Unit III: Educational Program (Primary & Secondary)

1. Social and Play skills

2. Language & communication skills

3. Motor & self help skills

4. Academic skills

5. Pre-vocational skills




Children between the ages of 10 to 13 or 14 years are grouped under secondary level. Once the primary group of children achieve 80% of the curriculum content in the primary level, they can be promoted to secondary level (see flow chart – SESM-1, Block-2, Unit-3). In case of children with low ability the teachers have to continue teaching in those tasks which the students have not achieved. They are grouped as Primary II (See SESM-1, Block-2, Unit-3). Though the same domains/.core areas as in the primary level are included in curriculum at secondary level, the content and complexity of the activities is increased keeping in mind the learning characteristics of children at this level. This is also noticed in general education. For example, in every class, students have to study the subjects English, regional language, Hindi, mathematics, science and social studies/environmental science. The complexity of content in each subject is increased in every class keeping in mind the learning characteristics of children.

1. Social and Play skills

Play is voluntary engagement in self motivated activities that are normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment. Play may consist of amusing, pretend or imaginary, constructive, interpersonal (play with others) or intrapersonal (solitary play) interactions. Play is the way that children learn about the environment, their bodies
and their place in the world around them.

Social skills are the skills we use everyday to interact and communicate with others. They include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as speech, gesture, facial expression and body language. A person has strong social skills if they have the knowledge of how to behave in social situations and understand both written and implied rules when communicating with others.

Supporting social interaction is an important piece of the student’s educational plan. Student’s with autism often have the desire to interact with others, but do not have the skills to engage appropriately or may be overwhelmed by the process. Some students are painfully aware of their social deficits and will avoid interactions even though they desperately want to connect with others. Others will engage in attention seeking behavior to connect with others until they build the skills they need to interact. Social development represents a range of skills, including timing and attention, sensory integration and communication, that can be built and layered to improve social competence. Building competence will result in further interest and interaction.

Here are some strategies to support social skill development in your students with autism:


2. Language & communication skills

Language and communication is a medium for socialization. As discussed earlier, due to disability you notice developmental delays in all the areas of development among children with . One of the developmental areas is language and communication.

Point to remember:


3. Motor & self help skills

Children with disabilities often need additional assistance developing life skills. Consequently, many kids are taught what is referred to as ADLs, or activities for daily living, while in the school setting.

These learning opportunities are designed to provide kids with the skills they need to function in their everyday life. Depending on their age, kids may be taught everything from how to make a sandwich and how to follow a daily schedule to how to take public transportation.

These skills, which can also include doing laundry or shopping for groceries, are sometimes called "life skills" or "skills of daily living." While these skills aren't critical, they are important for anyone who plans to participate in a modern community.

Strategies for Self-Help

This section of the lesson will provide several strategies for teaching self-help skills to students with autism; we'll explore these ideas, using Carson as an example. Keep in mind that these self-help skills have been selected among many to demonstrate specific teaching tools. Your students may or may not need the same instruction. It will be up to you to assess the needs of your students and adapt these ideas to fit their unique learning styles.

Checklists and Routines

Carson learns better and behaves more appropriately when he follows a consistent routine. Like many kids with autism, Carson does not like changes in his schedule. To help Carson practice getting ready in the morning, Mrs. Gibbs works with Carson's mother to create a clear checklist for him to follow. The checklist includes the following tasks:

This short checklist helps Carson understand exactly what is expected of him and provides him with a visual reminder of what he should be doing. As Carson follows the same routine each morning, using this checklist for support, he is learning to do more on his own.

Task Analysis

Children with autism typically have trouble communicating with others. They often need short, explicit instructions in order to understand what they're supposed to do. For example, if Mrs. Gibbs asked Carson to 'make a peanut butter sandwich', he could easily become overwhelmed. Although a typical 10-year-old could figure out how to make a sandwich, Carson needs more instruction. Task analysis is when we break down a skill into small, manageable steps. This is how Mrs. Gibbs has task analyzed making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich:

 ●    Executive Functioning Skills

These are organizational skills that are needed to plan the day, break down a task, create a “to-do” list, and plan for chores, outings, etc. It will be an on-going process to build this skill, as it is something that is challenging for most of those with ASD.

●    Practical Living Skills

These skills encompass finding information (internet, books, newspapers, etc.), money skills (budgeting, bank accounts, credit cards, making change), travel (reading a map, using transportation, planning a trip), clothing (care, laundering, organizing), home care (garbage day, house cleaning, doing dishes) cooking, and shopping. One of the best ways to teach these skills is by involving the child in a daily routine, rather than doing everything for them. The earlier the adult includes the child in activities such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry, the longer they have to develop comfort and routines in these important areas.

