Understanding Autism Learning Styles: Differences, Tips and FAQs

autism learning styles

Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that frequently affects communication, social skills, learning, and behaviors. Autism can present in a wide variety of ways, but there are some characteristics that are common between all individuals such as repetitive behaviors and differences in social communication.

In addition to these diagnostic criteria, autistic people often have differences in learning styles as compared to their non-autistic peers. For example, many autistic children are highly visual learners and need to see new information to best retain it (such as reading directions instead of listening to them spoken aloud). Autistic people may also use fewer learning styles than their non-autistic peers. For this reason, it is important to understand each child’s learning style(s) to help them be successful in school and beyond. In this article, we will cover visual learning style, auditory learning style, kinesthetic learning style, and reading and writing learning style.

Visual Learning Style

Visual learning is learning with your eyes. People who are visual learners do best when they can see information, such as reading, looking at charts or diagrams, or looking at pictures. Visual learners often have difficulty when information is presented auditorily (using their ears). This learning style is very common among autistic children. Additionally, many autistic children have difficulty with spoken language, and some do not use spoken language at all. This makes it even more important to give visual learners the tools they need to learn and succeed. Providing children with the proper tools ensures they are able to access information in a way they can process most effectively to allow success in academic environments. Helpful tools for autistic children with a visual learning style can include: 

Video Modeling

Using videos to demonstrate and teach specific skills or behaviors can be highly effective for visual learners. To use video modeling, teachers, parents, or therapists select or create videos that model the skill they are targeting in a developmentally-appropriate way. Children then watch the videos and attempt to generalize the skills they learn. Autistic children can observe and imitate desired actions, making the learning process more accessible. Video modeling can be used for a wide range of skills, such as social interactions, classroom behaviors, daily routines (like hand washing), or life skills like ordering at a restaurant. 

Graphic Organizers

Visual aids like graphic organizers help in organizing information in a visual format, allowing autistic children to better understand relationships between concepts and ideas. Organizers can be particularly helpful for school assignments to help children break down longer work into more easily understood segments. 

Picture Schedules

Many autistic children have difficulty transitioning between daily activities, such as going from home to school or from play time to learning time. Creating visual schedules with pictures or symbols helps autistic children navigate daily routines and understand the sequence of activities. Visual schedules can be more broad, like a daily schedule with major events, or made more specific for times when transitions are harder to navigate.

Diagrams and Visual Aids

Incorporating diagrams and visual aids into lessons can enhance comprehension by providing a visual representation of abstract concepts or complex information. For example, a visual learner will understand newly presented material much easier if they are also shown pictures relating to the material. 

Written Instructions

Providing both verbal and written instructions can offer additional support for visual learners who may otherwise have a hard time processing the information. Visual learners often struggle when information is only presented verbally, which can often put them at a disadvantage in the classroom. Having directions written on the board or on top of the assignment is an easy way to support visual learners at school. 

Social Stories 

Social stories use visual narratives to explain social situations and expectations, helping autistic children navigate social interactions by providing clear guidelines and expectations. To make a social story, you need to identify a target social or life skill you want to address, and then create a short visual-heavy narrative explaining how to do it. Social stories can be made for almost any topic, such as teeth brushing, taking turns on the playground, or going to the dentist. It can be helpful to include real pictures of the child engaging in the activity when possible, or a trusted adult, sibling, or friend. 

Auditory Learning Style

Auditory learners are those who learn best through listening. They would rather listen to an audiobook than read it themselves or hear a project explained instead of getting the information on paper. Auditory learning is usually considered less common than visual learning in autistic children, but it is still a learning style many autistic children possess. Auditory learners with autism typically have strong language skills, are good at speaking, and can listen for longer periods of time than those with other learning styles. Auditory learners often do well in traditional classroom environments, but there are still several strategies educators can use to benefit autistic auditory learners:


Repetition of key information can reinforce learning for auditory learners by allowing them to process it more than once in their preferred learning style. Repeating important information or instructions helps improve comprehension and is an easy strategy to incorporate into the classroom.

Verbal Discourse

Encouraging verbal discussions and group activities can engage auditory learners in a meaningful way. This provides them with opportunities to process information through verbal communication and exchange ideas with their peers.

Record Lessons

Providing recorded versions of lessons allows auditory learners to review and reinforce their understanding by listening to the material multiple times. This accommodates their preference for auditory input and aids in retention.

