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Q&A: BrainWorks Effective for Nonverbal Students?


I am wondering if BrainWorks is effective for nonverbal students. I’m an OT working in a school primarily for students with moderate to severe autism. Most of our students are nonverbal or only able to communicate their wants. Can you confirm that BrainWorks is appropriate for students who cannot express their sensory regulation needs?


Yes, BrainWorks is effective for nonverbal students with limited communication skills. Since sensory input is inherently rewarding, it is typically experienced as a want. Therefore, most kids are motivated to use activity cards for communication purposes. The student’s cognitive level and communication skills will determine how you use the program. The tachometer that guides the selection of activities in the BrainWorks Original program is best for kids functioning and communicating at a first-grade level or higher. For kids not there yet, I typically start with a First-Then system or with integrating sensory activity choices into visual schedules.

Example: Jack is a nonverbal 11-year-old boy with ASD. Over-responsiveness to auditory and visual input causes him to frequently escalate in the classroom during academic activities. We implemented a First-Then visual schedule to ensure the integration of frequent calming strategies into his classroom routine. The teacher puts on the “FIRST” goal-driven activity such as a letter recognition task. She then holds up two calming sensory strategies. When Jack points to one, the teacher places the activity card on the “THEN” side of the schedule board. As a rule, Jack does best when the teacher uses a visual timer. That way, he knows how long he must work on the “FIRST” activity.

For a student who is unable to make choices, I would consult with the student’s Speech-Language Pathologist to see what she recommends for a process like this.

I hope that helps! Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Best wishes,