"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

July 20, 2007

Autism: Functional Academics and Curriculum and the Autistic Child ~

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism — C'hele @ 07:08
Functional Academics and Curriculum: Teaching Low to High Functioning Autistic Children in School and at Home:

In this post, I want to impart some information regarding education and the autistic student. All the information below, I have personally taught to my daughter and students in various schools under the guidance of a qualified Special Education Teacher. This information is intended to be helpful only, so parents out there will have an idea of what might be going on within their child’s class room. There are so many wonderful ways to teach a child with a neurological or cognitive disability (one day soon I will get into this further). Most classrooms do not have this kind of functional academics or curriculum that I have outlined below, unless a child is specifically in a special educational resource room or is in a special education school. It is my belief that more support should be leant to regular classroom teachers so they can assist the teacher and the many neurologically disabled kids who end up falling through the cracks and end up unable to cope with themselves and life. If you have a desire or talent working with autistic people I can’t stress enough the demand, and the need for, Special Education Program Coordinators in schools.

The percentage of autistic individuals being born is on an all-time high. I personally feel that depending on the child’s level on the autism spectrum disorder line, there is always a chance for the opportunity for a child to blossom under positive teaching strategies no matter their age. However, early intervention has proven to be more successful towards a child’s well-being and learning some independence before they become too set in their ways. I have personally seen parents provide assistance too late in their autistic child’s life and not much unfortunately, could be done by educators. I have to add that these kids were quite low functioning students. There is already a high need for more co-ordinators from the preschool to high school level and I’m sure the jobs in this field will be in plenty for those willing to explore this option. This career in autism as a Special Education Program Coordinator does require a university degree but I think its worth looking into if your interest is there!

Functional Academics is primarily utilized to teach autistic children who are moderately to low-functioning or at the mental retardation stage. In my experience it has also been beneficial in teaching a certain concept or skill to a high functioning (or Asperger’s child) who may be struggling in that one area. For example, a high functioning autistic student may be a genius in mathematics but may struggle with reading and require an aid to scribe for him or her.

Functional Academics are exactly that: academics made functional.

Each autistic child will also have a different curriculum set out by the teacher who is shadowed by a Special Education Program Co-Coordinator. It depends on the school or where you live if a district or municipality has access to a Special Ed. Program Coordinator. They help the teacher create a program that fits each child’s individual needs. This curriculum would be reflected on the child’s/student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or report card. A Special Educational Assistant, Educational Assistant, or Teacher Assistant (and if one teaches in a specialized autism field, Paraprofessional) assist the teacher in implementing and documenting the functional academics and curriculum.

Each autistic child has their own individual strengths and weaknesses like a typical kid so they may have a curriculum created that will include many but not all of the following:

a. Fine and gross motor coordination skills:

(That may or may not include):

– Shoe tying, stringing beads, using crayons/pencil crayons in art, cutting with scissors, sweeping floors, folding laundry, dog-walking, swimming, skating, bowling, participating in the recycling program at school, and other community work experience (I.e.: sweeping benches and refilling bird feeders at a local bird sanctuary).

b. Life-skills:


– Sweeping, doing laundry, learning how to wash/dry dishes, how to load/unload a dishwasher, how to cook (this does include teaching how to utilize a knife and a stove depending on the students level of ability to cope), general housekeeping, and the like. Food recognition and comprehension (identifying various foods and food groups), recognizing emotions; recognition and comprehension, and sign identification (I.e.: stop, go, walk, warning, poison, exit, washroom (men/women), railway, etc). Food, emotions, and sign recognition and comprehension are taught by utilizing picture cards. Crosswalk safety may be taught, telephone skills, how to type and utilize a computer, how to take responsibility for their behaviour and their personal items. How to manage and deal with natural consequences, how to utilize a calendar, daily planner or day-timer. Teaching the child/student how to “walk away” from a situation when necessary is also a vital life skill.

c. Language/Communication development: (how to convey thoughts and feelings in a concise way by using words and not by violence, giving verbal solutions to problems, be consistent regarding utilizing age appropriate vocabulary, teaching children how to think before they verbally say something, etc.)

– Class or group meetings allow children/students opportunities to talk about their feelings regarding various topics. Friendship circles or pairing students with a “typical” student or “buddy” also helps autistic students/children make age-appropriate friendships with peers. Participating in regular integration periodically each day in a typical classroom (age appropriate of course), utilizing stories to convey learning opportunities such as exploring feelings, scenarios, writing in a journal every day to allow the student to express thoughts and feelings etc.

d. Recreation: (fun that “sneaks” in many learning opportunities for the student/child such as; turn taking, sharing, exercise/gross and fine motor skills, social/communication opportunities, how to wait, take turns and more).

– Again things like swimming, skating, community walking, bowling, playing an instrument like a guitar (believe it or not, some kids can do this).

e. Leisure: (allows students to have the required and very necessary breaks needed between activities in their day, leisure time also gives each student the opportunity to practise self-management skills and make choices of what they want to do during their leisure time).

– Video games (Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Cube), Movie watching, listening to music on a stereo or I-Pod, drawing/art. A child/student preferred activity basically.

f. Social Skills: (practicing eye-contact, greetings, manners, turn-taking, how to hold a conversation, conflict resolution/management, how to control sensory impulse difficulties and overload, how to utilize an appropriate tone of voice, anger and frustration management, how to focus on themselves and not others when necessary, etc.).

