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  1. 1. How to Help the Black Sheep:Helping your class (and you) understand the characteristics, anxieties and Potential of your Student with autism<br />Amy Heath<br /> MAED Graduate Program<br />CEP 841<br />NOTE:<br />* Words in purple are hyperlinked<br />* Click this icon to link to an video clip<br />* Click this icon to go to an article or website<br />
  2. 2. Problem Statement<br />Some children with autism are denied services they need by being pushed into an inclusive environment.<br />Some children benefit from more behavioral approaches to learning such as Applied Behavioral Analysis<br /> HOWEVER….<br />Other children are fully able to remain in the classroom, if accommodations are made and the class is educated on the child’s special needs.<br />Removing a child from the classroom (or forcing inclusion out of principle) will FOREVER impact his/her life. Care should be taken when deciding each child’s future.<br />A needs analysis and each individual child’s experience must be taken into account… not the blanketed term of “autism.”<br />What works for one child will not automatically work for all children.<br />The good news is many accommodations made for the student with autism are also good for ALL students in a classroom.<br />
  3. 3. The light at the end of the tunnel… <br />It’s hard to be motivated to teach a child you feel is going nowhere or will become nothing.<br />This presentation is intended to give you hope, and in turn, provide a model of respect for your student with autism other students will emulate. <br />Resources are also provided for how you can best design a classroom suited to the needs of a child with autism.<br />
  4. 4. “Do we need to have been taught what love is to give it to someone else?” written by Po Bronson <br />In the words of a mother of a child with special needs:<br />“Many parents of children with severe ADHD, as well as parents of children with other disabilities, develop not so much a different kind of parenting, as a different level of parenting. A different intensity. They do the same things as regular parents, but a lot more frequently. If parenting is a 24/7 responsibility, then parenting a child with a disability is a 60/60/24/7 responsibility. They are on call every second of every hour. They never take their eyes off the child. The come up with solutions-language, games, goals. They reinforce what they said a thousand times before. They parent an eight-year-old like they might a three-year-old. Parents get so overwhelmed they run out of steam…”. Written about a mother with a child with severe ADHD who graduated “suma cum laude” from Arizona State with a degree in “Religious Studies”. (Bronson, 2005) <br />The son attributed his academic success to the unfailing dedication of his mother.<br />Think about what would have happened if he had the help of a supportive mother AND an amazing teacher?<br />
  5. 5. Some parents seem hyper-vigilant…<br />Think about everything they have to do for the child at home…Then think about how divided your attention is in the classroom…<br />To a parent of a child with autism, we are “stealing that child’s poker chips” every day. Nothing we do can compare to what that parent does. No matter how wonderful we are with kids, we fall short. We must keep this in mind and try to empathize with everything a parent is going through.<br />Work with that parent to be an advocate for that child and see the difference in their behavior.<br />
  6. 6. Hope leads to less worry<br />Hope and worry in mothers of children with an autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome” Paula L. Ogston a,*, Virginia H. Mackintosh a,b, Barbara J. Myers a<br /><br />Abstract:<br /> Mothers of children with an autism spectrum disorder (n = 199) or Down syndrome (n = 60) responded to an online questionnaire that assessed their hope and worry. Findings support previous research suggesting that hope is a protective factor against psychological<br /> distress: mothers with higher hope reported lower worry. Mothers who reported lower worry had more education and older children or children who were higher functioning. Those whose children had Down syndrome reported lower future-related worry and higher hope. In response to an open-ended question regarding what they worried about when they woke up at night, mothers’ responses resulted in themes related to themselves as well as to their children and families.<br />
  7. 7. Link to Scientific American Articles Referenced in Presentation<br /><br />
  8. 8. Suggested Teacher and Student Reading - Click on pictures of books to order<br />The following books are leveled for different student ages or reading abilities. These books could be used to create a reading comprehension lessons for the class to help students (or the student his or herself) better understand autistic behaviors.<br />Highest-level of reading-Health Issues Series: “Autism” by Sarah Lennard Brown<br /> Lower reading level-Understanding Diseases and Disorders Series “Autism” by SudiptaBardhan-Quallen and… <br />Lower reading level-Health Matters Series “Autism” by Carol Baldwin<br />All the information for this presentation has been derived from these books and from various scientific Journals<br />
