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9 Best Autism Teaching Strategies

March 14, 2024

Are you a parent finding that traditional classroom settings may not be the best fit for your child with autism? Navigating the educational options available can be overwhelming, but understanding and implementing tailored autism teaching strategies can greatly benefit both parents and teachers in fostering a supportive learning environment.

This article provides nine best strategies designed to assist families in improving their child’s everyday learning at home while also equipping teachers with tools to create inclusive and supportive classrooms for students on the autism spectrum.

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1. Incorporate visuals

Most children with autism are visual learners, meaning they learn best when they can visually see what is expected instead of verbally presented. Because of that, teaching strategies for autism often involve using visual aids.

Visual cues can help children with autism understand and retain skills and aid with communication. Visuals can be a picture, a drawing, a list, keywords, and much more.

A visual schedule, for example, is a graphic representation of scheduled tasks and activities for the day. They are beneficial for breaking down tasks into multiple steps to ensure all efforts have been completed.

Visual schedules can help reduce anxiety by providing consistency for children with autism. They are an excellent way to help ease transitions and reduce meltdowns for children. Parents can create their visual schedules for a home setting or school.

2. Use first-then cues

Many children with autism have difficulty focusing and engaging in activities they usually do not prefer. These are known as non-preferred activities. However, teaching strategies for autistic students may still incorporate some of them.

Parents and teachers need to help motivate and improve learning. One way they can do this is by using first-then cues.

First-then cues will have a picture corresponding to the task that needs to be completed before engaging in the child’s more preferred activity.

For example, a cue could include:

  • First – picture of what you are asking them to do;
  • Then – pictures of a preferred activity they enjoy.

This cueing helps children with autism work on following directions and is a way to help assist with learning new skills.

3. Find special interests as a teaching mechanism

Children with autism have particular preferences or special interests. This could be a television character, TV show, game, toy, etc. It may be beneficial for some parents and teachers to utilize the child’s particular interest to teach them new skills.

For example, if a child has a specific interest in a character, you could use it to teach appropriate social skills. As a parent and educator, you could make social stories with that character to show the accepted way of socializing with peers.

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4. Use sensory tools

Some children with autism might have sensory processing dysfunction that can manifest in different ways. For example, a child may experience challenges in language, sensory processing, social skills, and more.

Parents will have to determine what sensory tool works best for their child. After that, they can assemble a sensory toolbox of activities and equipment that can be used at home or school.

Items that could be added to this toolbox are fidget spinners, stress balls, water beads, ooze tubes, etc. There are so many options for parents to investigate.

Parents and educators can organize their sensory toolbox by activities:

  • for hands,
  • for the whole body, 
  • auditory products, 
  • oral products, 
  • visual products, 
  • smell products, and 
  • light and deep touch. 

5. Practice social skills

Social skills and communication are often areas that autism learners struggle with. Regardless of the skill taught, social skills practice for children with autism is vital.

For example, practicing social skills may include promoting the use of everyday social cues or teaching empathy. Both of these should be an important part of autism strategies for teachers.

Promoting the practice of “everyday” social skills may include greeting others, raising your hand to ask a question, saying “thank you,” asking permission for specific items, etc.

On top of that, teaching empathy is an essential skill to interact with others and be able to understand their feelings. An excellent way for parents to start teaching empathy is by printing pictures of different moods, which would be a great start to show visual cues of emotional states.

6. Introduce new experiences gradually

Parents and educators can take the opportunity to research and choose experiences that align with the child’s interests and needs. This could involve planning trips to places like playgrounds, museums, or swimming lessons, which offer both educational and recreational benefits.

These new settings should be introduced gradually, allowing the child to acclimate at their own pace. Being attuned to the autistic child’s cues, parents and educators can leave any situation if the child shows signs of discomfort or distress, ensuring a positive and supportive learning environment.

Child having swimming lessons

7. Recognize and embrace their unique talents

Children with autism often possess specific talents or interests that may not always be recognized or fully supported in school settings. Parents and educators have the opportunity to nurture these talents. 

For example, enrolling their child in dance classes can provide a creative outlet for self-expression and physical coordination. Music therapy offers a therapeutic approach to developing communication skills and emotional regulation through musical expression. 

Art therapy is another good choice, as it allows children to explore their creativity and sensory experiences in a supportive environment.

8. Keep your instructions short and simple

When providing instructions or communicating in the classroom, it’s important to keep them short, simple, and straight to the point. Children with autism often process information differently from their neurotypical peers, so clear and simplified communication is key to promoting understanding and engagement.

By offering multiple ways to access and interact with the material, teachers can make learning inclusive by providing different ways for all students to engage.

9. Adapt your curriculum to their understanding

Adapting the curriculum to the understanding of students with autism involves tailoring instructional methods, materials, and content to match their unique learning styles, abilities, and interests.

This may include:

  • breaking down complex concepts into simpler, more manageable steps;
  • using visual supports and concrete examples to enhance comprehension;
  • and incorporating activities that align with their preferences and strengths. 

As a teacher, it is vital to understand how children view the world and what matters to them. Through doing this, you can adapt your curriculum to help each student on the spectrum.

All autism teaching strategies require patience and understanding

Patience is crucial for teachers and parents of autistic children. You will make mistakes. You will get frustrated, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Practice patience and understanding, and your child or student will be more comfortable, too.

There are many autism teaching strategies for families to make use of which can help their children with autism: both in an everyday home setting and in a homeschooling classroom. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here, so it’s essential to choose a strategy that works best for your little one on the spectrum.

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Q: What are the best autism teaching methods?

A: Methods of teaching autistic children often involve using visual supports, structured routines, and hands-on learning activities to enhance comprehension and engagement. Tailoring instruction to individual learning styles and incorporating sensory-friendly strategies can also help create a supportive and inclusive learning environment for autistic students.

Q: How do autistic people learn best?

A: Autistic individuals often learn best through personalized instruction that accommodates their individual learning styles, preferences, and strengths. Utilizing visual supports, hands-on activities, and structured routines can enhance their understanding and engagement with the material, leading to more effective learning.

Q: Can autistic children go to a traditional school?

A: Yes, autistic children can attend traditional schools, but they may require additional support and accommodations to meet their individual needs. It’s important for schools to provide a supportive environment, specialized instruction, and resources tailored to the child’s unique challenges and strengths to facilitate their academic and social success.

Q: How do you teach an autistic child at home?

A: To teach an autistic child at home, focus on their interests and strengths while addressing their challenges. Use visual aids, hands-on activities, and clear, concise instructions to facilitate learning, and be patient and flexible in your approach to accommodate their individual needs and preferences.


Bolourian, Y., Losh, A., Hamsho, N. et al. General Education Teachers’ Perceptions of Autism, Inclusive Practices, and Relationship Building Strategies. J Autism Dev Disord 52, 3977–3990 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-05266-4 

Teaching strategies for children with autism, REVENA FANI-PANAGIOTA, Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Athens https://efsupit.ro/images/stories/nr1.2015/Art%2024%202015.pdf 

Morrier, M. J., Hess, K. L., & Heflin, L. J. (2011). Teacher Training for Implementation of Teaching Strategies for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Teacher Education and Special Education, 34(2), 119-132. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888406410376660 

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