Autism Spectrum Disorder: Supporting Children and Youth


Welcome to this training program on supporting the development of children with autism (ASD).

The course is divided into eight modules. Each of the modules was developed by a specialist with expertise in that area. Early Childhood Educators, Clinical Psychologists, Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, and Researchers worked together on program development.

The modules are as follows:

– 1 –

Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (autism and related ASD’s) affect a child’s rate and pattern of development.

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– 2 –

Setting the Stage for Learning

This module discusses the changes necessary in the group setting, for children with ASD.

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– 3 –

Observing and Understanding Behaviour

The behaviour of children with ASD reflect differences in learning. Some of these behaviours require different approaches than you may have tried with other children.

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– 4 –

Setting Goals and Teaching New Skills

In addition to modifying environments, helping a child with ASD to develop new skills may require a different approach to teaching. The information in this module will help you to adapt how you teach children with ASD, in groups and individually.

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– 5 –

Developing Communication Skills

Communication, involves much more than what a child can say. For instance, a child may talk a great deal yet not be a good communicator, or be able to communicate non-verbally but not speak.

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– 6 –

Developing Functional Play and Adaptive Behaviour

Children with ASD often have underdeveloped play skills. This includes functional play with toys, as well as play with other children.

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– 7 –

Enhancing Social Skills

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience major difficulties in relating to other people. In fact, difficulties in forming relationships are a defining feature of the disorder.

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– 8 –

Working Together

The complexity of the needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders requires the integrated efforts of a community: family, educators, health care providers, and others.

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This course was created at Mount St. Vincent University and designed for Caregivers. We have added it to ConnectABILITY and linked to related articles, workshops and tools from the site. All of the related links will be listed in the righthand sidebar.


Project Personnel

  • Dr. Mary Lyon – Dean, Professional Studies Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Dr. Isabel Smith – Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Psychology, Dalhousie University, Psychologist, IWK Health Centre
  • Dr. Kim Kienapple– Chair, Child and Youth Study, Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Dr. Christine Ellsworth – Psychologist, IWK Health Centre
  • Dr. Pat Canning – Professor, Faculty of Education, Memorial University, Newfoundland
  • Adele McSorley – Site Coordinator, Task Force on Early Intervention
  • Project Coordinators – Andrea Perry, Rhonda Rees


  • Dr. Isabel Smith – Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Psychology, Dalhousie University, Psychologist, IWK Health Centre
  • Dr. Christine Ellsworth – Psychologist, IWK Health Centre

Desktop Editor/Instructional Designer

  • Carol Sparkes, MITE

Module Authors

  • Andrea Walsh, M.Sc., S-LP(C) – Speech-Language Pathologist, Nova Scotia Hearing And Speech Centres
  • Shana Nichols, B.Sc., Ph.D. Candidate – Clinical Psychology, Dalhousie University
  • Theresa Milligan, O.T. Reg (NS) – Occupational Therapist, IWK Health Centre
  • Dr. Christine Ellsworth – Psychologist, IWK Health Centre

The authors gratefully acknowledge permission to reprint the following materials:

A Work in Progress: Behavioural Management Strategies and a Curriculum for Intensive Behavioural Treatment of Autism. (1999). Ron Leaf and John McEachin, (Eds.) 12 West Street, NewYork, NY 10011 212-604-9637: Different Roads to Learning (DRL Books). p. 108 Play and Social Skills Chart, p. 125 Brigance Inventory of Child Development. Work In Progress can be purchased directly from DRL Book sat 1-800-853-1057 or on line at Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Denver Model Treatment Manual. (2001). Sally Rogers (Ed.), JFK Partners, University of Colorado Health Sciences Centre, Denver Colorado. Changes to the Group Setting, pp.175 – 205, pp. 279-283; transition songs and chants; Communication Characteristics of Children with ASD. Reprinted by permission of the editor.

Steps to Independence: Teaching Everyday Skills to Children with Special Needs. (3rdEd.). (1997). Bruce L. Baker, Alan J. Brightman, Jan B. Blacher, Louis J. Heifetz. PO Box 10624 Baltimore, MD 21285-0624: Paul H Brookes Pub Co. ISBN: 1557662681. Tell Me, Show Me, Guide Me! Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

New Social Story Book: Illustrated Edition. (2000). Carol Gray. Arlington, Texas. Future Horizons, Inc; ISBN: 188547766X Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

The Picture Communication Symbols (PCS)
Mayer-Johnson Inc.
PO Box 1579, Solana Beach, California 92075 USA (800) 588-4548
Reprinted by permission of Mayer-Johnson Inc.

TRE-ADD Autism Knowledge Quiz. (2002). Dr. Adrienne Perry. Treatment, Research Education for Autism/Developmental Disorders, Thistletown Regional Centre for Children and Adolescents, 51 Panorama Court, Rexdale, ON M9V 4L8 (416) 326-0600. Revised and reprinted with permission of Dr. Adrienne Perry.

Additional Resources

Community Resource Directory for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families in Toronto

The Community Resource Directory is a comprehensive listing of agencies in Toronto that provide a variety of services to children and adolescents with autism and their families.

Community Resource Directory for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families in Toronto

Autism and Self-Regulation – A road to greater Autonomy and Fulfillment: A webinar

Heather MacKenzie, Ph.D., a Canadian speech-language pathologist and educator discusses the capacity to control one’s impulses, both to stop doing something, if needed (even if one wants to continue doing it) and to start doing something, if needed (even if one doesn’t want to do it).

Heather MacKenzie has spent a large part of her career developing and implementing approaches for enhancing learning in children with Autism and special needs

Self-regulation – A Road to Greater Autonomy and Fulfillment

Autism Parent Resource Kit

This resource kit provides information and resources to support families of children and youth with ASD at all stages of their child’s progress and development.


  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Strategies for daily living
  • Services and assistance available in Ontario, including information on financial support
  • School support, extra-curricular and recreational activities
  • How your child develops, including sensory, physiological and social development
  • Health care
  • Parenting and family support

English , French

Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder an e-learning module

Learn how to:

  • describe the diagnostic characteristics of ASD
  • identify the prevalence
  • list the changes made in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5)
  • describe the neurological similarities and differences between those with and without ASD
  • describe possible causes
  • describe the impact of having a child with ASD on the family


Autism in High School

This online resource guide was created to help students with autism and their families navigate the transitions and challenges of high school. This is a joint initiative between Extend-A-Family, Waterloo Region Family Network, members of the former Autism Services Waterloo Region, the Waterloo Region District School Board, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, and the University of Waterloo.