Parent Tips

Supporting your child in developing social skills

It is not unusual for a child with ASD to need coaching on social skills. They may find it difficult to read social cues, misinterpret behavior, avoid asking for help and become vulnerable to bullying.

Here are some strategies and resources some parents have found helpful:

    • Coach you child using Social Stories™ or Comic Book Conversations™ developed by Carol Gray ( or materials developed by Circle of Friends (
    • Ask teachers to deliberately pair or group children who will not bully.
    • Advocate for educator training and anti-bullying programs.
    • Establish a private signal that a student needs help – such as placing a special card on the corner of the desk.
    • Ask that “team choosing” activities be avoided.
    • Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network


Supporting your child with routine and structure

Most children with ASDs relax more in a predictable environment with a schedule that can be anticipated. However, there are inevitably times when surroundings and routines change, even if just temporarily.

Here are strategies parents and teachers use to help children cope with the unexpected:

  • Advise children of changes in advance to minimize anxiety,
  • Create a visual schedule with pictures and/or clock faces.
  • Provide alternatives for unstructured times, such as a library visit vs. recess.
  • Let student have a head start during a transition to another location or classroom.
  • Identify a safe person/place a child can go to in order to wind down.
  • Create opportunities to do “homework” at school instead of later, when the child may be exhausted from the school day.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network


Supporting your child in coping with sensory overload

Many children have specific sensitivities to sound, sense, touch, visual stimulation and motion.

Here are some strategies and alternatives parents and teachers can try:

Offer choices of activity and media (for example, offering colored pencils to a child who is sensitive to the smell of crayons or a brush vs. finger-painting).

  • Allow the child to use earphones and an iPod to block out distracting noise.
  • Provide a quiet place to read, study and take tests.
  • Ensure snack and lunch options include familiar foods students will eat (such as bland foods).

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network


Supporting your child in coping with emotional overload

What is overwhelming to a child with ASD can be quite different than what might overwhelm someone else. An unexpected or new situation or environment can lead the emotionally reactive child to act out or withdraw.

Here’s how parents and teachers can help:

  • Learn to read the signs of building tension and anxiety.
  • Identify and allow escapes to a safe and familiar place.
  • Develop a tool, such as an “emotion thermometer” to help the child identify and communicate feelings.
  • Help the child identify a calming strategy.
  • Send the child out of the room on an errand to provide a break and allow some movement.
  • Recognize that some children will register “overwhelm” by becoming very quiet and withdrawn.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network


Supporting your child with complex psycho-motor skills

Difficulties with psycho-motor skills can make a child seem awkward and uncoordinated and easily fatigued.

Here are some ways parents and teachers can help a child cope with these challenges:

  • Reduce the amount of handwriting required. Allow the child to print, write cursive or keyboard – whichever is least fatiguing.
  •  Allow a scribe to write for the child.
  • Invite the child to share information orally rather than in writing.
  • Provide True-False, label the illustration and multiple choice test questions      instead of essay questions.
  • Accept reports on tape (or digital recording).
  • Substitute after-school physical activities such as Tae Kwon Do or bowling in place of PE class.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network


Supporting your child in processing visual and auditory information

We tend to associate certain behavior with “paying attention” but focus and concentration may appear very different in a child with ASD.

Here are some strategies for parents and teachers to recognize and support concentration:

  • Understand a child who looks like he is ignoring you may be tuning out distractions in order to focus on what you are saying or doing.
  • Say the child’s name before asking a question.
  • Provide summaries, overviews, notes and study aids or ask a peer to share notes.
  • Encourage the use of self-paced modules and computer programs.
  • Allow extra time to sort through and process visual information.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network


Supporting your child in building organizational skills

The more we can help children develop organized systems for tackling responsibilities, the more you help make the world an orderly and manageable place for them.

Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Develop a folder system so there is a central place for you and your child to check for work to be done and work that is completed.
  • Break down projects into smaller parts so the child can complete a step at a time without being overwhelmed by the entire project at once.
  • Create a visual calendar to display “to do” lists, priorities and deadlines.
  • Stay organized yourself. Be consistent at home about where supplies and belongings are kept.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network

Supporting your child with time management

Deadlines and time pressure can make a child with ASD very anxious. There are some strategies that can help them deal with a faulty sense of time and the need for more time to complete some tasks.

It may be helpful for parents and teachers to:

  •  Prioritize work at the outset so the child can work through a complex task step by step.
  • Eliminate timed tests. If they must be administered, extend the time and provide a quiet place for test-taking.
  • Point out key themes and important terms when teaching and reviewing.
  • Provide alternative ways for students to show what they know, such as delivering verbal reports or making posters.
  • Gear teaching to the students processing strength: visual, auditory or kinesthetic (tactile/feeling).

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network