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Help Kids With Autism Plan, Not Just Execute

In our efforts to support them, sometimes we over-prompt clients with autism spectrum disorder. Here’s how we get them to practice skills, in addition to carrying them out.

Think about when you were learning to ride a bike. You’ve graduated from your training wheels, and you’re ready to try this thing. “Don’t worry,” your dad reassures you. “I’m going to be holding on to the back of the seat. I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.” Eventually you’re riding so straight and smooth that it’s time for Dad to let go. And you’re off!

How did you learn to ride that bike in the first place? Was that the first day you got on the bike? Certainly not. You worked on that for months, maybe years. There are so many steps involved—maybe a tricycle first, then a two-wheeler with training wheels, then your dad holding on to the back of the seat, and finally riding on your own.

What would happen if your dad tried to teach you how to ride a bike by putting you on it and giving it a shove? You would fall, no doubt, because you hadn’t yet developed the necessary skills to ride independently.

So why do we sometimes assume that’s how kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn language and how to navigate social situations?

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