When working with individuals on the autism spectrum, two primary keys to keep in mind are: individualizing the approach and a focus on function. At Fick Educational Services, we strive to do just that with all of our clients, as we should; however, these hallmarks are especially significant for those with autism. We partner with multiple organizations that specialize in assisting individuals of all ages on the autism spectrum, and many of our tutors receive training geared to helping those on the spectrum.

So what does it look like to focus on functionwhen working on reading skills? The primary goal should be reading for meaning. Decoding words can often come easily for those on the spectrum; therefore, comprehension issues can initially go undetected. Once recognized, though, there are some basic tips that can aid comprehension. Presenting information in various ways, using concrete directions to minimize confusion or distraction, and reading material multiple times can help. The use of visual aids such as graphic organizers, charts and mind-maps is also key. Emily Illand’s book Drawing a Blank: Improving Reading Comprehension for Readers on the Autism Spectrumis an excellent resource on this topic.

For math, the idea of function is also crucial. Beginning with a basic groundwork of numbers (ie: the idea of a one to one correspondence where the digit “1” represents one item; number recognition; basic addition and subtraction) lays the foundation for expanded skills. This is where individualizing instruction comes in. Assess the needs of the individual and begin there! Once the framework is set, expanding into useful life skills involving numbers is the most helpful. Consider the concept of money as an example: you need to begin with identifying denominations; once the concepts of a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and dollar are settled, move to adding money; and then expand to life skills such as budgeting and using coupons.

These brief examples highlight what is meant by focusing on function. By first assessing the needs of the individual and then focusing on functional skill sets, the sessions with an individual on the autism spectrum have maximum impact! Take a look at the tutoring pages on our website: http://fickeducation.com/on-site-tutoring/. For more information, email us at fickeducation@gmail.com  or call at 610-457-2199.