Autism Spectrum Disorder

This section of the Inclusive Virginia Adult Education website provides information, instructional strategies, resources, and accommodations for adult education practitioners on serving adult learners with autism spectrum disorder.

Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a learner’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences (IDEA Sec. 300.8).


Additional Information

Instructional Strategies

  • Provide explicit instruction and directions, especially for working in groups or when there is a new task.
  • Create a detailed schedule with expectations for activities and transitions times.
  • Create predictable classroom routines, avoid straying from routine as much as possible.
  • Provide notes or access to a computer, laptop, or recording device for note taking.
  • Provide a quiet space for test taking; this may include the use of noise canceling headphones.
  • Use non-fluorescent lighting (fluorescent lights can create a humming sound which can cause over-stimulation).
  • Announce transitions or any changes to routines and provide clear, explicit expectations for the new transition or routine.

Designing learning for students with autism: This document provides information about how learners with autism may interpret their surroundings and some tips such as avoiding figurative language, over-generalizations, and over-stimulation.


Common accommodations:

  • Learning aids: Devices used to enhance learning and retention (e.g., timers, graphic organizers, calculators, text magnification, highlighters)
  • Sensory aids: Devices used to stimulate different senses (e.g., tactile sensory bag, spinners)
  • Speech generating devices: Devices used to help with speech, writing, or verbal communication

These resources provide more detailed information related to the accommodations tools commonly used to support learners who have autism:

Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources