• ASd Transition Toolkit  

    Preparing Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder for Adulthood A Transition Toolkit for Educators

    UNIT 2: Supports for Youth with ASD in Transition Services

    Key Questions


    by Phyllis Coyne

    This unit provides information and practical, accessible resources for best practice supports for youth and young adults with ASD in transition services and activities, including instruction.  Given the diversity in this population, educational staff may not always feel adequately prepared to provide the necessary supports to youth with ASD.  Each member of the transition planning team will bring specialized training and experiences to the knowledge base.  The information and resources in this unit are designed to help supplement the collective knowledge of the transition IEP team.  Additional training or consultation may be needed.

    This is a resource for you and is designed so that you can return to sections of this unit as you need more information or tools.  You do not need to read this unit from beginning to end or in order.  Feel free to print this unit for ease of reading or as an accessible reference. Links to questions, appendices and online resources are provided so that you can go directly to what is most relevant to you at the time.  

    What are supports for youth with ASD?

    This unit uses the term supports to refer to accommodations, modifications, adaptations, supplementary aides and other strategies intended to enable youth with ASD to optimally benefit from transition services and activities, as well as to generalize the skills to other settings.  The research demonstrates that particular types of support strategies, such as visual supports and environmental modifications, utilize the strengths and provide for the challenges of those with ASD.  These aids can be used effectively with youth with ASD regardless of cognitive level and/or expressive language skills.

    back to top

    Why are supports important for youth with ASD?

    IDEA 2004 requires the provision of supports to students with disabilities who are deemed to need them to benefit from a free appropriate public education.  ASD is a lifelong, pervasive disorder that requires support throughout the lifespan.  Many individuals with ASD need to access a variety of supports to make progress toward transition goals and adult living (Wolfe, 2005).

    According to Schall (2009), teams supporting students with ASD must learn how to plan and implement the most effective supports in high school to guarantee that students achieve a successful transition from school to a rich and satisfying adult life.  The challenges in communication, social skills, sensory processing, executive function/organization and behavior associated with ASD may improve or get worse during adolescence and young adulthood, but do not go away.  The consistent use of supports that meet the unique needs of youth and young adults with ASD in school, work, home and community settings enable them to develop necessary skills for a meaningful, successful adulthood.  Without these supports, youth and young adults with ASD are more apt to make limited progress and display challenging behaviors that in turn, interfere with a satisfying adult life.

    Supports can be critical to the effectiveness of transition services and activities.  For instance, the supports designed for individuals with ASD can help to:

    • Increase independence.
    • Increase learning and use of skills across environments
    • Promote success with the activity
    • Focus efforts on instruction and successfully completing activities
    • Accommodate the preference for predictability
    • Reduce the likelihood of anxiety and stress about what lies ahead
    • Assist with unexpected changes
    • Reduce behavior challenges
    • Offset the challenges of ASD
    • Be used in many settings
    • Facilitate transitions to more complex school, living, and vocational environments

    Some people mistakenly believe that supports need to be decreased as youth move towards the transition to adulthood and that supports mean the youth is less independent.  However, supports promote learning, generalization and independence.  The success that young people with ASD achieve in the transition from school to adult life is significantly influenced by the supports that they receive.  Therefore, teams supporting students with ASD must plan and implement the most effective supports in the high school to guarantee that students achieve a successful transition from school to a rich and satisfying adult life.

    Youth and young adults with ASD often require many of the same types of supports that they needed during the earlier years of education.  Because of their inherent difficulty with transitions and the additional demands of adult life, young adults with ASD will generally need to use supports more as they leave school. 

    In new situations, support needs are likely to intensify initially and may decrease, as the situation becomes more familiar and predictable.  Some supports will be temporary; others may be used indefinitely.

    In adult life, individuals with ASD or their representative must request the supports that they need.  To self-advocate, young people with ASD must have experience with and know what supports they need to meet their potential.  Teaching them to use and manage their own supports prior to the transition to adulthood will enable them to be more successful.  If they do not experience supports, they will not know what works for them and will be unable to advocate for the necessary supports in adulthood.

    back to top

    What supports are needed for youth and young adults with ASD?

    The autism spectrum is very broad and includes youth and young adults with a wide range of skills and needs.  However, because of the nature of ASD, most of these individuals, regardless of their cognitive level or severity of ASD, will need some type of the following:

    • Visual supports to convey instructions, meanings, routines, schedules, change and expectations.
    • Visual organization of the environment and materials to provide structure and predictability, while conveying boundaries, expectations, routines and schedules.
    • Environmental modifications and/or accommodations for sensory regulation.

    A number of supports have been designed to utilize the underlying strengths and accommodate the needs of youth and young adults with ASD.  Most of these supports are evidence-based or promising practices for children with ASD; limited research has been done with adolescents or young adults.  The following broad areas of support strategies are considered best practice and, therefore, should be considered for instruction and activities for youth with ASD.

    Visual Supports

    Visual supports are any tool presented visually that supports the individual with ASD as s/he moves through the day.  They hold information still in time for individuals with ASD so that they have access to information.  These supports include, but are not limited to graphic organizers, labels, mini-schedules, maps, organization systems, reminder cards, visual boundaries, visual cues, visual schedules, and visual scripts.  They are utilized across settings to support youth and young adults with ASD.

    Visual supports are the most universally used approach for youth and young adults with ASD to assist in all areas of challenge.  They hold information still in time so that individuals with ASD have access to the information.  These aids build on their visual processing strengths, while assisting with attention, processing and organizational challenges.  They can be put in place to assist the individual with ASD in completion of a task, transition within their day, communication, social interaction, comprehension of directions or prevention of behavioral issues.  Visual supports are helpful, regardless of how many times one is verbally given the message or asked a question, because they are in a mode most easily understood and can serve as permanent information for youth and young adults with ASD.

