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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” for an easy answer 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) (Matching), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)
  • “Wh” Questions (Matching), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)
  • Object Function (Matching), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)
  • Verbs (Book), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

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:

  • Tools (Matching), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)
  • “Where” Questions (Game), VizZle ID Number: 4049
    Each numbered tile has a quiz that opens when the player lands on the square with images and text, 15 tiles
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)
  • Who vs. What (Matching), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)
  • Emotion Inferences (Game), VizZle 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
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

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.

What people are saying about vizZle

“I can not tell you how much I’m LOVING VizZle !!! …I’m thrilled, but best of all my students are having fun achieving their Speech/Language IEP goals.”

Kristine Hampton, Speech Language Pathologist
Conestoga Valley School District
Lancaster County, PA

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