Unit II: Pre-Academic & Academic Skills

1. Reading: whole word reading, phonetics, picture reading, vocabulary building, sentences; Comprehension, drawing inferences, grammar,

2. Spelling and writing- copying, fill in blanks, dictation

3. Math: number value, basic math calculation – addition, subtraction, multiplication division, place value, problem solving

4. Environmental awareness – Teaching concepts related to social and science, (writing letters, shopping).

5. Computation: time, money, measurement.


1. Reading: whole word reading, phonetics, picture reading, vocabulary building, sentences; Comprehension, drawing inferences, grammar

Functional reading is defined as a student’s actions or responses resulting from reading the printed word.
The primary goal is the development of their ability to read for protection – sign boards, labels, directions and so on (concept of survival).
The second goal is teaching them reading for information and instruction – newspaper, telephone book, job application and so on.
The third goal is giving training in reading for pleasure – magazines, comics, story books.

Teaching Reading
Various approaches have been used by professionals in teaching reading to children with ASD. Among them whole word approach is extensively used.

Whole word approach (sight word/paired reading)
Whole word approach is a widely used method in teaching functional reading. Through the whole word approach, the students learn to recognize and read words and later receive decoding instructions (to spell). A variety of strategies have been used in teaching sight word vocabulary. Recent attention has been focused on the imagery level of the word to be learnt. High imagery words are usually concrete and include nouns such as ball, mango, fan and house. Low imagery words include abstract terms such as beautiful, good and have. In some instances, high imagery can be provided for low imagery words by using the word in context. For example, consider the word “sour”, “I ate mango. It is sour”, becomes more concrete and students can remember better. Pairing of words with concrete objects and/or pictures will facilitate development of a high imagery level in the students. Here, the concrete word `mango’ helps in learning the abstract word `sour’. Following are the steps to be followed while using whole word approach. When we are teaching any concept to children, we follow three steps – matching/grouping, identification and naming.

Matching/grouping of words

      chair). Later introduce words with some similarity in
      sound (banana, ball).

  • Start with pairing activity using pictures with words.
    First have two pictures with their names written for
    pairing and increase the number as the student shows progress.

·      As the student masters the above steps, have picture and word in one card, only word card without pictures in the other for pairing.

Identification of words

Reading words

Another point we should keep in mind is that teaching reading and writing of words simultaneously helps in decoding of the words. When children learn few words, you can teach children to make phrases, and sentences.

Error analysis in generalization

The sustained ability for generalization does not just lie in analysis of success achieved, but also in that of the errors committed. When a student performs consistently a certain task after structured training, he is exposed to a non-trained condition, which will have certain similarities to the trained conditions. When the learnt response is performed in a non-trained condition, errors may occur. The teacher should be sensitive to the factors that contribute to the occurrence of the error and the ways in which they can be prevented. For example, we teach `3’ and help the child to discriminate `3’ from 5, 7, 13, 30, 53 and so on. The student understands that when the symbol ‘3’ appears all by itself, only then it is called ‘3’. On a clock dial, when the child is asked to identify 1, he is right when he shows 1 after 12 but not at 10, 11 and 12 as the latter have accompanying numbers with them. This approach would limit to prevent errors from occurring right in the beginning during the acquisition stage itself, thereby making generalization easier. This helps in differentiating similar looking words and similar sounding words.
Teacher should

2. Spelling and writing- copying, fill in blanks, dictation

One of the important modes of communication is written expression. Writing demands eye hand coordination, motor coordination, sense of direction and recognition of symbols pictures/letters/numbers/words/ punctuation and so on). Some writing tasks demand horizontal writing (left to write as in writing words) and some demand vertical writing as in arithmetic (addition, subtraction) and some demand a combination of both as in statement sums.

Teaching Writing
Teaching writing involves four stages. They are:

1.     Tracing

2.     Joint dots (if needed)

3.     Copying

4.     writing from memory (including learning spelling).

To write sight words, students have to go through six steps using auditory, visual, tactile and
kinesthetic inputs. For example:

(a) Teacher says the word and student repeats it (auditory). 
      Eg: Horse                                    
(b) The meaning of the word is discussed and taught (auditory).

