Kristy Miller

Academics can be challenging for students with autism. Students with autism learn differently than their peers who do not have autism. Research has found that “the long-term outcomes of students with ASD demonstrates the need to improve instruction” (Buotot, 2017, p. 160). Many students with ASD who left high school have not enrolled in college or been hired for work. They are also at greater risk for having bleak postsecondary outcomes (Buotot, 2017, p. 160). Students with autism typically struggle in math and reading, which is a contributing factor to the poor academic outcomes in this group of students. There are some students with autism who struggle with math and reading, while there are others who do not. Thus, it is imperative to help students with ASD succeed academically so they can fulfill their hopes and dreams.

Students with autism often struggle with reading, writing, and math. Although they might be strong in one academic area, they might struggle in another. There are strategies to help promote improved academic performance in reading, writing, and mathematics.

One strategy to help improve reading performance in students with ASD is utilizing phonemic awareness. The use of phonemic awareness instruction has helped improve reading skills in students with ASD (Buotot, 2017, p. 162-63). Phonemic awareness is the ability to detect the auditory aspects of words, independent from their meaning (Dynia, Bean, Justice, & Kaderavek, 2019). Phonemic awareness is designed to help students learn their letter sounds and blend them together to form a word. The school I work at uses phonemic awareness to help students learn the different letter sounds so they can form and blend words. The program the school I work for utilizes Wilson’s Fundations. It is a fun way to help students learn their letter, key words, and sounds so they can utilize them to formulate words.

A second strategy to help improve math performance in students with ASD is Explicit instruction. Explicit instruction is an evidence-based practice for teaching math to students with ASD (Root, 2019). Instructors who use Explicit Instruction employ a series of supports and scaffolds to guide students through the learning process in small steps (Root, 2019). They provide clear instructions, explanations, and demonstrations of the targeted skill. They give the student time to practice and provide positive feedback until they master the targeted skill. Explicit and direct instruction is used for addition, telling time, and problem solving. I have noticed the teachers at the school I work at use explicit instruction to help teach students basic math facts. They give students many opportunities to practice basic math facts using fact fluency folders, technology-based programs such as Moby Max Math, and math worksheets. All three of these methods have helped students with ASD improve their math skills.

Utilizing the math and reading strategies will help students with ASD succeed academically. It will give them more opportunities to success in the future. Those who teach children with ASD should utilize the various strategies for math and reading to help improve their academic performance in these subject areas.


Buotot, E.A. (2016). Autism spectrum disorders: Foundations, characteristics, and effective strategies (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson

Dynia, J.M., Bean, A., Justice, L.M., & Kaderavek, J.N. (2019). Phonological awareness emergence in preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism & Developmental Language Impairments, 4, 1-15. doi: 10.1177/2396941518822453

Root, J.R. (2019). Effects of explicit instruction on acquisition and generalization of mathematical concepts for a student with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 57, 1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2018.09.005