Resources for Educators
Approaches to education that come from a developmental, relationship-based perspective are a good fit in inclusive classrooms. Strategies used to support students with autism are generally strategies that will benefit all students (Villa and Thousand, 2000):
- cooperative and partner learning
- learning through observation and exploration
- balanced literacy
- interdisciplinary (integrated) units
- authentic assessment
- social and emotional learning as the foundation for academic success
Teaching for Inclusion: A Starting Point
A universal design for learning approach allows for the flexibility needed to support students with autism in the classroom.
Three-Block Model of Universal Design
How do you plan your classroom to allow every student to participate in a way that meets them where their abilities are now, and challenges them to grow from there? Universal Design is the architectural idea of planning a building to allow access for all kinds of people – ramps work for parents with strollers, wheelchair users, and everyone else. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recognizes that everyone has unique ways of understanding information and learning skills. It addresses both social and academic needs of learners – because students need to be comfortable and feel safe in order to learn well. This approach aims to create classrooms that are true communities, where everyone is welcome, everyone learns and everyone benefits from what others can contribute.
Dr. Jennifer Katz (formerly University of Manitoba, now at the University of British Columbia, Faculties of Education) has written Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning, available from Portage & Main Press. She has also written a book for resource teachers, and another focusing on ideas for supporting mental health.
Dr. Katz’s website about the 3-Block Model of UDL can be found here.
Books by other educators like Faye Brownlie and Leyton Schnellert also offer concrete suggestions for managing students at different levels in the UDL framework.
Dr. Paula Kluth is a consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. Paula is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher and inclusion facilitator. Her professional interests include differentiating instruction and inclusive schooling.
Dr. Kluth has written many books that offer teaching strategies specifically for students with autism, and that fit in the context of an inclusive classroom. You’re Going to Love This Kid (reviewed here) is an excellent book to start with. Her website, Inclusion Rules, has a wealth of resources and ideas.
Manitoba Education Resource Documents
These support documents describe both proactive and reactive procedures and practices associated with positive behaviour support for use in the Manitoba classroom context.
Success for All Learners is a well-appreciated resource listing many ways to differentiate instruction for student success. It and other provincial resources can be found on Manitoba Education’s Student Services page.
Other UDL Links:
- Dr. Burgstahler of the University of Washington explains UDL and provides links to other resources in her “Do It” series.
- CAST: Transforming Education Through Universal Design for Learning
- National Center on Universal Design for Learning
- Inclusive Education Canada
- The Inclusive Class Website
Inclusive Education book recommendations:
- Inclusive Education for Autistic Children by Dr. Rebecca Wood
- One Without the Other and All for One: Designing Individual Education Plans for Inclusive Classrooms by Shelley Moore (also look for her website and social media accounts)
- Anything by Paula Kluth – many of her books are out of print, but her books are focused on autism and inclusive education; all are excellent
- It’s More Than “Just Being In: : Creating Authentic Inclusion for Students with Complex Support Needs by Cheryl M. Jorgensen Ph.D.
- The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms by Julie Causton
Understanding the Spectrum – A Comic Strip Explanation
Website: The Art of Autism
This is a great resource for helping older kids and adults understand individual differences and support needs. You can print it in English, French, Spanish, or German.
Understanding the Autistic Mind – A Guide to Understanding, Developing and Applying #ReasonableAccommodations for Autistic People
A Printable Resource by NeuroClastic
This guide summarizes what hundreds of autistic people around the world (speakers and non-speakers) have discovered about the atypical way their minds work, the difficulties they face daily, and how we all can develop and provide reasonable accommodations for autistic people to cope and to thrive.
Autism, Neurodiversity and Autism Acceptance: Information That Everyone Should Know
This organized and easy to digest slide presentation is compiled of resources and information shared by the autistic community.
What are the Eight Senses: Sensory Processing Explained
We all learned about five senses, but actually there are more. This article explains how differences in sensory processing can lead to differences in behaviour. The Neuroclastic website has another article that explains the extra three. This video is also useful for helping kids understand themselves and their friends better.