    More detailed information about visual supports can be found in the Visual Supports Module of the Autism Internet Modules and the Evidence Based Brief on Visual Supports at the National Professional Development Center on ASD.  Additional resources on individual types of visual supports can be found in Appendix 2A: Online Resources under Visual Supports and Appendix 2C: Glossary.

    Structure/Organizational Supports

    Structure is a purposeful, systematic arrangement of the environment from physical layout of a room to routines/sequences used.  Highly structured environments provide an opportunity for youth with ASD to succeed by increasing predictability and understanding.  Components of structure and organization include visual boundaries, visual organization of materials, and routines.  Structure/organizational supports include, but are not limited to color-coding, diagrams, jigs, finished box, first then sequence, labels, lists of materials, organizational checklists, personal digital device (PDA), positive routines, visual schedules, and work baskets.  Structure and organizational supports can be used across environments, such as home, school, work, or in the community.

    Instruction and activities must include a carefully planned environment that is predictable, organized and structured to support youth with ASD.  Structure and organization support the intense drive of individuals with ASD to find order and make sense of their world.  Predictability, structure, and routine are vital to optimal functioning of youth with ASD across present and future environments.

    Structured Teaching, sometimes referred to as TEACCH, is an evidence-based, highly systematized approach to structure.  This strategy involves a combination of approaches that rely heavily on the physical organization of a setting and predictable schedules.  For instance, the structured work system component of Structured Teaching provides information on:

    • What activities to complete
    • How many activities or how much to complete
    • How the individual will know when the work is finished
    • What will happen after the work is complete (Mesibov, Shea, & Schopler, 2005).

    Detailed information about structure/organizational supports can be found in the Structured Teaching Module and Work System and Activity Organization Module at the Autism Internet Modules, in addition to the Evidenced Based Brief on Structured Work Systems at the National Professional Development Center for ASD.  More resources for structure/organizational supports can be found in that section in Appendix 2A: Online and Other Resources, as well as in Appendix 2C: Glossary at the end of this unit.

    The widespread use of technology provides solutions to many challenges of students with ASD to manage time and organize tasks without making youth stand out.  Increasingly, apps are being developed to meet these needs.  Apps Designed with Transition in Mind provides a chart of free and low cost apps for the IPhone, IPod Touch and IPad, including a section on Organization.

    Sensory Supports

    Sensory supports are designed to help keep the sensory system of youth with ASD calm while maintaining the necessary level of arousal for an event or activity.  Learning and behavior may be enhanced by modifications of the environment related to noise, temperature, lighting, or other sensory distractions and the addition of supports, such as break cards, ear buds with soothing music, earplugs, extra breaks, hat with brim or sunglasses, natural lighting, oral sensory “tools” and other fidgets, preferential seating, seat cushions, sensory activities, and sensory diet.  Many sensory supports can be used across environments.

    Sensory differences in processing incoming sensations, such as sight, smell, sound, touch, taste, pain, and temperature, may make even routine daily experiences challenging without support.  This area of support sets the foundation for learning and is in response to the intense sensory needs and comfort requirements of youth with ASD.

    Resources for individual types of sensory supports can be found in Appendix 2A:  Online and Other Resources and Appendix 2C: Glossary.  Unit 3.4: Sensory Regulation provides more substantive information on sensory approaches.

    Preparation for Change

    Preparation for change assists youth with anxiety and the difficulty with new or different environments, activities or expectations.  It includes, but is not limited to countdown tool, people locators, priming, social narratives/Social Stories™, and visual timer.

    Preparation for change provides information and answers or gives notice that an activity is changing before it occurs so that it becomes more predictable.  Preparation for change supports the intense drive for predictability of individuals with ASD.  More in-depth information about preparation for change can be found in the Transitioning Between Activities module at the Autism Internet Modules.

    Communication Supports

    Communication supports help the individual with ASD to express himself and understand communication.  They include, but are not limited to augmentative or alternative communication system(s), choice boards, written communication (e.g.  email), allowance for delayed processing time, and concrete language.  These supports should be used across all environments consistently.

    Resources for communication supports can be found in Appendix 2A:  Online and Other Resources.  Extensive information on communication can be found in Unit 3.1: Communication.

    Social Supports

    The greatest area of difficulty for youth and young adults with ASD is usually the social realm.  Social supports help youth interact effectively with others.  They include, but are not limited to cartooning/Comic Strip Conversations, 5-Point Scale, hidden curriculum, Power Card, priming, scripts, social narratives/Social Stories™, Social Response Pyramid™, video modeling, and visual cues or reminders of rules or expectations.  Even youth who are able to use and understand language may struggle with social communication.

    Resources for social supports can be found in Appendix 2A: Online and Other Resources, as well as in Appendix 2C: Glossary at the end of this unit.  Unit 3.2:  Social Skills offers extensive information and resources about social skill development and supports.

    Behavioral supports

    Behavioral supports aid an individual in using appropriate skills while accommodating for certain behavioral difficulties.  All of the supports listed earlier are also behavioral supports, because they utilize the strengths and provide for the challenges of those with ASD.  Some particularly effective strategies for behavior include, but are not limited to choice-making, 5-Point Scale, motivators, people locators, reinforcement, and social narratives/Social Stories™.

    Of these behavioral supports, reinforcement/motivators are the only ones that should be in place for all students with ASD.  The day should be rich with reinforcers for all students.  Involving students with ASD in selecting reinforcers from a menu of choices and providing reinforcement reminders will help to maintain their effectiveness.  Start with a high rate of reinforcement for new skills and use a variable rate of reinforcement for maintenance.

