Teaching Approaches

Here are some of my favorite teaching approaches for students with autism. I use these strategies as inspiration when I'm working kids and teens in their homes on language, communication, and academics. If you're in the Dallas/Rockwall, Texas area and would like to learn more about how I can work with your child (including a free initial consultation), please visit this page.

1. The Son-Rise Program® from the Autism Treatment Center of America®. I've recently started their online parent training program, and I absolutely love it! This approach to teaching children with autism completely speaks to my heart. It recognizes how wonderful and amazing people with autism are, and uses that love as a gateway to social interaction with your child. It allows you to build learning and social interaction into activities that your child already enjoys. I read the book "Autism Breakthrough" (written about the method) and started using some of the strategies with one of my students. I loved the results and I'm so excited to be taking the full online training program. Just as a disclaimer, I'm not certified in this method, I'm just taking the parent training online course. I wouldn't say that I provide this program to my students (as I'm not trained and certified to do so), but the overall method influences my teaching style.

2. Pivotal Response Treatment® (PRT). PRT is considered a play-based and child-directed application of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). With PRT, you can use your child's favorite toys and activities as tools for teaching language, communication, academics, and other skills. PRT is designed to make learning motivating and relevant to children, and I consider it a highly effective teaching method. You can learn more about PRT from the Koegel Autism Consultants and the amazing books, "The PRT Pocket Guide" and "Overcoming Autism." I currently have a level 1 certification in this approach and am working on level 2.

3. Video Modeling and Visual Supports. Since many students with autism are visual learners, using video to teach new skills and behaviors is a great tool! To learn more about how to use this teaching strategy, you can download my webinar about video modeling. Other tools in this area include picture schedules, color-coding, and other strategies that support visual learners. I'll be sharing more about visual learning strategies on my blog.

4. Using Student Interests to Teach. This is probably my favorite and most frequently used teaching approach. I love to make customized lessons, activities, and curriculum for my students. I'll often plan the activities to include whatever they're interested in. You can find some of my ideas and examples (along with free printable activities) on my blog.

As a general rule, I always recommended looking at the research support for any approach you're considering. Ask the provider about that, and they should be happy to share.


Meet Dr. Caldwell

Hi! I'm Dr. Nicole Caldwell and I've been working with students on the autism spectrum for about 14 years. My background is in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Montessori. I have a Master's degree and PhD in special education with an emphasis in autism, and I love what I do! I currently work with children with autism in their homes on social, communication, and academic skills. I specialize in:


•Teaching math to students with math difficulties or math anxiety,

•Teaching science and coding to children with autism, and

•Working on language and communication by embedding learning opportunities into your child’s favorite activities. I think of this as “play to learn.”


If you’re in the Dallas/Rockwall, Texas area and would like to learn more about working with me, please send me a message and we’ll set up a free initial consultation.


If you're outside of the Dallas/Rockwall area, I offer online instruction in middle and high school math, coding, and 3D modeling via video conferencing. Send me a message if you'd like more information or to set-up a free initial consultation (via video conferencing). Thank you!