Answering Why & How Questions

Level 3: Expressive Language

Our students in this level have likely mastered answering basic wh- questions. They’ve got the who, what, where, and when questions mastered. So before you put up your feet and pour yourself a cocktail, hang in there a bit longer. Your job isn’t over yet. It’s time to focus on those trickier and more complex questions. I’m talking about why and how questions. Those questions are hard because the answered are implied and not concrete – kind of like those inferences we talked about last week! Full circle, people!

We can work on why and how questions in the same way we worked on the more concrete questions. It’s all about repetition and multiple exemplars. Our kids need practice! So you have to give them loads of opportunities to work on this skill.

Picture Flashcards

You can continue to work on picture flashcards while working on why and how questions. You need to ensure that your pictures provide enough information that students can infer the answers to those why and how questions. Imagine asking your student Why is the woman angry? in reference to a picture that has no hint as to why the woman is angry. These photo flashcards are included with loads of other wh- question resources in the Wh- Question Mega Pack {our top selling product!}.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 2.08.09 PM

Pediastaff has an awesome pinterest board with loads of photos to work on problem solving that are perfect for working on why and how questions. Check it out!
Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 2.21.20 PM


You know my mantra – if it’s a game, it’s not work. Suddenly those work averse kiddos are interested in your activity. Games are fun. There is a winner and a loser. They can get competitive. It makes it much easier to work on challenging skills when it’s in a game format. Nobody likes working on hard tasks but when it’s a game, it lessens that pain just a bit. We love Wh- Bingo and the Why Bingo is perfect for starting to work on this concept! Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 2.03.33 PM

Adapted Books

For some of these harder concepts it’s sometimes good to go back to the basics. Get back to those teaching tools that are tried and true and have been successful for your kids in the past. Adapted books are a go-to for me. Adapted books are structured, visual, and interactive. It’s perfect for our students to learn a wide range of skills – even advanced wh- questions.

How Do You Do It?


Why Do You Feel?


Conversation Cards

Many conversations are built around more complex questions. We typically don’t exclusively exchange who and what questions. We ask more abstract questions such as “How was your dinner?” “Why did you buy so much fruit?” Practicing conversations is the perfect opportunity to build why and how questions skills. These Conversations Starter Cards have loads of complex questions build right in. I love this activity for the last few minutes at the end of a center or before a transition time. We have to utilize every spare minute!


This post is part of the Cooking Up Communication Summer Series!

Click here to learn more!

The Autism Helper


  1. Thank you so much for your helpful ideas. Where can I find the items like conversation cards or adapted books?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *