The Importance of Using Wait Time

jpg_watch800I have found in teaching, it really does make a difference to use wait time.

Wait time refers to the time you give your students for processing before they are expected to answer a question or do a task.

Years ago, I tested myself on this concept, and found that I only gave a few seconds for students to answer a question or comply to directions–not nearly enough wait time! (Studies show most teachers give about a second.)

Teaching Tip: After you ask a student a question or give directions, in your head, count to ten. This forces you to slow down, and allows more processing time for your students. I just smile at the students while waiting.

The Results: Time and time again, students come up with an answer or comply! They just needed more time to process. For students/children on the autism spectrum and/or with language processing disorders, the wait time may be even longer. Adjust accordingly.

The Importance of Pre-teaching Vocabulary

In order to be independent readers, students must understand 98% of what they are reading. When introducing a next text or concept, it is important to pre-teach key vocabulary.

I made up an example to illustrate. Read the sentence below and see how much you understand.

Emma sought a quiet phrontistery in the abaft. She felt a sense of the acatalepsy regarding the situation in which she found herself.


So… How did you do? Were you able to use context to understand the vocabulary? I am guessing context would not be enough, even if these sentences are embedded in a larger paragraph.

We put our students in the same situation. We encourage them to use the pictures and the context (great strategies), but often, they also need to be taught the words.

Here is the translation using a simpler vocabulary:

Emma sought a quiet place to think at the back of the ship. She felt a sense of uncertainty regarding the situation in which she found herself.

I hope this illustration helps to convey the importance of pre-teaching vocabulary!

Language, Autism, and Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips for Working with Students/Children on the Autism Spectrum:

  • Be aware of the difficulties your student may have processing language. Give extra wait time.
  • Do not assume your student understands or will pick up on body language or figurative language. Explain yourself and any figurative language.
  • Apply direct teaching methods (e.g. teach the student the meaning of idioms, one by one, literally–“Let’s hit the road” means “Let’s go”).
  • Tap into the student’s interests when teaching (e.g. teach math using Thomas the Train or write a sentence/paragraph about Thomas the Train, etc.).
  • Understand your student may need many different examples before generalizing a concept.

Language and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Children may or may not have speech delays and be on the autism spectrum; however, most all children/students on the autism spectrum have language delays, and many receive services for language development.

As educators, co-workers, and friends (people in general), it is important to understand language as relates to autism.

Students on the spectrum may or may not:

  • understand body language, understand turn-taking/social skills, understand similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, understatements, clichés, and idioms
  • use the correct word/put their words in the correct order, or use correct grammar
  • have processing delays and need extra wait time
  • be interested in only their topics of choice and perseverate (e.g. only want to discuss Thomas the Train), think from detail to big picture, have difficulty generalizing concepts and using their imagination

These are generalities, and it is important to always keep the individual in mind before any generalization. 

Many of the skills and concepts above must be taught directly.

Understanding Speech and Language

Speech and Language are not the same thing. Your child or student(s) may be receiving services for speech, language, or both.


  • deals with articulation, fluency, and voice


  • deals with communication (including spoken and unspoken),
  • deals with syntax and pragmatics, including figurative language
  • deals with the processing of receptive and expressive language
articulation, fluency, and voice– refers to pronunciation/enunciation, quality of voice/tone, and rhythm (e.g. is the student a stutterer?)
communication– the process of conveying a message or meaning with a shared understanding with another
syntax– grammar, sentence structure, word order, and phrases
pragmatics– language in its social context (how the language is used including the inferred intents of the speaker)
receptive and expressive language– the ability to understand verbal and nonverbal language and the ability to express thoughts, ideas, and feelings


Prosody and Comprehension

Prosody in oral reading is using good stress, pitch, and tone. When you read to your child/students with expressive prosody, this will help them develop comprehension.

A lot of what we understand is conveyed through the way we hear things said. Reading plays that have parts is a fun way to practice and teach prosody. When my students read the play/fable, “The Lion and the Mouse,” and it is really cute to see the students get into their roles. They will do a big lion voice and a little teeny mouse voice, and they love it when they get to roar!

Model and practice good prosody when reading. Also, remember, the more you read to your child/students, the bigger their vocabulary exposure, and the better their comprehension.