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KHSelf-Determination Units and Lessons

 Use with Strategies for Communicating with Others about Access Lesson 1:  Personal Preferences for Access to Visual Media

Visual Task Magnifier or Telescope Braille iOS Device Desk-top Video Magnifier Screen Magnifier Screen Reader Desk Copy Audible Materials Partner with Student None Needed
Read print in textbooks                    
Read small print such as math symbols, tables, charts, graphs                    
Read information on the chalkboard or whiteboard                    
Read information on an interactive board (e.g., Smartboard)                    
Read things projected on a screen (such as a PowerPoint)                    
Watch a speaker in class, at an assembly, or large lecture hall                    
Use audio books along with print books for classwork                    
Complete art projects                    

Self-Determination Units and Lessons

Use with Strategies for Communicating with Others about Access Lessons 9 & 10: Personal Preferences for Access to Visual Media

Visual TaskMagnifier or TelescopeBrailleiOS DeviceDesk-top Video MagnifierScreen MagnifierScreen ReaderDesk CopyAudible MaterialsPartner with StudentNone Needed
Read print in textbooks                    
Read small print such as math symbols, tables, charts, graphs                    
Read information on the chalkboard or whiteboard                    
Read information on an interactive board (e.g., Smartboard)                    
Read things projected on a screen (such as a PowerPoint)                    
Watch a speaker in class, at an assembly, or large lecture hall                    
Use audio books along with print books for classwork                    
Complete art projects                    

Self-Determination Units and Lessons

Use with How Does My Vision Affect My Access to Information? Self-Determination Lessons 9, 10, & 11

  1. List 3 personal goals you have.
    • 1.
    • 2.
    • 3.
  2. Will your vision make it difficult for you to accomplish any of these goals independently?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. What steps would you have to start taking now to achieve these goals?
    • Step 1:
    • Step 2:
    • Step 3:
  4. Who could you use as a support or resource to complete the steps you listed in #3?

Self-Determination Units and Lessons

Use with How Does My Vision Affect My Access to Information, Lesson 6

Eye with image of the world in place of the iris.

Activities and Things I Do on My Own or with TechnologyActivities and Things I Ask Others to Help Me WithActivities and Things I Cannot Do at All

Self-Determination Units and Lessons

Use with Strategies for Communicating with Others about Access Lesson 12:  Personal Preferences for Access to Visual Media

Directions:  Indicate which method of access you use most often for each of media.

  • RP-; I use regular print (no optical devices)
  • LP- I use large print
  • B/T- I use braille/tactile materials
  • OD- I use an optical device (telescope, magnifier, cell phone, tablet)
  • WH- I can do this if someone helps me
  • X- I can’t do this yet

diagrams and charts in science / social studies books            
small visual screens (cell phone, microwave key pad)            
store receipts            
food boxes and cans            
my handwritten notes            
board games            
library books            
Interactive board or classroom board            
projector screen            
computer monitor            
information on classroom walls            
sporting events & performances            
school assemblies            

Here are some resources to help you learn more about driving with low vision using bioptics.  This resource list was developed for a collaborative workshop from Short-term and Outreach Programs for parent and students with low vision called, In the Driver's Seat, which is offered annually at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired.


Peli, E. & Peli, D. (2002). Driving with Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving with Low Vision.  Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co.

Region 4 Education Service Center. (2013). 2nd ed. Program in Low Vision Therapy. Houston, TX: Region 4 Education Solutions (Chapter 10, Driving)

Corn, A.L. & Rosenblum, P. (2000). Finding Wheels: A Curriculum for Nondrivers With Visual Impairments for Gaining Control of Transportation Needs. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed Publishers. (Unit 7, Bioptic Wheels: Low Vision Driving)


Bioptic Driving Network (BD) with the American Optometric Association

Bioptic Driving USA (Drs. Richard and Laura Windsor)

The Low Vision Gateway


Steps to Becoming a Bioptic Driver presented by Chuck Huss, April 4, 2011.


