The ASD Nest Egg

strategies to support kids on the autism spectrum

Month: August 2017

Teacher Prompts—Reminders for Teachers

by Laurie DuBos

As we begin the new school year and think about working with new or returning students, teachers are often considering how they can better encourage students to remember to follow routines, complete tasks, or wait their turn–usually through prompts and classroom visuals.  In “The Power of Our Words,” Paula Denton refers to “reminding language,” a strategy that could also help teachers in supporting students and ultimately communicating that “students are competent learners and have good intentions” (p.112).  As teachers, we can use reminding language through visual prompts in our classrooms for ourselves–to demonstrate our best teaching intentions towards students.


Most teachers are list-makers, and everyone has their unique method for making their lists. Only you can decide what works best for you in your classroom, but you might want to discuss a mutual strategy that would work with your co-teaching partner as well.  Would a post-it on your computer or desk be the best place to remind you to review classroom rules daily or should you place a colorful note on your bulletin board to prompt you to use less language when giving directions. What’s most important is that reminders work for you during your daily teaching.


In “The Power of Words,” there are excellent examples of the language that teachers often use when frustrated, busy, and/or tired, particularly when working with students who have limited attention, impulsive behaviors, or difficulty processing information quickly.  An example might be:

How many times do I have to tell you to stop talking?”

(to listen, to stop doing that, to put that away, etc.)

When you really meant to say:  “It’s time to ______ (listen, open your book, etc.).”


Using a photo of a child that reminds you to look for students who are following directions or that prompts you to use brief, more proactive words when starting an activity or lesson is an excellent strategy for teachers to prompt themselves:

young child with finger in front of mouth to indicate quiet

Look for quiet voices.
“It’s time to LISTEN.”

Another example of using a visual reminder is when you realize that you are talking too much or repeating yourself at some point in a school day.  If you think that this is happening to you, consider asking your co-teacher to tally how many times you are giving a direction, reminding a child about a behavior or activity, or repeating a prompt. This will help you to see whether you are using language strategically to prompt students or does it just sound like you are “nagging” them.  With ASD students who have language processing difficulties as well as attention issues, teachers have to be very careful not to get stuck using the same language over and over again or using too much language.  If a student does not respond to the first or second prompt that you’ve given, he/she will likely not respond to the fifth or sixth prompt either.  Often in these situations, what is needed are fewer words not more.

cartoon teacher with speech bubble that says bla bla bla

How many times have I said this?
Try saying it in a DIFFERENT way.

Finally, we have to remember that language is one of the most powerful tools that  have as teachers.  As Denton notes in “The Power of Language,” teachers’ words impact how students “think and act, and ultimately how they learn” (p. 1).  Teachers’ language, including body language and voice tone, convey respect and trust to a student. So, think about using reminding language that will prompt you in your interactions with students (and humor always helps):

mug with "Keep calm or I will use a teacher voice" and blue poster with crown and words "Keep calm and just breathe"

Am I using a CALM voice?

Teacher prompts can be particularly useful as you start the new school year.  As a teacher, you know that prompts and reminders help students stay organized, on-task, and independent.  Why not consider using the same strategy to support your own teaching?

Developing Positive Relationships with Families

by: Christina Annunziata

As a teacher, I loved planning the first weeks of school. Establishing tone and building a sense of community was a priority and I put a lot of thought and effort into building connections with my students. Building that community also meant forging a connection with students’ families. Establishing rapport with families is a crucial step to launch a successful year.  

To establish positive communication with families consider:

  • Make a plan for communication before school starts. Decide how you will communicate with parents-notes home, email, calls- and present options for how parents can communicate with you. Are they open to using apps like Remind or do they prefer a phone call or email?  Set clear expectations about when you are available and how quickly you will respond to parent communication.  
  • Make several positive connections early. I had a rule to have 6 positive exchanges within the first month. Depending on the size of your class, this may not be realistic so decide what makes sense for you. My first communication was always a phone call or email within the first week to let parents know how the child was adjusting.  Remember, a positive exchange can be as simple as thumbs up or quick mention (“We had a great day!”) at dismissal.
  • Ask them about their child. In general, parents have the best firsthand knowledge of their children. A family survey sent home in the first week of school is a nice way to start this conversation. Ask about children’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Use this information to weave connections into your teaching.  A child who struggles with math but loves Pokémon may respond differently if Pikachu shows up in the lesson.  Demonstrate that you really know the child.
  • Build family communication into your weekly planning.  Set aside time to communicate and jot it down. This will help you keep track of who you have been in touch with and may identify students who need a few extra minutes of attention. You may realize you have less interactions with some students and can make an effort to check in with them. 

Making an early effort can establish a good parent-teacher relationship that supports two-way communication for the whole year. You may need to invest a little more time and energy initially, but it may make any bumps down the road easier and quicker to resolve.

circle with three arrows that is labeled parents, teacher, students, with connect in the middle

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