Another graphic organizer that I have seen teachers use is the one below:
This is why showing a student how to activate their schema is essential to teach before inferencing skills can be imparted.
The teacher needs to walk the student through the steps of using this type of scaffold, followed by a gradual release of responsibility, through an I Do, We Do, You Do process.
I introduce to all students that making an inference means analyzing the picture for what it shows, adding what we already know about the topic in our mind to equal an inference.
I would start the I Do with a previously read text, familiar to all of the students, to show how to make an inference—probably an inference that was made before with the students, during the teaching of that text.
In the instance of the butterfly text I used with the second grader, I showed him the diagram of the life cycle of the butterfly and then list the different things that I knew about the topic: eggs are “baby” animals before they are born; arrows tell me which way to go in a diagram; if the arrow keeps going, it means that the pattern repeats itself, and so on. Then, I said that I think the circle is important to the butterfly’s life because it starts all over again, as an egg, and has no end, just like a circle.
During the We Do portion, I would use a text that is also familiar and do much less of the talking so that students can lead the process. I do not forget the You Do part of the process because this is how I would formatively assess if the student understands the steps and how to inference on a straightforward text. If not, we go back to the previous steps. I can extend their practice by introducing more texts that will help the student problem solve (the issue of inferencing) in a text.
Making inferences will be a skill that students on the autism spectrum will need to practice consistently each school year. This is true of many of our young learners. Students will learn to acquire the skill of inferencing; it will take consistent guided practice as texts grow in complexity, to internalize the process.