    Behavior is a form of communication that can often be remedied by assessing the youth’s communicative intent and developing a Positive Behavior Support Plan.  Making environmental changes and other supports discussed in this section are important to an effective Behavior Support Plan.  Functional Behavior Assessment and Positive Behavior Support Plans are beyond the scope of this toolkit, but steps for implementation can be found in the Evidence-Based Brief on Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) from the National Professional Developmental Center on ASD.

    Additional Suggestions for Supports

    Two free online resources provide comprehensive suggestions for supports to accommodate the characteristics of ASD related to sensory, social/communication, executive function/organization, and behavioral challenges.  These include 1) Transition to Adulthood Guidelines for Individuals with ASD from the Ohio Center on Autism and Low Incidence; and 2) Strategies for Employment Settings Based on Characteristics of ASD at the Autism Internet Modules.  (Go to the module on “Preparing Individuals for Employment” then “How Characteristics of Individuals with ASD Impact Job Development and Employment”).

     back to top

    Can I use the same supports for all my students with ASD?

    Supports that provide structure, predictability, and visually convey instructions, meanings, and expectations, while also reducing anxiety are needed by most youth with ASD regardless of cognitive level and/or expressive language skills.  However, supports need to be individualized, because ASD is complex and varies greatly among youth with ASD.

    Sometimes supports developed for one student with ASD can be modified to meet the needs of other youth, if the individual differences are taken into account.  However, never assume that generic supports will suit all youth with ASD.  Educators who just use a readymade support with a student with ASD without careful consideration of his needs may very quickly discover that this approach can exacerbate a situation rather than help.

    back to top

    How do I determine what supports are needed?

    The supports will depend on the current and future needs of the youth with ASD.  Gathering information about each student with ASD is critical to the determination of needed supports, selection of supports that match the unique needs and interests of the youth, and selection of the format for supports.  This will save time and prevent frustration for both the youth with ASD and members of his transition team.  Information on the following areas provides the basis for individualized supports:

    • preferences,
    • communication skills,
    • comprehension of visual information,
      • level of representation, (e.g., object, photo, picture symbol, and/or written)
      • length of information, (e.g., first then sequence, half day, full day for schedule)
    • social skills
    • reactions to change,
    • sensory reactions, and
    • behavior challenges

    By high school educational staff already have access to a wealth of information about the youth’s preferences, interests, strengths, difficulties and functional skills from a variety of sources that will inform the need for supports.  These sources may include:

    • age appropriate transition assessment, including observations and interviews
    • triennial eligibility statement and reports,
    • present level of academic achievement and functional performance on the IEP,
    • accommodations and supplementary aides on the IEP,
    • functional behavioral assessment and a positive behavior support plan and other written documents.

    To determine needed supports, look for activities/events across environments that are unsuccessful, cause frustration/anxiety for the youth, and/or require a great deal of adult support.  Support Indicators for Youth and Young Adults with ASD contains a list of questions and types of supports answers indicate.  Answers to these and other questions will help the team to prioritize the need for different types of supports and determine the setting in which supports will be useful.

    Many supports used in the early years of school may continue to be needed, although they may be more sophisticated, subtler or less obvious.  At this point in a student’s school career, it is vital to consider supports that can be used across environments and into adult life, that are as unobtrusive as possible.

    back to top

    How do I select appropriate supports?

    In addition to the information gathered, selecting appropriate supports requires the transition team’s experience working with a specific individual with ASD, their knowledge of supports for youth with ASD, their understanding of supports that have been effective or ineffective in the past, and their awareness of present and future environments in which the individual will be using supports.  Within the team there is likely to be varying understanding of supports and experience with individuals with ASD.  Supports for Maximizing Success for Youth and Young Adults with ASD is a tool to help the student’s transition IEP team to select supports after the assessment.  In addition, this checklist can be used to:

    • Track past and present supports
    • Determine any additional supports to implement, including behavioral supports, for inclusion in the transition IEP.
    • Problem-solve and identify team members who will assist in developing and implementing the strategies they determine are needed by a student with ASD.
    • Provide receiving teachers and/or adult service staff with important information about the youth or young adult with ASD that will ensure that s/he has the supports that s/he needs to be successful.
    • Identify supports about which staff wants further information or training.

    In addition to the best type of support fro a youth with ASD, decisions about the content and format of supports need to be made.  Look for information that will inform the format of the support(s), such as level of representation.  The following table provides some important considerations when selecting supports.

      dos and donts

    back to top



    Should youth with ASD be involved in selecting and developing supports?

    Involving youth in the selection and development of their own supports provides opportunity for choice and ensures that the supports reflect preferences.  The more that youth are involved in the selection process, the more the youth will be aware of needed supports and invested in using the supports in school and in the future.

    Student involvement in selecting and developing supports is critical, because the mandated services for individuals with disabilities, end at graduation or age 22 for those who require a transition program.  In adult life individuals with ASD or their representative must request the supports that they need.  Teachers and other transition team members can play a key role in working with youth to advocate for themselves in the context of selecting, developing, and evaluating supports.

    back to top

    How will supports be developed?

    The information gathered during assessment should guide the team in determining the purpose, type, content and format of support(s) to be developed.  Supports must be created so that they are compatible not only with a youth’s needs, but also with the environment in which he is expected to perform.  This important consideration is all too often ignored.

    Sometimes an appropriate format for a particular support for a student is readily available and only needs some pieces developed.  For instance, there may already be a template for a youth who needs a half day schedule with a top to bottom format and 1” grids so that only the appropriate pictures must be developed or found and arranged.  On occasion, there are existing supports used with other students with ASD at the school that can be modified for the specific needs of a student.  Other times supports need to be developed from the beginning.

