Autism Spectrum Disorder:

Information & Effective Intervention Strategies


Instructor Name:

Dr. Marrea Winnega



Office Hours:

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday - Friday



Virtual Education Software


23403 E Mission Avenue, Suite 220F


Liberty Lake, WA 99019

Technical Support:




Welcome to Autism Spectrum Disorder, an interactive computer-based instruction course designed to help you achieve a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, of intervention strategies to enhance communication and learning, and of methods for teaching more conventional behaviors. Autism Spectrum Disorder provides information about the characteristics of the disorder, learning styles associated with the disorder, communication weaknesses, and various intervention strategies that have proven to be successful when working with autistic students. The course helps you comprehend why individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder act the way they do and what you can do to enhance more appropriate behavior. This course also lists resources for educators, related service personnel, and parents who would like more help or information on autism.


This computer-based instruction course is a self-supporting program that provides instruction, structured practice, and evaluation all on your home or school computer.  Technical support information can be found in the Help section of your course.



Course Materials (Online)


Autism Spectrum Disorder: Information & Effective Intervention Strategies


Dr. Marrea Winnega, Ph.D. & Mary Coughlin, CCC-SLP


Virtual Education Software, inc. 2001, Revised 2002, Revised 2004, Revised 2010, Revised 2014,

Revised 2017, Revised 2020, Revised 2022


Dr. Marrea Winnega



Academic Integrity Statement

The structure and format of most distance-learning courses presume a high level of personal and academic integrity in completion and submission of coursework. Individuals enrolled in a distance-learning course are expected to adhere to the following standards of academic conduct.


Academic Work

Academic work submitted by the individual (such as papers, assignments, reports, tests) shall be the student’s own work or appropriately attributed, in part or in whole, to its correct source. Submission of commercially prepared (or group prepared) materials as if they are one’s own work is unacceptable.


Aiding Honesty in Others

The individual will encourage honesty in others by refraining from providing materials or information to another person with knowledge that these materials or information will be used improperly.


Violations of these academic standards will result in the assignment of a failing grade and subsequent loss of credit for the course.



Level of Application

This course is designed to be an informational course with application in work or work-related settings. The intervention strategies are designed to be used with autistic students who display a range of verbal abilities from use of few words or mute to very verbal and ranging in age from approximately 3 years to adulthood.



Expected Learning Outcomes

As a result of this course, participants will demonstrate their ability to:

·         Define the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder for better understanding of these disorders.

·         Increase the ability to identify students having this disorder.

·         Provide information on how individuals with this disorder are different from other students, and how to teach them given these differences.

·         Understand their behavior in terms of their differences and communication styles.

·         Develop an understanding of the communication differences and weaknesses in autistic students.

·         Provide information on teaching strategies.

·         Provide resources for teachers and parents.



Course Description

The course Autism Spectrum Disorder has been divided into four chapters and into five to eight exercises within each chapter. The first chapter is on the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder; it gives a clear picture of the characteristics that define this disorder. Although the information in this chapter is thorough, there is much information published about autism. We recommend that you complete readings and research outside the course materials to gain a fuller understanding of these disorders and the variety of interventions. To cover all areas and issues affecting autistic students and their behavior would not be possible in one course. However, this introduction chapter and subsequent chapters should give you a firm understanding of the disorder and effective tools for facilitating positive changes with these students.


The second chapter of Autism Spectrum Disorder is “Behaviors & Differences.” This chapter discusses ways that autistic individuals are different from other learners. The information in this chapter serves to increase your understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder so that an effective intervention plan can be developed to help the student with communication and/or behavioral difficulties. Gaining an understanding of the possible reasons for their behaviors will also help in the understanding of why certain interventions are more successful in teaching these students.


The third chapter is “Communication & Language.” In this chapter, you will be given information about the prerequisites of communication, the components of speech and language, and the profiles of nonverbal and verbal children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. You will be provided with interventions to enhance communication.


The final chapter covers “Visually Supported Communication.” You will learn how to use visual supports, schedules, and calendars to help autistic students monitor their time and program more effectively and independently. You will learn to use the strategy of “first/then” to help children finish important daily tasks before moving into pleasurable free-time activities. You will also be presented with some case examples to strengthen your understanding.



