Vocational Skills for Students with Autism

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

This lesson will provide you vocational skills that students with autism need to be successful in the classroom, community and job setting. Included are helpful strategies for teaching these skills.

What Are Vocational Skills?

Are you looking for fun and exciting ways to teach your students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) valuable vocational skills that will benefit them in a variety of settings? Then, this is the lesson for you!

Vocational skills are those skills which allow a person to master a certain subject or skill towards an interest or employment area. The skills needed to be successful in the work force will depend on the exact job, but there are many skills that are needed to be a successful employee in any job.

Important Vocational Skills:

The following skills are vocational skills that are necessary for success, but that can be difficult for students with ASD:

  • Asking for help
  • Accepting criticism and/or suggestions
  • Flexibility
  • Making Eye Contact

How Can I Help My Students?

Some students with ASD often have difficulty with adapting to different environments, initiating conversations, seeking assistance, and seeing other's point of view. These are all skills needed to be a good employee.

You can teach these skills through:

  • Direct instruction of the skill - You should teach these skills just as you would teach math or reading. It should be constant and explicit.
  • Modeling - Your actions are the best type of instruction. Model the behaviors you want students to demonstrate.
  • Practice/role play - Create typical work place scenarios and role play with the students. Allow opportunities for them to be on both sides of each situation as this will help them see things from a different view point.

Instructional Strategies

In addition to the strategies listed, these activities will help students with specific skills.

Asking for Help

Organize a help swap. Have each student write what they need help with on a slip of paper, this does not have to be academic related. Place the slips in a jar. You will then pull a slip out, read it, and ask the class to discuss how to get the needed help.

This activity gets students in the routine of asking for help when needed. You can also use this activity to teach the difference between clarification, needed accommodations to complete a task, and assistance.

Accepting Criticism and/or Suggestions

Play Flashcard Fire Drill. Write common workplace criticisms on flashcards and drop them in a jar. Place students in pairs, designate one student as the employee, and one student as the supervisor (give students a chance to play both roles). Have the student playing the supervisor draw a criticism. Teach the students to react to the criticisms following these steps:

1. Listen without interrupting.

2.Restate what the person said about the behavior or skill.

3. Ask for suggestions on how to correct or improve behavior or skill.

4. Restate the suggested corrections.

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