Questioning – what is the best strategy? Tell me!

Children with learning difficulties (LD) and autism often have the information you are asking them for, but don’t understand the question or how it is being asked. This article will go through some top tips for educators and parents. The list is not exhaustive and are suggestions, which have been tested and put together through practice.

  • Ask a question, count to ten and wait for an answer – allowing processing time is key, by not allowing processing time it layers the question (language / voice) on top of one another. Imagine listening to a song and then every second the same song starts again, but is layered over the first, think about how hard this would be by the tenth layer, this is visually represented by this video:
  • Support the child with a questioning visual cue – expressive and receptive language can be challenging, but particularly the input part (receptive language). Having a visual based around questions or answering questions can be very beneficial. Remember that just because the child is in an older Key Stage does not mean they no longer need a visual to give them a clue. Below is an aided language board, which would enable a non verbal child to request something. They would point at each section, for example: the Question might be, what do you want to eat? And the answer would be pointed to by the pupil.

Give        Biscuit


Alternatively the second visual is for a child in Key Stage 3 or 4 that may be able to understand the question, but isn’t sure how to start the answer. This is a specific visual used to demonstrate an example, you would need to personalise it to suit the child’s needs.

When using visuals to support children with LD and autism you must remember that the visuals should be giving clues and not the answer. They should be used to encourage independence. This visual could be a simple yes or no “button” or even just a list of ways to start sentences.

Questions that start with the four W’s can be particularly challenging for children with LD and autism. If the child understands, the 4W’s then use them to ask questions, if the child finds it difficult try using the TED model of questioning:

Tell me                                   Explain                                  Describe

Using this model is a great way to buffer the 4 W’s questions and I have found in the past that by using the TED model the child will answer quickly, for example:

(Non TED model)        What is the name of the Greek god of war?
(Ted model)                  Tell me the name of the Greek god of war.

(Non TED model)        How did you get to this answer?
(TED model)                 Explain to me how you got to this answer?

(Non TED model)        What is your hypothesis for this experiment?
(TED model)                 Describe your hypothesis for the experiment.


  • Avoid can you/ would you question – for example can you tell me the capital of Scotland may result in the answer, yes I can. This may seem like a brazen answer, but this is simply an answer to question you have asked. Try to refer to the TED model again, tell me the capital of Scotland.
  • Avoid Idioms – by using idioms within a question can cause anxiety and you might find the child does not engage. Be very clear with your language and be concise with the question, think about what question you are asking and what response you are looking for.



Autism and Puberty

Why do we need to teach children with autism about puberty?

Most children and young people pick up a lot of information about puberty incidentally through talking to their friends or seeing things in the media. People with autism often do not have the same ability to learn in this way and will need to be taught about this important stage of their development in a way that is factual and unambiguous.

Schools play a role in teaching sex and relationship education to pupils.

Additionally, educators and parents need to not ignore the situation and hope it goes away, the different areas of puberty need to be faced head on.

Also we need to be gender specific with our teaching of social cues, especially around the use of toilets and what we should be doing and not doing in public toilets, for example the social etiquette of the men’s toilets and how this differs to the ladies toilets.

Changes that happen during puberty can cause intense anxiety and moods. It is important to be prepared to teach what happens and why it happens and this can be taught using a Social Story™, Comic Strip Conversation ™or even a comparison tool / list:

Comparison sheets are good tools for mapping changes, but they will need to be used in conjunction with other tools, such as social stories™ to explain why changes happen.

Schools will address puberty, sex, sexuality and relationships at an age-appropriate level, as a parent make sure you speak to the school and find out what they are teaching to ensure a consistent approach.

When speaking about changes in the body, be sure to steer clear of inappropriate use of language for example “your voice will break” or “you Adam’s apple will appear in your throat”, use of slang terms will generally lead to confusion and raised levels of anxiety. Children with autism may take longer to understand the changes that happen during puberty and it is important to encourage questions, however this may lead to questions at inappropriate times and if this happens then use good autism practice, for example a timer for when they can ask a question or setting aside some time when the questions can be asked. Never dismiss a question, but agree with your school a script that can be used and follow it through.

Public and private

This section is vital, use a visual to reinforce and explain where it is ok to be naked. For example, emphasis this with use of colours, green for correct use and red for incorrect use, Green = naked in the shower – Red = naked in the supermarket. Be explicit and explain what rooms and areas are private (green) and public (red), make the child aware of social cues around this and also the law. Make sure the child knows who they can speak to about changes or worries and if you are not sure of the answer then do not risk giving an incorrect one and set some rules around private spaces, for example, everyone must knock on the door and wait for 5 seconds before they open it.

Menstruation (period)

Your daughter will need the menstruation cycle explained and that it is a normal biological process, it happens to every female when they get to a certain age and when it starts make it clear that she is not going to bleed to death, which is a common misconception for girls with autism. It is important to explain the process of menstruation but also just as important to explain what to do when it arrives – make sure that there is a visual system in place to teach the process, this will encourage independence and speak to her school about it, have a conversation around who can your daughter talk to and agree a discreet break script with the staff.

Explain sanitary products and the features of each product, leave them in an agreed place so that your daughter is reassured that they will always be there. Utilising smart phones and tablets, download a period tracking app this will develop independence and give that visual reminder about when it might be coming. For example Period Tracker is a simple and user friendly app that gives access to a calendar and also a countdown.


