How to Vary Work for Students with Autism (and a FREEBIE!)

How do you get students with autism to vary the kinds of work they will do?  Like most of us, students with autism prefer the familiar. They are also visual learners. Because of these factors, token boards can be a link to help students with autism to learn to vary their work.

autism, speech therapy, token boards, first/then, visual schedules, special education

How do I start to vary students’ work? 

Students who have many factors that interfere with learning benefit from having small changes in their routines. It is best to try to make changes small. It is also helpful to intermix new work with learned skills.

This serves a few purposes:

  • Previously learned skills are better maintained.
  • It takes the pressure off of constantly dealing with the unfamiliar.
  • It gives practice with the new skill in a way that is not just a drill of the same response.
When starting to help students learn to vary their work, keep in mind that visual changes can be a new skill for some students. For example, changing the matching format from circles to squares can be a challenge for some students.
One small change at a time leads to success. So, if your worksheet with 5 answers has squares instead of circles, don’t vary the pictures that are inside the shapes. Or you can expand the number of responses to 5 using a worksheet with circles and then work on varying the shape used.

How do token boards help?

When the work expected of students with autism starts to vary, having a routine in your speech therapy session helps to keep things familiar. And when students are familiar with the visual format of their token board, it is a reassurance that their reinforcement time will still be there. This helps motivate students to work on learning a new skill.

Why use themed token boards?

When students have preferences, using a theme they prefer is motivating.  If your students have not yet developed any preferences, having a different look for each student’s token board personalizes them. It also gives you a little variety in what you are looking at.
Hey, we count, too! And sometimes having some pretty things around makes our day more pleasant.
autism, speech therapy, special education, token boards, visual schedules, special education
You can get the themed token boards in the FREE Getting Started with Autism guide. It also includes some extra visuals to help you out.  Get it here!
Want some more tips for using token boards with your autistic students?  Check out this blog post.


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I’m Linda, an SLP who loves helping you build effective communication skills for your students using strategies and visuals. Pictures are time consuming, so let me make your life easier!

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