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Using Electricity/Circuits to Teach Communication, Academic, and Other Skills

If you've been following me a while, you know I think it's important to teach science to students with autism. With all of the other skills our students are working on, science is easy to overlook. It might not seem as important as communication or social skills, but it has lots of benefits, including supporting language and social skills. Here are some of the reasons I feel so strongly about teaching things like technology and science to students with autism:

  • People with autism are often naturally interested in technology, so you can use it to increase motivation for learning,

  • Learning about robotics, electronics, and technology can help students learn stills that may help them in the workforce,

  • Doing these activities can help develop and improve fine-motor skills,

  • Learning electronics and robotics can lead to social/educational opportunities. I'd love to see more students with autism join the robotics teams at their high schools. Meeting others with similar interests can increase opportunities for friendship and socialization.

Here are some examples of things to teach using a great kit called SnapCircuits:


The blue wire pieces have different numbers on them, depending on the size. You can have the student name the number on them before you give them the piece to add to the circuit.

Language: Asking for Things (Manding)

Since many of my students love building circuits (especially the ones that make the spinner spin), it's a great opportunity to work on language. The teacher can hold all of the circuit pieces and prompt the student to ask for each piece. "Manding" means asking for something, or requesting. Don't forget to fade your prompts quickly if you're using them! Here are some ideas for how you can have your student mand (ask) for different things:

Manding (requesting): you can prompt the student to ask you for things. You can hold all parts of the kit and have the student ask you for each one. You control the on/off switch and have the student ask you to turn it on or off. Have the student ask for a different color spinner, etc.


Counting: count the batteries, the number of pieces in the circuit, the pegs on the board, etc.

Fine Motor

The process of building the circuits themselves involves the use of fine motor skills.

Fine Motor: putting in the batteries and attaching the pieces together.

Here are some additional lesson plans and activities on this topic for students with autism. The first one is an interactive book from Curriculum for Autism. I love interactive books because they allow students to read about a topic and respond to questions in the book.

Electricity Adapted Book Cover

Electricity Safety Activities: These activities teach some basic electricity safety rules for common situations (such as how to safely unplug something). I like to combine these activities with live modeling and supervised practice of the guidelines contained in the activities.

Cover Image of Electricity Safety Activities

Electricity and Circuits Science Unit 1: Introduce basic concepts about electricity and circuits with this printable, hands-on activity set. Includes background info for teachers, so you can just print the pages and start the lessons with almost no prep! You can also just show the pages on a tablet, computer or phone screen. Each page has everything on it that you need to say and do with your student. Note: these lessons are designed to be used with a kit like SnapCircuits.

Electricity and Circuits Science Unit Cover Image


Meet Dr. Caldwell

Hi! I'm Dr. Nicole Caldwell and I've been working with students on the autism spectrum for about 12 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!

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