The ASD Nest Egg

strategies to support kids on the autism spectrum

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Consider Video Modeling

Consider Video Modeling

by Brandy Stanfill


Video modeling is an effective tool for teaching a variety of skills to students with autism.  True to its name, video modeling is pre-recorded model of an individual using a skill or completing a task. The video is presented to the learner, paired with reinforcement, and viewed on a regular schedule.


There are a different types of video models, but the ones most commonly used in the classroom are:


Basic video modeling: This uses a peer or adult to model the behavior or skill you are trying to teach. Then the individual with autism watches the video, makes attempts at the behavior, and over time internalizes the skill or routine.

Video Self-Modeling:  In this type of modeling the learner is their own model.   To make the recording, you prompt the learner to imitate you to complete the skill/routine.  You record the process and edit out the prompts, or incomplete attempts.  This process works well for classroom routines like packing or unpacking, and for academic tasks with a specific procedure like subtraction with regrouping.

Benefits of video modeling:

  • Screen time is motivating!
  • Video models present visual rather than auditory instruction.
  • Video models don’t get tired, or distracted, and can be watched as often as needed.
  • Portions of the video can be used to support forward or backward chaining procedures.

To learn more about video modeling, read this.

For steps to creating a video model, click here.

Hurry Up and Wait!

Hurry Up and Wait!

By Jules Csillag


Inspired by my colleague Allison Brown’s post about waiting, I decided to delve deeper into this subject since waiting can be one of the trickiest things to do (at least for me!). As a strategy, wait time can be powerful for autistic children.  Also dubbed “the 30-second rule” or “the 45-second rule,” wait time refers to the idea of providing children with sufficient time to process information, particularly language.


Why to wait:

Research on autistic individuals shows that many have difficulty integrating information from multiple senses (e.g. listening and looking simultaneously), particularly when the auditory information is linguistic. Wait time, therefore, aims to provide students with enough time to process information (particularly linguistic information), to produce linguistic information, and to process information in novel situations (which necessarily include many social situations).


Wait time also allows for autistic individuals to separate the “signal” (i.e. important information) from the “noise” (i.e. irrelevant information), as studies suggest that autistic brains are both hypo- and hyper-connected when it comes to processing visual or auditory information. While this can require time, it also can mean that some individuals with autism are skilled at seeing or hearing details, that can be beneficial in many ways (e.g. for artists, musicians, designers, engineers, etc.).


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Scientists highlight that “the brain of a typical learner quickly allocates information-processing resources to the most salient information with minimal awareness on the part of the learner,” whereas individuals with autism require additional time to determine what is most salient or relevant. Wait time provides this time, although there are ways of supporting salience through visuals and routines as well.


Judy Endow, an autistic self-advocate, author, and social worker writes about having to “translate” visual thoughts into words. She writes, “Most of the time these days, after decades of practice, my speaking appears quite fluid, though sometimes a delay is still apparent. It is often hard to translate because the world of English words is much more limited than my visual thought.”


yellow hour glass timer with clock on top of it


How to wait:

  • Some activities naturally allow for processing time: crafts, sports, and science experiments often include pauses that do not feel contrived.
  • You can also “buy yourself time” by thinking out loud. You can model how you are thinking of solutions or what you are thinking about. For example, if you ask a math question, you can narrate, “I see the word ‘each’ so I think this is a multiplication problem, and that means I’ll set up my work like this…”(while drawing on the board).
  • Use timers– this can help you wait “long enough,” and it signals to students when you are ready to take their responses/questions.
  • Writing: whiteboards, post-its, or other means of writing provide students with time to think and generate new ideas, allows for all students to think at once (total participation!), and can therefore lead to increased participation.
  • Pause while you are speaking or lecturing. While it is not ideal to bombard students with language, sometimes teachers need to speak for a few minutes here and there. While speaking, pause to allow students to think about what you have said, without requiring a question or thought, but just to allow students’ brains to reload.

Share other “waiting” tricks in the comments!

