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Autism Strategy Guide PDF Visual Strategies

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Strategy Guide
Amber Davies, M.S., CCC/SLP
Region 14 ESC
Power Card Strategies
Fact Sheet
What is a Power Card Strategy?
Power Card Strategy involves including special interests with visual aids to teach and reinforce
academic, behavioral and social skills to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Since many
children with Asperger Syndrome and autism tend to have highly developed special interests, this
strategy is especially beneficial for this population. By using their special interest, the individual is
motivated to use the strategy presented in the scenario and on the Power Card. It’s a positive
strategy that is often entertaining as well as inexpensive and simple to develop.
When can the Power Card Strategy be Used?
It can be used when an individual lacks the understanding of his/her expectations, to clarify
choices, to teach cause and effect between a specific behavior and its consequence, to teach
another’s perspective, to aide in generalization, or as a visual reminder of appropriate behavioral
expectations of a situation.
What are the Components of the Power Card Strategy?
1. A brief script of the special interest and the situation being addressed for the individual is
created. It should be written at the individual’s comprehension level and should include
relevant pictures or graphics. Initially, the script should be read on a scheduled basis as the
student learns to use the Power Card.
2. The Power Card is the size of a trading card and includes a small picture of the special
interest and the solution to the problem situation broken into 3 to 5 steps. The Power Card
is created from the script and can be carried by the student.
Power Card Example
The materials below were created by Laura Dickenson, a teacher in Unit #5, Normal, IL. They were
developed to help a young woman with autism learn game playing skills.
Power Card Strategy Script
The Survivors Play a Game
The contestants on Survivor love to play games! In fact, playing games on the show is how they win rewards or win immunity.
Sometimes the players and teams win their games, but sometimes, they lose. When they win, they give each other “high fives”,
smile or say, “Alright!” When they lose their game, the Survivors might not be happy. They could take a deep breath and say,
“Maybe next time”, or say “Good job” to their opponent.
The contestants on Survivor think everyone should have fun playing games. They also want you to remember three things when
playing games with other people:
1. Games should be fun for everyone.
2. If you win a game, you can: Smile, give high fives, or say, “Alright!”
3. If you lose a game, you can: Take a deep breath and say, “Good job” to the opponent or say, “Maybe next time.”
Play games the Survivor way and your friends will have fun playing games with you!
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project & Illinois State University Autism Spectrum Institute
Power Card
Back of Power Card
The contestants on Survivor think everyone should have fun playing games. They also want you to remember three things when
playing games with other people:
Games should be fun for everyone.
If you win a game, you can: Smile, give high fives, or say, “Alright!”
If you lose a game, you can: Take a deep breath and say, “Good job” to the opponent or say, “Maybe next time.”
Front of Power Card
Resources/ Website
Myles, B. S., Trautman, M. L., & Schlevan, R. L. (2006). The Hidden Curriculum: Practical
Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations. Autism Asperger
Publishing Company: Shawnee Mission, KS.
Gagnon, E. (2001). Power cards: Using special interests to motivate children and youth with Asperger
syndrome and autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project
1590 S Fairfield Ave. | Lombard, IL 60148
Ph 630-968-3898 | Fax 630-620-9473 | www.illinoisautismproject.org
Comic Strip Conversations
Fact Sheet
What are Comic Strip Conversations?
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have trouble interpreting social
situations and understanding speech as quickly as most social interactions require. A
Comic Strip Conversation is a conversation between two or more people using simple
illustrations in a comic strip format. They show children how to behave in a socially
acceptable manner and conform to social standards. The effectiveness can be enhanced by
incorporating a child’s favorite cartoon character (ex. SpongeBob, Superman, etc.) into the
How can Comic Strip Conversations be Used?
to convey important information
for problem-solving and conflict resolution
to learn social skills
to follow simple classroom rules
to communicate perspectives, feelings and ideas
Elements of Comic Strip Conversations a description of the event that caused the problem
feelings and thoughts of everyone involved
a solution to the problem and ideas on how to avoid it in the future
appropriate symbols (stick figures, smiley faces, thought bubbles)
colors used to express feelings (green-happy, blue-sad, black-angry)
Other Helpful Hints ……
The more involved the child is in creating his or her own comic strip conversation, the more
helpful it will be in future situations. Make a book of comic strip frames, and after leading
the child through several examples, have them create the conversations and solutions on
their own. Keep the conversations and use them as a guide and reinforcement if the same,
or similar, social situation occurs again.
