8 Autism Behavior and Communication Strategies

Unlock effective autism behavior and communication strategies! Empower individuals with personalized tools for success.

Understanding Autism

To effectively support individuals with autism, it is essential to have an understanding of what autism is and the symptoms and characteristics associated with it.

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a wide range of strengths, abilities, and areas of need. It is important to recognize that there is significant variation in the severity of symptoms related to social communication, social interactions, and behaviors among individuals with autism. The diversity within the autism spectrum is highlighted by the variation in symptoms and abilities displayed by individuals with ASD [1].

Early identification of autism is crucial, and signs of ASD can often be detected within the first two years of a child's life. Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasize the importance of early intervention for children diagnosed with ASD.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Autism

Individuals with autism exhibit a range of behaviors and characteristics that may differ from neurotypical individuals. These behaviors can manifest in various ways, including repetitive vocalizations, hand flapping, or self-injurious behaviors like arm biting. These atypical behaviors may be a result of atypical neurological development or serve as a form of communication to express needs or discomfort. The intensity of these behaviors may increase when the individual is agitated, uncomfortable, confused, or afraid.

Emotional responses in individuals with ASD may appear incongruent with the context. For example, they may giggle repeatedly or exhibit extreme distress even when attempts are made to console them. These emotional expressions may not align with what is typically expected in a given situation.

Another characteristic often observed in individuals with autism is a lack of environmental awareness. They may seem unaware of their surroundings, even in potentially dangerous situations. For instance, they may walk or stand in the street seemingly unconcerned about passing cars. This lack of environmental awareness can pose risks to their safety.

Understanding the symptoms and characteristics of autism is crucial for promoting understanding, acceptance, and effective support for individuals with autism. By recognizing the unique strengths and challenges associated with autism, we can provide the necessary resources and strategies to help individuals with autism thrive.

Behavior and Communication Strategies for Autism

Implementing effective behavior and communication strategies is crucial for individuals with autism to enhance their understanding, communication, and overall well-being. Here are several strategies that have been found to be beneficial:

Using Visual Supports

Visual supports are essential tools for individuals with autism as many of them are visual learners. Visuals can assist in understanding routines, transitions, and expectations, thereby reducing behavioral issues [3]. Visual supports can take various forms, including:

  • Visual schedules: Visual schedules provide structure and predictability by helping individuals with autism understand what activities or tasks are coming up next. They offer a clear visual representation of a routine or schedule, helping to reduce anxiety and support organization [4].
  • Visual aids: Visual aids, such as visual cues, charts, and diagrams, can assist in conveying information and reinforcing concepts. They can help individuals with autism understand and process information more effectively, reduce anxiety, and support communication skills.

Social Stories for Social Understanding

Social stories are powerful tools for individuals with autism to understand appropriate behavior in different social situations. Social stories break down complex social interactions into simpler, easier-to-understand steps, helping individuals with autism navigate social situations more successfully. They provide clear explanations and visuals to help individuals understand expected behaviors, responses, and interactions in various contexts, improving social skills and reducing anxiety in social settings [4].

Providing Choices

Offering choices is an effective strategy for individuals with autism. Allowing them to make choices gives them a sense of control, reduces anxiety, and promotes positive behavior [3]. By providing options within appropriate limits, individuals with autism can develop decision-making skills and feel empowered in their daily lives.

Consistency and Predictability

Consistency plays a crucial role in implementing behavior and communication strategies for individuals with autism. Consistent routines, rules, and expectations create a safe and predictable environment, which can help individuals with autism feel more secure and reduce meltdowns and other challenging behaviors [3]. By maintaining a structured and predictable environment, individuals with autism can better understand what is expected of them, leading to increased comfort and improved communication.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful strategy for individuals with autism. Praising, rewarding, and positively reinforcing desired behavior can help individuals with autism understand which behaviors are appropriate and motivate them to continue engaging in those behaviors. Positive reinforcement can take various forms, including verbal praise, tokens, stickers, or other rewards that are meaningful to the individual [3]. By focusing on positive reinforcement, individuals with autism can develop and strengthen desired behaviors.

By implementing these behavior and communication strategies, individuals with autism can enhance their understanding, communication skills, and overall quality of life. It is important to tailor these strategies to the individual's specific needs and preferences, as each person with autism is unique.

Sensory Challenges in Autism

Autism is often associated with sensory processing differences, where individuals on the spectrum may experience hypersensitivity (oversensitivity) or hyposensitivity (undersensitivity) to various stimuli such as noise, light, clothing, temperature, taste, and more. It's important to note that each individual with autism may have unique sensory experiences, highlighting the variability among individuals.

Sensory Processing Differences

People on the autism spectrum can have varying reactions to sensory input. Some individuals may be hypersensitive, meaning they are highly sensitive to certain sensory stimuli, while others may be hyposensitive, displaying a decreased sensitivity to certain stimuli. These differences can impact how individuals perceive and respond to their environment.

