Autism Awareness for Kids!






To promote understanding and awareness of children with autism to their typical peers.  To reduce anxieties or fears children may have when a student with autism is in their classroom. 





During the course of this unit, the students will…


1.  …gain an understanding of what autism is.


2.  …learn basic facts about autism.


3.  …discover how some people with autism might behave.


4.  …learn how people with autism are similar to themselves.


5.  …gain an understanding of how people with autism see and feel the world around them (sensory issues).


6.  …discover ways students can help people with autism.









The Unit


Suggested Materials for Day 1:  “What is Autism?”


1.  “Autism Awareness Ribbon” worksheet


2.  Large sheet of chart paper and markers.


3.  Autism Fact Sheet Just for Kids!


4.  Worksheet Day 1 “Autism Awareness Ribbon”





1.  Use chart paper to write down “what students know” about autism.  Discuss their answers.


2.  Explain to students that today, they will gain a basic understanding of what autism is.


3.  Discuss “Just for Kids! What is Autism Fact Sheet”


Main topics should include:


When a person has autism, it means that something in their brain is different from other people’s brains.  This is the reason they may behave differently.


Some people with autism have trouble understanding words and communicating with others.  Discuss how using pictures can help.


Some people with autism have difficulty playing and/or relating to other people.  Sometimes they just don’t know how to interact and need to be taught this skill.


Some kids with autism might have a tantrum.  This might happen when they become frustrated and are unable to communicate their wants or needs.  It might also be caused by something happening in their environment that is causing them pain or discomfort (examples:  a smell, noise, or an uncomfortable or painful touch).


4.  After this discussion review the remainder of the fact sheet, then show students the Autism Awareness Ribbon, which can also be found at:



I have watered the information from the ribbon down for elementary aged students.  This is my version below:


“The puzzle pattern stands for the mystery of autism.  The different colors and shapes stand for the different people and families living with autism.  The brightness of the ribbon stands for hope and awareness!







5.  Discuss what children learned about autism today.


6.  Give each student an “Autism Awareness Ribbon” worksheet to complete and color.




































Suggested Materials for Day 2:  “How might some people with autism behave?”



1.  Ian’s walk A Story about Autism (or any similar book written for children about autism).


2. Large sheet of chart paper and markers.


3.  Worksheet Day 2 Autism: True or False?





1.  Discuss “Day 1” information about what students have learned thus far about autism.


2.  Read Ian’s walk A Story about Autism to students.


3.  Discuss and write on chart paper Ian’s different behaviors from the story.


4.  Discuss how Ian relates to other people in the story.


5.  Now discuss some quick facts about autism.


Quick facts should include:


v   You CANNOT catch autism from somebody.


v   There is no cure for autism


v   People who are born with autism will not outgrow it, although they might find ways to fit in to the world around them as they grow up.


v   People with autism can get jobs.


v   Children with autism need friends just like other kids.


v   People with autism need others to be patient with them.


v   Some people with autism may get upset when things change in their environment or schedule.  It is important to warn them ahead of time if changes will happen.


v   People with autism are NOT all alike.  They have different behaviors, personalities and needs.


v   People with autism are able to learn, but may need a special classroom for certain subjects.  They may also need to learn by having lots of pictures shown to them during classes and may need schedules shown to them during the day so they know what to expect.


v   More boys have autism than girls (4 out of 5).  Autism is usually seen by the time the child is 3 years old.



6.  Give students “Day 2” Worksheet:  Autism:  True or False?  Allow students to work with a partner, if desired.  Discuss answers.






















Suggested Materials for Day 3:  “Sensory Issues:  What is it like to have Autism?”


1.  Day 3 Worksheet Autism Word Chop


2.  Radio



1.  Start the lesson by telling everyone to sit with both feet flat on the floor (uncrossed) and both hands on their laps (uncrossed).  No elbows on desks, sit perfectly still for as long as possible while you proceed with the lesson.


2.  Explain to students that they will learn about something called “Sensory Issues” today.  Sensory issues have to do with the senses. 


3.  Tell students that people with autism may sense the world around them differently than typical people. 


Explain the following…




v   Autistic kids experience the world differently from the way most other kids do. Those differences make it hard for kids with autism to communicate with others and react to things going on around them in the usual ways.


v   Autism also creates a confusing world of senses. Quiet sounds may be loud and distracting to a kid with autism. A sudden noise could be terrifying. A person's touch might set off a wave of strong sensations - like when a chill gives you the shivers, but much worse.




Now ask the students how they feel sitting with both feet flat on the floor and hands on their laps.  Discuss what they need to do to feel comfortable again.  Explain to students that people with autism may do things to make themselves feel comfortable again too such as flapping their hands, playing with a spinning object or just getting up and pacing back and forth. 