Horse is an animal.
Horse has four legs.
Horse riding is fun.

(c) The words configuration is drawn (visual).          
(d) The actual word is traced (visual/kinesthetic).
(e) The student says the sound of each letter while tracing it (visual, auditory and kinesthetic).

(f) After tracing, usually the next step to follow is copying. If the child is incapable of doing it, dotted line letters can be given to join dots.
(g) When the child consistently copies errorlessly, writing from memory can be the next step. At this stage, prompts can be in the form of fill in the blank and jumbled letters.
(h) Later, the student tries to visualize the word and write it in the air (kinesthetic),saying simultaneously.

Teaching Spelling

To write the words from memory students should learn spelling. Following are some tips.

In this manner, you can teach them to read a number of words, phrases, and sentences. In the process of reading and writing the words, the students also learn individual letters.


3. Math: number value, basic math calculation – addition, subtraction, multiplication division, place value, problem solving

We are in daily contact with situations which require the use of number skills. For example, when we buy half a dozen bananas from the fruit vendor we glance at the bunch to check whether it contains six bananas or not. We use number skills in various settings such as at home, in community and at work place - how many plates to place on the table, which bus number to take to reach work place, how much is the bus fare, how long it takes to reach office and so on.

Strategies for arithmetic instruction

Before beginning with numbers, make sure, the child is aware of pre-math concepts such as more-less, far-near, heavy-light, tall-short-long and so on.

The following are the points to be considered while planning and teaching arithmetic skills.
(a) The content should be arranged in a sequential order for which the task analytic approach is applied.
(b) Concrete materials should be used while teaching to provide meaning for the concepts.
(c) The selection of materials should be such that they can be used meaningfully both inside and outside the school environment.
(d) The programme should be structured in such a way that there is a gradual transition in teachingconcepts moving from concrete to semi-concrete and abstract levels.
(e) Instruction must be practical and functional with special emphasis given to a social and vocational orientation.
(f) Sufficient practice should be given to deal with the concepts in variety of ways to ensure understanding.
(g) Additional opportunities should be provided to generalize the skill to a variety of experiences to note similarities and to establish associations and relations among their experiences.
(h) Practical experiences and situations should be provided for the application of numerical skills. However, care should be taken in planning the application of number skills to the real life experiences that they should have relevance to the world in terms of the individual child’s needs.
(i) A programme must be flexible enough to meet the individual needs of students.

Teaching number concepts
Prior to the teaching of number concepts, we need to understand the level of mathematical conceptual development in children. For this, Piaget’s developmental theory provides approaches to understanding student’s mathematical performance. According to this theory the student requires to understand the basic concepts such as classification before he proceeds to learn counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Classification is the process which involves grouping of objects based on the defined characteristics that is likeness and differences. The ability to group objects according to common characteristics should be acquired in the process of developing the concept of number. To understand this initial skill the students may take a long time. Some of the strategies are given below for planning the instruction:

(a) provide as many opportunities as possible to students to classify and sort out the concrete
    objects (for example, household things, vegetables, fruits, clothes, etc.)

(b) To begin with, objects with obvious differences should be presented for classification (for
     example, spoon, ball, apple, banana, onion, chilli). Gradually the variety and the number of
     objects may be increased.

(c) As the student progresses pictures are to be introduced to replace real objects.

(See SESM-2 Block-2 Units 1 & 2)

Ordering means putting objects in a series according to the      size or the number. This is another major concept children with ASD should  understand in order to grasp the idea of number (different sizes of spoons, plates, utensils, nesting cups).

Ordering by Number
Ordering of objects by number may be introduced when  students begin to see the differences in numbers. Once the students perceive the difference  between two sets, more sets may be introduced and should be arranged in order. If the students do not see the difference, ask them to line up objects side by side to see which one  has more. Later picture cards may be introduced for ordering numbers.

