Making Inferences

Level 2: Receptive Language

If you have been around the Autism Helper block you have probably heard me talk a lot about inferences. It is one of the trickiest yet most important skills to teach so it cannot be overlooked. It’s a tricky skill to teach because it’s not a fact you can memorize. It’s not like teaching math facts or color identification. You want to teach the skill of inferencing which means your student can infer within a variety of novel situations. Meaning you cannot teach each specific situation – which makes it super hard!

What does it mean to make an inference?

An inference is an idea that is suggested by facts or details but not explicitly said. It can be described as making a logical guess or reading between the lines. You can make inferences in conversation or in reading. When reading a text, making an inference means you use clues from a story to figure out something that the author doesn’t tell you. A reader is required to fill in the blanks left by an author. As humans, we engage in making inferences everyday. We interpret actions to be examples of personality, character traits, and feelings. We infer it is raining when we see someone with an open umbrella. We infer people are thirsty if they ask for a glass of water.

Why is it important to know how to make inferences?

Inferences are a part of our daily life. Not everything is explicitly stated. Very often, information is left out as most people are able to infer that information. Our students need to keep up with this process. They need to be able to infer in everyday scenarios and conversations. They also need to infer while reading. Proficient readers use their prior knowledge and textual information to draw conclusions, make critical judgments, and form unique interpretations from text. Inferences may occur in the form of conclusions, predictions, or new ideas (Anderson and Pearson, 1984).

How do I teach inferences?

Introduce this strategy by modeling it for students, starting with every day examples, moving to listening activities, and then to text examples.

  • Use pictures from a magazine or book. Ask your students about what is happening in the picture or what the story will be about. Think aloud as you make connections between the facts and your prior knowledge, using phrases such as, “The picture looks like… or I know that…”


  • Model making inferences while reading. When you read, talk out your inferences. Use phrases like, “The text says… and I know….” For example, the text says that the boy was upset he forgot his lunch and I know that when you forget your lunch you may be hungry so that could make you feel worried or upset if you will be hungry.
  • Write it out. I am constantly grabbing dry-erase boards so I can write out the thought process behind making inferences. Many of our learners are visual learners so only providing the auditory teaching of modeling the thought process is not enough. You need to write it out too! IMG_2235
  • Use graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are great way to help students structure their thoughts and provide some visual cues on the process of developing inferences. Remember – even our higher functioning learners need visuals too!

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  • Make it into a game. Games make hard work more fun and easier somehow. Snag this freebie Movie Theater Inferences from my story. My guys love it because not only is it a game but the theme is movies which everyone loves! Recently-Updated185-731x1024

These Making Inference Games are super simple and a great place to start working on this skill for your more basic level learners. I have 3 versions: Who Am I?/Where Am I?, What Am I Doing?/What is it?, and How Do I Feeling?/When is it?

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

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The Autism Helper


  1. This is incredibly helpful, thank you so much!

  2. Great to hear it’s helpful! Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Sasha, great and very helpful article. I have an 8 year old 3rd grader with autism who is struggling with inferencing in reading right now. Can’t wait to try some of this with him!

  4. Hi Chris, I hope it’s helpful! Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. I’m a private tutor and a new student of mine (11th grade) really struggles with basic inferences. This is so helpful! A lot of resources I’ve found have been clearly geared towards younger students, and I don’t ever want my student to feel like he’s way behind. Thank you for helping me break the process down in a way that isn’t condescending or clearly geared towards much younger students.

    • Hi Cameron, I’m so happy to hear this was helpful for you! Thanks for reading 🙂


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