Catalog > Autism: Communication Needs for Students

Autism: Communication Needs for Students


Evaluate and plan for the language and communication needs of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using augmentative and alternative communication systems as determined by individual student need.

Prior completion of Autism: Nature and Needs strongly recommended.

Requires student contact.

Learning Objectives

Chapter One:  Unique Communication Characteristics

Learners will

  • identify communication functions and forms, and
  • recognize communication characteristics common in individuals with ASD
    • limited communication,
    • limited joint attention, and/or
    • unconventional forms of communication

Chapter Two: The Effects of Communication Differences

Learners will

  • recognize that within the autism population, behavior is communication; therefore, learners will recognize how communication affects student self-management and behavior;
  • explain the link between the effective use of visual cues in the student’s environment, the ability of the ASD student to comprehend the intended meaning, and appropriate social behavior;
  • recognize the deficits in adaptive behavior and life skills that accompany ASD; and
  • explain the rationale for using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for students with ASD.  

Chapter Three:  Visuals Supporting Classroom Learning

Learners will

  • identify visual aids and supports;
  • recognize the advantages of using visual supports when working with students with ASD;
  • identify several types of commonly used visual supports within the ASD classroom;
  • recognize multiple instances in the classroom in which the use of visual supports, and the fading of those supports, would be effective for individuals and whole groups; and
  • use various resources for creating visual supports.

Chapter Four:  Introduction to AAC

Learners will

  • recognize reasons why students with ASD may use AAC which may include deficits in motor skills necessary for speech output, deficits in expressive language skills necessary for meaningful speech, and poor attending or deficits in joint attention necessary for speech;
  • identify characteristics of students who would benefit from AAC in the classroom;
  • identify types of AAC systems and when to use these systems;
  • learn how students acquire AAC and useful resources for access to AAC; and
  • identify common myths and misconceptions about AAC.

Chapter Five:  Using AAC in the Classroom

Learners will

  • recognize examples of modeling AAC in the classroom to include
    • requesting,
    • making comments,
    • answering questions,
    • asking questions;
  • identify routine activities to incorporate AAC into the classroom;
  • identify ways AAC can be used to problem solve or reduce student frustration;
  • identify ways to increase AAC use in the classroom and at home; and
  • design an activity using AAC in the classroom.

Chapter Six:  Behavioral Interventions to Improve Communication

Learners will:

  • understand the relationship between functional communication and problem behavior,
  • examine how language is classified and approached from a behavioral perspective,
  • learn how to teach communication skills through discrete trial training (DTT) and natural environment training (NET), and
  • understand pragmatics and interventions for effective use. 

Chapter Seven:  Classroom Arrangement for Effective Communication

Learners will:

  • develop strategies for embedding communication opportunities across all lesson activities throughout the school day,
  • arrange the environment to facilitate communicative interactions between the student and adults and between the student and peers,
  • individualize strategies for communication in the classroom to include students at a variety of learner levels, including those who use different forms of AAC, and
  • recognize how visual scripts and video modeling can be used to teach communication and social skills.

Chapter Eight:  Addressing Individual Student Needs

Learners will

  • recognize the domains of language that may be assessed;
  • develop an awareness of the components of formal speech-language assessments
    • areas of a speech assessment,
    • areas of a language assessment,
    • fluency, and
    • voice;
  • recognize common procedures for assistive technology or augmentative and alternative communication referrals;
  • recognize information gathered during speech/language assessments that can be used to increase communication skills for students with ASD; and

  • recognize barriers to targeting communication at school and at home.

Chapter Nine:  Classroom Integration of AAC

Learners will

  • individualize the communication systems to meet the specific needs of students,
  • identify characteristics indicative of success with augmentative communication systems, and

employ methods that integrate the use of alternative/augmentative communication and assistive/instructional technology into the curriculum.

Chapter Ten:  Communication Strategies for Students with ASD

Learners will recognize

  • the ethical implications of teaching,
  • the difference in student-driven AAC vocabulary vs. more formal AAC vocabulary,
  • the difference in social language conventions vs. meaningful language,
  • pre-requisite skills in the ASD classroom,
  • Initiatives in the special/exceptional student classroom,
  • develop an awareness of appropriate communication with families of all cultures regarding appropriate and realistic communication goals, and
  • will recognize the interdependence of experience, cognitive, social/emotional, motor ability/skills, and language development/skills in students with ASD.

Documentation Methods

Participants must document their learning by completing the following summatives.

4 File Uploads - Learner demonstrates implementation of course content by submitting documentation of a specified activity.
1 Multiple Choice Exam - Learner demonstrates knowledge of content by selecting the correct answer from the choices provided.
3 Reflections - Learner synthesizes previous knowledge and course content in order to develop a narrative response.

The summatives must meet 80% of the established criteria.

Project Team


Developed by Beacon Educator staff.

Course Last Updated: 2022