An Introduction to Apraxia and Presuming Competence
Website: Not an Autism Mom
Based on an AAC course offered by Communication for Education
An often overlooked aspect to autism is a difficulty planning and coordinating physical movements. From this resource:
“Apraxia makes it hard for people to tell their bodies what to do. This is sometimes called the brain/body disconnect. A person may want to do one thing, and the body does something else. We often mislabel these movements as intentional behaviors, when they are actually rooted in a person’s central nervous system. When we know better, we can do better for our children.”
- Uniquely Human: a Different Way of Seeing Autism by Dr. Barry M Prizant (review here.)
- The Autism Acceptance Book by Ellen Sabin (review here.)
- The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
- Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar
- Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone by Douglas Biklen
- Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration: Therapy for Children with Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders by Ellen Yack (review here.)
Social and Emotional Learning
Rehabilitation Centre for Children Seminars for Professionals
The RELATE program is a RDI-based program supporting children with autism in Manitoba. In addition to working with parents, the clinicians also offer seminars for teachers and clinicians. Topics include dealing with challenging behavior, supporting language development, social thinking, and guiding from a developmental perspective. Check with the RCC for seminars and dates.
PLAY Project is a DIR-Floortime based program. They are in the early stages of offering Teaching PLAY, a training program for early years teachers wanting to incorporate principles and strategies of developmental autism therapies into the classroom.
Integrated Play Groups
Interested in supporting autistic children’s growth in play with their peers? This research project has developed a program designed to promote socialization, communication, play and imagination in children on the autism spectrum while building relationships with typical peers and siblings through mutually engaging experiences in natural settings. This post contains a more detailed description.
The Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative has been established to help parents and educators ‘reframe’ a child’s behaviour: to understand the reasons why a child might be having trouble paying attention, ignoring distractors, inhibiting his impulses, modulating his emotions, and overall, maintaining a state of being calmly focused and alert. In far too many cases the problem lies in the excessive levels of stress that the child is struggling with. For more information and resources read our review and summary of Calm, Alert and Learning or go to:
A very popular resource created for all children, Zones of Regulation is a curriculum and set of lesson plans to teach children how to recognize and manage their emotions. It pays particular attention to sensory input, which is very helpful for most kids on the spectrum. Additional learning materials/visuals to complement the book’s already extensive suggestions are easy to find on Teachers Pay Teachers.
In this must-have resource, the authors share their successful use of the simple concept of 5-point scales to help students understand and control their emotional reactions to everyday events that might otherwise set in emotion escalating reactions. Whether it is inappropriate touching, obsessions, yelling, hitting or making hurtful statements to classmates, this clearly illustrated book shows how to break down a given behavior and, with the student’s active participation, develop a unique scale that identifies the problem and, just as important, suggests alternative, positive behaviors at each level of the scale. Check out the website for additional ideas.
The Alert Program: How Does Your Engine Run?
An innovative program that supports children, teachers, parents, and therapists to choose appropriate strategies to change or maintain states of alertness. Students learn what they can do before a spelling test or homework time to attain an optimal state of alertness for their tasks. Teachers learn what they can do after lunch, when their adult nervous systems are in a low alert state and their students are in a high alert state. Leaders of the program not only learn what they can do to support self-regulation, but how to share the underlying theory so all can understand the basics of sensory integration.
Social Stories: The Gray Center
The Gray Center cultivates the strengths of individuals with autism and those who interact with them, and globally promotes social understanding. Our vision is to assist all individuals in the shared challenge of building and maintaining effective social connections. Strategies offered include Carol Gray’s social stories, a system of written supports for children and adolescents in social situations.
Children’s Books About Mental Health and Neurodiversity
Books and stories are a wonderful way to spark conversations and frame new perspectives. They help kids feel less alone, helping them better understand themselves, each other, and our complicated world. A Novel Mind is a website for exploring children’s literature to find the right book to help in the right time.
For a list of books containing autistic and neurodiverse characters, the website Not An Autism Mom has compiled 100-ish Inclusive Children’s Books.
