What are “-isms”? They are “concise and forcefully expressive phrases” (Oxford Languages). So, what are START-isms? They are pithy phrases that represent the values that guide our work. As you explore the START-isms on our website, you will see classics that you have heard many times while others are new or refreshed. Some of these represent shifts in our thinking and understanding while others just needed to get written down. You will find that the START-isms are interdependent and build the structure for how we work together to make the lives of students with autism better.
Print, download, share, and display the START-isms:
- START-isms Posters (8.5 x 11 .pdf)
- START-isms Posters, print-friendly (8.5 x 11 .pdf)
- START-isms Posters, with descriptions (8.5 x 11 .pdf)
- START-isms Posters, all in one (8.5 x 11 .pdf)
- START-isms Posters, all in one/print-friendly (8.5 x 11 .pdf)
- START-isms Virtual Backgrounds
START somewhere and START now
Take a first step toward action today. There is no such thing as a perfect moment to start something new and you will not have more time tomorrow. The time to start something new or different is now. Even a small step is movement forward and that momentum can spur a chain reaction. Adjustments will follow as we observe how our actions are working, or not working. Impactful discoveries, movements, and changes all happen following action - not when we stand still.
Commit. Create. Advocate. ASD 365: A pledge to equity and inclusion every day.
We can raise awareness and encourage acceptance in April but more importantly, we must evaluate how we are advocating for inclusiveness throughout the year. Acceptance means individuals with disabilities, including ASD, are welcomed and valued. True acceptance is embodied by developing authentic relationships, guarding dignity, and prioritizing respect. Acceptance means belonging and participating in all aspects of school and community life. It is active and collaborative. When we commit to listening to all people and perspectives, we create spaces where true diversity and equity exist 365 days a year.
Independence Facilitators Facilitate Independence
The role of adults is to empower students to be as independent as possible in their learning, social interactions, and life activities rather than to serve as caretakers or protect them from risks or mistakes. Adults play a key role in facilitating the independence of students by intentionally supporting when needed, teaching tools that foster independence, and stepping back to make room for students to engage in age-relevant opportunities on their own or through interdependence with peers. Adults keep in mind that independence may look different across the school day, in different settings, across classes, and with various people.
Inclusion is not a readiness model
IDEA is clear that all students, first and foremost, are general education students. Inclusion is not optional. Students do not have to earn their way into opportunities, whether that is a general education classroom, a friendship, or an extracurricular activity. All students can participate and benefit from inclusion with individualized support.
Peer to peer isn’t one more thing, it is the thing
If you could choose just one evidence-based practice that would have a far-reaching effect on the quality of life of all students, choose peer to peer support. It is not just an evidence-based practice, it is a way of being together that promotes belonging, friendship, unity, and a shared experience. No other “thing” is that powerful for students, teachers, schools, and communities.
Use data to tell the story
Data is more than numbers and graphs, it is the story that tells us whether our teaching is working the way we intend for a student or a classroom. Without data, we are guessing and hoping that what we do is leading to progress. Collecting data is just a first step. Summarizing and visualizing the data reveals the story that then guides us to make the best decisions.
Effective for all students; essential for some
Highly-effective universal strategies for academics, social competency, and behavioral support are essential for students who experience the world in a different way. Students with ASD may require visual supports, self-management systems, differentiated instruction, and transition cues to be successful in school settings. The pleasant surprise is that these strategies create a learning environment that is more conducive to learning and social interaction for everyone.
Families. The heart of the team, not just part of the team.
No one knows a student or loves a student the way a family does. Planning and decision-making needs to be guided by the team’s efforts to understand the life of the student both inside and outside of school. As the heart of the team, families help to set the vision for what the student needs now to build a life and future with many opportunities.
Independence and social competency only develop with opportunities
Age-appropriate social skills develop with social opportunities and participation in grade-level integrated environments. Learning social skills in integrated settings with peers leads to natural experiences, real world feedback, and relationships. The goal for students with ASD is the same as for all children - to be independent and have meaningful social connections.
We did what we did when we knew what we knew. When we know better, we do better.
Our experiences and the ever-evolving research literature mean we are continually discovering new ways to work with students and families. We need to refrain from blaming ourselves or others for what we did in the past with good intentions. Once we have new information, we have a responsibility to adjust what we do to reflect the most effective practices of today.
Teach where and when
Intense fascinations and preoccupations are a part of autism. At times, they might interrupt learning or routines and our tendency is to try to make them stop. However, it is important that we not withhold access to preferred interests or cause heightened anxiety by denying preoccupations. We want to provide a balance of learning and social success with validating preferences and needs. Instead of saying "no," we can teach where and when. Teaching strategies may include: specifying times in the schedule to access interests, intentionally incorporating fascinations into learning activities, organizing social interactions around interest areas, or creating an outlet for a preoccupation.
This START-ism has been revised in response to feedback that some aspects of the prior version could be misinterpreted. We ask that you update your display and usage of this START-ism to reflect this change.
All decisions are informed by the law, research, and data
Move away from opinion debates, feelings, and anecdotes to an evidence-based decision making model. When developing goals and designing educational plans, three key considerations are necessary for evidence-based decision making: 1) the requirements set forth by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 2) the research literature on evidence-based practices, and 3) student outcome and system data.
Presuming competence means believing a person has the capacity to understand and learn—regardless of whether there is consistent, tangible evidence that this is the case. It’s assuming the person is capable and can learn. How we think about a student's capabilities impacts the decisions we make. Low expectations will lead to minimal results, but when you aim high, students rise to meet those expectations.
Write it down, write it down, write it down
Individuals with autism often have language processing differences and a propensity for visual learning. Therefore, visual supports are non-negotiable. For some students it is text, for some it is a picture, and for many, it will be both. When verbal instruction is not leading to student success, make the words visual. Write them down, draw a picture, or find a video model.