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What is Structured Teaching & Autism?

Structured teaching is an approach to help individuals with autism understand their environment and daily activities using their strongest sensing ability, VISION.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) function best in well-organized, highly structured environments.
Structured environments are those environments that promote a clear understanding of the schedules, activities, and expectations for both the individuals with autism and their caregivers (teachers, parents, etc.) and peers.
Specifically, structured environments are environments that allow individuals with ASD to:

  • understand and predict what is happening in their environments
  • predict the expectations of an environment
  • acquire new skills create from one setting to another

Click here to read about Autism

There are five major components to structured teaching:

1 Physical organization/visual boundaries


  • Physical organization and visual boundaries are the use of visual supports such as furniture, labels, icons, etc., to make environments comprehensible and distinct.
  • Phsically organized environments clearly indicate the types of activities that occur in each area and promote increased understanding and attention to task.
  • Visual boundaries help students understand the specific rules of each space, the types of activities to complete in each space, and the behavioral expectations of a specific space.

2 Schedules

s2 Visual schedules are a visual representation of planned activities in the order in which they will occur. You can use symbols, words, pictures, photographs, icons, or actual objects to denote the order.

3 Routines

s3 Routines (predictable) serving as another form of structure, ASD individuals experience decreased anxiety. Combining with visual schedules, they understand the environment and feel relax to increase attention to tasks creating independence.
To enhance its impact

  • content details in the routine should continually be changed.
  • place routines on infront of ASD individuals eg kid's desk or notebook
  • have clear, systematic repetitive overall routines for each lesson or unit
  • encourage raise hands and wait for the teacher assistance

4 Work systems

s4 Work systems are visually structured sequences that provide opportunities to practice previously taught skills, concepts, or activities.

5 Task organization

s5 Visually structured tasks / activities are highly organized and incorporate visual instructions. They are chosen based on person's assessment & will clearly indicate

  • the activity the individual should complete,
  • the steps for completing the task, and
  • the important or essential features of the task.

Tasks are developed so the user knows what to do by looking at the materials and design. There may be a picture or cut-out jig, a product sample, or written instructions.
More help points:

  • Limiting the work area by using a folder or a box tray helps the individual with autism know what to focus on for a particular task.
  • Being sure all materials are secure lessens frustration.
  • To know what is important, the task may have highlighting of important parts, a limited number of items, color-coding, or labeling.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development with the most obvious signs or symptons of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by

  • difficulties in social interaction,
  • verbal and nonverbal communication,
  • repetitive behaviors and
  • can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination & attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Since  May 2013 (DSM-5 diagnostic manual), all autism disorders were merged into one group diagnosis of ASD.  [Previously: distinct subtypes, autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.]

Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development.

How prevalent is it?

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: 1 in 68 American children - ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years with prevalence rates increased by 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. (may be due improved diagnosis and awareness)
  • Four to five times more common among boys than girls.
  • ASD affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.

What cause Autism?

Not long ago, the answer to this question would have been we have no idea. Research is now delivering the answers.

  • First and foremost, we now know that there is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism.
  • Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by themselves.
  • Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.
  • In the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of nongenetic, or environmental, stresses appear to further increase a child's risk. (It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk.)

The clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth. They include

  • advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad),
  • maternal illness during pregnancy and
  • certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby's brain.
  • A growing body of research suggests that a woman can reduce her risk of having a child with autism by taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and/or eating a diet rich in folic acid (at least 600 mcg a day) during the months before and after conception. Increasingly, researchers are looking at the role of the immune system in autism. 

Is there a future for spectrum of people with Autism?

Individual with autism is unique.

  • Many of those on the autism spectrum has exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities.
  • Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and typical ways of viewing the world.
  • Others with autism have significant disability and are unable to live independently.
  • About 25 percent of individuals with ASD are nonverbal but can learn to communicate using other means.

Thus it is our duty to get effective treatments that can address significant challenges in communication and physical health. We start by increasing acceptance, respect and support.

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