CA Dept. of Education


Autism Spectrum Disorder 2016-17


Ann England, M.A. CCC-SLP-L
Speech-Language Pathologist
Assistant Director Diagnostic Center, Northern California

Ann has 27 years of special education experience and has extensive training and certification in the assessment and teaching of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (e.g., TEACCH, PECS, ADOS, etc.) She participates on a multidisciplinary assessment team at the Diagnostic Center to determine if students have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She also provides the all day training “Teaching Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder” to school staff throughout northern California. Additionally, she provides onsite consultation and mentoring to school district administrators and teaching teams to assist in the development and implementation of evidence-based public school programs for students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Ann has served on several California Department of Education committees related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and most recently was invited to participate on the Task Force on Education and Professional Development of The Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

Submit A Question

Click a topic below to expand the full question and answer.

  • new!Self-Care for Teachers Benefits Students


I notice that my students with ASD will notice the mood of my classroom staff and me! As you know, teaching can be more challenging on some days. Do you have any ideas on how to help my staff and me stay cool, calm and collected?

Thank you for any advice you can give us!



Hi Jodi

You are correct that a sense of calm in the classroom must begin with the teaching team so your question is a good one. One of the factors that contributes to special education teacher attrition and retention is ‘teachers’ affective reactions to work’ and there is a lot of research surrounding teacher stress and burnout. New research is helping to clarify how teachers become chronically stressed, and how it can affect their students’ well-being and achievement.

This is fabulous that you have recognized that you and your team need to develop your own social-emotional competencies so you can then convey those skills to your students with ASD. I found it interesting that one of the articles mentioned that “….teachers need a level of social-emotional competence that’s way above the norm” because “….you couldn’t stick an average person in a classroom and expect them to be successful as a teacher!”

Researchers are definitely saying, “Happy teachers lead to happy students”! We know that the trend for the past few years has been for schools to increase emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL) for students. We now have research saying that, “…teachers’ social-emotional competencies, especially their stress-management skills and their ability to regulate their emotions, are a vital piece of that puzzle.”

I have listed a few articles below and a very interesting website called, “Happy Teacher Revolution” that has some information and ideas that may be helpful to you and your teaching team.

One article pointed out that “self-care is not selfish and teachers need to be reminded of that because teachers often put themselves last.” One group of Baltimore teachers from around 12 school districts met every Friday during this past school year to attend Happy Teacher Revolution meetings, where they had a moment of mindfulness or guided meditation and read aloud the 12 choices to be a more balanced teacher (e.g., I choose to be happy. I choose to be mindful. I choose to be grateful. I choose to get outside and get moving. I choose what to overlook, etc.)

Most of us have heard the preflight safety announcements when the flight attendant says, "You must put on your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you." I wish you and your teaching team the best as you dedicate yourselves to developing your own social-emotional competencies so that you are better able to teach your students with ASD.



Education Week-Teacher: “How Teachers' Stress Affects Students: A Research Roundup” by Sarah D. Sparks, June 7, 2017,

Education Week-Teacher: “Happy Teachers Practice Self-Care” by Madeline Will, June 7, 2017,

Happy Teacher Revolution Website:

  • Social Skills; Scripting; Social Communication; Social Interaction


I have many students with ASD who are very high functioning but still are not able to be successful in social situations. Do you have any suggestions for me because I feel like I have tried almost everything! This weakness keeps getting in the way of my students being successful during classroom discussions, at recess and even for my older students who are at their work sites.


This is a very good question and one that I am asked a lot regarding students who have ASD but are considered ‘high functioning’ in other areas other than social skills.

It is so important to address social interaction and social communication skills from the very beginning (i.e. from the point when we make the diagnosis) as we know early intervention ensures better outcomes. When we look at the postsecondary data, we note better outcomes for those individuals who have had intervention to address social skills and have had inclusive opportunities.

I mention a lot in this Ask A Specialist-ASD, that we now have research as to which focused interventions are effective for individuals with an ASD. One such evidence-based practice (EBP) is Scripting which happens to be the latest addition to the Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM), which is an extension of the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on ASD. The AFIRM Modules are a free online resource designed to help you learn the step-by-step process of planning for, using, and monitoring an EBP with learners with ASD. The learning module on Scripting was released on April 6, 2017 and is one of the important EBPs to help you support individuals with ASD. (See Reference)

According to the NPDC, Scripting is an intervention that research has shown to be effective for preschoolers (3-5 years) to high school-age learners (15-18 years) with ASD. Scripting can be implemented to address social, communication, joint attention, play, cognitive, school-readiness, and vocational skills.