    Once decisions are made about the support(s) and what needs to be done to develop identified support(s), the team needs to decide who will develop supports.  Within the team, a particular professional or several professionals will usually have skills and experience in the development of the needed support(s).  One or several members of the educational staff may be designated to develop the necessary support(s).

    New resources have become available to make the development of supports more efficient and less time consuming.  A growing number of websites provide useful tools for developing supports, such as downloadable supports that can be adapted for specific student needs.  Appendix 2A: Online and other Resources contains descriptions and links to a variety of websites with practical tools.  Other traditional tools for developing supports, such as paper, post it notes, markers and pens, are still valuable and are readily available.

    Generally, technology such as computers, personal digital assistants, MP3 players (which may be used to listen to electronic text), IPhones, IPad Touch, IPod and electronic day planner’s may be useful tools for youth with ASD.  There are more and more apps are being designed for specifically for individuals with ASD or with transition in mind.  Links to charts for free and low cost apps for the IPhone, IPod Touch and IPad for individuals with ASD and in transition is available from the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence.

    The team should anticipate that materials might be lost or destroyed when they are transported or used by more than one staff member.  Since the supports are important to a student’s functioning and they take time to develop, more than one copy of materials should be made.  This also provides a tangible record of supports used with students.

    Teams, who need more information on how to develop specific supports, are encouraged to refer to two comprehensive websites.  Information on how to develop reinforcement, social supports for transition-aged individuals, Structured Teaching, structured work systems and activity organization, the 5-Point Scale, transitioning between activities, and visual supports can be found in the Autism Internet ModulesThe National Professional Development Center on ASD supplies step-by-step instructions and checklists for visual supports, visual schedule, visual boundary, social narratives, and more.

    back to top

    How should supports be introduced?

    Before a support can be introduced an action plan needs to be developed regarding: 1) "Where, When, and How" the student will learn to use each new support, 2) "Where, When, and How" each new support will be used and 3) “How” the effectiveness of the support will be determined.  Once the plan has been developed and supports have been put in place, supports should be introduced and taught one at a time.  Although this may temporarily take away from other instruction, it will increase the success of the youth or young adult in both present and future environments.

    Youth with ASD do not necessarily know how to use supports or understand why they are being asked to use the supports when they are first presented to them.  Therefore, part of “introducing” the supports is directly teaching how to use them with lots of reinforcement and the opportunity to practice until they are able to independently use the support structure.  The specific "Where, When, and How" the student will learn to use each new support will be based on the type and purpose of the support and the characteristics and needs of the young person.  Another aspect of “introducing” the supports is explicitly explaining the purpose and importance of each support to the youth in a manner that he can understand.

    Some youth may be motivated to use the supports because of what the supports do for them.  When the supports themselves are not motivation enough, a variety of reinforcements can be used to motivate youth to use them, whereas others may respond to adult recognition of efforts and successes.

    back to top

    How do I know if supports are “working”?

    Supports should be reviewed and evaluated frequently.  Without review and evaluation, it is hard to know what is working and what needs to be modified.  Thoughtfully designing supports minimizes the necessity for modifying the supports.  However, even carefully designed supports may need to be adjusted and should not be hastily discontinued, because “It doesn’t work”.  It is better to ask, “What will make it work?” (e.g., more familiarity with the support, more frequent opportunities to use the support with guidance, or a different format).  Deciding that a support is not effective with a student after a day, a week or two weeks is premature.  However, the need for modifications may become clear within two weeks.

    The following questions can be used to formatively evaluate the supports used by a youth or young adult with ASD:

    • What supports does he regularly use during transition services and activities?
    • How independent is he in the use of his/her supports?
    • What are the results when supports were used and not used?
    • What is his perception of how well supports "worked?"
    • What difficulties did he experience when using supports?
    • What are the perceptions of parents, teachers, and specialists about how the supports worked?
    • Should he continue to use the supports; are changes needed; or should the use of a support be discontinued?

    Adapted from OSEP Accommodations Manual.

    Some indicators that supports need to be adjusted are:

    • High frustration level
    • Failure to frequently earn reinforcers
    • Escape behaviors
    • Increased behavioral difficulties around periods of change
    • Repetitive questioning
    • Increased anxiety
    • Failure to learn
    • Increased anger and rages
    • Quitting before task is complete
    • Expressing feelings that the task is overwhelming
    • Meltdowns
    • Increased isolation

    One way to keep track of what supports work for a student with ASD is to design a “Supports Journal" for him to keep.  The journal lets him be "in charge" and could be kept up to date through regular consultation with a designated staff member.  In addition to making it easier for the IEP/transition team to decide which supports to use, it provides the student with information to be a self advocate.

    More formal data collection systems can further the team’s ability to make decisions related to the use, discontinued use, or expansion of supports for the across the day, tasks, and settings.  One example of a data collection system for visual supports is given by The National Professional Development Center.

    Over time, the level or types of support needed by a youth can change.  Often a youth needs more supports as the complexity of transition activities increase.  Sometimes a young person’s need for support will decrease in one area and grow in another area.  The need for supports may expand initially in new situations and then lessen, as the situation becomes more familiar and predictable.  Some supports will be temporary; others may be used indefinitely, but the need to evaluate supports is ongoing.

    back to top

    Appendix 2A: 

    Online and Other Resources

    • Multiple Supports
    • Behavior Supports 
    • Sensory Supports 
    • Social Supports 
    • Structure/Organizational Supports 
    • Visual Supports 
    • Online Videos 
    • Online Training 
    • Practical Books and Videos Available on Loan 
      • Books
      • Videos

    The resources listed are available at no cost online. While terminology sometimes differs from Website to Website, the basic concepts are the same. All supports are designed to either, support youth and young adults with ASD, or can be adapted for the individual need of the student. Some websites are listed in several sections because of their relevance to more than one area.