Other Book Recommendations:
- Declarative Language Handbook and The Co-Regulation Handbook by Linda K. Murphy
- Beyond Behaviors by Dr. Mona Delahooke. Her approach is summarized in this article from her website.
- Ensouling Our Schools by Dr. Jennifer Katz
- Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go! by Judy Endow
- The Explosive Child, Lost at School and Lost and Found by Dr. Ross Greene
- Avoiding Anxiety in Autistic Children by Dr. Luke Beardon
- Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum by Pamela Wolfberg (review here.)
Communication and Literacy
If you want to learn how to integrate emergent literacy instruction for students who are minimally verbal or who have social learning challenges, this is the resource for you. Karen Erickson has been a researcher and educator in the field of augmented and alternative communication for years, with a special interest in literacy. Along with David Koppenhaver she has written this useful book, with very specific instructions on how to plan for research-supported, meaningful and effective instruction in literacy. The plan they outline integrates very well with Daily Five literacy instruction.
Additional resources are found on the associated website.
Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC)
There are so many ways to help children to communicate in ways other than verbal language, and the most important thing is to find and teach strategies that will work for each individual child.
Who is ready for AAC? Anyone who needs help communicating. This article Will AAC Stop a Person From Learning to Speak? Assistiveware provides a clear answer to this question in this article. The short answer is no – in fact, AAC can help a child begin to speak faster than they otherwise might.
The Open Access Resource Centre serves Manitobans with speech impairments by supporting through the availability and use of communications devices. They offer training to school teams and families, and can help children access the technology they need to communicate.
PrAACtical AAC is a comprehensive website offering introductory information as well as strategies, resources, and examples of how to teach children to use alternate means of communication. Also check out the site’s affiliated social media accounts.
Caroline Musselwhite is a knowledgeable researcher/educator with a wealth of ideas. You can browse hundreds of tips and strategies on her website, or look for her on Instagram and Teachers Pay Teachers.
Helpful Books About AAC:
The SCERTS® Model is a research-based educational approach and multidisciplinary framework that directly addresses the core challenges faced by children and persons with ASD and related disabilities, and their families. SCERTS® focuses on building competence in Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support as the highest priorities that must be addressed in any program, and is applicable for individuals with a wide range of abilities and ages across home, school and community settings.
More information and resources can be found here.
The Hanen Book Nook
The Hanen Centre is a Canadian charitable organization. Their mandate is to help parents and professionals build the best possible lifelong social, language and literacy skills. In the Book Nook, they favourite children’s books and talk about ways you can use them with young children to promote their emergent literacy skills.
Making the School Library Accessible
Library access is an important aspect of an inclusive school. This article considers how to make sure all children can benefit from all their library has to offer.
More Literacy Book Recommendations:
- Land We Can Share: Teaching Literacy to Students with Autism by Paula Kluth and Kelly Chandler-Olcott (review here.)
- Literacy Beyond Picture Books: Teaching Secondary Students With Moderate to Severe Disabilities by Dorothy Dendy Smith et. al.
- Talkability: People Skills for Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum by Fern Sussman
- Autobiography on the Spectrum: Disrupting the Autism Narrative by Beth A. Myers
- Children’s Language: Connecting Reading, Writing and Talk by Judity Wells Lindfors
- Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four-Blocks® Way, Grades 1 – 3 by David Koppenhaver and Karen Erickson
- Teaching Language Arts, Math, and Science to Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities by Diane Browder-Boswell and Fred Spooner
In Closing, Some Inspiration:
Take a Peek Inside: What Helped Me Most in School
by Mikhaela Ackerman
This blog, Edge of the Playground, has some excellent articles and insights about growing up autistic. In this article the author describes the things that made her different, and strategies that helped her the most.
The Community School
Take a few minutes to view this video. It’s about an entire school focused on putting DIR into practice, and it’s working for the children it serves. What’s even more wonderful is that the ideas can be implemented in individual classrooms. You can also read the New York Times article about the school here.