Behaviors That May Be Personal Challenges For A Student With An Autism Spectrum Disorder
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Behaviors That May Be Personal Challenges For A Student With An Autism Spectrum Disorder

These forms were adapted from the Technical Assistance Manual on Autism for Kentucky Schools by Nancy Dalrymple and Lisa Ruble, which is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and special education personnel. For information on how to receive a copy of this manual please contact:

      Anne Moll
      Kentucky Department of Education
      17th Floor CPT
      500 Mero Street
      Frankfort, KY 40601

The cost, which will be nominal in order to cover copying costs, has not yet been determined.

NOTE: Copies of the IEP/ARD Documents may be downloaded for personal,educational,or medical use without seeking permission. For use in seminars or papers, please cite Nancy Dalrymple, PhD and Lisa Ruble, PhD as the authors. Any use in printed publications or by other organizations requires written permission from the authors. Please contact
 Nancy Dalrymple, PhD or, Lisa Ruble, PhD

Qualitative Impairments in Social Interaction:                  Comments:

____wanting and needing to be left alone at times
____trouble with back and forth social interactions
____inability to respond to social cues
____inability to understand how somone else might feel
____inappropriate giggling or laughing
____impaired imitation – not engaging in simple games of childhood
____not accepting cuddling, hugging, touching unless self initiated
____lack of socially directed smiles when young
____little sense of other people’s boundaries
____engaging in stereotypic question asking as interaction pattern
____inappropriately intrusive in social situations
____mimicking actions from TV, but not in reciprocal manner
____inappropriate use of eye contact, avoidance or extended staring
____poor use of non-verbal gestures
____trouble with competition, i.e., winning, losing, being first

Restricted Repetitive & Stereotyped Patterns of Behavior, Interests & Activities:

____repeatedly watching videos or video segments
____lining up and/or ordering objects
____strong attachment to inanimate objects (strings, bottles)
____fascination with movement (spinning wheels, fans, door & drawers)
____pacing or running back and forth, round and round
____exploring environment through licking, smelling, touching
____very sensitive to sounds (may have acted as if deaf as baby)
____insistence on routines, resisting change
____negative reaction to change in environment
____perfectionist, problems with correction or "mistake"
____difficulty with unstructured time
____difficulty waiting
____impaired response to temperature or pain
____staring at patterns, lights, or shiny surfaces
____lack of fear of real danger
____excessive fearfulness of some harmless objects or situations
____defensive to touch that isn’t self initiated
____history of eating problems
____history of sleeping problems

Qualitative Impairments in Communication:


____problems with pronouns
____problems getting the order of words in sentences correct
____problems answering questions
____problems responding to directions
____problems understanding jokes
____problems understanding multiple meaning of words
____problems understanding sarcasm, idioms, and figurative speech
____echoing what is said directly, later, or in a slightly changed way
____low spontaneously initiated communication
____difficulty understanding abstract concepts
____difficulty with concepts that are time bound or lack concreteness
____difficulty with long sentences
____difficulty when verbalizations are too fast
____problems with reciprocal conversations
____problems using speed, tone, volume appropriately

 Learning Characteristics:

____uneven profile of skills
____well developed long term memory
____ability to manipulate items better than paper-pencil abilities
____over and under generalization of learning
____good visual skills
____short attention span to some activities and not to others
____delayed response time
____problems organizing
____sequential learner
____needs help to problem solve

Observable Problem Behaviors:

____aggression – biting, hitting, kicking, pinching
____self-injurious behaviors – biting, hitting, pinching, banging parts of body
____temper tantrums
____screaming, yelling
____non-compliance and refusal to move, to do things
____eating problems
____sleeping problems
____toileting problems
____low motivation

Possible Motor Problems:  

____motor planning – can’t seem to make body do what it needs to do
____motor fatigue – tired easily
____perceptual motor, spacing, sequencing, printing, writing
____initiation – can’t seem to be started in motor acts 


Some Environmental Challenges that Lower A Student’s Ability to Function Completely


____not being understood
____not understanding
____not having enough information
____not having adequate skills for job
____not having choices
____making a mistake
____being tired
____being sick
____being touched
____being hungry

Major Changes

____alterations at school, work, home, community
____small schedule changes
____time changes
____activity location changes
____staff or teacher absent
____friend or buddy absent
____family member or friend is late or not coming
____anticipating an event or activity
____cancellation of an event or activity
____having to wait too long

Environmental Confusion  

____surrounded by too much movement
____surrounded by competing visual stimuli
____not having enough space
____being off the pace of others
____losing things of value 


____being corrected
____being denied
____being interrupted
____being late
____being ignored
____fear of losing people who are valuable
____being teased
____being left out
____being scolded

Possible Sensory Challenges: Risk Factors 

Sound/Auditory                                                                     Comments:

____has been diagnosed with hearing problem at some time
____reacts to unexpected sounds
____fears some noises
____distracted by certain sounds
____confused about direction of sounds
____making self-induced noises
____likes sounds that are constant and mask outside sounds



____has been diagnosed with a visual problem
____is senstive to light
____avoids eye contact
____is distracted by some or too much visual stimuli
____enjoys watching moving things/bright objects
____has difficulty tracking
____becomes excited when confronted with a variety of visual stimuli
____has trouble with stairs, heights
____enjoys patterns
____upset by things looking different
____makes decisions about food, clothing, objects by sight
____arranges environment in certain ways and can tell if out of order
____closely examines objects or hands
____likes TV, VCR



