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The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion
Ages: 2-21   Grades: Toddler-Adult         

The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion provides programming guidance for some of the most significant communication, social, and behavioral challenges presented by students with ASD.


  • Reduce the time needed to plan and write IEPs
  • Plan effective interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders in the areas of communication, social, behavior, sensory, literacy, transitions, and classroom needs and accommodations
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Each unit addresses a major deficit area.  Each skill area is identified and explained, followed by a long-term goal and a series of short-term goals to build skills acquisition.  The goals cover a wide range of ages and severity levels within the autism spectrum from early intervention to higher-functioning individuals and older clients.

The units and the skills addressed are:

  • Communication—modality, apraxia/motor speech, single words, two-word combinations, echolalia, meaningfulness, asking and answering simple questions, following directions, concept acquisition, understanding verb tenses and personal pronouns, prosody, conversational rules, and ambiguous language
  • Social Pragmatics—joint attention, turn-taking, initiation, play, topicalization, conversational discourse (e.g., negotiation, persuasion, humor), nonverbal communication, and presupposition
  • Behavior—attention, noncompliance, task completion, perseveration, stereotypies, disruptive vocalizations, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, aggression, bolting, hygiene, and sleep disturbances
  • Sensory—proprioceptive, vestibular, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory
  • Literacy—preliteracy, phonological awareness, phonics, sight-word recognition, reading fluency, reading comprehension, and written language
  • Classroom Considerations—management of space, people, curriculum, materials, time, and emotion
  • Transition—home to school, classroom to classroom, school to school, school to community, and school to work

Each goal has programming suggestions to make teaching visual, concrete, and understandable to children with ASD.


Copyright © 2009

172 pages
  • Within the public school setting, children with autism are eligible for special services based upon the definition of autism provided in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) if they demonstrate significant deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction that adversely affect their educational performance.  Other symptoms include repetitive behaviors or stereotyped movements and resistance to change in daily routines (ASHA, 2006b).
  • Treatment should begin as soon as an autism spectrum disorder is identified (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).
  • Educating children with autism involves interventions in each of the following areas: functional, spontaneous communication; social skills; play skills; behavior; and academics (Lord & McGee, 2001).
  • The individualized educational plan should address the following issues that apply to students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD): attention, imitation, communication, socialization, cognition, play/recreation/leisure, and essential life skills (Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, 2007).
  • The individualized educational plan should include educational objectives that are tailored to a child's individual needs and that describe how the child will be guided toward mastery of the goal and how progress will be monitored (ASA, 2009).
  • Collaboration between SLPs, teachers, school administrators and staff, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and the student with ASD's parents and friends is essential to effective intervention (ASHA, 2006b).
  • SLPs must be able to prioritize intervention goals derived from the core characteristics of ASD, including social communication, language, literacy, related cognitive skills, and behavior and emotional regulation (ASHA, 2006b).
  • SLPs should be able to recognize the potential communicative functions of challenging behavior and assist the student's educational team in designing positive behavior supports (ASHA, 2006c).
  • SLPs should work to enhance the initiation of spontaneous communication in functional activities across settings; comprehension of verbal and nonverbal communication in social and academic settings; reciprocal communication for a range of social functions to promote the development of friendships and social networks; verbal and nonverbal communication, including gestures, speech, signs, pictures, written words, functional alternatives to challenging behaviors, and other augmentative and alternative communication systems; and access to literacy and academic instruction and curricular, extracurricular, and vocational activities (ASHA, 2006c).
  • Children with autism may learn best via a particular learning style, whether visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Presenting information in one modality at a time may enhance learning (ARI, 2007).
  • The following strategies take advantage of relative strengths seen in many individuals with ASD: environmental arrangement and structure; picture schedules or other visual supports; written scripts and social scenarios; video modeling; computer-based instruction; previewing of learning contexts and activities; strategies to promote generalization; strategies to promote self-determination (ASHA, 2006a).

The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2006a). Guidelines for speech-language pathologists in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders across the life span [Guidelines]. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2006b). Principles for speech-language pathologists in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders across the life span [Technical report]. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2006c). Roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders across the life span [Position statement]. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from

Autism Research Institute (ARI). (2007). Learning styles and autism. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from

Autism Society of America (ASA). (2009). Individualized educational plan (IEP). Retrieved June 29, 2009, from

Lord, C., & McGee, J. (Eds.). (2001). Educating children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, National Research Council: Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2009). Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders) fact sheet. Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from

Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council: Ohio Autism Task Force (2007). Service guidelines for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD/PDD): Birth through twenty-one. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from


Gail J. Richard, Tina K. Veale


Gail J. Richard, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a professor and chair of the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.  Gail specializes in childhood developmental language disorders, enjoying the challenge of diagnostic assessment and designing applicable treatment plans for children with autism spectrum disorder, processing disorders, learning disabilities, and other developmental delays.  Prior to almost 30 years at the university level, Gail worked in the Iowa public schools, serving children from preschool through high school.  Her clinical experiences have expanded into providing workshops, classes, and consultation for professional colleagues around the country.

