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Autism & PDD Photo Cards Asking Questions
Ages: 3-11   Grades: PreK-6

Imagine your students asking socially appropriate questions!  This photo set has large, uncluttered photos; simply written language prompts; a best-practice cuing hierarchy; and lots of opportunities for repetition to make it happen.    


  • Initiate verbal interaction with questions
  • Expand communication exchanges
  • Reluctant conversationalists become enthusiastic participants


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The 240 straightforward scenes isolate a social situation and highlight the targeted question form for instruction.  The photos are designed to elicit a genuine question since the answer to the desired question isn't evident in the photo itself. 

Each card includes one or two statements that describe the photo.  An embedded cue guides the child's initiation of the question. 

       Andrew hurt his knee.

       You want to know how he hurt it. 

A three-level cuing hierarchy on the back of each card helps you phrase the stimulus to get the desired response.  In the example below, the desired response is "Andrew, how did you hurt your knee?"

Level 1: Ask Andrew a "how" question

Level 2: Ask Andrew a "how did" question

Level 3: Ask Andrew a "how did' question to find out how he hurt his knee.

Children learn how to generate questions using names and pronouns, making the verbal exchange more like everyday life.  The photo cards are arranged in the developmental order of question-asking skills:

  • WhatElla, what is in your backpack?
  • WhereAya, where is your mommy?
  • WhoAhmed, who are you calling?
  • Can/WillJackson, will you eat your salad?
  • Do/Does/DidSarah, does your elbow hurt?
  • Is/AreAndrew, are you cold?
  • WhoseLiam, whose birthday is it?
  • Which OneNate, which book will you read?
  • WhyKaren, why are you covering your ears?
  • HowRachel, how do you make the cake?
  • WhenCallie, when will Nate get a turn?

Generalization activities are included for each question-form.  The cards are designed for children on the autism spectrum, but they also work well for children with other language disorders and English Language Learners. 


Copyright © 2011

240 5" x 7" double-sided, coated picture/stimuli cards; 11 instructor cards
  • Children with autism benefit from verbal feedback, prompting, and realistic social interactions to improve appropriate use of questions with peers (Palmen, Didden, & Arts, 2008).
  • Therapy should target the initiation of spontaneous communication in functional activities across social partners and settings (ASHA, 2006).
  • Using faded prompts, children with autism learned to appropriately ask "where" questions within socially-appropriate contexts.  This question-asking skill then transferred to asking "where" questions in other situations (Koegel, Koegel, Green-Hopkins, & Barnes, 2010).  Autism & PDD Photo Cards Asking Questions helps children with autism ask functional questions that will transfer to their home, school, and community activities.
  • Therapy aimed at fostering age-appropriate communication skills and age/ability-appropriate language comprehension and language use will improve the child's level of functioning (Taylor-Goh, 2005).

Autism & PDD Photo Cards Asking Questions incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2006). Guidelines for speech-language pathologists in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders across the life span. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from

Koegel, L.K., Koegel, R., Green-Hopkins, I., & Barnes, C.C. (2010). Brief report: Question-asking and collateral language acquisition in children with autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 40(4), 509-515.

Palmen, A., Didden, R., & Arts, M. (2008). Improving question asking in high-functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: Effectiveness in small-group training. Autism, 12(1), 83-98.

Taylor-Goh, S. (2005). Royal College of speech and language therapists: Clinical guidelines. United Kingdom: Speechmark.


Jennifer Benoliel


Jennifer Benoliel, M.S., CCC-SLP, earned her master's degree in speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington in 1996.  She practiced in public schools and then in a private pediatric clinic for 12 years before starting Benoliel Speech and Language, PLLC in 2008.  She specializes in the assessment and treatment of preschool and school-age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and motor speech impairments.  To meet the needs of her younger patients with ASD, Jennifer developed Autism & PDD Photo Cards Wh- Questions (2007), Autism & PDD Photos Wh- Questions Interactive Software (2008), and Autism & PDD Photo Cards Verb Tense Questions (2008).  Autism & PDD Photo Cards Asking Questions is her fourth publication with LinguiSystems.  Jennifer and her husband live near Seattle with their two children.


Asking questions is one of the most important language skills young communicators must learn.  Learning this skill can be a challenge for many children, but it's particularly difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Asking questions requires not only the language development to formulate the question, but also the social awareness and social interaction skills to initiate the question.  Children with ASD may have difficulty with all of these skills.  Additionally, children with ASD often fall into the role of responder, waiting for an adult's prompt to interact verbally.  It may be a struggle for children with ASD to initiate verbal interactions required for asking questions.

Asking questions is a natural means for allowing people to create social interactions, gain information, and learn about others.  A child who doesn't ask questions becomes limited by the ability to do the following:

  • initiate interactions
  • request permission
  • learn about upcoming and past events
  • gain information
  • locate objects
  • problem solve

Autism and PDD Photo Cards Asking Questions systematically teaches children not only how to formulate questions, but it also provides children with the opportunity to ask questions in a social context, as if they were speaking directly to another person.  Children learn how to generate questions using names and appropriate pronouns.  This makes the questions more personal, like the communication would be if the child were asking a peer or a family member a question in everyday life.

The photos are meaningful, depicting real children and animals in natural contexts.  Needless distractions are removed since children with ASD attend better to simple photos without distracting background and competing stimuli.

The photos are designed to elicit a genuine question since the answer to the desired question isn't evident in the photo itself.  Each card includes one or two statements that describe the photo, which provides an imbedded cue to guide the child's initiation of the question.  The language level of these statements is intended to be simple yet provide enough information for a child to understand what he sees in the photos.  When needed, a "you want to know" statement is included to guide the child to ask a particular question form.  You may opt to eliminate this statement to increase the difficulty level of the task or to use the photo to elicit any question type.

In addition, you may use the cuing hierarchy provided on each card to prompt the child.  A Level 1 prompt will help the child use the targeted question form.  To simplify or clarify the task, you may opt to immediately provide the Level 1 prompt to help guide the child in generating the target question form.

Autism and PDD Photo Cards Asking Questions allows you to teach question asking as an isolated skill, which makes it easier for children with ASD to learn.  Simple, meaningful photos; simply written language prompts; a structured cuing hierarchy; and an opportunity for repetition are combined in this easy-to-use photo set.