  9. 9. Can you tell if a student has Autism/Aspergers by looking at them?<br /> … Not really, although you can observe behavior. Most people with autism “look normal”, but their behaviors are considered socially awkward to the general population.<br />One physical trait that is apparent is a large head in childhood (Lennard-Brown, 2004)<br />
  10. 10. Definition/Description of the Condition or Problem and Facts Statistics and Incidence<br />Awareness: What is Autism?<br />*Autism usually appears before the age of three and occurs four to five times more often in boys.<br /> “Most autistic children can function in schools, they just have problems understanding other people sometimes.“ (Baldwin, 2003)<br />It’s important to note that high functioning people/children with autism may have learned coping strategies to mask these behaviors and therefore may never be diagnosed. (Lennard-Brown, 2004)<br />Awareness: Signs of Autism<br />Awareness: How can I help?<br />
  11. 11. Don’t Assume that Autism is a Death Sentence<br />High functioning students with Autism or Aspergers syndrome may have special talents (however, this is not a guarantee)<br />Autistic Savant - a term for a student with autism that demonstrates an unusual gifting in one particular area<br />Artist Stephen Wiltshire – (Lennard-Brown, 2004 p. 17<br />Van Gogh and Einstein are thought to have had high functioning Autism or Aspergers – (Lennard-Brown, 2004 p. 23)<br /><br />
  12. 12. What does High-Functioning Autism look like?<br />Lennard-Brown, 2004 - <br />“Problems understanding speech<br />Literal understanding of language<br />For example-If someone says to the child “I laughed my head off” they will think<br /> their head actually fell off<br />Problems understanding the “right thing” to say in social situations<br />Problems thinking about things that are make-believe - Unless they are something that the student has witnessed or seen before <br />For example a movie scene - Could be used to stimulate creativity in the child? Think about how this could be done?<br />Little eye contact - Note this is considered respect in some cultures (Asian cultures for example)<br />Love of routine or intense anxiety in the event of change to the student’s environment (this is often true for ALL students if too much change takes place in a classroom)<br />
  13. 13. Characteristics of Aspergers and High Functioning Autism…<br />Clumsiness- Difficulty coordinating movements-this may be due to the differences in brain chemistry of an autistic child (Health Matters “Autism” by Carol Baldwin pg 8)<br />In the Autistic brain there are less “Perkinje Cells”. These are known to help with coordination of movement.<br />Changes in brain chemistry may also account for the autistic savant’s amazing memory for the past and detailed information…but may also account for their problems understanding speech and recent events<br /><ul><li>“The hippocampus and amygdala in people with autism are usually immature and have not gone through the usual stages of development (Lennard-Brown, 2004)</li></ul>AVERAGE OR ABOVE-AVERAGE ACADEMIC ABILITY- find what that student does well and focus on it (Lennard-Brown, 2004)<br />
  14. 14. Continued…<br />Tendency to be truthful and law abiding - lack of language understanding may make the student very naïve ‘’Mind Blind” (Bardhan-Quallen, S. 2005). Understanding diseases and disorders: autism pg. 14-15…This can create times when the child is taken advantage of and may not even be aware of it.<br />Strong attention to detail – again, when moderated, this can be a very beneficial trait for students in the future. Many occupations require attention to detail.<br />
  15. 15. Some Normally Developing Children May be Labeled as Delayed…<br />Most 2-3 year olds learn color from context. They notice that blue is mentioned a lot with sky and red with fire trucks. Many “normally” developing children have a learning breakdown when asked to recognize a color in isolation. This may be due to the word order that we choose. For example… “The white shirt…”.<br />We have to be cautious as we are still learning what “normal” development is<br />We can’t assume a child isn’t developing normally without proper education and doing some research.<br />“Why Jonny Can’t Name His Colors” “Scientific American Mind” May/June issue pg. 48<br />
  16. 16. Sometimes the most creative people are seen as being “weird”<br />Autistic children/adults are known to talk about one thing “non-stop”…Is this<br />too much obsession or too much “passion”?<br />Einstein<br />The journal “Scientific American Mind” talks about “Cognitive Disinhibition” or “the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival”. Most people have “mental filters”. However, there are differences between how much information each individual filters out. People with reduced functioning of one of these cognitive filters called “Latent Inhibition” or LI, increases the amount of unfiltered information coming into our “conscious awareness” and is associated with odd behaviors and thoughts. (Humphrey, 2011) (also check out the article “The Hidden Brain p. 53)<br />
  17. 17. So, again, inclusion or not?<br />Be very careful – Not all children with autism are the same! We can’t be tempted to remove a child because it is easier. However, we can’t keep a child in the classroom out of principle either.<br />We must do a full needs assessment of each child. Remember choosing to remove a child from the general classroom, or choosing full-inclusion when it is not appropriate, has life-long consequences. <br />