Sensory Modulation Challenges

Sensory modulation challenges are commonly observed in individuals with autism. This refers to difficulties in regulating and filtering sensory information. For example, some individuals may struggle to filter out less important sensory input, leading to sensory overload and feeling overwhelmed by too much information. Sensory overload can manifest in various ways, including avoidance of eye contact, which may be a coping mechanism to manage the sensory overload experienced by some individuals on the spectrum [5].

Individual Sensory Needs

Understanding the individual sensory needs of each person with autism is crucial in providing appropriate support and accommodations. It is important to recognize that sensory experiences can be different for every individual on the spectrum. Some individuals may have specific sensory sensitivities, while others may not have major sensory processing issues. By identifying whether an individual is hypersensitive or hyposensitive to certain senses, caregivers and professionals can tailor strategies to help manage their feelings or reactions towards different stimuli.

Recognizing and addressing individual sensory needs is essential in creating an environment that supports individuals with autism. By considering the unique sensory experiences of those on the spectrum, caregivers and professionals can implement strategies that promote comfort, engagement, and well-being for individuals with autism.

Autism and Social Interaction

For individuals with autism, social interaction can be a complex and challenging aspect of daily life. Developing social interaction skills is crucial for fostering connections, building relationships, and navigating social situations. Let's explore the importance of social interaction and strategies for enhancing social interaction skills in individuals with autism.

Importance of Social Interaction

Social interaction plays a vital role in our lives, allowing us to connect with others, make friends, learn from each other, and develop new interests. It involves various skills such as paying attention to social information, interpreting situations, problem-solving, and responding appropriately. These skills typically develop over time in neurotypical individuals, but for individuals with autism, they may require additional support and guidance.

Having strong social interaction skills helps individuals with autism to feel included and belong. It allows them to participate in activities, pursue hobbies with others, and engage in social situations with reduced anxiety and stress. Building social interaction skills is essential for individuals with autism to enhance their overall quality of life and improve their ability to navigate the social world.

Developing Social Interaction Skills

Individuals with autism can benefit from various strategies and interventions aimed at developing social interaction skills. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Social Skills Training: Social skills training involves teaching individuals with autism specific social skills through structured and targeted interventions. This can include teaching skills such as turn-taking, initiating conversations, understanding non-verbal cues, and following social norms. The use of visual supports, social stories, and role-playing can be valuable in reinforcing these skills.
  • Peer-Mediated Interventions: Peer-mediated interventions involve pairing individuals with autism with typically developing peers to facilitate social interaction. This approach promotes positive social interactions, encourages peer modeling and support, and provides opportunities for individuals with autism to practice and generalize their social skills in natural settings.
  • Social Groups and Programs: Participating in social groups and programs designed specifically for individuals with autism can provide a supportive and inclusive environment for learning and practicing social interaction skills. These groups often focus on promoting social engagement, fostering friendships, and providing opportunities for shared interests and activities.
  • Social Stories and Social Scripts: Social stories and social scripts can be effective tools for individuals with autism to better understand social situations and appropriate responses. These visual supports provide step-by-step guidance, helping individuals navigate social interactions and develop appropriate social behavior.
  • Social Communication Apps: Technology can also play a valuable role in supporting social interaction skills. Social communication apps, designed specifically for individuals with autism, can provide visual supports, social stories, and interactive activities to enhance social understanding and communication.

By implementing these strategies, individuals with autism can work towards developing and improving their social interaction skills. It's important for parents, caregivers, and educators to provide a supportive and accepting environment, where individuals with autism can learn, practice, and thrive in social settings.

Autism and Sensory Experiences

Individuals on the autism spectrum often have unique sensory experiences that can greatly impact their daily lives. Understanding and addressing these sensory sensitivities is crucial for providing appropriate support and promoting well-being. In this section, we will explore sensory sensitivities, sensory overload and filtering, and individual sensory experiences in autism.

Sensory Sensitivities

People with autism can experience hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to various stimuli, such as noise, light, clothing, temperature, taste, and more. These sensitivities can vary greatly among individuals, with some being oversensitive to certain stimuli while others may be undersensitive [5]. For example, some individuals with autism may find certain sounds or textures extremely overwhelming, while others may have difficulty perceiving certain sensations.

Sensory Overload and Filtering

Sensory modulation challenges can lead to sensory overload in individuals with autism. Sensory overload occurs when they struggle to filter out less important sensory information, resulting in feeling overwhelmed by too much sensory input. This overload can vary from person to person and may manifest as difficulties with focus, attention, or emotional regulation. Some individuals on the autism spectrum may avoid eye contact due to sensory overload experienced in social situations.

Individual Sensory Experiences

It's important to recognize that sensory experiences can differ significantly among individuals with autism. Each person may have their own unique sensory profile, with varying sensitivities and preferences. Sensory input, such as weather or pain, can be experienced differently by each individual, highlighting the diverse ways in which sensory information is processed by people on the autism spectrum [5].

