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Course Name: Autistic Students and Communication Needs: A Brief, Asynchronous Course for Teachers


Course Developers: Amber Reilly (University of Minnesota), Sarah DeAngelo (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Course Description: This course offers a brief overview of potential communication strengths, preferences, and needs for students with autism. This course is intended to be asynchronous, and currently, two webinars are available. Throughout the course, basic adaptations and strategies for teachers to meet the communication needs of their autistic students are provided. The instruction begins by laying foundations regarding disability and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) including how communication needs are described by autistic people and support professionals. The next session focuses on the diversity of communication styles of autistic folks as well as potential preferences. Next, teachers are introduced to the concept of complex communication needs (CNN) and how these may manifest for individuals with autism. The course then delves into how communication needs interact with social difficulties as well as co-occurring mental health needs.

Throughout the course, communication needs that influence the school experiences of autistic students are explicitly taught, and teachers are provided with evidence-based practices to address these needs in their classrooms. The course is primarily presented through the lens of the social model of disability. Neurodiversity affirming strategies, and those that center preferences of autistic individuals are centered. Throughout the course, autism and ASD will be used interchangeably as they are in practice. Additionally, person-first and identity-first language will both be used to honor the preferences of different individuals.

Course Goals: 

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  1. Reflect on disability, including autism, as a part of human diversity
  2. Describe common characteristics of autism spectrum disorder in school age students
  3. Describe introductory-level strategies for accommodating learners with autism to support communication
  4. Describe common characteristic of complex communication needs and responsibilities of communication partners

    **For access to a complete set of materials for a particular course, please email a request to nclii@vanderbilt.edu.

    Course citation: Reilly, A., & DeAngelo, S. (2024). Autistic Students and Communication Needs: A Brief, Asynchronous Course for Teachers. National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention-2; Grant H325H190003. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Available at https://nclii.org/scholar-designed-courses/autistic-students-communication-needs/

    The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, #H325H140001. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Celia Rosenquist.
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