Accommodations for Students with Autism

Instructor: Stephanie Momtahan

Stephanie has taught high school Special Education and Community Based Instruction and has a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in special education.

There are many ways to accommodate individuals with autism in the classroom. This lesson will provide ideas and strategies to better prepare the teacher. Learning how to accommodate these students will make teaching easier and set the student up for success.

Students with Autism

Mrs. Smith has just received her first student with autism. His name is John. She spoke with John's counselor on the best strategies and accommodations to help him be successful and has already placed his desk away from the loudest student in her class, printed out a weekly schedule, and assigned a mature student in the class to write notes for John. John's counselor informed Mrs. Smith that John displays typical behaviors of students with autism. John has social challenges, difficulty communicating, and has difficulty processing sensory input such as movement, sight, sounds, and smells. Although Mrs. Smith has taken precautionary measures to help John, she will still have to assess him and provide further accommodations to find the best strategies to help him be successful.

What Is an Accommodation?

An accommodation is not what is taught, but how it is taught. An accommodation does not change the curriculum, it simply allows a student to gain access to the lesson. While every student with autism is unique, here are some strategies and ideas to help guide you.


While you may not have control of how many students are in your classroom, there are times that you can make learning easier for a student with autism. Rather than having classroom discussions, consider breaking the class into smaller groups. This will allow the student with autism to connect with a smaller group of students and allow you to place this group in a hall or quieter space for discussion. A quiet and calm atmosphere is preferred so that a student with autism won't get overwhelmed.


As teachers, we have all heard that students crave structure. The student with autism is in no way different. Mrs. Smith develops a routine during the day and tries to stick with this as much as possible. Consider giving this student a written schedule of the day or week. Attaching this schedule to the desk with check boxes of each activity is very helpful. This schedule could be as simple as the example below.


Make sure that the student is aware of what activity is happening next and emphasize any changes that can or may occur.

Direct Language

Avoid using puns, sarcasm, or humor when instructing or explaining. Use literal language and concrete ideas. Students with autism sometimes have trouble understanding figurative language. Also, don't over explain something. In John's case, less is definitely more. Mrs. Smith makes sure she is clear and to the point. This can also be related to written instructions or notes. Consider having a different set of instruction or notes that only hit the major points.

Difficulty with Social Situations

We've all been there. There has a been a time when we didn't know how to respond to a question, didn't know how to approach another person, or simply felt out of place. While these occurrences are completely normal, it can really inhibit the learning of a student, like John, with autism. Mrs. Smith helped relieve some of the social pressure by partnering John with another student to help demonstrate appropriate social behavior. By partnering these students, John may feel more comfortable asking a peer for help or clarification on a subject.

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