Understanding whether an individual with autism is oversensitive or undersensitive to certain senses can help in learning how to assist them in managing their feelings or reactions towards different stimuli. By recognizing and addressing individual sensory needs, it becomes possible to create environments and provide support that are conducive to their overall well-being and comfort.

By acknowledging and accommodating sensory sensitivities, individuals with autism can better navigate their daily lives and engage in activities that promote their growth and development. It is important to work closely with individuals on the spectrum to identify their specific sensory challenges and develop strategies tailored to their unique needs.

Technology as a Communication Tool

For individuals with autism, technology can serve as a valuable communication tool, aiding in their ability to express themselves and interact with others. In this section, we will explore two specific applications of technology: speech-generating devices and tablet apps for communication.

Speech-Generating Devices

Speech-generating devices (SGDs) are electronic devices that enable individuals with limited or no verbal communication abilities to express themselves. These devices use synthesized or recorded speech output to facilitate communication [7].

SGDs typically consist of a screen or keyboard that allows users to select pre-programmed words, phrases, or sentences. Some devices also offer the option to create custom messages. These devices can be particularly beneficial for nonverbal individuals with autism, as they provide a means to communicate their thoughts, needs, and desires.

By using SGDs, individuals with autism can engage in conversations, participate in educational activities, and express themselves in various social situations. The integration of speech-generating devices into their daily lives can enhance communication skills and promote a greater sense of independence.

Tablet Apps for Communication

Tablet apps designed for communication purposes have become increasingly popular and accessible for individuals with autism. These apps offer a portable and user-friendly platform for communication, making them convenient for use in various settings.

Communication apps for tablets often provide a range of features, such as customizable visual supports, symbol libraries, and text-to-speech capabilities. These features allow individuals with autism to express their needs, thoughts, and feelings through symbols, pictures, or written words.

Tablet apps offer a versatile communication tool, enabling individuals with autism to communicate with family members, teachers, and peers. They can also aid in social interactions, language development, and the understanding of social cues. With the ability to personalize and customize these apps based on individual preferences and communication styles, they can cater to the unique needs of each user.

By utilizing technology as a communication tool, individuals with autism can overcome communication barriers and engage more effectively with the world around them. Whether through speech-generating devices or tablet apps, these technological tools provide a means for individuals with autism to express themselves, connect with others, and enhance their overall communication skills.

Effective Strategies for Autism

When it comes to supporting individuals with autism, there are several effective strategies that can positively impact behavior and communication. Below are four strategies that have shown promising results:

Visual Schedules

Visual schedules are an effective strategy for individuals with autism, providing a clear and visual representation of daily activities and transitions. These schedules can help reduce anxiety and improve understanding by providing a visual roadmap of what to expect throughout the day. By breaking down tasks and routines into manageable steps, individuals with autism can better comprehend and prepare for upcoming activities.

Social Stories for Social Skills

Implementing social stories is another effective strategy for individuals with autism. Social stories break down specific social situations into clear and concise steps, helping individuals with autism better understand social cues, navigate interactions, and learn appropriate responses. By breaking down complex social interactions into simpler, easier-to-understand steps, social stories can help individuals with autism navigate social situations more successfully.

Structured Teaching Environments

Structured teaching or visually structured environments can greatly benefit individuals with autism. By providing clear physical organization, visual aids, and predictable routines, structured teaching environments help reduce anxiety, increase focus, and support learning and independence. These environments create a sense of order and consistency, which is particularly important for individuals with autism who thrive in predictable settings.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Utilizing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods can be highly beneficial for individuals with autism. AAC methods, such as visual supports, picture exchange systems, or sign language, assist individuals with autism in expressing themselves, understanding others, and enhancing communication skills. These methods provide alternative ways of communication when verbal language may be challenging. AAC can be tailored to the individual's needs and preferences, promoting effective and meaningful communication.

These effective strategies aim to support individuals with autism by providing visual supports, promoting social understanding, creating structured environments, and enhancing communication skills. Implementing these strategies with consistency and individualization can greatly contribute to improving behavior and communication for individuals with autism.


[1]: https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/asd1/cresource/q1/p02/

[2]: https://www.hhs.texas.gov/services/disability/autism/autism-training-opportunities/autism-spectrum-disorders-training-program-first-responders/module-4-common-behavior-characteristics-individuals-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd

[3]: https://www.goldencaretherapy.com/positive-reinforcement-autism/

[4]: https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/communication/communication-tools/visual-supports

[5]: https://thespectrum.org.au/autism-strategy/autism-strategy-sensory/

[6]: https://thespectrum.org.au/autism-strategy/social-interaction/

[7]: https://www.nu.edu/blog/7-autism-behavior-and-communication-strategies/