Walk to the back of the room and slam a book on the floor when students are not looking.  Ask students how they felt about the noise.  Explain that although this was a very loud noise, students with autism may hear quiet noises as being loud sometimes and some noises, even quiet ones may, startle some people with autism.




Have an assistant flicker the lights in the room on and off continually while you ask questions about autism to students.  Keep the lights flickering until students are annoyed.  Now discuss how distracting it was for students to pay attention to you and others with the lights flickering on and off.  Explain that some people with autism may actually see fluorescent lights flicker even though people without autism do not.  Explain how distracting and frustrating this could be to a person with autism.   


Also talk about how some people with autism might not make eye contact with others when talking and although they are not looking at you, they are probably still paying attention.  Some people with autism have stated that it is very difficult to look at a persons face or eyes when talking.  Some people with autism have even described it as being “painful”.





Turn the radio on loud while you discuss the flickering light frustrations.  Explain to the students this is how some people with autism might hear a radio, even when the volume is low. 



v   When someone smiles, a kid without autism knows that the smiling person is happy or being friendly. Kids with autism, however, have trouble connecting a person's gestures - such as a smile or frown - with the person's feelings.


v   It's difficult, too, for kids with autism to link words with their meanings. Imagine trying to talk with someone or learn from a teacher if you couldn't make sense of their words and gestures and couldn't come up with the right words to express your own thoughts!




Before this activity tell students they are NOT allowed to communicate with anyone in the room except the teacher.  Also, tell them that if they wish to communicate to the teacher they are not allowed to use words in any way, shape or form.


Give the students any worksheet (math, subtraction with regrouping works well).  Tell the students they have 30 seconds to complete the worksheet and it will count as a grade.  Make sure it will be impossible for even the most skilled math student to complete the entire page in 30 seconds.


After 30 seconds is up, collect the worksheets, then give the students the exact same worksheet (tell them it is a different paper) and do the activity again.  Repeat this activity until you see students get frustrated.


After the activity, ask students how they felt about it.  The purpose of this activity is to frustrate the students without letting them tell you what is wrong.  You will be giving the students the same activity over and over again, telling them it is different each time and giving them a period of time to do the activity that is impossible. 


Discuss the behaviors they saw in the classroom during this activity.  Remember, students cannot use words to communicate with you.  Was there fussing, moaning and groaning, pounding on the desks, stomping of the feet,  sighing loudly?  Talk about how students with autism might get frustrated when they are unable to communicate to others.




4.  Give students Day 3 Worksheet Autism Word Chop.  Allow them to work with a partner, if desired.  When students are finished, discuss the vocabulary words on the sheet and what they mean to a person with autism.




Suggested Materials for Day 4:  “How are people with autism similar to me?”


1.  Large sheet of chart paper and markers.


2.  Free e-book (print ahead of time)


3.  Worksheet Day 4 Autism Awareness Word Search





1.  Review and discuss what students have learned thus far about autism.


2.  Use chart paper to write students answers to the question:  “How are people with autism like me?”


(Answers may include:  They have special interests and hobbies, they can learn, they can go to school just like other kids, they have feelings just like me, some kids with mild autism will grow up and be able to live on their own, people with autism may need help with certain things, but everyone needs help from time to time, people with autism need friends, people with autism need support and understanding of doctors, teachers, caregivers, parents, brothers, sisters too.)


3.  Read “My Brother Kevin has Autism”  A free, printable e-book.  Discuss.


4.  Give students Word Search Day 4.









Suggested Materials for Day 5:  “How can I help a friend with autism?”



1.  “How to help a friend with autism poster”


2.  Worksheet Day 5 Helping Friends with Autism


3.  Large piece of chart paper and markers.





1.  Review all that students know about autism.


2.  Discuss the following ways students can help children with autism in their classrooms or other places.  The following are on the poster.


v   Play with them and show them the right way to play games.


v   Use short sentences.  Too many words can be confusing.


v   You might have to ask them a question many times before they answer you.  Be patient!


v   You might have to use picture cards to communicate. 


v   Draw pictures for them or write things down makes it easier for kids with autism to understand.


4.  Allow students to work on Worksheet Day 5 Helping Friends with Autism


5.  Give students Brainstorming Worksheet Day 5 to complete with a partner.  When finished discuss and write students answers on chart paper.


6.  Wrap up:  Use chart paper to record answers to the question:  “What do I know about autism?”  Compare answers to the chart made on Day 1.




For more information about autism for kids, visit my website at:






































Make Autism Awareness ribbons to share with friends and family.


Volunteer in the Autistic Support classroom by helping or reading to students.


Become a buddy or mentor to a student with autism in your school or neighborhood.


Make a bulletin board in the school hallway or in your classroom about autism and what you have learned.


Research autism on the Internet!
























Recommended Internet Sites






Kid’s Quest



Autism Information Written for Kids



Just for Kids




Kids and Kaboodle




About Autism




Hugs Feel Good




Kid’s Health: Autism