Gail is a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, resulting from professional leadership activities in conjunction with committees, the legislative council, and the executive board.  She has also received Honors of the association and Fellowship from the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  She has been recognized with numerous distinguished awards for her teaching, research, service, and leadership at the university level.

Publications with LinguiSystems include seven books in the Source series, three diagnostic instruments, and three clinical material resources.  Gail has also written several book chapters and professional articles in her areas of expertise.


Tina K. Veale, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an associate professor in the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department at Eastern Illinois University (EIU).  She teaches courses in child and adolescent language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, neurological aspects of communication, and research methods.  Tina has held previous university appointments at Western Illinois University, Miami University (Ohio), and the University of Cincinnati.  Her research has included studies to evaluate learning styles of children with autism, patterns of language acquisition in early emergent language users with autism, the impact of routine upon language therapy for children with autism, the effectiveness of auditory integration training for children with autism, early indicators of Asperger syndrome, and how to differentially diagnose autism spectrum and related disorders.

For 28 years, Tina owned and operated Comprehensive Concepts in Speech and Hearing, Inc. (CCSH), a private practice in Cincinnati, Ohio.  CCSH was the first clinic in the United States to offer auditory integration training, a listening therapy for children with autism.  Tina also developed and operated Wee Talk, a preschool for children with developmental disabilities.  Other professional experiences include ongoing consultation with schools across Ohio and Illinois as an autism consultant and serving families as a private speech-language pathologist.

Tina has conducted workshops and professional presentations at local, state, national, and international venues for over twenty years.  She has served both the Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association as the director of Educational and Scientific Affairs and the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association as vice president for the Division of Educational Development.  Service to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has included committee work to prepare position statements and technical reports, assistance with program selection for the annual convention, in addition to numerous conference presentations.


The number of individuals presenting with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) continues to escalate.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2007) reports current prevalence of 1 in every 150 children.  What was once classified as a low-incidence disorder is now one of the most common disabilities in the educational system.  Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) practicing in the public school setting are continually faced with the unique educational challenges presented by this population.


Educational Goals
ASD is considered a syndrome because there are many developmental areas encompassed within the profile of deficits.  Generating a comprehensive individualized educational plan (IEP) for students with ASD is a team responsibility.  Educational goals should be curriculum-relevant and consistently delivered across all settings.  The multiple developmental areas impacted by ASD are interrelated.  Deficits in one skill often have a dynamic impact upon other skills.  For example, poor joint attention compromises the ability to attend and benefit from the stimulation provided by a teacher or therapist.  Apraxia of speech has a negative impact on willingness to engage in pragmatic-social interaction.  Social isolation prevents individuals from attending to nonverbal, environmental, and communicative information.  The domino effect of ASD can be overwhelming when selecting a hierarchy of goals to include on an IEP.

Most individuals with ASD have extensive IEPs in order to address the multiple characteristics of the syndrome.  It is sometimes necessary for the SLP to help teachers and parents understand skills that must be developed in order to address identified problems.  The SLP must determine an appropriate manner to approach skill development, including an effective progression of goals.  Energy and focus need to be directed toward goals that generalize and have a positive effect on other deficit areas.

Several states have passed legislation specific to addressing educational goals with ASD.  A few states require additional paperwork when developing an IEP for a student with ASD.  Some states have developed an educational certificate or credential based on the completion of coursework specific to best practices for this population.  When developing IEPs for students on the autism spectrum, it is important to check state mandates for service delivery.


Purpose and Content
The purpose of The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion is to highlight some of the most significant communication, social, and behavioral challenges presented by students with ASD and to provide programming guidance consistent with the learning profile of these children.  The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion outlines a sequence of goals to address deficits specific to children with ASD.  It provides programming suggestions to make teaching visual, concrete, and understandable to children with the unique challenges of ASD.

Each unit addresses a major deficit area that is a characteristic part of the ASD profile.  Each skill area is identified and explained, followed by a long-term goal and a series of short-term goals to build skill acquisition.  The first short-term goal typically reflects the earliest or most basic skill to be acquired.  The last skill listed is generally the highest or most complex skill in the unit.  An example activity is provided for each short-term goal.

The goals cover a wide range of ages and severity levels within the autism spectrum.  Some goals are appropriate to early intervention with preschool children, while others are geared toward higher functioning individuals and older clients.  Use clinical judgment and assessment results to determine appropriate goals for a specific client.  Modify, put in extra steps, or possibly skip steps, based on the individual's competency.  Enhance the language in the short-term goals by adding criteria that measures the student's progress toward skill development.

A list of therapy resources for each unit is provided.  These resources can help you find materials to conduct the type of activities suggested under each of the short-term goals.

An IEP includes both assessment data and a plan for intervention.  It delineates major objectives that teachers and therapists will use as guideposts for ongoing evaluation and treatment.  The IEP is not intended to be a lesson plan.  Many lessons and activities will be generated and completed to attain each short-term goal on the IEP.  Consistent with that concept, The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion is not intended to be the complete teaching guide for an individual with ASD.  Rather, it guides assessment and treatment of skill areas pertinent to students with ASD.

We hope The Autism Spectrum Disorders IEP Companion will spark creativity and help guide program planning for the students with ASD on your caseload.  We look forward to working together with you to help students with ASD reach their potential!

Gail and Tina