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project & Illinois State University Autism Spectrum Institute
Jimmy reacts inappropriately when people in his environment use a loud voice. His
favorite show on TV is Sponge Bob Square Pants. This comic strip conversation was created
to provide him with the appropriate response of “Ouch, that hurts my ears. Don’t talk so
loud, okay?” instead of Jimmy hitting the loud person in his environment.
Additional Resources…….
Gray, C. (1994) Comic Strip Conversations. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Glaeser, B.C., Pierson, M.R., & Fritschmann, N. (2003). Comic strip conversations: A positive
behavioral support strategy. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(2), 14-19.
Rogers, M.F. & Myles, B.S. (2001). Using social stories and comic strip conversations to interpret
social situations for an adolescent with Asperger Syndrome. Intervention in School and Clinic,
36(5), 310-313.
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project
1590 S Fairfield Ave. | Lombard, IL 60148
Ph 630-968-3898 | Fax 630-620-9473 | www.illinoisautismproject.org
1516 Atwood Avenue · Johnston, RI 02919 · 401-785-2666
www.theautismproject.org · info@theautismproject.org
“Anyone can be angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person,
to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right
way—that is not easy.” Aristotle, the Nichomacbean
Knowing when and how to be angry is a skill many children struggle to learn. As a
result, children benefit from direct teaching on how to manage their emotions. In the
beginning, an adult should initially label the emotion, describe the body’s response and
teach when a BREAK is necessary. This teaching will take time for a child to learn and
to develop as a new routine.
Teaching the “BREAK Card”
1. In a natural or created moment BEFORE the child reaches his or her frustration
level, label the emotion and body responses (physical state) of the child. For
example, “You seem frustrated. Your legs are moving fast and your face is red.
This is a good time for a break.” A child’s physical status should be identified as it
relates to an emotional state. Next, without emotion, the adult will show the child
the BREAK Card and accompany him or her to the indicated break area.
2. Once in the BREAK area, the child must be given choices as it relates to their
emotional state. Do they need a calming activity? Do they need an alerting
activity? Or, do they need a quiet area with no stimuli? This determination is
initially adult directed as many children cannot effectively choose the right activity
for their emotional state.
3. While teaching how to use a “BREAK Card” it’s important to label what the child
is doing that demonstrates they are ready to return. Model the language “I am
ready” paired with a “READY” visual before the child returns to the activity he or
she was taking a BREAK from.
Here are some important points to consider:
 When teaching how to use the BREAK Card, it is important that the child is NOT
already frustrated or melting down.
 All requests for a BREAK should be 100% honored –immediately. Even if there are
multiple requests. The child may be testing the concept.
 When praising a child for their success; remember to react in a manner that is
reinforcing to that child.
 Many children cannot read their bodies to know when they are ready to leave a
BREAK area. Sometimes a nice check-in to see if they are ready is to assess if they
can follow a one step instruction. i.e. “Put ready card on table.”
 The BREAK activity should be a regulating activity, NOT a preferred activity. The
goal is for the child to regulate his or her emotions and to return to the group
Property of The Autism Project · www.theautismproject.org
1516 Atwood Avenue · Johnston, RI 02919 · 401-785-2666
www.theautismproject.org · info@theautismproject.org
Children can struggle with understanding of time passing. Phrases such
as, “in a few minutes” “shortly” and “almost done” can cause anxiety and
challenges with transition. The Countdown Timer is a visual tool that helps
children see the passing of time and prepare children for transitions.
When using a Countdown Timer, the adult controls the passage of time; this is one
reason why this tool is so useful in a variety of settings and situations. For example, if
the child is struggling with an activity, the adult can remove the clocks or numbers
quickly so the activity is completely while feeling successful. In addition, the Countdown
Timer is a useful tool when transitioning a child from both preferred and non-preferred
activities. As with any visual tool, it is important to remember to maintain a positive
learning environment when teaching. The goal is for the child to view the tool as a
source of information rather than a means for compliance.
Introducing the “Countdown Timer”
1. This tool is taught best within transition times that are not challenging for the
2. Hold the Countdown Timer strip in front of the child so they can see it. Say, “Five
minutes and (activity) will be all done.”
3. When it is time, cover the first clock on the strip and say, “Four minutes and
(activity) will be all done.” Be sure the child can see you fold over the cover to
conceal the clock icon. Show the child the strip has one less clock showing.
4. Repeat Step Three until you cover the last clock. The child will then see the “All
Done” picture at the end of the strip.
5. As you cover the last clock on the strip say, “(activity) is all done, time for…”
and wait with all done picture visible to the child.