Student Expectations       

As a student you will be expected to:

·         Complete all four information sections showing a competent understanding of the material presented in each section.

·         Complete all four section examinations, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.  You must obtain an overall score of 70% or higher, with no individual exam score below 50%, to pass this course.

·         Complete a review of any section on which your examination score was below 50%.  *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Retake any examination, after completing an information review, to increase that examination score to a minimum of 50%, making sure to also be achieving an overall exam score of a minimum 70% (maximum of three attempts). *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete a course evaluation form at the end of the course.



Course Overview

Chapter 1 – Introduction & Characteristics

This section focuses on the characteristics that define the autism spectrum. The areas to be discussed are the social and communication deficits and the restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities exhibited by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Chapter 2 – Behaviors & Differences

This section describes how autistic individuals perceive the world and their different learning styles. These differences will be applied to the behavioral challenges these students exhibit.


Chapter 3 – Communication & Language

This section discusses the prerequisites for communication, such as object permanence and cause and effect, the components of speech and language, and the communication profiles exhibited by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Enhancing communication in both the nonverbal and the verbal student will be addressed.


Chapter 4 – Visually Supported Communication

This section discusses how visual supports can be used to help students understand verbal directions and what they need to be doing. Visual supports include symbols, line drawings and pictures used as pictures on a ring, communication boards, schedules, lists, and first/then cards.




At the end of each chapter, you will be expected to complete an examination designed to assess your knowledge. You may take these exams a total of three times. Your last score will save, not the highest score.  After your third attempt, each examination will lock and not allow further access.  Your final grade for the course will be determined by calculating an average score of all exams.  This score will be printed on your final certificate.  As this is a self-paced computerized instruction program, you may review course information as often as necessary. You will not be able to exit any examinations until you have answered all questions. If you try to exit the exam before you complete all questions, your information will be lost. You are expected to complete the entire exam in one sitting.



Instructor Description

Autism Spectrum Disorder has been developed by Marrea Winnega, PhD, BCBA, and by Mary Coughlin, CCC-SLP. Dr. Marrea Winnega, the instructor of record, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a board certified behavior analyst with more than 25 years of experience in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Previously, she was an assistant professor of Clinical Psychology in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Disability and Human Development and the Department of Psychiatry. She facilitated numerous parent groups for parents of autistic children in her position at the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute on Disability and Human Development (UAP). She has also conducted numerous workshops, in-services, and trainings throughout the United States. In 1998, Dr. Winnega developed the Autism Dynamic Beginnings classroom, an intensive, multimodal classroom for 3- to 6-year-olds with autism. This program has grown to multiple classrooms serving students ages 3 to 21. Currently, she is developing classrooms using structured teaching and the verbal behavior approach as well as social-communication classrooms for verbal students with autism.


Mary Coughlin is a retired speech-language pathologist and a board certified behavior analyst with more than 35 years of experience in the field. Her background includes working with students in both regular education and special education settings. She has taught in a communication development classroom and has worked with students with behavior disorders; students with severe-profound disabilities, birth to 5; and medically fragile children, as well as those with developmental delays and autism. She served on a diagnostic team serving early childhood children for more than 10 years. For the last 25 years, she has worked with students with autism and significant other impairments. She has presented numerous workshops for parents and professionals on the various aspects of communication, speech, and language. She worked with Dr. Winnega in Autism Dynamic Beginnings since its inception and was a consultant to the program (renamed Students Teachers Achieving Results (STAR) program) incorporating the verbal behavior approach and structured teaching into effective teaching strategies for its students to maximize socially appropriate behavior and functional communication skills using a positive behavior approach. She also initiated the PBIS program for its use within a segregated school environment and has served on the committee for the Cooperative on which she worked for more than 10 years.



Contacting the Instructor

You may contact the instructor by emailing Dr. Winnega at or calling her at 509-891-7219, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m – 5 p.m. PST. Phone messages will be answered within 24 hours. Phone conferences will be limited to ten minutes per student, per day, given that this is a self-paced instructional program. Please do not contact the instructor about technical problems, course glitches, or other issues that involve the operation of the course.



