Autism Learning Tools for Home and School

by Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP August 07, 2017

Autism Learning Tools for Home and School

Discovering Learning Styles

Teachers and educational specialists know that neurotypical children learn best when exposed to varied teaching approaches. While children have preferred learning styles that make it more likely for them to integrate and apply new concepts, they are able to take information in from multimodal approaches.

According to educational theorist  Neil Fleming’s VARK model of student learning, there are three learning styles to consider when assessing how best to teach your child: visual, aural (auditory), read/write preference, and kinesthetic (tactile).

While neurotypical children are able to integrate information from multimodal teaching methods, this is not the case for children with autism and children with sensory processing difficulties. These children are often not able to process information from multiple sensory “inputs” and tend to rely on just one learning style.

Because children with autism tend to be learning-style specific learners, these learning styles should advise classroom environments, teaching strategies, and instructional approaches to curricular content.

Visual Learning Style & Teaching Tools

Students who learn best by using their sense of sight rely heavily on visual aids, books, charts, graphs, and photos for new learning. Try these teaching tools for visual learners:

  • Visual schedules (left)
  • Labels and printed/written material
  • Videos
  • Highlighted key content
  • Graphs, Charts, Maps
  • Photos
  • Graphic organizers


Auditory Learning Style & Teaching Tools

Students with strong auditory comprehension prefer to take in new information by listening or hearing. Repetition is key with auditory learners and reciting back information is a consistent strategy they use. These auditory learners benefit from the following teaching tools:

  • Audiobooks
  • Repeating back information
  • Oral reciting, speaking, retelling, describing of information (narration)
  • Audio recording information
  • Music/rhyming

Tactile (Kinesthetic) Learning Style & Teaching Tools

Tactile or Kinesthetic learners take information in by doing - hands on, manipulating materials, and moving. Kinesthetic learners use all of their senses and benefit from these teaching strategies:

  • Incorporate the sensory systems: touch, smell, sight, move, hear
  • Hands-on field trips and experiential learning opportunities through exhibits
  • Trial-and-error learning
  • Use of manipulatives (right)
  • Whole-body incorporation in new learning

Takeaways and Tips

If you have a child with autism, chances are you have already formed routines and expectations around what know are your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses. You know whether your child responds well to spoken directions or needs a visual schedule to follow along. When looking at new learning and instructional programming in your home or at school, similar accommodations are made based on the type of learner your child is. Set him up for success by building on learning style strengths and incorporating some style-informed teaching tools!

Harkla has a variety of resources to continue this conversation based on your child’s needs. For more information, be sure to check out Harkla’s blog posts on


Learning Styles. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2017.

"The Learning Styles of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder."The Arc's Autism Now Center. N.p., 20 May 2015. Web. 24 July 2017.

Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP
Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP

Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP is an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Practitioner with over 15 years of pediatric experience. She specializes in educationally-relevant interventions with a focus on sensory integration and assistive technology supports to learning. Alescia strives to help children by fostering a love of learning and supports families with her parent-friendly, informative blog posts. Alescia founded Adapt & Learn, LLC on the mission that children of all abilities can play, learn, adapt, and develop with the right therapeutic, family, and educational supports. You can get more information on Alescia and her practice at

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