When You See Your Teacher In Public

When You See Your Teacher in Public

by Christina Annunziata


“Is he one of yours?” my husband asked as we waited at a bus stop.  I looked up and saw one of my fourth grader’s dead in his tracks, mouth open in awe. It was indeed. We had been spotted in the wild. He approached with his mother and while the adults chatted, he stood, mouth still open in awe. As they walked away my husband chuckled and commented on the boy’s reaction to seeing his teacher out in public. “It was you he was interested in,” I pointed out. Yes, there is a certain shock to seeing your teacher beyond the context of the classroom but I kept a close eye on my kiddo during our exchange. I watched as he gave my husband a once over, then return to study each detail further. The legend that was often featured in my classroom stories had come to life. Confirmation came that Monday during morning meeting. “Is it true, does your husband like the Mets? He was wearing a Mets hat…” News spreads fast in the fourth grade and I had a wonderful opportunity for engagement and connection.


It felt like a trick. Starting out a lesson with a quick story about myself, friends, or family instantly captured the attention of my class.  Sharing with my students was an effortless method of engagement and made the curriculum feel relevant and relatable. It was also an opportunity to connect. Letting students learn about who you are as an individual builds trust and camaraderie. Writing personal narratives- make it a real one from your childhood. Teaching measurement- start with a picture of you cooking in your kitchen (proof that you don’t live in school!).


I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was some actual science behind that engagement and connection. When we listen to stories, we activate the parts of our brain necessary for language processing but any other area in our brain that we would use when we experience the events are also activated. For example, if a story includes motion, our motor cortex becomes active.  My students were engaged because that story that I was using as a hook was getting their whole brain warmed up.


Sharing stories with students is a simple way to build authentic relationships and encourage students to relate.  It’s an opportunity to build community by sharing an experience and inviting humor and creativity into the classroom. Plus, the look on their faces is totally worth it.



Preserve Student Dignity: Give ‘em an out

Preserve Student Dignity: Give ‘em an out

Aaron Lanou


How often has it happened that you called on a student and she didn’t know the answer? There’s that awkward few seconds when you and all the other students are waiting for a response, and she just can’t find the words.

When a student doesn’t know the answer, the last thing you want is for her to feel embarrassed or humiliated. Though teachers sometimes fall into the trap of thinking “catching” an unprepared student will teach them to be prepared, the reality is they’re made to feel uncomfortable and angry. And this can be even harder for students with ASD who have challenges with flexibility and perfectionism. Even if the student “should know” the answer, you’ve got to give ’em an out.

The next time a student is struggling to answer, try one of these responses:

  • “Do you want to call on someone else for help?” Let them choose a peer to help them answer the question.
  • “I’ll give you another couple minutes and come back to you.” Then really give them some time, and circle back later to ensure they understand.
  • “It’s OK to say ‘I’m not sure.’” Allow them to say they don’t know. Reinforce that this is ok and part of the process of learning. This is often hard for autistic students, but an important idea to encourage and support.

Even better, make a proactive plan to avoid these stuck moments in the first place. A couple of ideas:

  • Provide wait time: Pose a question, and then wait for at least ten seconds before calling on anyone for a response. Tell students to take the time to form an answer, so everyone can feel more prepared. This is an important approach for students with ASD, many of whom have slower language processing. Read more on our Wait Time post.
  • Prime students for when you will call on them: Avoid cold-calling to catch students. Instead say, “Keisha, I’ll be coming to you for a response next.” This will give her time to be prepared.
  • Teach students a get-unstuck strategy: Early in the school year, teach students explicit strategies for moments like these. For example, encourage them by saying, “It’s ok if you don’t know an answer to a question I ask. When you’re stuck, you can either ask for another minute, ask to look at your notes, or ask me to rephrase the question.”

All of these approaches can help preserve students’ dignity in the classroom, and help students save face. This reduces the likelihood that students feel embarrassed—and embarrassed students do not volunteer to participate. Send the message to the whole class that it’s safe to try, and you’re likely to get much more participation.

For more helpful insight into the dangers of embarrassing students, see Cult of Pedagogy’s post, Is humiliation part of your teaching toolbox?