Read Aloud

Reading aloud instructions, assignments, or important information can be beneficial for auditory learners. Additionally, providing auditory learners a space to quietly read content aloud to themselves can be very beneficial. Using read-aloud reinforces the importance of the written information while improving comprehension for auditory learners.

Play Quiet Background Music

Some auditory learners, including those with autism, may benefit from playing quiet background music during study sessions or quiet reading time. This can help create a focused and comfortable learning environment by drowning out background noise that may otherwise be distracting.

Kinesthetic Learning Style

Kinesthetic learners are those who learn best through movement and tactile (touch) input. They would be considered hands-on learners who learn best by doing things rather than seeing or hearing about them. Kinesthetic learners often enjoy sports and physical activities and can easily become bored in traditional classrooms. Kinesthetic learners with autism may be interested in taking items apart and putting them back together. Autistic children may also need additional sensory input to stay regulated, or have trouble remaining in their seats in class. There are many strengths to this learning style, including problem-solving abilities, creative thinking, and information retention. However, kinesthetic learners often struggle in the classroom. Strategies than can be implemented in classrooms to benefit kinesthetic learners can include:

Go Outside

Outdoor activities provide kinesthetic learners with the opportunity to move freely and engage in physical learning experiences. This plays to their strength in hands-on-learning and allows for better understanding and retention.

Do Experiments

Incorporating hands-on experiments allows kinesthetic learners to actively participate in the learning process, promoting a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and principles. For example, a kinesthetic learner will have a much better understanding of how plants grow if they are allowed to plant seeds in cups. 

Make Models

Creating physical models provides a tangible representation of abstract ideas, catering to the kinesthetic learner’s need for hands-on exploration. Models can be particularly useful in science or social studies lessons to recreate historical scenes or visualize microscopic cells. For example, when learning about microscopic organisms in biology, creating models of cells they would not otherwise be able to see can be useful.

Movement Activities or Breaks

Introducing regular movement activities or breaks during lessons helps kinesthetic learners maintain focus and energy levels, preventing boredom or restlessness. When movement can be incorporated into learning, such as a dance to help learn math concepts, it can be particularly helpful in facilitating learning. This works by both enhancing their memory and by giving more abstract concepts a physical or tangible form

Sensory Devices

Providing sensory devices, such as fidget tools or textured materials, can offer additional tactile input, helping kinesthetic learners regulate themselves in the classroom. Some classrooms are even starting to include things like bicycle desks, wiggle seats, or exercise balls to help kinesthetic learners stay regulated and focused in class. 

Reading and Writing Learning Style

Read/write learners learn best through reading material and taking notes. Autistic read/write learners do best when they are provided textbooks, handouts, or other ways to read new information. They also like to take notes to read and re-read later. Read/write learners often enjoy having access to reference materials, like dictionaries and encyclopedias. They often do well in traditional classroom environments, as long as they are provided books and/or ways to take notes during lectures. However, read/write learners with autism can struggle with class discussions, presentations, or hands-on projects. Read/write learners can be supported at school with some of the following strategies:

Encourage Note-Taking

Read/write learners do well when they are able to take effective notes to read again later as they study. Teaching effective note-taking strategies and using them in the classroom is a great way to support this type of learner. Summarizing key points, using bullet points, and creating organized outlines are some types of note-taking strategies that work well in class. 

Provide Writing Opportunities

Assigning written projects, essays, or research papers allows read/write learners to express their thoughts in a written format. You can offer opportunities for creative writing, journaling, or reflective writing exercises to help support read/write students at school. Other options could include open-ended or essay responses on tests. 

Provide Written Materials

Offering textbooks, handouts, and written instructions ensures that information is presented in a format that aligns with the read/write learner’s preference. In addition to providing the material, it is also important to provide read/write learners time to read and process the information. For older students, providing handouts of lectures with space for note-taking can be particularly helpful.

Use a Discussion Board

Many read/write learners do not like participating in class discussions because they have trouble articulating their thoughts through speech. Allowing students the chance to participate in written discussions through a discussion board is very helpful for including read/write learners in class discussions. 

How to Identify My Autistic Child’s Learning Style? 

