Family's Influence on Development of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

The family of a child with an autism spectrum disorder can have a profound influence on their growth and development. This lesson discusses some of the ways you can support your child across different developmental domains.

Parenting a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

When Brian was four years old, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a disability that impacts his ability to self-regulate, socialize with others, and develop his language. Brian also gets easily overstimulated on a sensory level and sometimes perseverates, or lingers cognitively, on a specific idea or topic.

Brian's parents, the Simpsons, know that parenting a child with an autism spectrum disorder comes with many challenges, but they also believe that it has been and will continue to be a very rewarding experience. Like all parents, the Simpsons love their child and want the best for him. They start learning about what they can do as a family to influence his growth and development.

Supporting Learning and Development

First, the Simpsons think about what they can do to support Brian's learning and development across different domains. They know that a family always influences how and what a child learns, and involvement of this sort can be particularly important when the child has a disability.


The Simpsons learn that one possibility is engaging in ABA, or applied behavior analysis, with Brian. Usually, ABA involves working with a trained therapist who uses a specific approach to modify a child's behavior.

ABA relies on positive reinforcement for rewarding desired behaviors and reducing harmful or distracting behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders. A family can use the same strategies, for instance, to reinforce positive behaviors at meal times or during the many transitions a child goes through over the course of the day.

Naturalistic Strategies

Another thing some families prefer is more naturalistic teaching of desired behaviors. The Simpsons learn that naturalistic strategies, which usually mean teaching children in the moment when something is naturally occurring, have gained in popularity in recent years.

Naturalistic teaching might mean taking Brian for a walk outside and paying attention to what he notices and asks about the world around him, using this natural interaction as a set of teachable moments. It can also mean teaching a social skill in the context of play that is naturally occurring.

TEACCH Interventions

The Simpsons also learn about various intervention programs they consider working on with Brian. One program they learn about is TEACCH interventions, a series of concrete interventions focusing on helping students with autism spectrum disorders work on:

  • social interactions
  • executive function
  • task initiation
  • attention

The Simpsons investigate TEACCH trained interventionists in their area.

Adaptive Skills

Finally, the Simpsons learn that they will need to help Brian develop adaptive skills, or the skills he needs to function in the world on a daily basis. They try to remember that all times throughout the day, such as meal times, getting dressed, free play times, or going on errands as a family, present opportunities to teach Brian adaptive skills for interacting with others and regulating himself.

Advocating for Your Child

In addition to supporting Brian as a learner, the Simpsons discover that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder need to be powerful advocates, who speak up for their child in a variety of situations. Being a good advocate means:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account