____sensitive to smells
____smells objects, food, people
____explores environment by smelling
____reacts strongly to some smells
____ignores strong ordors



____is defensive about being touched
____prefers deep touching rather than soft
____has to know someone is going to touch ahead of time
____initiates hugs, cuddling
____explores environment by touching
____becomes irritated if bumped or touched by peers
____dislikes the feel of certain clothing
____refuses to touch certain things
____is sensitive to certain clothing
____over or under dresses for temperature
____doesn’t like showers
____likes to play in water
____mouths objects or clothing
____refuses to walk on certain surfaces
____appears to have depth perception problems
____dislikes having hair, face, or mouth touched
____upset by sticky, gooey hands


____has an eating problem
____dislikes certain foods/textures
____will only eat a small variety of foods
____tastes non-edibles
____explores environment by tasting



____seems fearful in space
____arches back when held or moved
____spins or whirls self around
____moves parts of body a great deal
____likes rocking, swinging, spinning
____walks on toes
____appears clumsy, bumping into things
____climbs a lot and doesn’t fall
____avoids balancing activities

Perceptual/Perceputal Motor


____has trouble with paper/pencil activities
____has difficulty with time perception
____difficulty with body in space
____relies on knowing location of furniture
____problems with use of some tools
____problems organizing materials and moving them appropriately
____distracted by door, cupboards being open, holes, or motion

Social Skills That May be Personal Challenges

Personal Management/Self Control                                                       Comments:

____finishing work
____taking care of personal and school belongings
____being quiet when required
____talking when spoken to, especially if asked a question
____working independently without bothering others
____being prepared and organized for activities and lessons
____turning in assignments on time
____changing activities
____accepting correction
____accepting that mistakes can be fixed

Reciprocal Interactions


____taking turns
____sitting and participating in group
____initiating social interactions
____gaining joint attention (point, look,talk)
____offering help, comfort
____asking for help, seek comfort
____inviting others to join
____asking for feedback, recruit praise
____asking for a favor
____social chat
____getting attention in specific way, raising hand, waiting
____caring when someone is hurt or sick, not laughing
____letting someone know that you are hurt or sick
____asking someone to play or do an activity

Reciprocating Social Interactions Appropriately


____commenting on a topic
____answering questions
____giving a reliable yes/no
____accepting help
____accepting that some things aren’t possible
____responding to teasing
____making a choice
____sharing other’s enjoyment
____giving eye contact appropriately

Manner of Interaction


____being polite
____being kind
____being considerate
____not being a tattler
____being honest
____not hitting, kicking, saying bad words
____looking at person talking appropriately
____not walking away while someone is talking
____keep a specified distance from a person

Learning Situation Specific Behaviors


____with peers, no adults
____in church, school, home
____at a sports event
____in a store
____with strangers
____what and where are private
____with authority figures

Abstract Social Concepts


____being good
____doing one’s best

Group Behaviors


____come when called to group
____stay in certain places
____participate with group
____follow group rules:
____talk one at a time
____pick up, clean up, straighten up
____put away
____get out
____walk, stand still, stay to right
____voting – majority rules
____winning and losing



When these questions are answered, remember to address and analyze the student’s entire day and week across all environments to assure these motivational strategies are addressed systematically.

Are the activities useful and meaningful for the student?

Are experiences shared rather than constantly instructed?

Is information given so person understands; questioning developed & utilized?

Are there cooperative experiences?

Are likes, interests, and strengths; questions minimized?

Is intrinsic motivation utilized?

Are naturally occurring reinforcers used?

Is natural initiation encouraged and invited?

Are attempts towards goals and objectives reinforced?

Are environmental and instructional cues utilized instead of relying on constant adult verbal and physical cues?

Is feedback provided immediately so the connection between the reinforcer and event is clear?

Are familiar, acquired activities kept in the program as new ones are added?

Are the reinforcing simuli varied, are there choices of reinforcers, and is the schedule of reinforcement varied?

Are student preferences used and attempts made to update these and use reinforcers that the student REALLY likes?

Are typical social reinforcers (smile, pat, praise)really motivating?

Is choice making encouraged, invited, accepted and taught?

Are the options for choice expanded through meaningful experiences and successes?

Is reciprocal communications encouraged and is there ample opportunity?

Are reciprocal social interactions reinforced and shared rather than corrected?



Personal Resources: Protective Factors

The likes and preferences as well as the interests of the student with an autism spectrum disorder must be discovered, known, and kept current. These need to be a part of the student’s program plan, used to create interest, and to motivate the student. Analyze the student’s day to see when and how many of the preferences and interests are incorporated throughout the day. If the student is in situations that are constantly challenging without some reinforcing activities, learning will be threatened.


Likes/Preferences/Interests                  Availiability  When?   and How       Often?     Choice?


Personal Resources: Protective Factors


Equally as important are using the strengths of the student in all learning experiences. Build upon strengths, incorporate them and build self-esteem. Too often a student with autism spectrum disorder is taught through weakness.


Strengths                                    How and When Used 


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