One-to-one correspondence

One-to-one  correspondence is the basis for counting with comprehension. It refers to the student’s ability to relate a unit in one group or set to a unit in another group or set, regardless of the possible dissimilarity in the characteristics of groups. Correspondence is vital for the subsequent teaching and learning of addition and subtraction.

Teaching this concept can be initiated first by introducing two sets of three-dimensional objects, each of which contains the same number of objects. Then the student will be asked to match an object in one set with an object in another set. Gradually the number of objects in the set may be increased with variation in terms of shape, size and colour.

Practical activities such as setting the table for the class or for the family, playing a game of musical chairs and so on, can be planned for teaching the concept. After having considerable experience with concrete objects, you can introduce worksheets for teaching.

Strategies for teaching pre-computational skills

While teaching counting, you may ask students to count familiar objects within their immediate classroom environment such as number of tables, chairs, windows, doors, books, etc. During lunch break, ask students to count their classmates for placing plates, glasses, and spoons for eating food.

Cardinal and ordinal numbers
Cardinal number answers the question “How Many”. Whereas the ordinal number indicates the position. Make children to stand in a row. Ask who is standing in the first/second/fourth position (ordinal). Also ash how many of them are standing in a row (cardinal). Teachers can plan many more activities in the classroom and outside to teach the concept.

Writing number symbols
The techniques employed in any symbol-writing task may be used in teaching students to write the numerical symbols, that is, tracing, copying and reproducing from memory. Rough textured numerical symbols, for example, sand paper symbols provide good tracing device.

Teaching numerals above 10
While teaching the numerals above 10, tell the students that the ending on twenty, thirty, forty and so on equates 2 or 3 or 4 groups of 10s. While teaching the numbers above ten, first make students to count the blocks upto ten as a group and continue through the other numbers.

For example, twelve.

The workbooks and text books for children from kindergarten to second or third grade will be of use to teachers in planning arithmetic activities. However, the teachers may need to revise the activities and workbooks to suit the needs of children with ASD. You may refer the ones developed for children with ASD by NIMH (Functional Numeracy Series (1998), Software packages (1997).

Teaching addition and subtraction

Piaget points out that addition is the basic operation upon which all other computational operations are constructed. Therefore, it is important that you plan out instruction for the clear understanding of the concept of addition. The activities in the initial stage of teaching should be very concrete. Before the symbols of plus (+) or equal to (=) are introduced, the concept has to be developed using familiar objects and situations. For example, if we have 4 books and 3 pens (concrete objects) how many objects do we have? If we have 3 green pencils and 2 red pencils how many pencils do we have?

To introduce the plus sign make a three-inch by three inch flash card with (+) symbol and one with (=) symbol. The plus sign is then introduced between the two groups. As the students understand that the plus (+) sign means putting together the two groups, the word plus is introduced. Also transition should take place from the less precise verbal statement “two apples and three apples make five apples’ to precise “two plus three equals five”.

In the first stage of simple addition, write equations in a horizontal array instead of in vertical arrangement. This will reinforce not only the left to right progression necessary in reading but also aids in using concrete objects and pictures in the arithmetic activities. An arrow could be drawn below each equation to aid the students to know where to start

3 + 4 = 7

Gradually the transition from writing equations from horizontal to vertical array should be done before teaching sums.

                                           + 4

Some children may learn only horizontal/vertical. It is alright, as long as they learn addition.

After having many experiences in combining sets upto nine, the use of zero in addition may be introduced. The concept of zero can be introduced by indicating that it represents an empty set of group. Since there is nothing in the group to add to the other set. The total remains same.

Subtraction is the opposite of addition. The procedures described in teaching simple addition can be used in teaching simple subtraction. The concept of groups should be used in the beginning of teaching subtraction. Instruction should proceed from total use of concrete objects to abstract forms as described under simple addition. Verbal statements will help to emphasize the process at all stages. Before introducing the terms `minus’, the terms `take away’ and `left over/balance’ should be used when the children are engaged in subtraction activities. The use of zero in simple subtraction should emerge in the same relative sequence as it did in addition. Constant focus on the use of the groups and the concept of any empty set will help the notion of zero to develop.