●    Personal Care

This involves personal daily hygiene, exercise, nutrition, dealing with an illness, and coping with stress. Create and rehearse relaxation routines, make task breakdown lists for showering, toileting or toothbrushing if steps are missed without prompting.

●    Job Skills

How do you look for a job? Create a resume? Get work experience? Be a good employee? A good place to start to gain job experience may be through volunteer work. If parents volunteer for an organization, take the child along too to gain some experience.

●    Personal Safety

A tough topic to teach! Many children will memorize rules like don’t talk to strangers, but will not know when to break those rules if necessary. Under stress, some people lose their ability to speak. It may be a good idea to carry around a card with a few statements on it for those stressful moments when it can be hard to gather one’s thoughts. Teach what risks are, and how to avoid unsafe situations. For example, one rule may be not to use public transportation after dark if in a big city.

●    People Skills

This would fall under the topic of social skills. Areas that need to be developed are working in a group, making friends, asking for help, dealing with family relationships, communicating over the phone, conversation, etc. Social skills is a broad topic. Although social rules and etiquette can be taught, if the child is high functioning enough, think about teaching flexibility in thinking and perspective taking.

●    Self-Advocacy

A topic that is often forgotten, children need to be taught how to get their needs met effectively. They need to know how and when to ask questions, who to approach for help, when to give their opinion, and how to say no.

Sensory and Motor Issues. Finally, a variety of sensory and motor concerns may interfere with learning self-help skills. These issues may be present at a very early age for some otherwise typically developing children but rarely persist beyond the first three or four years of life. In contrast, children with autism may have ongoing sensory and motor issues, such as an extreme sensitivity to the texture of toothpaste or a struggle with the fine motor skills needed for buttoning.

Arguably, deficits and excesses in these areas will make teaching and learning self-help skills more challenging; but there is no evidence that their absence predicts failure for the development of self-help skills. However, the instructor must find another way to teach and for children to learn. Many learners require an approach that relies heavily on breaking the target skills into very small steps and directly teaching the skill one step at a time – often accompanied by direct physical prompts for desired responses that later must be faded. Similarly, adherence to routines and sensory and motor deficits will make teaching more challenging and may extend the time it takes to learn a new skill; however, it does not mean that instruction will be unsuccessful.


4. Academic skills

The number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who enter secondary school settings and access the general education curriculum continues to grow. Many educators may find they are not prepared to adapt their instruction to meet both state standards and the diverse needs of the full spectrum individuals with ASD, which has implications for postsecondary success. In this article, we present an overview of current knowledge around academic instruction for this population, specifically (a) how characteristics associated with ASD can impact academic performance, (b) academic profiles of individuals with ASD across content areas, and (c) interventions that have been successful in improving academic outcomes for this population, including special considerations for those individuals who take alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards.

Functional skills are those skills a student needs to live independently. An important goal of special education is for our students to gain as much independence and autonomy as possible, whether their disability is emotional, intellectual, physical, or a combination of two or more (multiple) disabilities. Skills are defined as functional as long as the outcome supports the student's independence. For some students, those skills may be learning to feed themselves. For other students, it may be learning to use a bus and read a bus schedule. We can separate the functional skills as:

Functional Academic Skills

Living independently requires some skills which are considered academic, even if they do not lead to higher education or the completion of a diploma. Those skills include:

Students with high-functioning autism HFA in secondary settings often experience difficulty with academic and social success in school because general education teachers may not be familiar with the characteristics and/or best practices associated with teaching students with ASD.6 A contributing factor is that scientific research is limited as to effective instructional and behavior management practices for older students in general education.7

Educators and other key stakeholders in the student's life must understand how characteristics of HFA may be manifested in inclusive classroom settings, in order to design and implement instruction to maximize student success.

An additional consideration is the reduced special education support available to students with HFA because of the need to take classes associated with graduation requirements and preparing for high-stakes testing. In most cases, secondary settings do not have enough special education teachers available to support students in all classes (in comparison to elementary settings). Knowledge of the evidence-based practices (EBPs) recommended for students with HFA can help Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams make informed decisions about instruction, behavior management and support needed for students with HFA.8

General education teachers may be unprepared to meet their social needs, or understand the connection between social skills and functional academic skills needed for students to succeed in real-life situations at home, school, work and in the community. Frequently referenced concerns among students and families of individuals with HFA include how easily their needs are overlooked and/or dismissed by school teams because there is not an obvious impact on what is often considered educational progress. Teachers may believe the behaviors are "typical" and should not be taken too seriously because the student will likely "outgrow" these behaviors. School teams must recognize that communication and/or social skills are vital components of functional academics.


