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October 20, 2011
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October 30, 2011

Accurately Answering “Wh” Questions: VTips for Autism

When it comes to making lessons for a child with autism to skill build and practice accurately responding to a “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why…), not all “wh” questions are created equal! Some questions you might consider a “gimmee” are far more difficult for kids with ASD than they would be for a neuro-typical peer.

Your “Easy” Might not be His “Easy”

It makes sense that “easy” questions should be used to teach and practice the concept of the question and answer format first. Only after the question format is familiar and the concept of accurately answering a question is mastered should a child be challenged by the content of the question itself.

But what makes a question “easy” or “hard” for a typical child isn’t necessarily the same for a child with autism. For a kid with ASD, the key is making the content concrete and fully supported by visuals. The child should be able to get everything needed to answer the question just from looking at it.

Great Examples of “Easy”

Here are some examples of great lessons for skill building and to practice accurately answering a question.

Where (Easy)
VizZle Lesson ID Number: 51257
Image and text w/ speech (e.g., Where do you find a kitchen sink?” TO image and text w/audio, with full visual clues and cues, field of 3 answer, 8 questions

“Wh” Questions
VizZle Lesson ID Number: 51255
Text w/ image “wh” question (e.g., “What is the girl doing?”) TO image w/ text label, with visual cues, field of 4 choices, 10 pairs

Object Function
VizZle Lesson ID Number: 6231
Images and short text sentences asking “wh” question about an object (e.g. “what do you write with?”) TO image and label of object, field of 3 choices, 8 pairs

VizZle Lesson ID Number: 47420
Image and text asking a what doing question (e.g., “What is the girl doing?”) w/ audio giving the action, popup text giving action (e.g., “She is planting white flowers.”), 11 pages

Introducing and practicing the more concrete “what” and “who” questions with plenty of visual support builds a strong foundation. Only after the question format is familiar and the concept of accurately answering a question is mastered with concrete, easily visually supported questions should a child be challenged with the more difficult, less concrete questions.

What Makes a Question More Difficult?

A lesson that isn’t fully visually supported is more difficult for a child with ASD. It is much more difficult for the child with ASD to infer something that isn’t part of the picture. Take, for instance, a lesson with the question, “Where do you find a ring?” with an image of a ring. An easier lesson would have one of the answers be an image of the ring on a finger. A more difficult lesson would show just the image of a finger. The most difficult lesson would have a text or audio question, “Where would you find a ring?” and an image or text of “on a finger.”

Especially difficult are inferences that involve theory of mind. Typical kids usually understand from a very early age that other people have their own feelings and motives. Kids with autism tend to be missing that inherent ability. Kids with autism have to consciously learn (and therefore, be taught) that other people have thoughts, motives and feelings that are separate from, and often different than, their own. So questions that ask for that kind of information are especially challenging.

Examples of a Greater Challenge

Here are some examples of “wh” question lessons that might be easy for a typical child, but are really a challenge for a child with ASD:

VizZle Lesson ID Number: 10718
Image and text w/audio question (e.g. “What do you do with a lawn mower?”) TO image and text w/audio of corresponding chore (e.g. “Mow the lawn.”), field of 3 choices, 8 pairs

“Where” Questions
VizZle Lesson ID Number: 4049
Each numbered tile has a quiz that opens when the player lands on the square with images and text, 15 tiles

Who vs. What
VizZle Lesson ID Number: 41550
Image and text question asking “who” or “what” (e.g., “WHO is in the kitchen?”) TO image and text label (e.g., “woman”), field of 2 choices w/ set distractors, 10 pairs

Emotion Inferences
VizZle Lesson ID Number: 36449
Each tile has an image and text label of a feeling with a popup quiz with an image of that emotion and text question asking the player to infer why the pictured person is feeling that way (e.g., “Why might this girl feel scared?”) 13 tiles, number spinner

So save “wh” questions with these kinds of format and content for after the basic concept of accurately answering a question has been fully mastered. The leap it takes for kids with ASD to understand the more difficult, less visually supported questions can only be made from a firm foundation.

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