Beyond ABC and 123

“For several years, my son’s IEP has reflected the goals of his learning his alphabet and learning to count to 100,” commented a parent of a pre-teen diagnosed with autism. “He is beginning to pay more attention to academic concepts, so I don’t mind the continued effort in these areas. But it seems to me that he needs to learn things beyond sequencing letters and numbers.” Other parents have made similar comments about interest in their child beginning to work on skills beyond the rote skills such as identifying colors, writing their name, and learning the months of the year, even if they have not mastered these basic skills.

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SPECIFIC STRATEGY I encourage you to express your concerns to your son’s classroom teacher so she can utilize curriculum resources developed specifically for students diagnosed autism to expand the scope of his learning beyond sequencing the basic colors, numbers, and alphabet. For example, some youngsters are able to learn to read words by sight without mastering phonics and sequencing the alphabet. Some kids will never learn to answer the question, “How many apples do you see?” but they can learn to accurately follow the direction, “Please give me seven apples,” or “Get three pair of socks from your drawer.” Often youngsters with communication deficits related to autism is unable to tell a teacher the name of a color, but they can learn to follow a directs such as, “Put all the white clothes in the washer,” or “Bring the purple back pack to recess so we can play t-ball.” It is probably more critical that a youngster learn to use a calculator than to complete math problems on paper. And learning prepositions is a practical skill that allows youngsters to understand and follow directions such as “Put your notebook under your chair” or “Put your notebook on the bookshelf beside the water fountain.” Although some students diagnosed with autism may not have the fine motor skills necessary for writing with a pencil and paper, they can often learn to communicate in writing using a computer keyboard. So, if a youngster with autism seems to be stuck on one skill, it may be wise to look further down the road and change to focus, approaching the basic skill set from a different perspective. Look beyond the ABC’s – there is a whole world of possibilities waiting to be tapped.

CLOSING NOTE: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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