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Instructor Tip Three: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Students on the autism spectrum often have receptive language difficulties that include slower processing of verbal exchanges, they may misunderstand sarcasm, idioms and jokes, have very literal interpretation of words, and they may misunderstand gestures and body language.

The expressive language  difficulties of individuals on the spectrum may include problems starting communication. Some students on the autism spectrum may seem very articulate and/or very talkative; however, they may have trouble staying on topic, turn taking and following conversational “protocol”. Some may be slower to organize thoughts and speak, and/or their voice tone and volume may be unusual; sometimes more mechanical in nature. Idiosyncratic use of words and phrases may be present.

It may be helpful for instructors to allow for more lengthy verbal exchanges, or to have important communication be conducted in written form. Instructors should be clear, concrete, and logical when communicating with students on the autism spectrum. Be sure to ask for understanding; that is, perhaps have the student summarize the important information. It’s important that instructors have patience when engaging in a conversation with student on the autism spectrum, and gently guide the students when they stray off-topic back on-topic.

For more information, please contact us at klass@utk.edu or 865-974-6177.

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