Strowmatt Driver Rehabilitation Services (Texas Education Agency licensed driving school member)              

The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED)

NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation


Huss, Chuck, 2014. Step-by-Step Guide to Reinforcing Pre-Driver Readiness Skills with Novice Bioptic Driving Candidates. Handout from TSBVI Outreach Programs workshop, In the Driver's Seat.  Download this document in regular print (Word or PDF) or in large print (Word or PDF).

Busy medium business setting or small metropolitan areas

The first time you complete this exercise use your monocular.  If you have a bioptic, try this exercise a second time to compare the difference.

Exercise2Unlike most residential areas, where there are few traffic lights and generally light vehicle and pedestrian traffic, medium business settings and small metropolitan areas make greater demands on all drivers.  After you feel confident in distance scanning in residential areas, take a drive in a busier setting where there may be multiple lanes of traffic, a variety of traffic lights, one-way streets, and many cars and pedestrians moving into traffic.  Once again as you ride along, let the driver know what you spot and when using the distance scanning technique. As you are traveling, look ahead as far as possible and comment on these things:

  • Stops signs, traffic signs, traffic lights and other warning lights
  • Pedestrians approaching the street to cross
  • Vehicles approaching from the opposite direction
  • Vehicles traveling beside and in front of you on a multi-lane road
  • Vehicles turning into the street from other streets or driveways
  • Things that must be maneuvered around like delivery trucks and vans parked on the street
  • Hazards, animals or objects in the street

Considering your observations, answer these questions:

  • How was this experience different from driving in a quiet residential area for you?
  • What things that were difficult for you to spot?
  • What did you find confusing or surprising about the roadways, pedestrian traffic, or vehicle traffic?
  • Did you see any potential collision “traps”?  If so, what would have been your “out”?
  • What things did you specifically need to use your monocular or bioptic to see?
  • Did the weather, light or other uncontrollable conditions impact your performance?
  • What skills do you most need to work on related to driving with low vision?

Developed by TSBVI Outreach Programs based on materials provided by Chuck Huss, COMS, Driver Rehabilitation Specialist with the West Virginia Bioptic Driving Program

Return to:

Bioptic Driving: Passenger-in-car Skills

Exercise 1

Exercise 3

by Jim Durkel

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of work. It is easiest to imagine the portfolio for an artist or a writer; these portfolios would contain photographs of the artist's works or samples of the writer's writing. It may be a little harder to imagine how a portfolio for an intervener would look.

Before discussing how a portfolio for an intervener would look, lets look at why an intervener might want to create a portfolio.

Why create a portfolio?

A portfolio is evidence of your skills and talents as well as a record of training you have done. The portfolio can be used as a "scrapbook" to help you remember and reflect your successes, it offers you an opportunity to think about ways to improve your skills, and it can be used as proof of your abilities and accomplishments during annual performance reviews or when interviewing for a new position. Many colleges are using portfolios to document life accomplishments and are offering their students course credit for these accomplishments.

In your role as an intervener, you are working as a paraprofessional in the public schools. With the enactment of the Federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation concerning quality public education there are new guidelines concerning the qualifications of paraprofessionals. A portfolio is one way to document that you have these qualifications.

What can be in a portfolio?

Portfolios can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. It is important that materials be organized in some way so that proof of an accomplishment is easy to find and is clearly labeled. A portfolio is not merely a collection of materials that have been stored willy nilly in a cardboard box. Nor does a portfolio need to contain an example of everything you have ever done. A portfolio is an organized collection of samples of your accomplishments designed to show case your skills.

These samples can take many forms. For example, a portfolio may contain a copy of a post-secondary degree or copies of certificate of attendance from workshops or conferences. The portfolio might contain video tape segments of you engaged in an activity with a student. It might contain a copy of materials you adapted for your students. Just keep in mind that the portfolio is a record of your work, not of the student's work. (Though you can create a separate student portfolio to document your student's accomplishments and progress.)

Here is a partial list of what might be in the portfolio. This list is not necessarily complete!

