Word problems are difficult for any student, let alone a student with mild/moderate autism.
When I first started teaching, I thought there was just no way that certain students could learn to complete word problems. Then… after some trial and error, I found that it is possible! We need to play to their strengths!
Why are word problems so difficult for students with autism? They contain A LOT of language and are very abstract. Students with autism are concrete thinkers and have difficulty understanding language, so it makes sense doesn’t it?
Most curricula tell you to have the child read a story problem and then imagine what is happening… act it out. Our kids have a very difficult time imagining stories, let alone acting them out.
The key to our mild/mod students with autism to complete word problems is to give them KEYWORDs to look for. These key words will tell them whether they need to add or subtract. Of course we can’t teach them every single word that they are going to see in a story problem, but the majority of them repeat over and over (ie. more, fewer, altogether, in all, etc.) In my classroom, I keep a “work in progress” anchor chart. This anchor chart keeps a running record of the keywords we have come across in story problems. Kiddos with autism have an excellent memory, so you may find that they are able to create a mental image of your anchor chart. It helped my students immensely!
So, what do you think? Do you think teaching keywords can help your students with autism solve word problems?
If you would like some help, check out my “Story Problems for the Year” product for 1st grade. It includes a unit guide and at least one story problem for each day of the year. It is aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning, but I’m sure it can be adapted to any standards. Check it out by clicking here.