How to Do the Do Now

How to Do the Do Now

by Aaron Lanou


In middle and high school classrooms, the “Do Now” is ubiquitous. It is a necessary element of the lesson, with a dual purpose: 1) it gives students something to do during the start-of-class transition, and 2) it prepares them for the upcoming lesson.


Too often, the Do Now falls into some predictable traps:

  • The task takes students too long, and it becomes the Do Forever…
  • The directions aren’t clear, and it becomes the Do Wha?
  • It’s not posted when students arrive, and it becomes the Do dee do (the sound students make while twiddling their thumbs waiting for directions)


To get the most out of the Do Now—and to structure it in a helpful, predictable way for students with ASD—it’s best to make it:

Short – Active – Ready – Relevant


an icon of a timerShort

The Do Now should only take between 3 and 5 minutes. Any longer, and it cuts into valuable teaching time. Provide students with a task that gets them ready for the upcoming lesson, but doesn’t bleed into the lesson—there will be more opportunities for independent work later in the period.


Do this: Usually have a Do Now that takes longer? Identify a short 3- to 5-minute chunk of the task that students can complete as the Do Now, and find a place in your lesson to continue or expand on it.


an icon of a hand squeezing a bar, showing strengthActive

The Do Now should require students to do something active, and directions should state concretely what is is they should do. A Do Now like, “What were the primary causes of the American Revolution” doesn’t communicate to students that they should do anything, besides sit there and think. Always start the directions with a verb, and consider what you want to see students doing for these first 3–5 minutes. For students with ASD, the more concrete we can be with directions, the easier the directions are to follow.


Do this: Brainstorm a list of a half dozen verbs that you will use to start the directions of every Do Now. Some good possibilities: write, complete, annotate, solve, jot, etc.

Image of do now: write a paragraph answering this question. What were the primary causes of the American Revolution? Cite evidence from your reading packet from last night's homework.

an icon of a projector screenReady

The Do Now should be prepared and posted before students enter. Students should always know where to look to figure out what to do the second they step foot into the classroom. The Do Now also shouldn’t require an explanation—you want them to Do… NOW! The teaching comes later, when the lesson begins.


Do this: Post the directions for your Do Now in the same place every day. This could be on the chalkboard, whiteboard, projected on an interactive whiteboard, or even on a sheet of paper they pick up as they enter—so long as it’s always the same. This predictability is helpful for all students, particularly those on the autism spectrum.

an example of a do now. Text says: Do Now. Read the passage at the top of your guided notes packet. Annotate the passage using the four symbols we have been practicing. Annotation symbols: star icon= this seems important. Question mark= This makes me wonder. Checkmark icon= This confirms something i thought. X icon= this is different than what I thought.

icon of a link or chainRelevant

The Do Now should be connected to the content you’re teaching. It can either be a preview or a review. A preview prepares them for what they’ll be learning in the upcoming lesson, such as a reading about a historical topic that they’ll be debating. A review helps them practice something from the previous day’s lesson or homework. This can be good for math classes, to give students another opportunity to try their hand at a recent algorithm a couple more times. Since the Do Now should be quick and doable without directions, be careful not to present brand new, potentially challenging material in the Do Now—this may cause unhelpful frustration or anxiety right at the start of the period.


Do this: Decide for each lesson, what is the best way to link to what we’re doing today? Is it more helpful to review something we did yesterday, or preview something we’ll be discussing next?

an example of an algebra do now that says: Solve the following two equations. When finished, write an explanation of the order of operations you used to solve each. 5x-10=45; y/2+7=13. Explanation example: First, I used addition because...

So, do this… Now!

icon of a timeran icon of a hand squeezing a bar, showing strengthan icon of a projector screenicon of a link or chain

Make your Do Now:

  • Short. Plan it taking no more than 3–5 minutes.
  • Active. Tell students what to do, starting directions with a verb.
  • Ready. Have it posted when students enter, in the same place every day.
  • Relevant. Connect the task to the previous or upcoming lesson.


For more about the Do Now, see this post from Teach Like a Champion.


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