A Structured Approach for Autism Intervention

Speech and Language Staff
May 29, 2018

Many children with autism have difficulty understanding social norms. Another term for this is the hidden curriculum: the rules and regulations that society has that are not explicitly taught. From experience, or learning you figure these rules out. However, children on the autism spectrum do not pick up on the social norms or the hidden curriculum, therefore they need to explicitly be taught these rules.

Structured Strategy

One way to break down these rules is to use a structured curriculum designed to explicitly teach children rules and intricacies of social communication. Most children and adults with autism want to communicate and interact appropriately with their family, friends, and peers but the complex social systems we have do not come naturally to them. One structured curriculum is Social Thinking® created by Michelle Garcia Winner, M.S., CCC-SLP.

Study Results

In 2008, a study was conducted to look at the efficacy of the Social Thinking curriculum.  In this study, six males with Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism were taught specific principles within the Social Thinking® curriculum over an 8-week course. These principles included initiation of language to ask for help, “listening” with eyes and brain, abstract and inferential thinking, understanding another person’s perspective, understanding “the big picture,” and humor and human relatedness. When pretreatment test scores were compared with post-treatment test scores, children were found to have made significant changes in verbal and nonverbal measures.

Real-life Impact

From this study, we can learn that children who struggle with social communication can benefit from a structured approach to explicitly teaching social communication skills. By using a structured approach, children with autism can benefit from greater connectivity to peers and family members.


Crooke, P. J., Hendrix, R. E., & Rachman, J. Y. (2008). Brief report: measuring the effectiveness of teaching social thinking to children with Asperger syndrome (AS) and high functioning autism (HFA). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(3), 581-591.


Photo by Olivia Martins-Student, Extern, SJSU


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