    Multiple Supports

    Adult Autism & Employment, (2009), S. Standifer, Disability Policy and Studies, School of Health Professionals. This includes a brief description of Structured Teaching, Social Stories™, Comic Strip Conversations and Scripts in the section entitled Common Treatments, Medications and Side Effects. An excellent list of possible accommodations is listed on page 41. 

    Apps Designed with Transition in Mind - Link to this chart, which provides a variety of free and low cost apps for iPhone, IPhone Touch and IPad, is on this page.

    Comprehensive Autism Planning System - These handouts on CAPS provide information on reinforcement, sensory, strategies, social skills/communication, data collection and generalization.

    Comprehensive Autism Planning System (CAPS) Matrix - The Comprehensive Planning System (CAPS) provides an overview of a student’s daily schedule by time and activity, as well as by the supports that the student needs during each period. 

    Evidence-Based Practice and Autism in the Schools, National Center on Autism. This downloadable manual contains good descriptions of a number of supports in Chapter 2, including antecedent and behavioral packages, video modeling and schedules. 

    Life Journey Through Autism: An Educator's Guide to Asperger Syndrome, The Organization for Autism Research (OAR). This guide describes different types of supports in the Appendices. Appendix 2A covers sensory needs and supports. Appendix 2B describes academic and environmental supports, such as priming, classroom assignment accommodations, visual supports, home base, choice making, handwriting modifications, incorporation of special interests, and homework considerations. In Appendix D, social supports are discussed, including: direct instruction, social narratives, cartooning, power card strategy, and incredible 5-point scale. For the most part, these approaches are also effective for students with classic autism.

    A Spectrum of Apps for Students on the Autism Spectrum - This chart provides a variety of free and low cost apps for iPhone, IPhone Touch and IPad.

    Transition to Adulthood Guidelines for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) - Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI). These manuals provide information and resources that address the specific challenges individuals with ASD face throughout the transition process. 

    Behavior Supports

    Behavior and Vocational Supports for Transition Age Youth and Young Adults with Complex Needs, C. Filler, Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. This PowerPoint presentation addresses behavioral and vocational supports for youth and young adults with severe needs.

    BoardMaker Online - This site with many visuals created with BoardMaker contains a group for behavior supports.

    Do2 Learn Teacher Toolbox - Do2 Learn offers a variety of downloadable forms for positive behavior support. 

    Functional Behavioral Assessment, OSEP Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice. In addition to information on functional behavior assessment, this site has a section on creating positive behavior support intervention plans and supports.

    National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, U.S. Department of Education. This site focuses on identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide behavior supports. Each topic of the PBIS.org content includes related tools, training sources and other resources.

    Practical Autism Resources - Practical Autism Resources provides more than 100 pages of free printable items. The stress thermometer under Behavior Supports is particularly useful.

    Sensory Supports

    E-learning - E-learning provides a variety of printable visual supports, including relaxation. Some are accompanied with a tip sheet on how to use the visual support.

    Practical Autism Resources - Practical Autism Resources provides more than 100 pages of free printable items. The stress thermometer and how does your engine run speedometer under Behavior Supports are particularly useful.

    Sensory Diet Activities - What is a sensory diet and what are the ingredients.

    A Spectrum of Apps for Students on the Autism Spectrum - This chart provides a variety of free and low cost apps for iPhone, IPhone Touch and IPad with a section on Sensory. 

    Social Supports

    Autism4Teachers.com - Autism4Teachers.com is an autism support website that provides examples and resources for social supports amongst others. Although most of the materials are geared to younger children, the ideas can be modified for use with adolescents. In the social skills area look at the Social Stories™ and additional resources.

    Do2 Learn Social Skills Toolbox - Do2 Learn offers a variety of downloadable visual social supports.

    E-learning - E-learning provides a variety of printable visual social supports, including volume meter, schedules, choice boards and the Circle Program.  

    ReadWriteThink - ReadWriteThink provides a free comic creator that can be used for making comic strips for social situations.

    Social Skills Visual Supports, Autism Internet Modules - Their PowerPoint presentation provides some examples of social and visuals supports from Picture SET for the work place in the Preparing Individuals for Employment module; select the topic, “On the Job Strategies for Individuals with ASD”; then select “Social and Communication Strategies”.

    Social Stories™, Thinking Stories and Social Response Pyramid™Carol Gray Social Stories. This is the website of Carol Gray, developer of Social Stories ™, Thinking Stories, Comic Strip Conversations and other strategies for social assistance. The site provides numerous examples, some information on “how to” develop and a list of resources.

    Social Narratives - This is an online module on how to write Social Narratives.

    ToonDoo - This is a cartoon strip creator with many completed cartoon strips. 

    Video Futures Project - University of Alaska Anchorage. Video Futures Project provides useful information on video self modeling as a positive behavior support for transitions, job interviews, speech intelligibility, reducing anxiety, activities of daily living such as mobility and dressing, anger management, and dating behavior. The what, when, why and types of video self modeling are well described.

    The Watson Institute - The Watson Institute offers printable social narratives called “behavior stories”. Some are geared specifically for adolescents. You can right click to save the ones you like and customize them to meet the needs of your high school students.

    Structure/Organizational Supports

    Apps Designed with Transition in Mind - Link to this chart, which provides a variety of free and low cost apps for iPhone, IPhone Touch and IPad and includes a section on Organization, is on this page.

