Instructor shares how to help autistic students reinforce positive behaviors

By Quynh Nhu Nguyen/reporter

South Campus history adjunct instructor Tracy Pierce, during a March 6 session on SE Campus, gave strategies for interacting with autistic students for peers and instructors.

Pierce shared methods to help autistic students have more social skills and be independent adults.

“Start with what they can do before what they can’t do,” Pierce said.

Pierce had experiences from proven practices with her autistic child, and she shared her knowledge of how to help autistic people reinforce positive behaviors. In fact, Pierce has autism herself.

“Meet them where they are,” Pierce said.

At her class lecture as well as in the session, she took off her shoes so that students would pay more attention to her and so that she could maintain her composure for the presentations.

Students and instructors learned ways to recognize students with autism, especially those with symptoms of hyperfocus. For classroom strategies, instructors played crucial roles to help students have social skills and work effectively as team players. Pierce emphasized key methods to working with autistic students: consistently find out their interests, try to communicate with them and bring them comfort.

“The information was much needed,” said SE coordinator of special projects Nita Haliburton. “That helps anyone who works with an autistic person and to be careful not to unwittingly enforce negative behavior.”

The session also helps contribute to one of the college’s goals, said SE community and industry education director Terry Aaron.

“Providing autism classes is our effort to meet Goal 2, making sure that TCC is a student-ready college, so that students are welcomed, engaged, and supported inside and outside the classroom,” Aaron said.

To get more information or volunteer opportunities to help families affected by autism in Tarrant County, students can contact Pierce at