Identifying the appropriate learning style for each autistic individual involves careful observation and consideration of many factors, but is so important for helping them learn and succeed. In short, you can choose the learning style that best aligns with how they naturally engage with their environment. Some of our suggestions for identifying your child’s learning style include:

Observe Strengths and Interests 

Identify your child’s strengths and interests and see how they fit into the learning styles mentioned above. If they show a strong interest in visuals, such as drawings, charts, or pictures, a visual learning style might be suitable. If you notice early signs of hyperliteracy and strong language skills, the read/write learning style may be best.

Assess Challenges

Understand the specific challenges your child faces. For example, if verbal communication is challenging, visual or hands-on learning styles may be more effective. If attention issues are present, consider incorporating movement breaks or kinesthetic activities.

Communication Abilities

Consider your child’s communication abilities in both receptive and expressive language. If they excel in verbal (expressive) communication, auditory learning strategies may be beneficial. For those who struggle with verbal communication but have strong written language skills, the read/write style may be best. For others who are non-speaking, visual aids or alternative communication methods may be more effective.

Sensory Preferences

Take into account your child’s sensory preferences. If they are sensitive to auditory stimuli, they are likely not an auditory learner and you should minimize noise when possible. If they seek sensory input, they will benefit from kinesthetic learning approaches so incorporating tactile elements into learning activities may be beneficial.

Attention and Focus

Observe how your child maintains attention and focus. Do they thrive in quiet, structured environments, or do they seem more engaged during interactive and dynamic activities? For those with challenges in sustaining attention, short and varied activities, movement breaks, or interactive tasks may help maintain engagement. Tailor the learning style to match your child’s attention span.

Empower Autonomy

Involve your child in the decision-making process when possible. Encourage them to express their preferences and provide feedback on what methods work best for them. Depending on your child’s communication abilities, ask for their feedback. Use simple questions or observations to understand what they enjoy or find challenging in different learning situations.

Incorporating Autism Learning Styles

Embracing and incorporating autism learning styles is essential for providing an inclusive and effective school experience for autistic children. Here are key tips and advice for parents and educators to start implementing these learning styles:

Individualized Learning Approach

Tip for Parents: Observe your child’s strengths, interests, and challenges. Tailor learning activities to match their individual preferences. Celebrate their unique abilities and cater to their specific needs.

Tip for Educators: Implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that take into account each student’s learning style. Differentiate instruction to accommodate various modalities, ensuring that each autistic student receives personalized support.

Adaptability/Flexibility with the Learning Process

Tip for Parents: Stay open to trying different approaches and be flexible in adapting learning materials and methods based on your child’s responses. Be patient and embrace a trial-and-error approach.

Tip for Educators: Foster a flexible learning environment that allows for individualized adjustments. Recognize that the needs of autistic learners may change, requiring ongoing adaptation of teaching methods and materials.

Collaborative Support of Educators and Parents

Tip for Parents: Communicate openly with teachers and school staff about your child’s learning preferences, strengths, and challenges. Collaborate on strategies that work both at home and in the school environment to provide consistent support.

Tip for Educators: Foster strong communication with parents to gain insights into each student’s learning style. Create a collaborative partnership that ensures a consistent and supportive approach across home and school settings.

Predictable Environment

Tip for Parents: Establish routines and predictability at home. Create visual schedules and communicate any changes in advance. Consistency can provide a sense of security for autistic learners.

Tip for Educators: Structure the classroom environment with visual cues, schedules, and clear expectations. Minimize unexpected changes and transitions, offering advance notice when scheduled changes are necessary.

Incorporation of Technology and Assistive Devices

Tip for Parents: Explore educational apps, software, assistive devices, or communication tools for autism that align with your child’s learning style. Technology can provide additional support and engagement.

Tip for Educators: Integrate technology and assistive devices into the classroom to enhance learning experiences. Ensure that students have access to tools that cater to their individual needs and preferences. 

Sensory Considerations

Tip for Parents: Create a sensory-friendly home environment by considering lighting, noise levels, and movement preferences. Provide sensory breaks or tools that help regulate your child.

Tip for Educators: Design classrooms with sensory considerations in mind. Offer sensory breaks and provide a variety of sensory-friendly tools to support autistic students in self-regulation.

Promote Social Interaction and Communication

Tip for Parents: Encourage social activities that align with your child’s interests. Use visual supports and social stories to facilitate communication and social understanding.

Tip for Educators: Foster a supportive social environment by incorporating structured social activities. Use visual supports and communication aids to enhance social interactions and understanding.

