The Use of Short Statements with Students with Autism

  I am an assistant teacher at a school for children with Autism.  My class is the oldest and highest functioning in the school so we try to keep school as academic as possible.  This focus is because three out of the nine students in our class are graduating this year and next year two will try to be mainstreamed into general education classes.  Our goal is to have the students be as independent as possible.  They have to unpack by themselves, record their homework activities on their own and complete various other tasks with as little prompting as possible.

  Because our students are older and more capable, we don’t want to treat them like little kids and hold their hands through all of the decisions in the day.  Yet at the end of the day we find that many of our students have not written down their homework assignments.  This equated into a much larger problem for certain students who didn’t have their homework on the next day.  For some students this act of not completing their work would trigger a melt down which in turn would keep them out of the classroom for short periods of time.  This would make it even harder for them to catch up.

   The two other teachers and myself wanted to create a system in which all of our students would remember to write down all of their homework without making them feel as if the teachers were involved too much.  We also wanted our students to do their homework on a daily basis so that they wouldn’t fall behind the others.
  I will use short statements 5-10 minutes before pack up to remind my students to write their homework down at the end of each day.  So now every day I say “Are there any homework questions?” or I will ask a student “I’m looking forward to seeing you homework assignment tomorrow.”  And then in the morning I would use short statements to remind the students to hand in their homework to the assigned box.  “I can’t wait to check the homework box in a few minutes.”

  Every time I used one of my short statements like “Homework” or “Unpack” you could see the students stop whatever they were doing to think for a minute if they had done everything they were supposed to.  And after about a week or two I didn’t have to use the short statements quite as much and the kids were still completing their work because the prompting helped engrave this activity into their schedule.
What happened? (Effective/ineffective? What might I try differently?)
  For my students the short statement strategy was exactly what they needed.  It was also the easiest strategy to implement.  It worked very well for my students because they function on such a high level cognitively.  When they hear the word homework they know that the next step is to write it down and do it for the following day.  Where the lower functioning classes in my school might actually need to set up and send the activities home for their students because they have not yet achieved that level of independence.  If you have a class that is capable of receiving the message from one short statement I would highly recommend the strategy.

Josh G.