Technical Questions

If you have questions or problems related to the operation of this course, please try everything twice. If the problem persists, please check our support pages for FAQs and known issues at and also the Help section of your course.


If you need personal assistance then email or call 509-891-7219. When contacting technical support, please know your course version number (it is located at the bottom left side of the Welcome Screen) and your operating system, and be seated in front of the computer at the time of your call.


Minimum Computer Requirements

Please refer to VESi’s website: or contact VESi if you have further questions about the compatibility of your operating system.


Refer to the addendum regarding Grading Criteria, Course Completion Information, Items to be Submitted, and how to submit your completed information. The addendum will also note any additional course assignments that you may be required to complete that are not listed in this syllabus.



Bibliography (Suggested Readings)

Please note that the authors do not support the use of previous diagnostic category known as Asperger’s Disorder. However, there are books and a body of literature listed below from before 2013 that use that terminology. These books continue to be useful references for interventions and descriptions.


Alsaedi, R. H., Carrington, S., & Watters, J. J. (2020). Behavioral and neuropsychological evaluation of executive functions in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Gulf Region. Brain Sciences10, 120.

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Antshel, K. M., & Russo, N. (2019). Autism spectrum disorders and ADHD: Overlapping phenomenology, diagnostic issues, and treatment considerations. Current Psychiatry Reports21, 34.

Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger’s Syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Future Horizons.

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Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. (2014, March 28). Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63, 1–21.

Baio, J., Wiggins, L., Christensen, D. L., Maenner, M. J., Daniels, J., Warren, Z., . . . Dowling, N. F. (2018). Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder among children aged 8 years—Autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveill Summer, 69(No. SS-4):1–12.

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Chen, S. F., Chien, Y. L., Wu, C. T., Shang, C. Y., Wu, Y. Y., & Gau, S. S. (2016). Deficits in executive functions among youths with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An age-stratified analysis. Psychological Medicine46, 1625–1638.

Chen, L., Abrams, D. A., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Iuculano, T., Wakeman, H. N., Prathap, S., Chen, T., & Menon, V. (2019). Quantitative analysis of heterogeneity in academic achievement of children with autism. Clinical Psychological Science: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science7, 362–380.

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Delemere, E., & Dounavi, K. J. (2017). Parent-implemented bedtime fading and positive routines for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

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Demetriou, E., Lampit, A., Quintana, D., Naismith, S., Song, Y. J. C., Pye, J., Hickie, I. & Guastella, A. (2018). Autism Spectrum Disorders: A meta-analysis of executive function. Molecular Psychiatry, 23, 1198–1204.

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Eikeseth, S., & Hayward, D. W. (2009). The discrimination of object names and object sounds in children with autism: A procedure for teaching verbal comprehension. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 807–812.

Faja, S., & Nelson Darling, L. (2019). Variation in restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests relates to inhibitory control and shifting in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice23, 1262–1272.

Freeman, S., Dake, L., & Tamir, I. (1997). Teach me language. (Book and manual). ProEd. (800-897-3202). Must be used with professional guidance of a behavioral consultant or speech pathologist.

Frost, L., & Bondy, A. (2002). The picture exchange communication system training manual (2nd ed.). Pyramid Educational Products.

Grandin, T. (1995). Thinking in pictures and other reports from my life with autism. Doubleday.

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Hanley et al. publications:

He, Y., Su, Q., Wang, L., He, W., Tan, C., Zhang, H., Ng, M. L., Yan, N., & Chen, Y. (2019). The characteristics of intelligence profile and eye gaze in facial emotion recognition in mild and moderate preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, 402.

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Hood, S. A., Luczynski, K. C., & Mitteer, D. R. (2017). Toward meaningful outcomes in teaching conversation and greeting skills with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 50, 459–486.

Johnson, K. A., Vladescu, J. C., Kodak, T., & Sidener, T.M. (2017). An assessment of differential reinforcement procedures for learners with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 50, 290–303.

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Kang, E., Santore, L., Rankin, J., & Lerner, M. (2020). Self-reported social skills importance ratings, not social skills themselves, predict sociometric status among youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 74.

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Klin, A., Jones, W., Schultz, R., Volkmar, F., & Cohen, D. (2002). Visual fixation patterns during viewing of naturalistic social situations as predictors of social competence in individuals with autism. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59(9), 809–816.

