Helping Students With ASD Adapt to the Mainstream Try these steps to help students with autism develop social and communication skills in the general education classroom. School Matters
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School Matters  |   June 01, 2016
Helping Students With ASD Adapt to the Mainstream
Author Notes
  • Emily Rubin, MS, CCC-SLP, is the director of the educational outreach program at the Marcus Autism Center, an affiliate of Emory University. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education. emily@commxroads.com
    Emily Rubin, MS, CCC-SLP, is the director of the educational outreach program at the Marcus Autism Center, an affiliate of Emory University. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education. emily@commxroads.com×
Article Information
Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   June 01, 2016
Helping Students With ASD Adapt to the Mainstream
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.21062016.36
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.21062016.36
Have you heard that the incidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has more than doubled in the past 15 years?
In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in 150 children might have ASD. Now the CDC pegs the incidence at 1 in 68.
Why is this happening?
The most notable change reported by the CDC is increased diagnosis of students with average or above-average intellectual ability. In 2000, only 32 percent of those diagnosed with ASD demonstrated average or above-average intelligence. In contrast, now nearly half of those diagnosed have average or above-average intelligence quotients. This is a big difference!
What’s the effect on service delivery?
The educational placements of students with ASD continue to change. Quite a few students remain in general education, while others receive more specialized supports in special education classrooms. Here, they might receive individualized daily schedules, help with communication and a modified curriculum.
General education teachers must spend much of their time emphasizing academic standards, so it might be challenging to also offer instructional strategies for students with special needs. Students with ASD, for example, need additional attention to foster social-communication skills, seek help and self-regulate.
We can no longer easily debate which model—pulling out students versus supporting them in the classroom setting (see this month’s “Overheard” column on push-in services)—provides better services. Students with ASD need access to communication and learning supports in all settings to help them understand social expectations, what others think and how to engage successfully with peers. Additionally, a student’s sense of competence as a communicator depends on their ability to function in varied settings.
Our role as SLPs—and our code of ethics—mandates supporting our students’ communicative competence. If we always pull a student out of class, we aren’t using our expertise to empower general educators. This empowerment is particularly important in middle and high school, where the number of teachers the student faces each day significantly increases.

Students with autism need access to communication and learning supports in all settings to help them understand social expectations, what others think and how to engage successfully with peers.

How do we get general educators to buy in?
We need to apply adult learning principles to our collaboration with teachers. The last thing they need is another staff member coming into their classroom and telling them what to do. Instead, try the appreciative inquiry approach, which involves initiating the discussion by asking teachers what already works. It also helps to write down how the student is succeeding and which classroom supports—providing information in multiple ways or the number of opportunities for engagement, for example—fostered this success.
Following this discussion, ask questions about ways to increase these successes and add the suggestions to your notes. When you discuss what works and then pose ideas in the form of questions about encouraging improvement, teachers are more receptive to the advice, resulting in bigger changes.
A good starting point is to ask how the teacher can help the student increase:
  • Initiation and emotional investment.

  • Independence with the materials.

  • Use of communication and language.

How can our IEP goals reflect our role in providing classroom-based and consultative services?
When writing IEP goals, set conditions of success based on student behavior outside the treatment room. This focus establishes our role on the educational team and provides data showing students’ skills in mainstream settings versus those only seen in the treatment room.
Set those goals to encourage increased interaction between the student and peers and school staff. For example:
  • The student increased their rate of initiation either nonverbally or verbally with their peers and teachers.

  • The student used conventional communication commensurate with their developmental level in classroom lessons.

  • The student used communication and language to cope with the demands of the transitions between classroom lessons.

These steps can help reduce the time students with autism get pulled out of the general education setting and allow them more opportunity to use their social and communication skills in real-life situations. They also should foster collaborative relationships between you and general educators.
Sources Incidence of ASD
Baio, J. (2014, March). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(20), 1–21. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.htm?s_cid=ss6302a1_w [PubMed]
Baio, J. (2014, March). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(20), 1–21. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.htm?s_cid=ss6302a1_w [PubMed]×
Selecting goals and measuring progress
Prizant, B. M., Wetherby, A.M., Rubin, E., Laurent, A. C., & Rydell, P. J. (2006). The SCERTS Model: Volume I Assessment; Volume II Program planning and intervention. Baltimore, Md.: Brookes Publishing. www.scerts.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=2
Prizant, B. M., Wetherby, A.M., Rubin, E., Laurent, A. C., & Rydell, P. J. (2006). The SCERTS Model: Volume I Assessment; Volume II Program planning and intervention. Baltimore, Md.: Brookes Publishing. www.scerts.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=2 ×
Sparapani, N, Morgan, L., Reinhardt, V., Schatschneider, C., & Wetherby, A. M. (2015). Evaluation of classroom active engagement in elementary students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26433878
Sparapani, N, Morgan, L., Reinhardt, V., Schatschneider, C., & Wetherby, A. M. (2015). Evaluation of classroom active engagement in elementary students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26433878×
Service delivery models
Cirrin, F. M., Schooling, T. L., Nelson, N. W., Diehl, S. F., Flynn, P. F. Staskowski, M., Torrey, T. Z., & Adamczyk, D. (2010). Evidence-based systematic review: Effects of different service delivery models on communication outcomes for elementary school-age children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 233–264. http://lshss.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=1779326 [Article] [PubMed]
Cirrin, F. M., Schooling, T. L., Nelson, N. W., Diehl, S. F., Flynn, P. F. Staskowski, M., Torrey, T. Z., & Adamczyk, D. (2010). Evidence-based systematic review: Effects of different service delivery models on communication outcomes for elementary school-age children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 233–264. http://lshss.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=1779326 [Article] [PubMed]×
Coaching to foster social emotional engagement
Rubin, E. (2015, Nov. 18). Social Emotional Engagement within a Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom [Using a coaching model]. Presentation delivered as a keynote at the OCALICON annual conference, Columbus, Ohio. http://conference.ocali.org/2015/wednesday-keynote
Rubin, E. (2015, Nov. 18). Social Emotional Engagement within a Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom [Using a coaching model]. Presentation delivered as a keynote at the OCALICON annual conference, Columbus, Ohio. http://conference.ocali.org/2015/wednesday-keynote×
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June 2016
Volume 21, Issue 6