  • A summary of your credentials/qualifications/etc. which might include:
    • Your resume (you might want to include job descriptions from relevant experiences)
    • Results from any written exams you have taken relevant to being a paraprofessional in the public schools
    • Copies of post-secondary degrees
    • Copies of school transcripts (possibly including high school), especially showing relevant classes, like sign language or child development (you may want to include course syllabi to highlight the content of the classes)
    • Certificates of attendance for workshops and/or conferences (you may want to include the agendas for these trainings to highlight the content of the training)
    • Professional certificates, like those for sign language interpreters, Braille transcribers, or day care providers
    • Descriptions of relevant personal experiences, such as having a child of your own with disabilities
    • Copies of previous work performance evaluations
    • Letters of recommendations from employers (especially supervisors or professionals who directed your work)
    • Copies of any relevant honors or awards
  • Written samples of your work, which might include:
    • Data collection sheets that highlight how you collected and organized data
    • Samples from a school-home communication book (make sure you have permission from the child's parents and other relevant school personnel, if necessary)
    • Communication other team members
    • Articles you might have written for a newsletter
    • Handouts you might have developed for an in service training or workshop
  • Examples (either the material itself or photographs) of materials you have created or material adaptations you have made
    • Samples of materials in Braille
    • Samples of communication boards
    • Samples of adapted games
    • Samples of experience books
    • Samples of calendar systems
    • Adapted recipes
    • Bulletin boards you created
    • Adapted worksheets
  • Samples of the student's work that reflects your role as an intervener:
    • A hard copy of TTY conversations with the student that highlight your support of the student's performance
    • An experience story written by the student that includes references to you and your role during the experience
    • A video tape or photographs of you supporting student success in some activity, for example:
      • An independent living activity, such as grocery shopping or cooking
      • The student ordering an item at a fast food restaurant
      • The student interacting with peers
      • The student engaged in a recreation/leisure activity
      • The student engaged in an academic (reading, math, science, etc.) activity
      • The student in PE
      • The student using some piece of adapted equipment, including low vision aids, mobility devices, note takers, assistve listening devices, communication devices, etc.
      • The student engaged in a recreation/leisure activity
  • Samples that demonstrate your competency in some procedure or instructional technique, for example:
    • Video tape of you interpreting for the student
    • Video tape of a conversation with the student that highlights your skills at facilitating the interaction
    • Video tape of you checking hearing aids or assistive listening devices
    • Video tape of you acting as a sighted guide for your student
    • Video tape of you providing various levels of prompts and reinforcements
    • Video tape of any medical procedures you have been trained and authorized to conduct (such as tube feeding) (you might want to include written evidence of the training)
    • Video tape of you implementing positioning and handling techniques you have been trained and authorized to do (you may want to include written evidence of the training)
    • Video tape of any sensory integration activities (such as brushing) that you have been trained and authorized to do (you may want to include written evidence of the training)
  • Evidence of your thinking about your role as an intervener, for example:
    • Excerpts from a journal where you reflect on the student's progress and what you might do keep doing or change
    • Excerpts from team meetings (with permission from other team members) that highlight your suggestions/thoughts
    • Reflections from some article you read/workshop you attended/video tape you viewed that gave your some ideas about something to try with your student
    • A professional development plan for yourself

Some hints for organizing the portfolio

  • Consider making an index for the portfolio. The index might follow the recommended competencies for an intervener.
  • Consider using a 3 ring binder for as much of the material as possible. Where video tape is used, make sure the video tape is clearly marked with a reference to the competency or skill demonstrated on the tape.
  • If you are including materials that don't fit in a 3 ring binder, consider storing all the materials together in a storage box
  • The portfolio is not static. You can add new material and take out old material that is no longer representative of your work.

(Originally published in Spring 2006 SEE/HEAR Newsletter. Web Resources have been updated 4/2017)

By Holly L. Cooper, Ph.D., Outreach Assistive Technology Consultant, TSBVI

Abstract: This article describes and illustrates a variety of tactile writing systems used with individuals with blindness. Tactile codes included are New York Point, Boston Line Type, American Modified Braille, Moon type, Fishburne and standard Braille. Alternative media including Tack-tiles and tactile symbols are also discussed.

Key words: Programming, Braille, tactile symbols, tactile writing, reading.