– Work experience examples are: volunteering at a fast-food restaurant, a recycling depot, cleaning the local Boy and Girls Clubhouse, helping in a grocery store, participating in the school recycling program, assisting in the school cafeteria, being an office monitor, assisting in the library, role-playing various scenarios in class and playing board games with staff and other students in the classroom.

g. Functional Academics: (academic’s that also teach the necessary life-skills required for independent living).

– Reading and comprehension, writing, spelling and mathematics. Social studies, science, money identification and values, telling time, learning how to use a calculator to add up purchases, allow opportunities for silent reading (or taking turns reading with a partner), etc.

Over the next few posts, I will chatter on about the importance of using visual symbols and schedules and Discreet Trial Format Training. Discreet Trial Training (or DTT), is an incredibly useful method or tool to learn and utilize. It helps teach autistic kids things like food recognition and comprehension, money and values, telling time and sign recognition and comprehension. This is taught primarily to lower functioning kids however, if you have a higher functioning child unaware or is unable to learn the above concepts listed above, this method will help immensely!

Peace to all,





  1. Well, C’hele, when you write a post, there is a section that says “Upload photo”. I think they have to be a certain size, so I usually go into Paint on my computer and reduce the size from there. Once you have it uploaded, put your cursor where you want to picture to appear on the post and click the “Send to Editor” button. It should show up then. Let me know if that helps! 🙂

    Comment by vroni1208 — July 20, 2007 @ 21:26

  2. Thanks Vroni! I think I pretty much did that but the system was fighting me, lol. Go figure! I will try again, Thanks again 🙂

    Comment by cheles — July 21, 2007 @ 08:52

  3. thank you for this post! I love these posts from you, i really feel like i learn something new and useful

    Comment by Julia Gulia — July 21, 2007 @ 20:06

  4. check out CNN today, a new article out of California on autism and pesticides?

    Comment by somethingisfishy — August 1, 2007 @ 00:45

  5. Thank you somethingfishy, this is what I commented on the web-site and will do so here. This is just my personal opinion and I cant prove anything what I say however, after researching the topic this is what I think. “I dont believe this for a second. I think its just a blind to distract people from looking into vaccinations being the possible cause. I believe the formulas have changed in vaccinations in the past few years however, when one investigates what used to be in them in the past 10-15 years? Mercury, aluminum salt, formaldehyde? I also discovered that they are giving babies thier first vaccination as early as three months. My own personal doctor confessed that a childs immune system is not fully developed until after three months of age. Also, the amount they give to babies is the same dosage they give to an adult? OD? Perhaps. One must not challenge the pharmaceutical companies and laboratories! Yeah, right.”

    Comment by cheles — August 1, 2007 @ 07:41

  6. I am in search of a functional assessment curriculum to use with students on the elementary, jr. high and high school level.

    Comment by Daphne Dawson — April 21, 2009 @ 00:55

    • Daphne, I am also searching for a functional assessment curriculum to use with High School Students. Have you found anything yet?

      Comment by Andrea Grau — February 3, 2010 @ 22:04

  7. Hi Daphne,

    I suggest surfing the web for ideas, look at basic activities targeted at the pre-school level (games, activities and so on). Look in bookstores and if there is one available, a specialty bookstore that targets special needs individuals. This endeavour to collect information will not take over-night. I’m still collecting stuff. Be creative as well!

    C’hele 🙂

    Comment by C'hele — April 21, 2009 @ 08:08

  8. Your article and comments has helped me to decide how to teach my autistic daughter. For years I have felt that the school system has let her down by not following her IEP and looking for other styles of teaching.

    Comment by I love my child — December 31, 2010 @ 06:31

    • I have gone through this as well. What works for one autistic individual, doesn’t necessarrily mean that its going to work for all. I’m a huge fan of Vygotsky and Howard Gardners theories because they make the most logical sense to me regarding teaching styles. My daughters grade 4 teacher actually told me, “I’m going to make her learn”. That one statement frightened the heck out of me. My daughter ended up having her for 2 years and that teacher still gives her psychological problems to this day as she is now frightened of all teachers (she equates that one to all). She used intimidation, bullying and fear as her teaching styles. We as parents as exhausted and stressed as we are, cannot entirely allow others (teachers) to fix our childrens challenges for us. They are one part of the equation = we are another. A larger part I think because we live with our kids everyday. Between you and me, you will find your nitch regarding your daughter and teaching. The information I provided will be a good start that you can at least do at home in some way. Good luck to you, and never give up, its worth it in the long haul! Thank you for your comment!! Sincerely, C’hele.

      Comment by C'hele — December 31, 2010 @ 20:45

  9. I find this really interesting and knowledge I will take with me when I transfer to a school for my BA in History and Psychology.

    Comment by Val Heike — April 6, 2011 @ 05:49

  10. Dear C,hele,

    I am looking for an effective functional assessment check list , curriculum and a sample IEP for children with ASD .
    I am a parent of an autistic girl child actively involved with my daughter,s school . Hope you will be able to help me on that.

    Warm Regards,

    Arunava Roy

    Comment by ARUNAVA ROY — April 19, 2011 @ 05:22

    • Hi There! Sorry for the delay in replying. Life has been very busy, lol. Please check out this web site. I don’t know where you live, but there are various POPARD centres- in Canada and in the USA. What you seek specifically is a bit challenging for me to provide you. POPARD will be a better avenue for you to attain this information. Teachers specifically will have this information on hand. Give POPARD a try (this place is in BC Canada): http://www.autismoutreach.ca/training. This is a good thing you have asked- others will need this information as well: I will search for this information and if I find good examples (or I will create examples), I will post them here on this blog.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. All the best to you and your daughter!

      Comment by C'hele — April 27, 2011 @ 06:45

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