For all of the challenges that students with ASD can face when mainstreaming, Finkler has found several strategies and supports that can increase the chance of success, including:
- Using visuals when creating lessons so that all information is not conveyed verbally
- Making predictability, organization, and consistency cornerstones throughout the school day
- Modifying lessons and assignments to remove barriers to learning, e.g., letting students with poor fine-motor skills type homework instead of writing it
- Applying rules consistently within the class and the school
- Capitalizing on special interests—using them as motivation to complete tasks and encourage interaction with peers
In addition to academic concerns, Finkler says teachers often worry about behavioral issues. When deciding to mainstream students with ASD, Finkler recommends assessing behavior as well as academics to determine readiness. However, teachers also need to evaluate the environment itself. If the student is acting out, is there a consistent trigger? Is it something the teacher can easily mitigate? What consequences are there for inappropriate behavior, and are the consequences the same from all teachers?
Finkler suggests that the school and student work together to write a behavior contract that outlines specific expectations, avoiding general phrases like “being good.” As she said, “All too often I go into classrooms … and basically the student is reinforced for being good. There is nothing more vague, nothing more inappropriate, and nothing more difficult for a student to understand than what is being good. Good to me is not what’s good to them. You have to define what those target behaviors are.”
About the Presenter
Nina Finkler, M.Ed., LDT/C, BCBA is the president of Nina Finkler Autism Services, LLC based in East Windsor, New Jersey. She has 25 years of experience working in the field of autism. Her experience includes extensive practical application of applied behavior analysis, curriculum development, professional/parent training, consultation, and assessment. Finkler has presented at both the state and national levels on various topics including effective teaching strategies for students with autism, behavior management strategies, and educational assessment. She holds a master’s degree in special education from Rutgers University and is a New Jersey licensed learning consultant and a board-certified behavior analyst. Finkler is on the advisory board of National Autism Resources.
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