This year, 2006, is the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In 1856, when TSBVI was founded, not only was Texas on the frontier of the American west, but education for people with blindness and visual impairments was also at the frontier of education. At the time there was no standard tactile reading code for people with blindness. In recognition of the advances and changes in blindness education in the last 150 years, we present an overview of tactile reading and writing codes for people with blindness.


Braille, the reading and writing code currently used in the U.S. and other English speaking countries by readers with blindness and visual impairments, was invented by Louis Braille. Braille was a Frenchman who lost his sight from an eye infection caused by an accident with his father’s leather working tools in childhood. Louis Braille developed his ideas for a tactile code system adapted from French soldiers who wanted to be able to read notes in the dark. Louis Braille modified this 12-dot system into 6 dots and had written in Braille and taught others by 1832. Braille was introduced in the U.S. about 1860 and was taught at the St. Louis School for the Blind and other schools.

The Braille Alphabet A through J

There have been many other tactile reading media for people with blindness in the past 200 years. Originally, most reading instruction was done with books made with raised or embossed letters created by wetting paper and printing with an ink printing letterpress. People also learned letters and reading by using carved wooden letters arranged into words, and letters made with bent and twisted wire. It was long thought by educators of blind people that having a tactile code different from letters that sighted people read would separate blind people from the mainstream of society and limit the amount of reading material to which they had access. Special reading codes would also mean teacher training was more demanding, and finding teachers able to work with students with blindness more difficult. Around the same time Louis Braille was developing his code, other codes were also being developed. Many blind students secretly learned Braille and other dot-based tactile writing codes when their schools officially taught embossed letters. Ultimately the dot-based letters of Braille became the most widely accepted tactile reading code in English speaking countries, and most of the world.

Boston Line Type

Boston line type was developed by Samuel Gridley Howe, the founder of the New England School for the Blind (later Perkins School for the Blind) in Massachusetts. Since at the time there was no reading medium for people with blindness, Howe developed an embossed simplified angular roman alphabet without capitals which he called Boston line type. He published the first book in Boston line type in 1834, and this type continued to be the primary tactile reading code used in the United States for the next 50 years. The American Printing House for the Blind first published books in Boston line type, and it was the official code used by students at Perkins until 1908.

A finger gliding across embossed type, probably Boston Line Type

New York Point

William Bell Wait, working in New York in the middle 1800’s, developed a point code for readers who were blind that used characters which were two dots high and one, two, three and four dots wide. Working at New York Institute for the Blind, Wait began teaching this system to students and invented a point writing machine called the Kleidograph which allowed for easy production of text without the use of slate and stylus. New York Point was widely used by schools for the blind in the United States in the late 1800’s. Mary Ingalls, the sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder author of the Little House books, learned New York Point and embossed letters at Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in the late 1870’s and 80’s.

new york point alphabet

American Modified Braille

Joel Smith, a piano-tuning teacher at Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, developed the American Modified Braille Code in the 1870’s. When developing his system, Smith designed characters he believed would be fast to read and an efficient use of paper. This code was used in 19 schools for the blind in the United States, including Perkins. American Modified Braille assigned the fewest dots to the characters that occur most often in the English language. If you look at American Modified Braille, you will see the familiar three dot high and two dot wide characters, but dot configurations correspond to different print letters and letter combinations than standard Braille today.

American Modified Braille alphabet letters A through J


Before the development of Braille writing machines, people writing Braille used a slate and stylus. The slate held the Braille paper and provided a template for the dot locations, and the stylus was used to punch holes into the paper. Since the dots are raised, the person had to learn to write in reverse from the back of the paper. Frank Hall, superintendent of the Illinois School for the Blind, developed a personal Braille writing machine in the late 1880’s. In the next decades, other inventors developed writers for Braille and New York Point. Since most machines were not mass produced, their reliability and consistency of writing varied widely. In the 1930’s, the American Foundation for the Blind commissioned a Braille writer from a typewriter manufacturer. It was heavy and not durable enough for practical use. Later, David Abraham of the industrial arts department of the Perkins School For the Blind worked to develop a Braille writer at the urging of Gabriel Farrell, director of Perkins. He had a model working by the early 1940’s but the war years limited manufacturing. After World War II, Abraham’s Braille writer went into production and was on the market in 1951 as the Perkins Brailler.

