Social and Learning Strategies to Help Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Motivating students with ASD can be a difficult challenge. Many teens with autism have restricted interests and show little motivation in other areas outside of those interests. In addition, the strained social environment at school can further hinder individuals with ASD. However, through participating in meaningful learning and social experiences, they can successfully learn, grow, work, and play. There are several strategies that can best foster academic and social success, which include:

  • Skill generalization and application
  • Working in small groups
  • Individualized educational programs
  • Structure and consistency
  • Visual and kinesthetic learning
  • Clear communication

Emphasis on Skill Generalization and Application for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

While a student with ASD may be able to learn basic academic skills such as colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, it is important to generalize the application of skills such as math and reading. Though many students with ASD are excellent at learning facts, it can be difficult for them to generalize that information into more useful contexts. It can be a struggle to adapt what has been learned in one setting to real-life situations. Therefore, it is critical that parents and teachers to emphasize the relevance of information in relation to the real world.

Working in Small Groups Helps Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Working one on one is sometimes necessary for students with ASD; however, they should be encouraged to work in small groups as often as possible to promote the development of social skills. Increased opportunities to practice social skills which can help generalize their interactions into the everyday world. Providing guided interactions in a small group setting will benefit students with ASD who have limited social and communication skills. Small groups should be composed of people encouraging and supporting individual efforts. This can promote opportunities for students to perform independently as opposed to reliant on others.

Individualized Educational Programs Help Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Because the symptoms and severity of ASD vary greatly, it is important than an individualized approach is implemented for every student with ASD. These individualized plans are commonly referred to as Individualized Educational Programs (IEP). An IEP includes a variety of goals and methods that will help the individual master skills. The right program will be tailored to the student’s needs that have been identified in a formal evaluation process. This will help teachers better understand the student’s disability and how that disability affects their learning process. Each child’s IEP should be based on short-term goals and objectives which are mutually agreed upon by teachers and parents. These goals can include objectives as simple as waiting one’s turn, speaking in public, and using tact when making comments and observations about others.

When implementing any IEP, it is important keep in mind the individual’s strengths, weaknesses,  and interests. Their unique interests can build the foundation for gradually expanding their interests and skill sets.

Furthermore, when teaching students with ASD new skills and information it is important to know  many often have problems processing information presented too rapidly and can lead to feeling overwhelmed. When a student with ASD becomes overwhelmed, they may shut down, becoming disengaged and less responsive, further limiting their ability to understand and respond. It is important for parents and educators to give students with autism adequate of time to process and respond to the information that was said or requested.

Structure and Consistency is Essential for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Parents and educators can aid teens with ASD by creating a supportive and routine-based environment.Providing a predictable, consistent structure decreases stress, and fosters a sense of security, leading to an environment for optimal growth, learning, and generalization of skills.Providing dependable environments and methods satisfies and reassures the teen’s need for consistency, in addition to further building trust.

Visuals Help Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder Learn

Increasingly, schools are integrating various learning styles, such as visual, kinesthetic, musical, mathematical, etc, into classrooms to reach beyond the auditory learner. Teens with ASD often learn best with the effective use of visual aids. Pairing clear and concise instructions with visual media engages the learner and improves memory of the material.Visual learning can also be incorporated with daily living skills, such as on a calendar to increase understanding of the sequence of events and activities planned of the  day.

Clear Communication Helps Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder Learn

Although their vocabulary may be extensive, individuals with ASD often have difficulties expressing themselves with words. They may need extra help learning to start a conversation, ask for help, and engage in interactive speech. Clear intentional communication models and can help in the learning of interpersonal effectiveness, a new skill or concept.


ASD can make it harder for a teen to fit in at a time in their lives when belonging is so important. However, with the right help, teens with ASD can overcome these differences and feel a part of their peer group.

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