FAQs on Autism Learning Styles

If you are trying to identify your autistic child’s learning style, you probably have a lot of questions! Here are some commonly asked questions that we hope you find helpful:

What is the best learning style for autism?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Autistic individuals vary widely, and the most effective learning style depends on individual preferences and strengths. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and read/write approaches are commonly used, but a personalized approach that considers their strengths and challenges is crucial.

Why do autistic people learn differently?

Autistic people may process information differently due to neurodivergent brain wiring. Sensory sensitivities, communication differences, and unique cognitive profiles contribute to diverse learning styles. Understanding and accommodating these differences can enhance the learning experience for autistic children.

How do autistic students learn?

Autistic students often exhibit a range of learning styles. Some may prefer visual learning through pictures and charts, others may excel in auditory learning with spoken instructions, while some may thrive in kinesthetic learning involving movement and hands-on activities. Identifying and incorporating these preferences can support effective learning.

What are the challenges of learning in autism?

Challenges in learning for autistic individuals may include difficulties with social interactions, sensory sensitivities, and communication breakdowns. Traditional teaching methods that rely heavily on auditory instruction may pose challenges. Tailoring learning strategies to accommodate these challenges can create a more inclusive learning environment.

Can individuals with autism have a combination of learning styles?

Yes, many individuals with autism have a combination of learning styles. Recognizing and incorporating a variety of approaches can provide a more comprehensive and effective learning experience. For example, a child may benefit from visual aids for certain subjects and prefer hands-on activities for others.

How can I create a multisensory learning experience for my child with autism?

You can create a multisensory learning experience using the following elements:

  • Incorporate Visuals: Use visual aids like charts, diagrams, and videos. 
  • Include Auditory Elements: Use spoken instructions, audiobooks, or music. 
  • Hands-On Activities: Integrate hands-on activities and experiments. 
  • Tactile Materials: Provide textured materials or fidget tools for tactile input. 
  • Movement Breaks: Allow short breaks for movement to enhance engagement.

How do I ensure that the chosen learning style is effective for my child?

Regularly observe and communicate with your child to understand their responses and engagement levels. Stay open to trying different approaches and be flexible in adapting the learning style based on their feedback. Collaborate with educators to create a consistent approach between home and school.

Can learning styles change or evolve over time for individuals with autism?

Yes, learning styles can change or evolve over time. As individuals with autism develop and gain new skills, their preferences and strengths may shift. Regularly reassess their learning style and be prepared to adapt teaching methods to meet their changing needs.

Using Forbrain to Help with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Forbrain, an altered auditory feedback device, is beneficial for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by addressing auditory processing challenges. The device enhances self-awareness by allowing children to hear their own voice more clearly, aiding speech and language development. This auditory feedback loop is particularly beneficial for individuals with autism who may struggle with processing and interpreting auditory information. It also improves attention and focus during communication tasks, regulates sensory input, and supports accurate articulation. Forbrain’s multisensory approach engages the auditory system, making it a valuable tool in speech and language therapy for children with autism. For more information on how Forbrain can help with autism, please see here. 

Final Words

Recognizing and accommodating diverse learning styles is necessary for fostering inclusive and effective learning environments for autistic children. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading and writing learners each require specialized strategies such as visual aids, graphic organizers, repetition, reading material, and hands-on activities. Identifying an autistic child’s learning style involves observation and consideration of strengths, challenges, communication abilities, sensory preferences, and attention patterns. Empowering autonomy in the learning process and involving the child in decision-making enhance the effectiveness of these personalized strategies.

As parents and educators navigate this landscape, embracing an individualized learning approach, adapting to evolving needs, and collaboration between caregivers and educators are essential. Innovative tools like Forbrain, with its altered auditory feedback, offer promising avenues for addressing auditory processing challenges in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. By enhancing self-awareness, attention, and articulation, Forbrain contributes to a more accessible and enriching educational experience for autistic individuals.


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Helping students prepare, advance and Excel. Community College of Rhode Island. (n.d.). https://www.ccri.edu/tutoring/pdf/sc_LearningStyles-FINAL.pdf 

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Natalie Fitzgerald

Natalie is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from ASHA. She earned her Master's degree in speech and hearing sciences at the University of North Carolina. Natalie has worked with children of 1-21 years of age and has experience with a wide variety of speech and language disorders such as articulation and apraxia, fluency, expressive and receptive language, and AAC.