Since the Perkins Brailler is available to students who read Braille in the United States at no cost through a quota funds system with American Printing House for the Blind, it is the most widely used method of writing Braille in the U.S. However, many other Braille writers are available, particularly in Europe. Now the Tatrapoint is available in the U.S. from Maxiaids. It is lightweight and easily portable with some components made of high-impact plastic. The adaptive model allows adjustment to accommodate different hand and finger sizes. Quantum Technology in Australia recently released a small manual brailler called the Jot-A-Dot. It uses letter weight paper of a small size and is intended for taking short notes. The same company also makes the Mountbatten Brailler, an electronic Braille writing device which talks. Some models interface with computers and ink printers. The Mountbatten provides good support for people helping students who read Braille, but who don’t read Braille themselves.

Braille Writing Devices

slate stylusperkins braillewriterjot a dotmountbatten brailler

Braille Writing Devices Pictured from Left to Right: Slate and Stylus, Perkins Braillewriter, Jot-a-dot, Mountbatten Brailler


William Moon of Great Britain lost much of his sight in childhood from scarlet fever. After finishing school in the mid 1800’s Dr. William Moon experimented with a variety of raised alphabets for teaching reading and writing to blind students. He eventually settled on Moon type, a raised line code based on print letters. Still used in Britain for people with learning or fine motor difficulties, and those who have lost their sight later in life, Moon type is believed by its supporters to be easier to learn and more tactually simple to discriminate than Braille. Although almost unknown in the U.S., books in Moon are available from the Royal National Institute for the Blind and are available in Canada and Australia as well as Great Britain.

Moon can be generated with computer software today. Duxbury, readily available in the U.S. has an English Moon translator available in their “translation tables” menu. Files can be embossed in a “dotty Moon” style with an Enabling Technologies embosser with a Moon setting. Some Moon fonts can be found on the Internet for use with a computer.

Moon books are still produced through a modified typesetting process. Reading materials are now also generated with Moon Writers, thermoform machines, computer Moon fonts printed on swell paper, and Moon translation software and embossers. Moon can also be handwritten with a stylus on plastic sheets with a frame guide in a manner similar to using a slate and stylus to produce Braille. A Moon teaching curriculum is available from Royal National Institute for the Blind in Great Britain.

Moon letters A through J

Moon Type embossed on paper


The Fishburne system of tactile writing was developed in 1972 by S. B. Fishburne. Mr. Fishburne became acquainted with some blind adults and found that many of them were not able to read Braille. He developed a tactile alphabet, which is larger than Braille, to be used primarily for labeling items used by people in daily activities. Fishburne is typically used for labeling objects, containers and appliance controls, not for literary purposes.

The complete Fishburne alphabet

A Fishburne labeler and magnetic labels


Since standard Braille is always the same size, each character 1/8 inch wide by 1/4 inch high, it can be difficult for people with motor impairments or problems with tactile sensitivity to read. Even Jumbo Braille is very small. To address the issue of literacy for individuals with significant disabilities, Kevin Murphy developed Tack-tiles. Tack-tiles are small Lego-sized blocks with Braille dots on each. They are used primarily in educational settings to teach Braille to very young children and those with additional disabilities. Tack-tiles can be used to create a computer keyboard labeled with Braille using the Intellikeys keyboard. Tack-tiles are available with all Braille symbols, including punctuation marks and contractions. Specials sets are available for math and Braille music. For many students with visual impairments and additional disabilities, Tack-tiles and a computer are the best or only means to literacy.

Tack-tiles displaying, "Braille is fun!" in uncontracted Braille.

Tactile Symbols

While not traditionally considered a literacy medium, the use of tactile or tangible symbols has become widely used with students with deafblindness or visual impairments with additional disabilities. Educators seeking to expand the opportunities for such students to communicate and participate in supported literacy experiences in the classroom are using tactile symbols in a variety of learning activities. These symbols are used in communication boards, labels in the classroom, and children’s literature books and language experience stories. While there is no standard vocabulary of tactile symbols as there is the widely used Meyer-Johnson picture symbol system, some recommended standards do exist. The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired maintains an illustrated dictionary of picture symbols on our website. American Printing House for the Blind now has a kit called Tactile Connections with instructions for making and using tactile symbols.

