Alex control his verbal outbursts and
hand raising; instead of calling out,
he agrees to write his litany of com-
ments and share them at the end of
the activity. To support his use of the
comments log, his teachers work with
Alex to develop a reinforcement system
that reflects his interests (for example,
giving him two pennies at the start of
class discussions to help him share only
his “two-cents worth” of written com-
ments orally, allowing him to decorate
day when he feels that he needs them
(for example, chair push-ups and hand
and leg exercises using elastic strapping
attached to his chair). His teachers
provide planned movement breaks,
such as bringing books or supplies to
the office or other classrooms.
the wonderful aspects of learners with
autism spectrum disorder will make the
journey an exciting one. EL
The physical exercises that Alex learns
help him meet his own movement
needs in less disruptive ways. His occu-
Autism is fascinating because it manifests
itself differently in each individual.
his comments journal with art reflecting
his interest in Duke basketball, and
rewarding him with biographies of
athletes). The team includes a self-management component by giving Alex
a timer and reminding him to check his
own behavior every three minutes (Did
you write down your comments? Did
you talk only when asked?).
Alex’s teacher reminds him of the
writing plan before each class discussion
and develops a system (a reminder card
placed on his desk) to signal when he
goes off task. Alex’s IEP includes the
goal, During class discussions, Alex will
share verbal comments only when asked to
do so by the teacher 90 percent of the time
for 20 consecutive days.
pational therapist also teaches him a
variety of other self-regulation strategies.
For example, Alex learns to describe his
emotional state on a continuum ranging
from calm to overwhelmed using a
version of the Incredible 5-point Scale.
This tool, developed by Buron and
Curtis (2003), is particularly effective
with individuals with autism spectrum
disorder because it allows them to distill
emotional states into simple, visual,
numerical terms. When he reaches a
level 3 on the scale, he can ask to move
to a calmer workplace. Alex’s teachers
also teach him steps for managing his
anxiety in the cafeteria and on the bus
by using sensory stories, which he views
as PowerPoint slide shows on an iPod.
Alberto, P. A., & Troutman, A. C. (2008).
Applied behavior analysis for teachers (8th
ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000).
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental
disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author.
Buron, K. D., & Curtis, M. (2003). The
incredible 5-point scale. Shawnee Mission,
KS: Autism Asperger Publishing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(2009). Autism spectrum disorders: Data
and statistics. Retrieved from www.cdc
Gray, C. (2010). The new social story book:
(revised and expanded 10th anniversary
edition). Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
of 2004, 20 U.S.C. 1400 Sec. 300.8 (c)( 1)
(i). Retrieved from http://idea.ed.gov
Myles, B., & Adreon, D. (2001). Asperger
syndrome and adolescence: Practical
solutions for school success. Shawnee
Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing
Nackley, V. & Marr, D. (2007). Writing
your own sensory stories. OT Practice,
12( 11), 15–19.
Provide Opportunities for Movement
Like Christine, Alex needs opportunities for movement throughout the
day, particularly before class discussions or written assignments. It would
be helpful if his schedule allowed him
to take physical education first period,
but because that’s not possible, his
teaching team has him start each day
with a morning exercise routine. The
school’s physical therapist teaches him
movements he can do throughout the
A Team Effort
Because autism spectrum disorder is
becoming more prevalent, most teachers
are likely to encounter learners with this
condition at some point in their career.
But enabling these learners to reach
their full potential is not the teacher’s
job alone; it requires collaboration
among a team of educators who use the
wealth of resources now available and
who are strongly supported by school
leadership. Remembering to embrace
Pamela Hudson Baker is assistant professor in the College of Education and
Human Development, George Mason
University, Fairfax, Virginia; pbaker5@
gmu.edu. Mary Murray is associate
professor in the School of Intervention
Services, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio; mmurray@
bgsu.edu. Carolyn Murray-Slutsky,
occupational therapist, and Betty Paris,
physical therapist, are international lecturers and cofounders of State of the Art
Resource Services (STAR), Hollywood,