Capstone Project Title

Increasing Verbal Communication with Peers for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder By Using In-class Engagement Activities


Fall 2020


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Patty Born

Content Expert

Ashley Dohmen


The research question addressed in this project is: How will using in-class engagement activities increase verbal communication with peers for students with autism spectrum disorder? According to Autism, 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD, 1 in 37 being male and 1 in 151 being female (2019). During an average day, students with autism struggle to communicate with classmates and consequently, become overwhelmed, anxious, and irritated to the point of verbal outbursts and physical reactions which disrupt learning, and in turn, rupture relationships with classmates. The major themes explored in the review of literature were autism spectrum disorder, autism awareness and education, communication activities, classroom engagement activities, middle school unit development, and authentic communication experiences. This curriculum was developed based on an understanding of autism spectrum disorder and by reviewing a variety of communication building activities that can be tailored and designed for the middle school classroom. Students with autism struggle to engage in conversations because of struggles with topic management, reciprocity, intonation, and gaze management, as well as reading non-verbal cues (Carter et al., 2013). The curriculum is beneficial for students with autism due to the nature of the disability, which makes many aspects of communication difficult. The unit is also beneficial for students without autism due to the importance of learning communication skills, as well as, the experience of learning how to talk to groups of people that think, act, and react differently than themselves. The project provides a foundation for how to respectfully speak to peers and adults in the classroom so that learning can be fun and productive. Students with ASD greatly benefit from the common foundation this curriculum lays because it reinforces the communication support that they have with Speech Language Pathologists or Psychologists, thus reinforcing their understanding while supporting their transfer of knowledge into an authentic setting. The middle schools years are paramount for modeling appropriate behavior in the classroom, with peers, with adults, and with one’s self.








School of Education Student Capstone Projects

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