A teacher-made page from a book using a combination of tactile symbols and Braille states, "'A' does the can crushing job. She collects the cans and crushes them in the can."

Access to Literacy

Early in the twentieth century the widespread use of many different tactile reading codes and systems made learning to read a challenge for learners with blindness. Disagreement about which code was easiest to read and the most efficient use of paper led to the “War of the Dots” between educators in English speaking countries. A uniform English Braille system was agreed upon in 1932 which included the alphabet and grade 2 contractions. Since that time discussion about other tactile modes of literacy has been limited. In the last five years, concern about access to literacy for individuals with visual impairments and additional disabilities has given rise to discussions about the use of uncontracted Braille, Tack-tiles and other large format Braille, Moon type or other embossed letters, and tactile symbols. While the adoption of standard Braille has given tactile readers access to a large amount of material and more consistent quality of educational experiences, consideration of access to literacy for all learners should prompt educators and parents to broaden their definitions of tactile reading and consider the use of alternative tactile media.

Note: Embossed materials including Boston line type, Moon, New York Point, Fishburne and Tack-tiles photographed courtesy of Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Learning Resources Center teaching materials and archives.

Web Resources

  1. Joel Smith and American Modified Braille
  2. American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
  3. David Abraham, Developer of the Perkins Braillewriter
  4. Moon and Duxbury
  5. The Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference
  6. Paths to Literacy
  7. History of Tactile Reading Codes
  8. Mary Ingalls and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School
  9. MaxiAIDS: Products for Independent Living
  10. All About Moon
  11. Deirdre Walsh's article Story Boxes and Story Boards for Students with Multiple Disabilities
  12. Quantum: Maker of the Mountbatten Brailler and the Jot-a-Dot
  13. Samuel Gridley Howe and Boston Line Type
  14. Tack-Tiles Braille Systems
  15. TSBVI's Tactile Symbol Directory (with DIY directions and photos)
  16. Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching And Research (VICTAR)
  17. Robert Irwin's article As I Saw It (War of the Dots)
  18. William Bell Wait and the New York Point System of Reading for the Blind

Terese Pawletko, Ph.D. & Lorraine Rocissano, Ph.D.
Psychology Department
Maryland School for the Blind

AER/DENVER, July 18, 2000

Explanations for "Autistic-like" Behaviors in Blind Children

Their behaviors (e.g., stereotypes, rituals; restrictions in play) seen as:

  • indicative of emotional disturbance
  • associated with sensory deprivation (e.g., turn inward for stimulation)
  • related to mother-child attachment (e.g., in incubators longer; lack of eye contact so hard to read cues; maternal depression further limiting her involvement with child)

Non-Autistic and Autistic Rubella - 
Distinctions noted by Chess et al.

Non-autistic rubella children with sensory defects:

  1. Are very alert to their surroundings through their other senses
  2. Exhibit appropriate responsiveness - "Some are shy, some slow to warm up, some perhaps wary; but one is impressed by their readiness to respond to appropriately selected and carefully timed overtures."

Rubella children with autism and sensory defects

  1. Do not explore with alternative senses
  2. Maintain distance from people that is not explained by the sensory deficits nor by degree of retardation
  3. Their affective behaviors do not resemble those of the same mental age.

Caveats in Diagnosing

  1. Autism is a developmental disability, not parent induced, not induced by blindness
  2. It is a syndrome; no one symptom yields a diagnosis.
  3. Autism is a spectrum disorder, with a wide range of functional levels, and behavioral presentations.
  4. While symptoms show improvement over time, the individual remains autistic. Autism is a lifelong disorder and for most individuals some level of support may be required.

Note: the following sections were depicted as "icebergs." They detail the key diagnostic features of autism using an iceberg approach - the behaviors one might observe on the surface, and the processing difficulties that might account for them.

