Since many children on the autism spectrum are visual learners, worksheets can be a very effective way to teach concepts. However, it can be difficult to find worksheets for autistic children that specifically target the issues that are most challenging. These free, printable worksheets from LoveToKnow are designed around the three diagnostic criteria for autism: communication challenges, impairments in social skills, and problematic behaviors.
Worksheets for Communication
According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), children on the autism spectrum typically display impairments in their communication skills. Depending on a child's age and functioning level, these challenges may affect his or her life in a number of ways. Communication difficulties can create social and behavior challenges, since autisic children may become frustrated when they are unable to request what they need in a social or practical interaction. Worksheets can help improve a child's communication skills and lessen the impact of these challenges.
If you need help downloading any of the worksheets, check out these helpful tips.
What Does My Body Say?
For children on the autism spectrum, nonverbal communication can be especially difficult. They may have trouble interpreting the facial expressions and gestures of other children, which can lead to social and emotional difficulties. Specifically teaching the meaning of common gestures can help when kids encounter those movements in their daily lives.
This worksheet shows children performing different common gestures. The autistic child can draw a line from the gesture to the meaning of the gesture. For children who cannot read, you may need to state the gesture meaning out loud. As you work with the child, you can discuss the situations where he or she may encounter this type of gesture and the appropriate response to the gesture.
What Should I Say?
Functional communication, or verbally expressing wants and needs, can be very difficult for children with autism. Often, kids will simply become frustrated because their needs have not been met, even though they haven't communicated those needs to someone who can help. Working on functional communication can give a child the verbal skills he or she needs to request items or activities.
This worksheet shows children with obvious practical needs or wants. Examine the picture with the autistic child, and then have the child write or say what the person in the picture needs to communicate. You can work with the child to refine the phrasing of the statement to make it clear. Talk about how the child might use these phrases in his or her daily life.
Worksheets for Social Skills
Social skills impairments affect most children on the spectrum. Many therapists believe these difficulties are partly due to the Theory of Mind. This is the idea that autistic children struggle with the concept of perspective. They may have difficulty imagining themselves in another child's place. Worksheets that focus on shared attention and perspective can be tremendously helpful.
What Am I Looking At?
One social challenge many children on the spectrum encounter is following another person's eye gaze. This is called shared attention. Often, these children may not notice that someone is looking at an object. If asked what another person is looking at, the child may imagine that the other person is looking at the same thing he or she is.
This worksheet focuses on eye gaze. In each picture, the child is looking at one of several objects. The autistic child can draw a line from the person's eyes to the object that person is looking at. Since no reading is involved in this worksheet, you can use it with children who have not yet learned to read.
How Do I Feel?
Part of taking another person's perspective is understanding how that person may be feeling emotionally in a situation. First, the child needs to assess the situation, and then he or she needs to pretend to be in that situation. This can be very difficult for children on the autism spectrum. However, having social relationships with peers requires this type of emotional perspective-taking.
This worksheet involves interpreting a picture and assigning emotions to the child in the picture. Talk about the picture with the child. Have the child describe what he or she sees, and then ask them to say or write how the person in the picture feels. For children who are unable to write, you can verbally go through the worksheet.
Worksheets for Behavior
Repetitive or problematic behaviors are another diagnostic criteria for autism. While stimming behaviors like hand flapping or rocking don't lend themselves to worksheets, other behaviors do. Printable worksheets that focus on appropriate behaviors can help autistic children function in the home or classroom.
Make a Mad Plan
Anger is a difficult emotion for any child, but for autistic children, it can be nearly insurmountable. Many children struggle with how to express their anger or process the feelings before they react with inappropriate behaviors. For some, verbalizing their feelings may be challenging. For others, controlling impulses can be difficult. Having a clear plan for handling anger can be very helpul.
This worksheet is designed to help kids create a plan for dealing with their anger. All of the methods on this sheet are socially appropriate ways for autistic children to manage their feelings. Talk to the child about choosing a few of these options, and then practice how the child might put this plan into place with peers.
Goal for the Week
Everyone works better when there's a clear goal, and autistic children are no exception. In fact, many children on the spectrum love the idea of working towards something, especially if they can see and understand their progress. Additionally, if they can see a visual representation of the goal itself, they are even more likely to feel encouraged and motivated.
This worksheet focuses on a weekly goal, which you can display in picture form. When a child does something that moves him or her toward the goal, you can place a sticker or check mark on that section of the worksheet. Encourage the child to check the sheet on a regular basis to help keep the goal in mind throughout the week.
Tips for Auditory Learners
While most autistic children learn visually, some are strong auditory learners or have visual processing problems. If you are working with a child who learns by hearing, try some of these tips for using the worksheets:
- Read all text out loud.
- Describe the pictures in words.
- Verbally ask the child questions about the worksheets.
- Use vocabulary with which the child is comfortable.
- Allow time for the child to process this auditory information.
Other Resources for Worksheets
Keep in mind that the worksheets don't have to be created specifically for children on the autism spectrum; they simply have to meet your criteria while addressing your child's needs. Following are some ideas to consider organized by subject.
- Phonics worksheets can be extremely enjoyable for kids on the autism spectrum, especially if they are motivated by music.
- Printable reading logs help parents, educators and kids keep track of their reading progress. Encourage your child to talk about some of the stories listed on the log after each book is finished.
- Check LoveToknow's Children's Books channel for more free printables and downloads for kids.
Printable math worksheets may be educational in nature, but some children on the spectrum love counting, adding, and math puzzles. You can use math activities for sequencing, and these skills are integral to many other activities, including games and music.
Worksheets can help with life skills and fine motor development. In addition, worksheet-based tasks can help build other critical skills required for daily living.
- Handwriting worksheets can help struggling writers achieve success. Some of the worksheets allow parents and educators to create their own activities, and choosing topics that the child finds interesting can be very motivating.
- Printable chore charts can help make daily chores clearly defined. Some kids may benefit from having a "Check Your Chore Chart" space in their daily schedules.
Worksheets for autistic children can include fun activities that are very motivating. Everything from printable puzzles to travel games are available at no cost. Check LoveToKnow's Kids channel for fun printable worksheets for kids.
Parents and teachers working with children on the autism spectrum can benefit from researching homeschooling resources. LoveToKnow's Homeschooling channel offers a generous list of resources that may come in handy.
Praise the Child
In addition to reinforcing communication, social, and behavioral concepts, worksheets for autistic children can be fun too. Be sure to praise the child for his or her successes, however small they may appear. This positive attitude is just as important as learning tools like worksheets.