    Autism4Teachers.com - This website provides examples and resources for TEACCH amongst others. 

    Do2 Learn - Do2 Learn offers a variety of downloadable forms for schedules. 

    TEACCH - The TEACCH website provides descriptions of key supports for individuals with ASD. 

    Visual Supports 

    Autism4Teachers.com - This website provides excellent examples and resources for visual supports amongst others. Although most of the materials are geared to younger children, the ideas can be modified for use with adolescents.

    BoardMaker Online - Boardmaker Online is a community for finding thousands of visual activities on hundreds of topics. This searchable database grows as community members share visual activities.

    Countdown Timer - This countdown timer visually let students see how much time they have to finish their work. 

    Do2 Learn - Do2 Learn offers a variety of downloadable visual supports.

    E-learning - E-learning provides a variety of printable visual supports, including volume meter, relaxation, schedules, choice boards and the Circle Program. Some are accompanied with a tip sheet on how to use the visual supports.

    Imagine Symbols - Imagine Symbols offers 4000 free realistic symbols are available for download for non-commercial use. Import these into your clip art folder for easy access. 

    Pics4Learning - Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library of thousands of photographs for teachers and students.

    Picture SET - Picture SET is a collection of downloadable visual supports that can be used by students. This searchable database provides a wide range of useful visual supports for different curriculum areas, activities, and events.

    Practical Autism Resources - Practical Autism Resources provides more than 100 pages of free printable items. 

    Use Visual Strategies for Autism, L. Hodgdon. This site offers free printable picture cards, visual strategies information and articles.

    Visual Aids for Learning - Visual Aids for Learning provides free visuals to help you explain the changes students are going through as adolescents and how to respond to these changes in an appropriate way.

    Online Videos

    Children with Autism: Learning How to Learn - This video on shoebox tasks depicts a variety of tasks for children with ASD and explains their use. Although the materials are for younger children, it provides the concepts for the development of shoebox tasks at any age. More age appropriate tasks for youth and young adults can be developed using these concepts. (10 min) 

    MIND Institute at UC Davis Distinguished Lecturer Series - MIND Institute at UC Davis Distinguished Lecturer Series offers free webinars of past lectures. Of particular interest is one by Temple Grandin on 2/14/2007, Exploring the Mind of the Visual Thinker.

    ShoeboxTasks: Vocational Workshop for Adults w/Autism Part II - This video depicts the use of shoebox tasks and work systems for youth and young adults with ASD. (10 min)

    ShoeboxTasks: Vocational Workshop for Adults w/Autism Part III  - This video shows different templates for use of adults with ASD with different needs. (10 min) 

    Visual Supports/Visual Schedules, Autism Internet Modules - This is a short video on the use of visuals, such as schedules for transition and work completion. (see Visual Supports module; select the topic, “Defining Visual Schedules”; select the sub-topics, “Individual Schedules” and “Schedules in the Home, Work or Community Environment”; select the topic “Visual Supports Across the Curriculum”) 

    Using Visuals to Teach Autistic Students - This video depicts a variety of visuals supports. Although most are shown with younger children, the concepts are appropriate for youth and young adults with ASD. (3 min)

    Writing Lessons: How to Write a Social Story - This is a short introductory video on how to write a social story. (3 min)

    Online Training

    Autism Internet Modules - All online modules are free. Each module contains Introduction, Pre-and Post Assessment, Overview, Module Objectives, Definition(s), Developing, Summary Evidence Base, Frequently Asked Questions, References, Step-by-Step Instructions, Implementation Checklists, Documents, Discussion Questions and Activities. Some current modules related to supports include: Reinforcement, Social Supports for Transition-Aged Individuals, Structured Teaching, Structured Work Systems and Activity Organization, The Incredible 5-Point Scale, Transitioning Between Activities and Visual Supports. To log on first create a free user account.  

    Evidence-Based Best Practice Briefs, National Professional Development Center on ASD. These briefs include a number evidence-based supports, such as Reinforcement, Social Narratives, Structured Work Systems, and Visual Supports. Most contain: Brief, Overview, Evidence Base Steps, Checklist, and Data collection form. PDF files for the EBP brief and the individual components are downloadable.

    Instructional Strategies and Learning Environments, (2008) G. A. Williams & J. Neitzel in A. W. Cox, D. Hatton, G. A. Williams, & R. E. Pretzel (Eds.), Foundations of autism spectrum disorders: An online course (Session 6). Chapel Hill, NC: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, FPG Child Development Institute, The University of North Carolina. This online module provides foundational information, including a description and example of important support strategies. The content material can be downloaded as narrative readings and/or PowerPoint presentations with notes.

    Practical Books and Videos Available on Loan

    Many libraries, including the ones below, have books and videos on supports for youth with ASD to loan.

    Multnomah County Library (MCL)

    Reference Line: 503.988.5234

    Clackamas County Libraries (CCL)

    Library Information Network: 503.723.4888

    Interlibrary Loan (IL)

    Please ask you local library.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder Statewide Library (ODE)

    Oregon Department of Education (ODE)

    The resources are available to checkout to Oregon residents.

    For information on checkout contact

    Meagan Head at 503.588.5330

    SRC: Jean Baton Swindells Resource Center for Children and Families

    The resources are available to family and caregivers of Oregon and Southwest Washington.


    Below is a list of books and videos on supports for youth with ASD that can be borrowed from the sources indicated. Check with your library for additional titles.


    books table


    video table  

    back to top



    Appendix 2B

    Checklists for Support Needs

    supports supports supports


    supports supports




    Appendix 2C 

    Glossary of Terms


    Accommodation. Something needed or suited; adaptation. Tools and procedures that provide equal access to instruction and assessment for students with disabilities.

