autism who were taught this way did not appreciate it at all. Amy Sequenzia, an autistic adult taught with ABA has this to say about her experiences being trained with ABA in her post, Amy Sequenzia: Non-Speaking Autistic Speaking “They refuse to acknowledge that being trained to obey, and to force our brains to do things in a way they are not wired to do causes long lasting pain, or makes Autistics learn the “correct” answers and “behaviors”, while keeping their Autistic essence buried and unexplored. Self-determination begins with choice and stories of adults who only want to please and look “normal” should not be considered success stories.”
Chaining: Backward and Forward– This method teaches the sequence of the task in small incremental steps starting from either the first step or the last step.
Example of backward chaining in action: You are trying to teach your child to wash his hands. Start by verbally and physically prompting students for each step but the last one: throwing the paper towel in the garbage. When the last step is mastered you can move on to stopping the prompts with drying the hands. Then stop the prompts one step at a time with turning the faucet off, rinsing hands, putting soap on hands, and finally turning the water on. For forward chaining just leave out the prompts in the opposite order.
Errorless Learning– This is one of my favorite methods for teaching Bethany. In this method the material is presented in a way that mistakes cannot be made by the learner.
Example of errorless learning in action: I am trying to teach Bethany the color names. I present her with one set of cards with squares of different colors on them and one set of cards with the word for each color. I want her to match them. To make this lesson errorless, I have written the words in their proper colors.
Structured Teaching- Also known as Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication and Handicapped Children or (TEACCH)- This is another method that I love and have used with Bethany This method uses precise organization of materials, picture or word schedules and instructions, and lots of visual supports. Using file folder games and shoebox tasks is common in the TEACCH method.
Example of the TEACCH method in action: You want to teach your student to set the table so you put a place mat sized diagram like the one below, of a plate cup and silverware on the table. You have also put picture labels on the silverware drawer and the cabinets where you keep your plates and cups. Then you walk your child through the task until he or she can do it independently.
You can download this place mat at Emily Post.
I hope these little overviews of four common autism teaching methods has cleared up any confusion you may have had and will prove to be helpful in your endeavor to provide the best teaching method for your precious little learner with autism!
I’m sharing at: Weekly WrapUp