  18. 18. Managing Behaviors <br />Time-out may be seen as a reward as many children with autism enjoy being alone. This technique may work with Apergers as they will most likely want to rejoin the group. A differentiating trait distinguishing Aspergers from Autism, is individuals with Aspergers tend to have greater social needs for belonging.<br />Awareness: Part 3: How can I help?<br />* In fact…time-out may be inappropriately used for ALL students. It is not intended to be a punishment, but to remove the child from the rewarding or over-stimulating social situation, until the teacher is ready to address the behavior of concern. Teaching-Self Control Through Management by Tom V. Savage and discipline pg. 172-173<br />
  19. 19. Behavior Support Rather than Behavior Management<br />Barbra Larrivee text pg. 208-209<br />“Behavioral Support” is alternative to the teacher dependant behaviors created by behavioral management techniques such as “operant conditioning” or the popular ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis.) <br />Emphasize that behaviors are a means to an ends. Students are acting out to get their needs met<br />Teacher or IEP team will conduct an FBA or Functional behavioral assessment. This assessment is a method to help recognize observable patterns of behavior and determine the function of that behavior.<br />Chart comparing the two methods pg. 209 on next slide<br />Go to “more” then click “Short Articles” (Larrivee, 2009) <br />
  20. 20. Assumptions Behind Behavioral Support that can be Applied to Autism<br />Barbra Larrivee text- pg. 209<br />The behaviors exhibited serve a purpose and may in fact be neurologically driven, BUT new more socially and academically acceptable behaviors (serving the same purpose) can replace less desirable behaviors. We should try to teach replacement behaviors in order to build independence and relieve stress of the child with autism.<br />Behavior should be seen as a form of communication, which is the goal for these students. Punishing this communication may hesitate therapeutic progress altogether.<br />We should see that these behaviors may be pleasurable and calming to the child and respect it will take time to replace them.<br />“Self-stimming” activities may be engaged in due to a lack of viable alternatives to relieve anxiety. High-functioning autistics and students with Aspergers may take well to alternatives <br />(Larrivee, 2009) <br />
  21. 21. “Behavioral Support” should be tried first BEFORE behavioral modification strategies that could create dependency on rewards and/or punishments. <br />“Behavior Modification” is time-intensive and may not serve to eliminate behavior because there is no consideration for the function of that behavior.<br />Example of self-stimming behavior while waiting in line.<br />(Larrivee, 2009) <br />
  22. 22. Application and Implications for Parents, Teachers and Students<br />What’s happening to a student with autism when they are experiencing over-stimulation? Why do they act the way they do? <br />A child can just stop themselves, right? Not so fast…This is really a brain thing…<br />The brain reacts to stress or danger by reacting with a fight or flight response, this is caused by chemicals in the body such as “cortisol” to help the body respond to challenging situations. (Too much cortisol over time can cause lasting damage. In order to prevent a build up of this chemical, drugs or psychotherapy might help increase counteracting “stress busting” chemicals.)<br />“The Neuroscience of True Grit” by Gary Stixp. 29<br />
  23. 23. Scientific American: Cortisol<br />
  24. 24. So…think about what’s happening inside your student with autism…<br />If we think about how they are chemically wired…we shouldn’t be frustrated that they don’t listen to us…we should be impressed with all the times they DO listen to us.<br />Imagine constantly being at war with your own anxiety and fight or flight instincts? Autism is characterized by ANXIETY.<br />This anxiety can spread to us as educators and to our students.<br />
  25. 25. Implications for Parent, Student and Teacher…STRESS?<br /><ul><li>Scientific American Mind article “Laughter Leads to Insight” pg. 5</li></ul>This article discusses the benefits of watching comedic shows in order to provide mental breaks sufficient enough to provide for “ah ha” moments or problem solving.<br /><ul><li>“Depressed or burned out?” pg. 12</li></ul>This article points out the symptoms of “burnout” or “Exhaustion Syndrome” <br /> such as sudden loss of interest in a job that at one time stimulated passion and joy.<br />This article differentiates “burnout” behavior from depression –<br /> For example, while both women with depression and “exhaustion syndrome” had trouble sleeping, women with “exhaustion syndrome” had trouble falling asleep at night, whereas women with depression reported waking up too early. <br /> While completing a ”Working-Memory” test, women with “exhaustion syndrome” actually did worse than women with depression. (Humphrey, 2011)<br />Therefore, one should consider the taxing qualities of working with <br />special needs children and engage in behaviors to decrease stress and <br />diminish daily stressors.<br />