    Augmentative Communication. Any approach designed to support, enhance, or supplement the communication of individuals who are not independent verbal communicators in all situations.

    Break card. A small card with pictorial and/or written information that can discreetly be given to the youth when s/he is beginning to escalate.

    Cartooning. The use of simple cartoon figures and other symbols, such as conversation and thought bubbles, in a comic strip-like format that is drawn to explain what people think, as well as what they say. An educator can draw a social situation to facilitate understanding or a student, assisted by an adult, can create his or her own illustrations of a social experience.

    Choice-making. A strategy that can reduce problem behaviors, increase motivation and develop personal freedom.  

    Color-Coding. Use of color to organize the environment or specific tasks. More under Visual Supports module; select “Visual Supports Across the Curriculum” at AIM Modules.

    Comic Strip Conversation. A conversation between two or more people, which incorporates the use of simple drawings. These drawings serve to illustrate an on-going communication, providing additional support to individuals who struggle to comprehend the quick exchange of information, which occurs in a conversation.

    Countdown tool. A numbered or colored object used to count down the remaining items to be completed to finish an activity. A visual countdown allows an individual to "see" how much time remains in an activity, but no specific time increment is used. This tool is beneficial if the timing of the transition needs to be flexible. More at AIM Modules (see Transitioning Between Activities module; select “What are the Specific Transition Strategies and how do I implement them?”; then select “Visual Strategies”).

    Environmental factors. Aspects of the individual’s experiences or surroundings such as noise, temperature, sleep schedules, light, etc.

    Environmental accommodations. Accommodations to the environment that will decrease the probability of a behavior occurring. For example, a teacher could dim the lights in a class if it is too bright for a learner with ASD.

    Evidence-based practices. Practices supported through research in peer-reviewed journals. There is presently limited agreement on the type and number of research articles needed to become an evidenced practice.

    Fidgets. Objects that can be squeezed or manipulated to assist with sensory regulation, such as a koosh ball.

    Finished box. A box, or specified place for the individual to place completed work jobs or tasks. More at AIM Modules (see Transitioning Between Activities module; select “What are the Specific Transition Strategies and how do I implement them?” Then select “Visual Strategies”).

    First then sequence. A visual sequence with an initial task, usually a less preferred, or non-preferred task is specified, and then, following completion of that task, usually a preferred task is presented for completion.

    5-Point Scale. A visual representation of social behaviors, emotions, and abstract ideas on a scale that breaks social and emotional concepts into 5 parts. More at AIM Modules (see The Incredible 5-Point Scale module). (see An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome Appendix D, p. 59).

    Functional behavior assessment (FBA). A systematic set of strategies that is used to determine the underlying function or purpose of a behavior, so that an effective intervention plan can be developed. FBA consists of describing the interfering or problem behavior, identifying antecedent or consequent events that control the behavior, developing a hypothesis of the behavior, and testing the hypothesis. More at AFIRM Module/FBA.

    Generalization. An individual's response in other settings and with other persons other than those that were present during the initial learning. That is, the learned behaviors are demonstrated in untrained settings.

    Graphic organizer. An instructional tool used to illustrate content information. Some examples are outlines, timelines, tables, charts, webs, lists, and pictorial representations.

    Hidden curriculum. The rules that we all know but were never taught. 

    Jigs. A picture or line drawing which shows the layout of specific materials in their correct combination or sequence necessary for the completion of a task. More at Behavior and Vocational Supports for Transition Age Youth and Young Adults with Complex Needs.

    Labels. A visual tool that can help organize the environment for the child with ASD. More at AIM Modules (see Visual Supports module).

    Mini-Schedule. A task list that communicates a series of activities or steps required to complete a specific activity. Mini-schedules can take several forms including written words, pictures or photographs, or workstations.

    Motivating factors. May include offering choices during activities and across the day, incorporating preferred materials into activities, allowing learners with ASD to engage in a preferred activity when completing an activity, tangible objects, breaks, or tokens.

    Natural Supports. Refers to the use of person, practices, and things that naturally occur in the environment to meet the support needs of the individual.

    People locators. A visual tool that provides children with ASD information about where the people in their life currently are in a format that is more easily processed by the youth or young adult. It can help reduce the anxiety and preoccupation some ASD youth feel when favorite people in their lives are not around. 

    Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). A small computer that incorporates a calendar, task list, and date book. These visual devices can help depict daily schedules and tasks and remind the user of important events through the use of audible and visual alarms.

    Positive behavioral support (PBS). A specific method of using non-aversive interventions to address behavioral problems. The functions of a problem behavior are identified and behaviors are replaced with functionally equivalent prosocial skills.

    Positive reinforcement. The presentation of a reinforcer that maintains or increases a desirable behavior: it should result in the behavior getting stronger and the person getting reward for his behavior. More at AFIRM Module/Reinforcement and AIM Modules (see Reinforcement module).

    Positive routines. Routines that support what should happen in a task, transition, etc. More at AIM Modules (see Structured Teaching module; select “Specific Components of Structured Teaching”).

    The Power Card Strategy. A visual aid that uses a student’s special interest to help that individual understand social situations, routines, the meaning of language, and the hidden curriculum in social interactions. This intervention contains two components: a script and the Power Card. More at An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome, Appendix D, p. 58.

    Premack. A person will perform a less desirable activity to get to a more desirable activity.

    Priming. A procedure that allows individuals to preview an activity or event before it occurs so that it becomes more predictable. During priming, the student will preview the materials that will be used in an activity, such as a worksheet, outline for a project, or schedule of events that will occur. More at AIM Modules (see Transitioning Between Activities module) and (see An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome, Appendix D, p. 58).