Masturbation can be seen as a taboo subject, but it should be dealt with head on, it is really important to teach children with autism the why and where, link it to private and public and reinforce it with the colours green and red. Additionally it is important to teach “cleaning up after” – tissues should be left in the bedroom for this situation. This may seem a difficult situation to approach, but it is very important to teach where it is appropriate and that it is a total natural biological process.


Use Social Stories™ or Comic strip conversations™ to explain the social aspects of these situations as well as expected behaviour, additionally you can use the circle or relationship and adapt it to teach what is appropriate and what isn’t. Make sure that the subjects are visually supported.


To learn more about autism and puberty, information can be found on the autism website.



Sliding scales

Sliding scales are a great way to help children with Autism grasp a number of different behavioural, social and relationship issues. Children with Autism can find these issues challenging and therefore it is important to use a visual sliding scale: to develop independence; explain social situations and make explicit behavioural expectations/ consequences.

The Incredible 5 Point Scale™  is widely used by professionals and parents alike. There are many variations to the scale. Scales should be individualised to the child. Scales can also range from a 2 point scale all the way up to a 10 point scale. It is recommended that the scale is never higher than the 5 although this is not a totally rigid rule. Please visit: 5 Point Scale  for more information and training.

Beginning to use the sliding scale

It is important to make sure that the sliding scale is personalised to the child who is using it. Work with the child to create the scale and allow the child to personalise it with choices. For example, the child could choose to use faces or decide not to use faces.

Here are some examples below:

This a sliding scale with basic words and faces used to explain voice levels.

The Incredible 5 point Scale with just pictures

A sliding scale with noise levels and conversation visuals.

As children make progress with their reading, add words to help reflect how they feel at each step. Keep the process visual and make it age appropriate. A child may be able to read but may still need visual support. It is important to make sure that the child is always given visual support that is age appropriate.

A key point to remember is that some adults with autism have stated that once they are in a heightened state of anxiety ( Level 4/5) – often words and voices are not recognised. It is important to understand and make the sliding scale reflect this heightened state of anxiety. Once a child starts moving up the scale, for example from a 2 to a 3, give the child strategies to bring themselves back down, for example a sensory activity or space to settle themselves. Ideally it is advantageous to encourage independence.

It is helpful to refer to the Zones of Regulation or to see our article about self-regulation.

A 5 is against the law

As children start to get older and they become adolescents, it is important to put behaviour into a world context. For example, if punching is a number 5, then this is against the law and could result in a real life consequence. It is important to be very clear with this explanation. In addition, the sliding scale can be used to explain different social situations, for example, behaviour around dating or sexual advances.

Please have a look at the examples below:


A dyslexia friendly school checklist

‘ Schools should not assume that children’s difficulties always result solely, or even mainly from problems within the child. A school’s practices makes a difference, for good or evil’

(DFES SEN Code of Practice)

The purpose of this checklist is to clarify the hallmarks of a dyslexia/ learner friendly school. A dyslexia friendly school enhances the learning of ALL children because a dyslexia friendly school utilises excellent monitoring, assessment and teaching strategies to ensure that all children’s learning is enhanced.

This checklist can be used as a self-review tool or as an observation checklist for learning walks. The list is by no means exhaustive and is divided into the three following categories:

  • Effective teaching strategies in the mainstream classroom
  • Environment
  • Whole School Policy

Click here to download the Dyslexia Friendly School Checklist

Deaf Awareness Week May 14th – May 18th 2018

What is deafness?

The term ‘deaf’ refers to all levels of hearing loss in children, including a partial or total loss of hearing. This includes those who may describe themselves as having a ‘hearing loss’, ‘hearing impairment’ or as ‘deaf’, and includes children who have glue ear. Deafness, or hearing loss, happens when one or more parts of the ear are not working effectively.

Deafness refers to the inability to understand speech through hearing even when sound is amplified. Profound deafness means the person cannot hear anything at all; they are unable to detect sound, even at the highest volume possible. Hearing aids do not replace normal hearing and people with a hearing impairment face barriers every day trying to communicate and understand. Deafness is an unseen disability and is often misunderstood.

Follow the link to find out more about deafness in children:

Understanding Childhood Deafness

See the National Deaf Children Society (NDCS) for information on deaf awareness.

Did you know?

  • 78% of deaf children attend their local mainstream school

Support deaf children in your school by nominating a Listening Champion and attending our training courses.

Check out our webinar on the Listening Champion

Training dates will soon be coming out for September 2018 on deaf awareness and strategies of how to support deaf and hearing impaired children in the mainstream classroom.


Watch the Oscar award winning performance of Maisie Sly in the ‘Silent Child’


Helping pupils with SEND transition to secondary school


Now is the time to start planning to help those pupils who need something extra with transition planning on their way home, have a look at this excellent resource produced by the Foundation for People with Learning Difficulties.

It contains downloadable guidance for pupils, teachers and parents.

Also see our resources on supporting pupils Transition in Early Years and Primary to Secondary – for tips to support the transition process.

Can new Braille technology boost literacy?

Watch this short video on BBC to know more about Braille.




© Whitefield Academy Trust.