Traditional Academic

7+ years

Children’s reasoning becomes logical and is no longer limited by immediate perceptions. Early on they usually can apply logical processes or operations only to concrete objects or events and they have difficulty with purely verbal or hypothetical problems. They can revise previous conclusions to consider new information, consider more than one part of a problem at a time, follow steps in a sequence, and reverse those steps.

Later (11 years and up), they develop the potential to solve abstract problems by using logical thought. They are no longer dependent on the here and now rather, they can draw logical conclusions both inductively and deductively.

Cognitive and Communication Milestones

  • Begin to take the viewpoint of others
    • Theory of mind more complex
    • Decreased egocentrism
  • Considers multiple variables when problem solving
    • Understands subcategories
  • Move from beginning logical (7-11 years) to fully logical (11+ years)
    • Begin to understand abstract concepts and figurative language at 11+ years
    • Demonstrate understanding of conservation
  • Engage in conversation and can explain social relationships
  • Use literacy skills to read and write
  • Selective attention matures
  • Complex planning abilities (11+ years)

Strategies to AVOID

Strategy to AVOID


What to do instead

Solely whole group or lecture-based instruction

Students continue to need multisensory instruction and varied stimuli

  • Break up whole group lessons or lecture-based activities with group and individual work
  • Support lecture content with visual supports and technology/media

Requiring or expecting logical thinking/reasoning

Logical reasoning does not fully develop until around 10 years of age so many students will continue to need adults to support activities that rely on logic or abstract thinking

  • Paring logic and reasoning with concrete examples

Abstract or hypothetical situations

Students still need information to be connected to real-life

  • Social autopsies
  • Social narratives

Extensive group work (early to middle of range)

Extensive group work (e.g., big projects which span multiple days and/or weeks) requires perspective taking, logical thinking, reasoning, and complex planning. These skills do not fully develop until the end of the stage.

  • Intersperse short, supported group work with independent tasks and mastery skills

Too much delay in reinforcement and/or cost response systems (early to middle of range)

While students can now respond to more generalized or secondary reinforcers, and intrinsic motivation is emerging, students can become disengaged or lack motivation if tasks become too lengthy abstract, or difficult and are not supported with sufficient acknowledgement and reinforcement

  • Frequent use of motivation systems/token economies
  • Use of self-management systems

Emphasis on rote learning without offering opportunity for critical thinking/ consideration of multiple variables/reasoning

Learning occurs beyond rote memorization and as academic learners; students need to be able to apply learned information to new scenarios

  • Provide opportunity for use of rote skills within bigger conceptual concepts
    • Example: mapping out how dates of historical events (rote memorization) lead to an event (conceptual thinking, multiple variables)
  • Support generalization of rote skills (e.g., math facts, reading fluency) with "real world" applications
    • Examples: budgeting, job applications

Strategies to Use

Strategy to Use



An array of visual supports (to support comprehension, behavior)

Visual supports continue to be meaningful and increased literacy skills will also support text-based visuals

  • Picture/written schedules
  • Task checklists
  • Recipes/Step-by-step instructions
  • Agendas: daily and mini agendas
  • Graphic organizers
  • Video instruction/models
  • Technology aided supports

Skills embedded in routines and activities

Routines help individuals feel safe, secure, and in control which reduces negative behaviors, supports

higher rates of engagement, and fosters independence

  • Daily opening and closing routines during class periods: Daily Language Review (DLR)
  • Whole group instruction activities with opportunities for student responses (opportunities to respond)

Picture/Text-Based Communication Systems

Due to increased problem-solving, reasoning, language, and literacy skills, students who are non-verbal will be able to communicate more complex ideas using picture-based communication systems and with emerging literacy they may even be able to utilize keyboards with word prediction.

  • High tech picture-based and/or keyboard-based voice output devices

Delay in reinforcement if visually represented

Reinforcement continues to be an important positive behavior support to support engagement and participation

  • Reinforcement provided upon completion of a visual closure

Negative Reinforcement

Students have a better understanding of actions and consequences as well as processing multiple variables

  • Allowing student to skip 2 math problems if they come to the table and starts working

Opportunities for multi-variable thinking and problem solving (middle/end of range)

Students can now focus on more than one feature of a problem at a time

  • Social Autopsies
  • Student attends to two subtasks simultaneously "Find all of the problems that involve two-digit subtraction and that involve borrowing from the next column. Circle and solve only those problems."

Reasoning, discussion/dialogues, beginning to explain the "why" of rules (logical thinking)

Logic is emerging and students understand more abstract language and concepts.

  • Provide simple rationales for expectations and rules
  • Have student create rules and expectations based on logic
  • Social autopsies

Back to Cognitive and Communication Milestones