    Reinforcement. An item, activity, or event that immediately follows a particular behavior, resulting in an increased likelihood that a behavior will recur in the future. Reinforcement is not effective without meaningful reinforcers delivered in a systematic manner. More at AIM Modules (see Reinforcement module) and AFIRM Modules/Reinforcement.

    Reinforcer. Anything that follows a behavior and increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur.

    Reminder cards. Visual tools used to assist students with daily activities. They are simply a visual cue placed on paper, index cards, or other media, which are easily accessible for the student.

    Scripts. Written sentences or paragraphs or videotape of phrases and sentences that individuals with ASD can say in a given circumstance and can memorize or carry with him/her. Scripts are used for youth and young adults with ASD who have difficulty generating novel language, particularly when under stressed, but have excellent rote memories. Age-appropriate slang and jargon appropriate to a situation should be included in scripts.

    Self-Management. A strategy to help individuals learn to independently regulate their behaviors and act appropriately in a variety of home-, school-, and community-based situations. More at AIM Modules (see Self-Management module) and Self-Management EBP Brief.

    Sensory Activities. Planned and well thought out interventions that satisfies one's visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, olfactory, vestibular, and/or proprioceptive needs.

    Sensory diet. Planned and scheduled sensory-based activities selected to address specific needs of individual at various intervals throughout the day. 

    Social narratives. Describe social situations in some detail by highlighting relevant cues and offering examples of appropriate responding. Social narratives are individualized according to learner needs. They are typically are quite short and may include pictures or other visual aides. More at AFIRM Modules/Social Narratices.

    Social Response Pyramid™. A visual representation of social understanding and social effectiveness to increase the effectiveness of responses. 

    Social Stories™. Describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The description may include where and why the situation occurs, how others feel or react, or what prompts their feelings and reactions. Within this framework, Social Stories™ are individualized to specific situations, and to individuals of varying abilities and lifestyles. Social Stories may exclusively be written documents, or they may be paired with pictures, audiotapes, or videotapes. 

    Structure. A purposeful, systematic arrangement of the environment from physical layout of a room to routines used.

    Structured Teaching. A visually based approach to creating highly structured environments for individuals with ASD. This strategy involves a combination of procedures that rely heavily on the physical organization of a setting and predictable schedules. Structured teaching can be used across environments, such as home, school, or work. More at AIM Modules (see Structured Teaching module).

    Structured Work System. Visually structured sequences that provide that clearly communicate four important pieces of information:

    1. What activities to complete
    2. How many activities to complete
    3. How the individual will know when the work is finished
    4. What will happen after the work is complete (Mesibov et al., 2005).

    More at AIM Modules (see Structured Work Systems and Activity Organization module).

    Supplementary aids and services. Supplementary aids and services means aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate in accordance with Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements, Continuum of alternative placements, and Placements. (§§ 300.114 through 300.116). (From the Federal Registry, § 300.42)

    Technology-based Treatment. The presentation of instructional materials using the medium of computers or related technologies. Examples include but are not restricted to Alpha Program, Delta Messages, the Emotion Trainer Computer Program, pager, robot, or a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). The theories behind Technology-based Treatments may vary but they are unique in their use of technology.

    Time timer. Displays a section of red indicating the allotted time. The red section disappears as the allotted time runs out. 

    Transition strategies. Techniques used to support individuals with ASD during changes in or disruptions to activities, settings, or routines. The techniques can be used before a transition occurs, during a transition, and/or after a transition, and can be presented verbally, auditorily, or visually. The strategies attempt to increase predictability for individuals on the autism spectrum and to create positive routines around transitions. Transition strategies may include, but are not limited to, visual supports, timers, bells, video priming, Social Stories™, and high probability requests. They are utilized across settings to support individuals with ASD. AIM Modules  (see Transitioning Between Activities module)

    Verbal advanced warning. A warning provided to the individual as an auditory cue alerting them to an upcoming change or transition. This can be delivered at a certain time (e.g., 5 minutes prior to the completion of the activity or the time to transition). AIM Modules  (see Transitioning Between Activities module)

    Video priming. Videotaped instruction used to prepare individuals for upcoming transitions. AIM Modules (see Transitioning Between Activities module)

    Visual boundary. Visually defines a section of the room, providing visual organization for the youth or young adult with ASD. A visual boundary can be created through a variety of means including furniture arrangement, labels, and color-coding. (see AFIRM Visual Supports module).

    Visual cue. A visual cue is a picture, graphic representation, or written word used to prompt a student regarding a rule, routine, task, or social response.

    Visual representation. A model that shows a likeness of something.

    Visual Schedule. A series of symbols, words, pictures, photographs, icons, and/or actual objects that show the student what he needs to do and in what order it is to be done in a clear, structured sequence. The mode of the schedule is determined by the needs of the individual with ASD. (see AFIRM Visual Supports module).

    Visual supports. Any tool presented visually that supports the individual as s/he moves through the day. Visual supports might include, but are not limited to visual boundaries, schedules, maps, labels, organization systems, timelines, people locators, Social Stories™, reminder cards and scripts. They are utilized across settings to support individuals with ASD. The terms visual strategies and visual tools are used synonymously. (see AFIRM Visual Supports module).

    Visual Timer. Presents information related to time visually to "see" how much time remains in an activity before a transition to a new location or event.

    Workbaskets. A system for organizing materials into easily identifiable groups according to their use. The materials for each task are kept in one location, requiring the individual to follow one established process for collecting materials needed for an assigned task.


     back to top


    Next: Unit 3 The Expanded Core Curriculum

    ASD Toolkit References

    Back to Index

    Copyright © 2016 Columbia Regional Program