6. Many children will need extra processing time to shift their thinking and initiate a
new plan. Allow them the extra time. Some children will also benefit from seeing
the “all done visual” paired with a visual representing what they are transitioning
Property of The Autism Project · www.theautismproject.org
1516 Atwood Avenue · Johnston, RI 02919 · 401-785-2666
www.theautismproject.org · info@theautismproject.org
Understanding the concept of time, order and multiple steps is an important
life skill. These skills are the foundation of organizing an activity, your day
or a long-term plan. The use of a FIRST/THEN Board is the FIRST step to
teaching the important skill of following a schedule.
Teaching the FIRST/THEN Board
A FIRST/THEN Board structures a child’s time into beginning steps that are
manageable and clear. The two-step board teaches the child where and how to look for
information on what he or she will be doing right now. It’s important to remember when
you introduce the tool to your child or student, you’re teaching him or her how to use a
very important tool that will grow into a schedule and calendar as they get older and can
better track activities.
Begin by using his or her preferred interests. “FIRST Video/THEN Ice Cream”.
Use of preferred interests will engage the child in the process and will reduce
resistance to it. The goal is for the child to “see” the tool as a source of
information and to trust what’s presented on it will happen.
As the child begins to trust and understand the tool, you can begin to use it for
less preferred activities too. “FIRST Brush Teeth/THEN Read Book”.
You always put the more preferred item second so that they see it and stay
motivated through the less preferred activity.
It’s important to remember you are teaching the child to look to the FIRST/THEN
Board for information. When the child trusts you will do what is put on the board,
it will help with transitions, with getting through some tough situations (FIRST
Dentist/THEN Book Store), and will give the child an important basic skill to
expand to a longer schedule.
NOTE: This is a FIRST/THEN tool, NOT an IF/THEN. The “THEN” MUST
ALWAYS be honored or the child will not trust the tool. For example, if the child
struggles at the Dentist and the behaviors made the appointment 15 minutes
longer, the child still gets to go to the book store.
Property of The Autism Project · www.theautismproject.org
1516 Atwood Avenue · Johnston, RI 02919 · 401-785-2666
www.theautismproject.org · info@theautismproject.org
Teaching a child to initiate help from others is an essential life skill.
Children that do not know how to request help may just wait for someone to
come to them or “act out” to show they need help. Either way, an adult can
teach a functional approach to ask for help. When a child is struggling and
her frustration is increasing, her ability to communicate will decrease. A
visual HELP Card will cue the child to seek assistance and will give her a
means to communicate.
Teaching the Help Card
1. In a contrived setting, in a low frustration moment set the child up to need help
(i.e. needing a toy piece, opening a package).
2. Be sure the Help Card is within reach and visually accessible. Using the hand
under hand technique, assist the child to give the Help Card to the adult.
3. The adult responds by modeling the language (i.e. “I want help”) and promptly
helps the child.
4. Praise the child in a manner that is reinforcing (i.e. “great job asking for help”).
5. Multiple Help Cards should be easily accessible to the child throughout her day
and within all activities. Attaching a Help Card to the game will enable the child
to request help before she reaches the frustration level.
It’s important to respond in a way that is reinforcing to the child when praising her for
successful attempts and use of the tool. Some children may be motivated with verbal
praise while others may be reinforced by a visual or a gesture.
Remember, simply giving the child the Help Card is not effective. The child needs many
successful opportunities to learn how to use and trust the tool. Create daily positive
opportunities for a child to ask for help. To support the skill development, adults can
model requesting help and using the card themselves.
Property of The Autism Project · www.theautismproject.org
Social Stories
What are Social Stories?
Fact Sheet
Individuals with Autism TM
Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have trouble interpreting social
situations. Social stories are developmentally appropriate short stories, typically written for
a specific individual with ASD, that provide them with the means to understand and
respond to various social situations. Because individuals with ASD are primarily visual
learners, social stories allow them to learn social behaviors that they would otherwise
struggle to understand.
Why Use Social Stories ?
To teach basic social skills (ex. sharing, asking a friend to play, etc.).
To teach understanding, interpretation and appropriate response in social situations
(ex. predicting outcomes, preparing for change, coping, problem-solving, etc.).
How to Create a Social Story
Have the individual with autism be the main character.
Personalize the story so that the individual with autism feels at home.
Be specific about the setting(s) in the story.
Be specific in describing other characters in the story.
Write actual, realistic dialog appropriate to the ability of the individual with autism.
Repeat the important points in the story.