Problems with Socialization


  • Fails to or has difficulty engaging in reciprocal interactions
  • Treats others as though they were objects
  • Seems uninterested in peers

What you do not see: 

  • Problems shifting attention
  • Unable to process social information effectively
  • Difficulty processing complex stimuli due to difficulties telling figure from ground, and problems making very rapid shifts of attention
  • Cannot process multiple sensory stimuli simultaneously

Implications for Parents and Educators

  1. Recognize that the social world is more complex and less predictable for an individual with autism, and therefore more stress producing.
  2. Do not assume that simple exposure to peers will result in the acquisition of social skills.
  3. A child cannot be pushed to acquire social skills. Begin with something short, structured, teacher directed, and success oriented.

Problems in Language


  • Seems very verbal but can't follow instructions
  • Poor receptive language
  • Echolalia (Echolalia is a positive sign in that it shows that the child is at least discriminating among phonemes, sequencing sounds, using working memory)
  • Pronoun reversal
  • Non-verbal

What you do not see: 

  • May use words expressively which they don't really understand (receptive language lower than expressive)
  • Difficulties discriminating language sounds - poor central auditory processing
  • Difficulties with sequencing phonemes and words
  • Can't break the linguistic code


  1. Check out whether child understands what he/she is saying (e.g., "what does that mean?")
  2. Use controlled language (e.g., short, concrete phrases with time between statements to allow for processing)
  3. If student has vision, try to provide some information visually; if not, provide information tactually.

Problems in Communication


  • Perseverates on one topic
  • Shows no interest in other people's topics
  • Too close or too far when talking
  • Says something unrelated to the conversation
  • May become angry when he hears certain words

What you do not see: 

  • Can't apply rules in context
  • Problems with impulse control
  • Inability to take the perspective of another, as well as problems shifting attention


  1. Direct instruction in the actual setting is key.
  2. Identify clear, concrete rules that the child needs to follow in specific situations.
  3. Social stories can be helpful in providing a child with a script to follow.

Perseverative or Narrowly Focused Interests


  • Need for sameness, predictability
  • Motor stereotypies
  • Focuses on parts of objects in play (e.g., wheels, spins everything, flips handle of basket repeatedly)
  • Age appropriate pretend play not observed
  • Restricted and perseverative interest (e.g., elevators, Xerox machines, CD titles)

What you do not see: 

  • Difficulty getting meaning from environment due to all cognitive processing deficits
  • Repetitive events are easier to understand and make sense of than multifaceted input
  • Repetitive behavior may be experienced as soothing


  1. Recognize that the routines and self-stimulatory behavior are the things that the child understands best and may serve as a "life-preserver" for the child. It is the child's retreat to his comfort zone.
  2. The child's reliance on such behaviors will tend to increase in times of stress and anxiety (e.g., transition, lack of clear expectation, challenges). Ask yourself "why is the child engaging in this now?"
  3. Identify a time when the child can engage in his self- stimulatory behavior; tighten up the structure, schedule, routine to decrease anxiety and increase non-verbal information.

Hypo- and Hyper-Sensory Systems


  • Over-reacts to certain noises (e.g., fire-alarms, vacuum cleaner, fan motor)
  • Finds certain tactile experiences aversive (e.g., certain foods, texture of clothing, soft furry objects, being touched)
  • Often finds warm temperatures aversive
  • May not react to bumping head, falling down, etc.
  • Stops listening to instructions when asked to open book

What you do not see: 

  • Has poor regulation of auditory system (e.g., at times may find raindrops sounding like gunshots, other times not a problem; visceral panic regulation to sudden loud sounds like fire alarm - heart and respiration rate do not return to normal for several hours)
  • Can only process one sensory input at a time
  • Brains process temperature, texture, multi-sensory things differently


  1. Be alert to how the sensory environment may be impacting on your student.
  2. Try to keep the environment as low key as possible (e.g., visually clear, sound absorbing materials, no extraneous noise or conversation; balance lighting needs for children's visual impairment with those of arousal).
  3. Be aware of possible multi-sensory input issues and adjust instruction accordingly.