  26. 26. Implications for Parents and Teachers…”Why don’t they listen to us?”<br /> Another article in Scientific American (May/June 2011 issue) talks about “Might Makes Right” pg. 10<br />This demonstrates that even as babies, “normally developing” children will acknowledge social hierarchy. They concede to the social mores that the largest person in the room makes the rules. (Weaver, 2011)<br /><br />Due to the characteristic lack of social mores common to children with autism, these<br /> children may not acknowledge this rule. So we must ask ourselves…Is this necessarily a“bad” characteristic given our democratic society? Couldn’t a high functioning autistic adult be a revolutionary?<br />
  27. 27. Application and Implications for Classrooms or Buildings<br />Classroom Design Suggestions– Pg. 11” The ASD Friendly Classroom – Design Complexity, Challenge and Characteristics.” <br />Keith McAllister, Queen‟s University Belfast, United Kingdom<br />Scientific American has an article showing an experiment about how the highly social vole reacts in a crisis situation. These animals, when in a crowd, can spread anxiety to other members of the group. This may have implications in the classroom and overcrowding. During a real crisis, all animals reacted with the same level of anxiety, though they began with differing levels. People with Autism and Aperger’s syndrome often report high levels of anxiety. By the way, a normal human characteristic in a crisis situation is to resort to religion or other ritualistic behaviors to” prevent the human from going over the edge. Could an autistic persons “ritualistic behaviors”, actually be a way of coping with immense levels of stress? Should we prevent them then? What do you think?<br />Design suggestions<br />Good levels of Natural Day light- All agreed this was best<br />“Staff favored variable lighting rather than the constancy achieved by the lighting systems currently in use. Dimmable lighting, separate lighting circuits and a range of task lighting as alternatives were all suggested by staff. In fact, in some of the classrooms, the staff themselves were using personally supplied free standing task and mood lighting to add contrast to the classroom. “<br />Page 21 Scientific American March issue 2011<br />Discusses how lighting can effect behavior- Scientists were able to control the behavior of worms by using specific types of light<br />Problems with prolonged noise – the sound of grass being cut was less distracting to students then the continuous sound of the playground. Of course this could be because students would prefer to be out in the playground than in class!<br /><ul><li>Staff felt it was ESSENTIAL to have a quiet area where students could “recharge their batteries. The pure purpose of the “time-out”</li></li></ul><li>Other Helpful websites <br /><br /><br /><br />
  28. 28. National Groups to Help Support You and Your Student/Child with Autism<br /> website Creater’s description of site:<br />Who is Behind Mighty Mother?<br /> “My name is Mary Ann and I am the full time mother of a rather exceptional Autistic teenager. I created Mighty Mother because I wanted to share some of the experiences I have had with Autism.”<br /> -a list of Autism Spectrum disorders support groups<br />
  29. 29. Summary and Conclusion<br />Having a child with autism in your class is not something to grieve, but a chance for you to truly make a difference in a child’s life. You could be the supporter of the next Einstein or Temple Grandin. That child may surprise you with their unique way of seeing things or their special abilities. Being different is sometimes a very good thing.<br />That child needs us to help them function in this society that may not understand their unique abilities or point of view. It is up to US to make the difference in that child’s life. Let’s not let them down!<br />
  30. 30. APA Citations<br />Three Books:<br />Baldwin, C. (2003). Health matters:autism. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library.<br />Bardhan-Quallen, S. (2005). Understanding diseases and disorders:autism. Thomson & Gale.<br />Bronson, Po. (2005). Why do i love these people. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.<br />Lennard-Brown, S. (2004). Health issues: autism. Chicago, IL: Raintree<br />Larrivee, B. (2009). Authentic classroom management creating a learning community and building reflective practice. Columbus, Ohio: Pearson.<br />Ogston, P.L, Mackintosh, V.H., & Myers, B.J. (2011). Hope and worry in mothers of children with an autism spectrum disorder or down syndrome. Manuscript submitted for publication, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. Retrieved from<br />
  31. 31. APA Citations continued…<br />Journals:<br />Humphrey, EK. (2011, May/June). Laughter leads to insight. Scientific American Mind, 5.<br />Dye, M. (2011, May/June). Why johnny can't name his colors. Scientific American Mind, 48. <br />Savage, TV. (1999). Teaching self control through management and discipline. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.<br />Stix, G. (2011, March). The neuroscience of true grit. Scientific American, 29-33. <br />Weaver, J. (2011, May/June). Might makes right. Scientific American, 10. <br />