Teaching Essential Discrimination Skills to Children with Autism:
A Practical Guide for Parents & Educators


Written by Rebecca MacDonald, Ph.D., BCBA & Susan Langer, M.A., BCBA
isbn 978-1-60613-257-9 / 2017 / Paperback / 8.5″ x 11″ / 200 pages / Photos / Data Sheets



Discrimination skills enable us to tell one object from another, understand that different things have different names, and use those names to perform a wide range of cognitive and language skills, including following spoken instructions, communicating, and reading. Teaching Essential Discrimination Skills to Children with Autism outlines a systematic, evidence-based curriculum to promote children’s learning. Based on the authors’ thirty years of research, the user-friendly text and illustrative case studies cover:

  • Delivering effective instruction (repeat trials, brisk pacing, child’s active participation, reinforcement)
  • Types of discrimination skills (understanding differences, matching like to like, matching words to objects, following spoken-word instructions)
  • Prompting and prompt fading
  • Prerequisite skills (imitation, readiness to learn)
  • Overcoming barriers to learning (lack of scanning, low motivation)
  • Assessing a child’s entry level to the curriculum
  • Curriculum sequence, specific discrimination skills instruction, and remedial strategies

Parents and educators can use this book to teach the foundational discrimination skills that help children become more proficient and independent in a variety of ways—using picture activity schedules and augmentative and alternative communication systems such as PECS, mastering more complex academic skills, and applying learning across many situations in their daily lives.

Written by Rebecca MacDonald, Ph.D., BCBA & Susan Langer, M.A., BCBA
Rebecca MacDonald is a Licensed Psychologist in Massachusetts and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who serves as a Senior Program Director at The New England Center for Children.

Susan Langer has been part of The New England Center for Children for over forty years, and currently is the Chief Program Officer, and is responsible for overseeing the delivery of educational and clinical programs across the residential and day programs.

Both authors are researchers and teach graduate level courses at Massachusetts universities.