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Koegel, R. L., Bradshaw, J., Ashbaugh, K., & Koegel, L. K. (2014). Improving question-asking initiations in young children with autism using pivotal response treatment. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 816–827.

Koegel, R. L., Kim, S., Koegel, L. K., & Schwartzman, B. (2013). Improving socialization for high school students with ASD by using their preferred interests. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 43, 2121–2134.

Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. (1995). Teaching children with autism. Paul Brookes.

Koegel, R. L., Shirotova, L., & Koegel, L. K. (2009). Brief report: Using individualized orienting cues to facilitate first-word acquisition in non-responders with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39, 1587–1592.

Koegel et al. research:

Kouklari, E., Tsermentseli, S., & Monks, C. (2019). Developmental trends of hot and cool executive function in school-aged children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder: Links with theory of mind. Development and Psychopathology, 31, 541–556.

Kuypers, L. (2011). The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control. Think Social.

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Tsermentseli, S., Tabares, J.F., & Kouklari, E.C. (2018). The role of every-day executive function in social impairment and adaptive skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder with intellectual disability. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 53, 1–6.

Tunç, B., Yankowitz, L. D., Parker, D., Alappatt, J. A., Pandey, J., Schultz, R. T., & Verma, R. (2019). Deviation from normative brain development is associated with symptom severity in autism spectrum disorder. Molecular Autism, 10, 46.

Vanselow, N. R., & Hanley, G. P. (2014). An evaluation of computerized behavioral skill training to teach safety skills to young children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 47, 51–69.

Vargas, J. (2013). Behavior analysis for effective teaching (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Vogan, V. M., Morgan, B. R., Smith, M. L., & Taylor, M. J. (2019). Functional changes during visuo-spatial working memory in autism spectrum disorder: 2-year longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice23, 639–652.

Vogan, V. M., Leung, R. C., Safar, K, Martinussen, R., Smith, M. L., & Taylor, M. J. (2018). Longitudinal examination of everyday executive functioning in children with ASD: Relations with social, emotional, and behavioral functioning over time. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1774.

Venker, C. E., Edwards, J., Saffran, J. R., & Ellis Weismer, S. (2019). Thinking ahead: Incremental language processing is associated with receptive language abilities in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders49, 1011–1023.

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Wagner, S. (1998). Inclusive programming for elementary students with autism. Future Horizons.

Wagner, S. (2002). Inclusive programming for middle schools students with autism/Asperger’s syndrome. Future Horizons.

Wetherby, A. M., & Prizant, B. (2000). Autism spectrum disorders: A transactional developmental perspective. Paul Brookes.


Latest information in a variety of journals, including Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; Focus on Autism; Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis


Books by Carol Gray:

The New Social Story Book, The New Social Story Book–Illustrated Edition, and Taming the Recess Jungle. Available through Future Horizons.



Autism Society of North Caroline blog with useful information:

Contact the Autism Society for information including about the affiliate network:

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(1), Spring 2013 – Special Issue on Functional Analysis: Commemorating Thirty Years of Research and Practice.

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(2), April 2005 – This issue focuses on Asperger’s Disorder.

Resources for the ASD spectrum:

Autism Spectrum Connection (Formerly: OASIS (Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support); MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome


Autism Speaks statistics:

Signs of Autism in Girls who are highly verbal:

Lives in the balance:

National Standards Project, National Autism Center, ©2009 “The National Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting effective, evidence-based treatment approaches for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and to providing direction to families, practitioners, organizations, policy-makers, and funders. The Center’s goal is to serve individuals with ASD by responding to the rising demand for reliable information and by providing comprehensive resources for families and communities.”

Autism-Focused Intervention Resources & Modules:

Social Thinking by Michelle Garcia Winner:

Universal Design for Learning:

UDL Guidelines:

UDL at a glance:



Future Horizons, Inc. (Also has webinars and conferences)

AAPC Publishing


Course content is updated every three years. Due to this update timeline, some URL links may no longer be active or may have changed. Please type the title of the organization into the command line of any Internet browser search window and you will be able to find whether the URL link is still active or any new link to the corresponding organization’s web home page.



Updated 10/11/22 JN