5. Pre-vocational skills

Students with ASD within the age range of 15 to 18 years belong to prevocational group. At prevocational level children are of two different groups - prevocational-I (high ability group) and prevocational-II (low ability group) as discussed earlier. However, the major focus of curriculum at this level is to prepare students to acquire skills which prepare them to live independently as far as possible. Independence implies personal, social and occupational independence. Hence, much stress is given on a more functional curriculum. As it is a preparatory stage for the future of the young people with ASD, most of the training emphasis is application oriented and should include training in natural environments. The curriculum is naturally the extension of secondary level curriculum.

Personal skills
The extension of secondary level curriculum under each domain is discussed below.

Once the child learns eating and drinking by self, the skills can be further extended to make them a part of independent living skills.

Generally, when the child grows older, we do not provide glass of water to him/her, rather we expect him/her to get water from the filter, refrigerator or pot and drink on his own. Children with ASD also are expected to learn all these skills. In the school, teacher can train the students to:

In order to practice and maintain the learnt skills, these activities should be carried out at home. Family members can be informed to carry out the activities at home.
By regular practice at home and in school these activities can be made as part of routine activities of the students during pre-vocational period.

Eating: In addition to self-feeding, eating behaviour includes
(a) appropriate manners while eating, (b) serving food to others; (c) arranging table (d) cleaning the table, (e) storing the left over food, (f) cleaning the utensils, (g) giving order for food at restaurant, etc.

Parents can be informed to train the students at home in serving food for self as well as for others. While training, the sequence in serving can be:

During the initial stage of training, unbreakable bowls may be used to avoid possibility of damage of the utensil.

Students should also be taught to clean the utensils. Begin with, simple dishes like plates and small bowls (unbreakable) can be used.

Points to remember while teaching washing utensils:

Dressing: The students with ASD need to learn how to maintain their own clothes. This includes:

In the school, the teacher can train the prevocational group students by instructing them to: ? Keep the dress neat (by using napkins for wiping).

Students during prevocational period should also be taught to select their clothes, for themselves. Hence, the family members can be informed to give them opportunity to:

In class, initiative conversation on above topics and elicit responses from the students.

Social skills: Social behaviour of the students plays a vital role in their vocational habilitation. Limitations in social skills of the disabled students form the major barrier in the process of integration. During the pre-vocational stage, students are expected to behave appropriately in different settings, use public places appropriately, be able to seek permission for using belongings of others and should be able to participate in social functions independently. All these behaviours require student’s competency in language and communication.

In school, focus on:

Home activities can include:

In addition to developing appropriate social behaviours, we have to reduce the socially inappropriate behaviour through behaviour management techniques.

Menstrual hygiene: An important skill to be taught to the girls with ASD during secondary/prevocational level is menstrual hygiene. To make the girl independent (as far as possible) in personal skills, lessen the burden on the mother and avoid embarrassing situation, right type of training can be provided to the young adolescents at home. While providing training on menstrual hygiene, take care of the following points.

While training in menstrual hygiene, instruct the student to -

Shaving: Proper fine motor skill and eye-hand coordination are important pre-requisite skills for teaching shaving. Following points are to be considered while training.

As the name – “prevocational” indicates, this stage is most important for “preparing the students for suitable vocations”. Through the joint efforts of school and home, appropriate work habits (punctuality, regularity, sincerity, persistence), proper work behaviour, hand functioning, eye hand coordination, and required community living skills (travelling, shopping, banking skills) can be developed in the students.

Eye hand coordination and hand functioning which are important prerequisite skills for any vocation can be improved by:

In the school, engage the students in various simulated activities to assess the interests of the student.

Teach various community living skills by organizing following activities for students –

Parents can be instructed to follow a daily activity schedule for their child (with disability) at home. Depending on the improvement in various skills, the activities can be increased. This schedule will help to discipline the students behaviour and improve work habits in them. While selecting the activities for the students, the socio-cultural factors, socio-economic status, sex and abilities of the students need to be considered.

Domestic skills:
Under domestic skills the prevocational group of students can be taught housekeeping skills by involving them in the domestic activities like:

While involving the students in cooking proceed form simple to complex task.

Before teaching the students to light the stove they should be taught to switch off the stove. To begin training in cooking activities the mother/family members should be near the student throughout the training period and should give necessary physical and verbal assistance. Of course, for many of the cooking activities, (preparing idly, dosa, tea, coffee, etc.) the students need to learn functional academics (measurement) which is discussed in detail in part II of this unit.

 Recreation skills:
Like us, persons with disabilities also require time for recreation. Many a time, they are unable to decide the activities for their recreation.

At school, fix a particular time for recreational activities when students can be given opportunity to participate in various activities like:

Family members can involve students in:

·       playing with siblings