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The exercises in Early Intervention for Children with ASD: Considerations bring to light some general principles in early behavioral intervention for children with ASD. We emphasize the importance of looking beyond specific content and illustrate how exercises can be employed to teach foundational capacities such as attention and memory and to improve social awareness and social acuity. We stress the importance of 'intrinsic program coherence' as we articulate relations between individual exercises / abilities.

Who-Questions (3)



• To establish a rudimentary understanding of the pronoun “Who” in the

context of “Where” and “What.”


Set up


• Two to three (or more) persons are situated around the room or sit in a

circle. Familiar objects are placed around the room.

• This exercise is a combination of previous exercises



• Randomize (a) “What is over there?” (b) “Where is the [object]?” (c) “Is the

[object] over there?” (d) “Where is [person]? followed by (e) “What does

she have?” (f) Who has the [object]?” followed by (g) “Where is she?” (h)

“Who is over there?” (i) “Is [person] over there ?” (points), (j) “What did

you give to [person 1 or 2]?” (see “Who Questions (2)”, #160), (k) “Who

did you give the [object]?” (or “Who did you give the object to?”) see “Who

Questions (2)” #160)

• Same arrangement as above. Add the question: “Where is the [object]?”

when someone is holding the object. The child should answer, “[person]

has [it]” rather than “over there.” Randomize questions about objects in

someone’s possession (“[person] has it”) and not in someone’s possession

(“over there”).

Basic Expressive Prepositions (2)



• To teach the child describe relations involving the simple locatives on and

under, next to, behind, and in front of.

Set up


• A large base object (e.g., chair) and a smaller ambulant object. The child

faces the base object.



• Step 1: Place the ambulant object (e.g. block) in any position relative to

the base object, (a chair) and ask: “Where is the block?” Prompt correct

answer (“on,” “under,” etc.) and fade prompts over successive trials. (a)

Introduce additional locations one at a time. When introducing a new

location, always randomize it with acquired ones. (b) Vary the ambulant

object. (c) Intersperse expressive and receptive trials.

• Step 2: Introduce additional factual questions such as “What color is the

___?” (see #120), “What color is this?” (while pointing to an object) (see

#122), and questions involving pronominalization (see #144). For instance,

point to the block and ask; “What is it?” When the child answers, move it

to a location (e.g., under the chair) and ask; “Where is it?

• Step 3: Place two different base objects next to each other and an ambulant

object (e.g., spoon) relative to one of them. Ask: “Where is the spoon?”

Prompt correct answer (e.g., “it is under the chair”) and fade prompts

over successive trials. Place the spoon in another location and repeat the

procedure. Continue until the child discriminates between all locations

with both base objects. When accomplished introduce additional factual

questions (see step 2).

• Step 4: The instructor places two different base objects next to each other

and an ambulant object in each of the possible locations (a total of 10

locations). Asks: “Where is the spoon?” “Where is the cup?” etc. The

child answers using prepositions and location (e.g., it is under the chair”)

and fade prompt over successive trials. When the child scans and answers

fluently, “reverse” the question; “What is [preposition] [location]?’ (e.g.,

“What is on the chair?”). Prompt correct answer (e.g., “a cup” or “the

cup”). Randomize “What” and “Where” questions and fade prompts over

successive trials. When acquired, introduce additional questions unrelated

to prepositions (see step 2).


• The child may point to the location of an object in cases when you want the

child to tell you. In such instances, simply ask the child to tell you where

it is. If this becomes a habit, modify your instruction so that you say, “Tell

me where the (object) is.”


Nominal Pronouns (4): Shifting speakers



  • To teach the child to use nominative pronouns “I” and “You”, combined with proper names


Set Up


  • Three or more persons required

        Have the child hold an object (e.g. cup)  and you and an assistant each hold          different objects. You and the assistant rotate asking.



  • Step one: You and assistant rotate asking, “Who has the  “X” (e.g. cup) vs “Who has “Y” (e.g. ball), “Who has “Z” (e.g. spoon). When you ask questions regarding the assistant, the child refers to her by name.  When you are the spectator and the assistant is asking questions ,the child will refer to you by your proper name and the assistant as “you”.  Of course the child always refers to themselves as “I” and when you are asking to “you” as “you".


  • Step two: You or assistant ask the child “What do you have” , “What do I have”, “What does (person/proper name have?)”.

       Prompt correct responses according to who is in possession of each object,           i.e, I have the X or You have Y, ‘Proper name’ (Sally) has Z . This is more                   difficult than step one because if requires transforming the pronoun.
       Make sure to change what each of you is holding so that the child will not             memorize responses.


  • This exercise is not only matter of answering questions. It entails personal deixis; the right answer depends on who is asking. The primary goal is to teach the child to say “you” when the speaker asks the child what the speaker is holding, to say “I” when the speakers asks about what the child is holding and to use a proper name when the child is asked about what any other person is holding (if that person is not the speaker). This discrimination requires considerable practice.


      If the child struggles with these arrangements, segment instruction into                  smaller ‘switched’ sequences as described in step 3 of Assigning Pronouns to        Pictures of Persons 1.