It is also important that the students understand when the process of addition or subtraction is to be used. For this, early experiences in addition and subtraction should be combined with activities which will help the students develop a firm understanding of number.

Teaching carryover and borrowing sums
Students should have the understanding of place value if they have to do two and three digit place addition and subtraction and particularly when it involves carrying over and borrowing. For teaching this concept, the teacher can use the place value box. This is a small plywood box with three equal sided compartments into which sticks are inserted. The compartments are appropriately named “ones”, “tens”, and “hundreds”. In the introductory stages the activities should focus on experiences with manipulating objects.

The next stage in teaching place value is carry over of the earlier instruction involving combinations and grouping. At this point, the students must understand that whenever the “ones” compartment reaches ten, the group of object is to be bound together (with a rubber band) and place in the tens compartment.

Further the youngsters with ASD may continue to need concrete objects even when they reach secondary school level. If students require such devices, they should be allowed to use them. As the students learn to do simple carry over sums, teacher can introduce addition which requires the carry over of two digit numbers and eventually introduce hundreds column. Students can also be encouraged to use the calculator for minimum operations for arithmetic calculations.

The fundamental principles used in teaching borrowing are same as those used in carrying over. Hence, these two operations should be taught in close continuity. Place value box can be used for teaching borrowing. Make the student understand that borrowing involves breaking down of tens into ones and relocating them in the ones compartments.

Moreover, opportunities should be provided to employ the skills in practical situation. Montessori material designed for teaching place value, carryover and borrowing can also be used in teaching the concepts.

Teaching multiplication and division
Many children with ASD do not reach this level. However, never give up without trying. Multiplication is a short cut for addition and division is a short cut for performing successive subtraction. The students who show certain potential to learn simple multiplication may be introduced to the process by first adding three numbers example, 2 + 2 + 2 = 6. The next step is to make students regroup as 3 twos or two times three to make 6. For this students may use the multiplication tables or counting during the initial stages of instruction.

While teaching the concepts of division place emphasis on the notion that the division is the process of breaking up of large group into a number of smaller but equal groups. `Fair sharing’ is the concept that the students should understand. For example, we have 6 flowers and there are 3 children. How many flowers can each child have? Students may work with multiplication or token counters until the idea or equal groups is firmly established.


4. Environmental awareness – Teaching concepts related to social and science, (writing letters, shopping).

Grocery stores can be challenging places for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Tempting treats can be distracting and loud announcements over the intercom can be startling. Your child may demand to walk next to you, refuse to touch some items or become impatient while waiting in the check-out line. Any of these situations could result in problem behavior or make it challenging to complete your trip.

Try the following strategies to help make grocery store trips more manageable:

Bring along toys or snacks

Grocery stores can be boring for some kids and places full of temptation for others. Try giving your child one or two toys or snacks that she can have throughout the trip to entertain and distract her.

You may want to save another item to give her while waiting in line to check out. By giving this item to your child right when you get in the check-out line, rather than at the start of the trip, the item will be new and may keep her interest longer than if she had it the entire trip.

Provide clear rules

Explain the rules before you enter the store and let your child know how you expect her to behave in the store. For example, if your child often runs away from you, give her a rule that she needs to hold the handle of the shopping cart.

If your child likes to do activities with you, try giving her a job to complete during the trip. For example, have her help with putting items in the cart. This strategy may not work as well for children who have trouble completing chores or other tasks.

Create a checklist

If your child responds well to visuals, a checklist of the items you will get in the store can help her predict when the trip will end.

Reward good behavior

Give your child a reward for completing the trip without problem behavior. The reward could include a small item she gets to pick out in the store or an item brought from home. Provide lots of praise and attention throughout and at the end of the trip if your child is doing a good job. If not, try to ignore or minimize attention you give to problem behavior.

Keep trips short

Until grocery store trips are going well, try to keep them short. If possible, start off with a five- to 10 -minute trip so your child can have a better chance of managing the task. Getting three short trips in a week that go well is more likely to result in improvement than having one long, tough trip every other week. Once your child is tolerating a short trip well, start to gradually increase the amount of time the trip lasts.