Involve the individual with autism when you write the story.
Have the individual with autism illustrate the story with drawings or use photographs
or icons.
9. When using social stories for learning, expose the individual with autism to the story
Use the Four Sentence Types –
(Carole Gray recommends 2-5 descriptive or control sentences for
every directive sentence in the story)
1. Descriptive: provides information about the child/adolescent, the environment, and
what will take place in the social situation.
2. Directive: describes how the child/adolescent should respond in the social situation.
3. Perspective: identifies the feelings or reactions of others in the social situation.
4. Control: provides analogies of similar situations using nonhuman references.
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project & Illinois State University Autism Spectrum Institute
When school is over, the bell rings. This always makes me smile.
I like to put my paper and pencils in my bag, and say goodbye to my teacher.
When I walk down the hall, I like to stop and talk to the people I see. I do not have a lot of
time so I will try to just wave.
When I leave the building, I will get on the bus and sit in my assigned seat. Now I am on my
way home!!
Additional Resources
Crozier, S. & Sileo, N. (2005). Encouraging Positive Behavior With Social Stories : An
Intervention For Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37(6), 2631.
Swaggart, B.L., Gagnon, E., Bock, S.J., Earles, T.L., Quinn, C., Myles, B.S., & Simpson, R.L. (1995).
Using social stories TM to teach social and Behavioral skills to children with autism. Focus on Autistic
Behavior, 10(1), 1-15.
Gray, C. (2000) The New Social Story Book. Future Horizons: Arlington, TX
Baker, J. (2001) The Social Skills Picture Book. Future Horizons: Arlington, TX
www.thegraycenter.org: Official Home of Carol Gray and Social Stories
* Social Stories are trademarks originated and owned by Carol Gray and "Team Social Stories ”
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project
1590 S Fairfield Ave. | Lombard, IL 60148
Ph 630-968-3898 | Fax 630-620-9473 | www.illinoisautismproject.org
Visual Supports
Fact Sheet
What are Visual Supports?
Visual supports are tools that are used to increase the understanding of language,
environmental expectations, and to provide structure and support for individuals with
autism spectrum disorders (ASD). They facilitate understanding by remaining static or
fixed in the individual’s environment. If verbal language, which is considered transient or
fleeting, is the only method used to communicate expectations, provide support and
increase an understanding of language, then individuals with ASD may have extreme
Why use Visual Supports?
Individuals who have ASD often times develop stronger visual skills than auditory skills.
Visual supports allow them to use this visual strength to process, organize, remember, and
respond to information thereby allowing the individual to more easily participate in the
communicative process. Visual supports also allow important information to remain
accessible in the individual’s environment. This can reduce the stress levels and
inappropriate behaviors that individuals with ASD may exhibit when they cannot effectively
communicate or when they do not understand the expectations of the environment.
What can Visual Supports be Used for?
Visual supports are commonly used to communicate choices, organize daily schedules, give
direction, explain rules or expectations, aide in transition, or provide appropriate actions to
individuals with ASD.
What are some Examples of Visual Supports?
Food labels
Written words
Picture symbols
Getting Started:
1. Decide what the supports will be used for.
Example: provide choice of snack.
2. Choose the type of supports that best meet the needs of the individual.
Example: black and white icons, digital pictures, or objects
3. Gather the necessary pictures, icons, objects, etc.
Example: picture of apple or carrot, logo of McDonalds or Wendy’s, bags of
chips or Skittles, etc.
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project & Illinois State University Autism Spectrum Institute
4. Make the supports durable.
Example: laminate, attach Velcro, and make multiple copies.
5. Choose where and when the support will be used.
Example: mount choice board on refrigerator or schedule on student’s desk.
6. Teach and implement the support.
Additional Resources:
Hodgdon, L. (2000). Visual Supports for Improving Communication. QuirkRoberts: Troy, Michigan.
McClannahan, L.E., & Krantz,P.J. (1999). Activity Schedules for Children with Autism. Woodbine
House: Bethesda, MD.
www.usevisualstrategies.com: Use Visual Strategies
www.trainland.tripod.com: Beyond Autism PECS, Pictures/Icon Pages
www.do2learn.com: Do 2 Learn
For Purchase
www.mayer-johnson.com: Boardmaker
www.slatersoftware.com: Picture It
Picture Communication Symbols  1981-2007 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Used with permission.
Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project
1590 S Fairfield Ave. | Lombard, IL 60148
Ph 630-968-3898 | Fax 630-620-9473 | www.illinoisautismproject.org