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How to Teach Pronouns and Possession


A lot of our kids with autism have a hard time learning to use pronouns and possessions appropriately. So we are showing you our pronouns and possession program to give you tips on how to teach pronouns and possession to your learners.

Very often, we teach our students something like My turn, Your turn. But it becomes a very abstract concept for them. They don’t really understand what my and your means. And sometimes they just end up memorizing My turn, Your turn, and it becomes a little bit scripted. So it’s really important for our students to understand the difference between mine and yours. It’s a great advocacy skill for them to be able to say, “no, this is mine, give it back.” It’s also important to know that some things are yours, and some things are mine. So we do want to start teaching our learners the difference between mine and yours, and then eventually build up their language to be able to understand that abstract concept of pronouns and possessions.

Typically, this is an intermediate program. I would never start this with a beginner learner. But for a learner who’s got some language and that has a relatively good handle on nouns and verbs, you can teach pronouns and possessions. 

Do you find teaching pronouns and possession challenging? Download our free pronouns visual that you can use with your learners!

How to Teach Pronouns and Possessions

Typically, the way we would start is receptively. Show me yours. Show me mine. Usually with body parts, because that’s really easy. Show me your nose. Show me my nose. We go back and forth with different body parts. Sometimes I even use a mirror to teach them if they need to look at their facial expressions as well.

And then the next step could be with items receptively. We put out a bunch of items on the table and ask the learner to put out some of their items as well. Then we can say, show me your hat, show me my pencil, show me your cup. It should be things that are very clearly theirs or very clearly mine. So that they’re understanding that these belongings are mine or they’re yours. 

Then after that, we would start teaching expressively. So after they’re able to point to show me yours, show me mine, then we would hold up something and say, whose phone? They’d have to say, my phone. You can even use a text cue and then fade the text cue using the same teaching step so that eventually you’re able to say, whose hat? And they can answer mine. 

Once those are mastered we can get into more nuances. Things like verbs. Who is jumping? Who is clapping? We can say to them clap your hands. And then who is clapping? Say the whole thing: I am clapping my hands. That’s a big skill. 

How to Graph the Pronouns and Possession Program

So how do we graph this on a data sheet? First, do a really quick baseline. Who is touching your nose? What are you doing? Etc. I’m not going to do too many of them because I know they don’t know pronouns. I’ve got my zero on my data sheet. On the same day, I’m going to go right into teaching step number one, showing receptively on body parts and items on the table. If the student doesn’t understand it at all, they get zero. Then the next day I’ll go back and teach again and fill out the graph with yes or no trial by trial. I might be mixing in other things as well. The mastery criteria is 80% for two consecutive sessions. Then I can change the condition and go on to step number two. And I can do it on the same day. 

If you are using the text cue, then you can divide up step two, or step three, so that it says 2A, so they can still get it correct. It’s okay to use text cues. Then you have a plan to fade them. So 2A with the text cue would be correct but 2C with the text cue would be incorrect. But then D and E become correct if it’s without the text cue. So you can divide that up as much as your learner needs to use that text cue to prompt. 


We’ve broken the data sheet down into really specific points like text cues plus a gesture and a text cue plus a verbal prompt. Some of our learners need that for three trials, and some of them don’t need it at all. And some of them need it for 100 trials. So really, this can be individualized based on your learner. And you may only have to teach step number 2A and B with a text cue and without a text cue or you may have it broken down more.

Many of you are familiar with Language for Learning. Language for Learning is a direct instruction curriculum by Siegfried Engelmann. But there’s a part in there that says, I am clapping my hands. Say the whole thing about what I am doing. And my learner will actually say, I’m clapping my hands. But they’re supposed to say you are clapping your hands. And that’s where it gets difficult. So we can do some scripts along that line and teach them I am clapping my hands. You are clapping your hands, etc.

To summarize, we talked about how to teach pronouns and possession starting with mine and yours as an important skill for the learner to understand that some items are mine and some items are yours. This will help them to be able to label accordingly. 

Download our visuals for teaching mine and yours below and join the behavior resource membership to get these detailed programs, visuals, and data sheets to use with your clients.

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