If problem behavior happens regularly, seek assistance from a psychologist or behavior analyst who has experience with helping children with autism. He or she can develop a comprehensive treatment for your child.


5. Computation: time, money, measurement.

Strategies to teach time, money and measurement
Time, money and measurement are simply applications of mathematical concepts in daily living and hence very essential for students with ASD.

Instruction about money should follow a sequence throughout students education. Practical and real life experiences should be provided for the application of skills. Moreover, the instruction has to be planned in such a way that each student’s needs in terms of utility are met.

The sequence for teaching money is as follows:

Real money should be used to teach rupee notes and coin recognition and change making and to make use in simulated purchases of various items. For example, a student has Rs.5 and purchases an item for Rs.3, he determines how much change he has to receive. The teacher does not have to worry about transference of learning from play money to real money, if he uses real money in the first stage of learning. Teacher should also take them to nearby shops/supermarkets for purchasing items as a part of instruction. This would help in minimizing the problem of generalization of learned skills.

A workbook using pictures of real money provides interesting work for many students. The workbook should include activities on recognition of rupee notes and coins, relative value of rupee notes and coins, deriving correct change from purchases of various items and such other exercises.

For older children, the use of pay cheques, saving accounts and home budgets may be taught. Home budgeting may be taught using ditto sheets of bills and statements for utilities, rent, food and clothes. Basic book keeping skill also may be taught, to help them in keeping a home budget. During the process, the students to maintain home records, filing receipts and so on.

Banking skills also should be taught directly. The student should learn how to deposit and withdraw money, write and maintain a saving account.

Currency based token economy
Alternative to workbooks or a simulated unit on money is a currency-based token economy in the classroom. Token economies are usually developed to motivate students to do their work or to control disruptive behaviour. A currency based economy may be used effectively to teach counting, tending exact change and the relative value of the money. It provides an environment that promotes decision making regarding the safe keeping of money, what can and cannot be purchased with money on hand, how to save money and other concepts. At the vocational level, students can be paid for coming to class on time, punching in and out, getting to work quickly without delay and doing accurate work.

The first instruction in time should be to develop an understanding on the concept of time as a unit and as a sequence of events. A pre-requisite to telling time is an understanding of time itself. Concepts of today, tomorrow, yesterday, next week and so on are basics to understanding time. Next, students need to understand that certain things happen at certain times, like lunch break and end of class. The schedule of events greatly aids in teaching time.

The sequence for teaching time

One way of teaching, how to tell time is to have the child count from 1 to 60 on a number line. The child then superimposes 1 to 12 on the 1 to 60 lines (the 1 to 12 number line should be the same actual length as the 1 to 60). Counts off every five minutes, and marks them in different colours. This number line is then placed on a large clock with the hands removed or on a teacher made clock face of the appropriate size without hands.

The 1 to 60 number line will correspond with the minute markings on a clock and the 1 to 12 number line will correspond to the hour making on a clock. This will help the child understand the function of the clock face. This will help the child understand the functions of the passage of time in minutes. When this concept is understood, the hour hand may be attached and used to indicate how may times the minute hand has gone around. Knowing multiplication table 5 is helpful here. Teacher may also use digital watches for teaching time.

The use of quarter, half and one litre and gallon containers will help in developing an understanding of volume. Initially students may be allowed to measure the water, sand, etc. with the measuring cups. The students may be given practical experience of measuring water for making hot drinks measuring milk etc.

The concept may be introduced first by finding out the weight of each student and maintaining a weekly record. Activities of various types, which involve measuring the weight of flour, sugar, dhal and other commodities will provide a first hand experience of using weights. These activities may be incorporated in teaching home skills (cooking) to students.

In the beginning students may be asked to measure the area of books, tables, doors, windows etc. with a stick. Also draw lines on the floor and ask students to measure with a scale or with feet. Most youngsters with ASD will find it difficult to learn the measurement vocabulary and its use in metres, centimeters, millimeters of yards, feet, inches. However, the potential students may be taught if there is any practical use of the skill in the working situation.