Scripting is defined as a. “...visual or auditory cue that supports learners to initiate or sustain communication with others. “…. by presenting learners with a verbal and/or written description about a specific skill or situation that serves as a model for the learner, the learners can anticipate what may occur during a given activity and improve their ability to appropriately participate in the activity.” The interventionist needs to teach and make certain that scripts are practiced repeatedly before the skill is used in the actual situation.

Scripting is just one of several EBPs that can be implemented to improve the social skills of an individual with ASD. It is important to note that Scripting is an EBP often used in conjunction with other EBPs such as, modeling, prompting, and reinforcement.

What a gift it will be for you to add this important EBP to your intervention package for your students!
Good luck!


Griffin, W., & AFIRM Team. (2017). Scripting. Chapel Hill, NC: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina.
Retrieved from

  • ASD: Autism; Self-Regulation


I have a student who is dependent on others for most everything especially when he gets upset or dysregulated. Any suggestions?

Thank you for any help!


This is such a great question and timely, too!

A new federal report (see reference below) recommends that schools emphasize building children’s “self-regulation” skills in order to increase opportunities for student success in a number of areas. For individuals with ASD we have an EBP (evidence-based practice) called Self-Regulation and you can learn more about that EBP and how to implement it with fidelity using the tools and resources through the free online AFIRM learning modules (see reference below).

Check out the following information about self-regulation that the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute has given us permission to print here:


    AFIRM Modules (Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules)
    Self-Management Evidence-Based Practice Online Learning Module:

  2. REPORT: Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: Implications for Programs and Practice

  • ASD and the Holidays


What are some suggestions for managing the holidays with an individual with ASD?
Thank you for any suggestions!


Yes, the holiday season can be an especially challenging time for all families and especially more so when a family member has ASD. However, planning and preparing for the holidays and implementing the Evidence-Based Practices we know are effective during other times of the year can be really helpful.

Check out the Autism Speaks website link that has lots of real-life helpful tips and resources to help make this holiday time of year enjoyable. There are ideas for decorating, preparing for holiday travel, purchasing toys, and lots more!

Best of luck,


Supreme Court To Weigh FAPE Mandate

by Michelle Diament | September 29, 2016


The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case centering on what level of educational benefit public schools must provide children with disabilities under the IDEA. (Thinkstock)

 “For the first time in more than three decades, the U.S. Supreme Court says it will consider how much educational benefit schools must provide students receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The nation’s high court said Thursday that it will hear arguments in a matter known as Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.

At issue is the IDEA’s mandate that public schools provide children with disabilities a free appropriate public education, or FAPE.

The case was brought by parents known in court papers as Joseph F. and Jennifer F. who pulled their son with autism out of his Colorado school district and sent him to a private school. They then sought reimbursement from the Douglas County School District arguing that the boy, Drew, was not provided FAPE.

Both a hearing officer and the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado found in favor of the school district, saying that FAPE was provided because the boy received “some” educational benefit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit agreed prompting the parents to appeal to the Supreme Court, citing differing standards from courts across the country.

“Some courts, including the Tenth Circuit … hold that an IEP satisfies the (IDEA) if it provides a child with a just-above-trivial educational benefit, while others hold that the act requires a heightened educational benefit,” the parents said in their petition to the Supreme Court. “Resolving the conflict among the circuits will ensure that millions of children with disabilities receive a consistent level of education, while providing parents and educators much-needed guidance regarding their rights and obligations.”

The Douglas County School District argued that it would be up to lawmakers to impose a higher standard in asking the high court to decline the case.

The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the matter comes at the urging of the Obama administration. In a brief issued last month, the U.S. solicitor general agreed with the parents that the IDEA requires schools to provide more than minimal benefit to students with disabilities.

“This court should hold that states must provide children with disabilities educational benefits that are meaningful in light of the child’s potential and the IDEA’s stated purposes. Merely aiming for non-trivial progress is not sufficient,” the solicitor general indicated.

The case will mark the first time since 1982 that the Supreme Court has addressed the FAPE mandate.”