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Introduction to autism for general educators
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Introduction to autism for general educators


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  • 1. A VERY brief overview from a worthwhile FCPS training through SPED PD
    Introduction to Autism for General Educators
  • 2. Quick Facts
    Autism occurs in 1 in 100 kids age 10 and younger at a 5:1 boy: girl ratio.
    By stats, FCPS should have 400 students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), however, there are currently more than 500 in FCPS.
    One if five families have MORE than one child diagnosed.
    Older siblings tend to have Asperger’s, younger siblings more involved.
  • 3. "Autism"….
    Think of a current or former student you’ve taught or encountered that was diagnosed with “Autism”. What characteristics do you think about with that child?
    What concerns (ed) you about working with him or her?
  • 4. “A pervasive, generally lifelong developmental disability manifesting itself before the age of 3, and characterized by severe deficits in communication and relationships, stereotypic, ritualistic behaviors, and a hyper or hypo sensitivity to stimuli.
    Dr. Joanne Cafiero, 1992 (has done consultant work for FCPS)
    What is Autism?
  • 5. Diagnosis, in brief
    The spectrum…
    • Autism
    • 6. Asperger’s Syndrome
    • 7. Rett’s Disorder (only girls, RARE, involves seizures)
    • 8. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (Rare)
    • 9. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD NOS)
    Involves: Impaired Social Interaction (2), Impaired Communication (1), Behaviors (1)
    Within the spectrum, children display a wide range of differences in academic, language, fine motor and behavioral skills, but there are common characteristics.
  • 10. Difficulty understanding another’s viewpoint or belief (Can be taught but does not develop naturally)
    Uneven patterns or intellectual functioning
    Difficulty understanding or expressing emotions. (Common no matter where on the spectrum.)
    Difficulty with social activity and making friends
    Difficulty relating to people, events and objects (Can seem rude or arrogant, but NOT. Simply matter-of-fact)
    Behavior problems are a result of lack of communication skills (similar to toddler behavior)
    May repeat statements without understanding what they’ve said
    Often no fear of danger
    Excessive attachment to objects
    Difficulty generalizing, following directions, staying on task
    “Floppy” body – may be clumsy and awkward
    Hypersensitivity to sensory experiences (i.e. Classroom fan may sound like a freight train OR may require MORE sensory input (hypo)
    Different reactions to situations
    Interests often ahead of peers
    Common Characteristics
  • 11. Possible anxiety, depression, isolation (lack of friendships may contribute)
    Overcompensation for feelings of incompetence (may seem arrogant)
    Limited ability to accept they may be wrong
    Tend to be visual learners (use visual organizers, even in discussion, not necessarily pictures)
    Difficulty with Cause/Effect – may continue to use unsuccessful or incorrect strategies and not learn from mistakes – academically and behaviorally
    Difficulty changing subjects frequently
    May have fear of making a mistake – perfectionists
    Fear of appearing stupid
    Advice can be perceived as criticism
    May excel at endurance or solitary sports
    Many have good mechanical and math abilities
    Many have musical talents
    Many have strong imagination
    Many have special and focused interests (vs. OCD… can you stop?) – accommodate so it doesn’t interfere with life.
    Characteristics, Continued
  • 12. Autism from different perspectives
    Do not take behavior personally
    Change activities often and try to end with a success
    Do not set expectations too high… OR too low
    Do not accept common behavior problems as part of Autism.
    Find what motivates the student (often different)
    Allow choice when possible
    Strategies for Working with a Child with Autism
  • 14. Avoid power struggles – pick your battles
    Make learning activities as concrete as possible. Adjust for this learner as needed.
    Use personal connections (student experiences) to increase participation
    State directions positively
    Use peer buddies
    Prioritize strategies based on what most impacts the student
    Best Practices (General)
  • 15. “They all have one thing in common: the language feels unnatural.
    Hans Asperger (1944)
  • 16. Waiting
    Tempting (create a situation where the student HAS to ask/seek help)
    Asking, Giving Choices (requires response)
    Jump start (I want the _________)
    Speech Strategies
  • 17. Picture Communication Symbols (severe)
    Daily Schedules
    Activity Schedules
    Cue Cards
    Visual Strategies
  • 18. Use short, clear, concrete language
    Tell students what TO DO not what NOT TO DO
    Check for understanding – have student repeat directions
    No sarcasm – students don’t understand it
    Be positive
    Avoid threats or reprimands
    Acknowledge communication attempts, even if out of turn or inappropriate timing
    Inclusion for models
    Students need to… request, gain attention of others, reject or comment, give information, seek information, express feelings, participate in social routines
    Make opportunities for the above during general activities
    Communication Strategies
  • 19. In a sense, “set the student up”
    Give the student a container he/she can not open.
    Instruct the student to begin work without giving directions or materials
    Offer an item he/she dislikes
    …. Sounds not so nice, but sets the student up for communication based on needs!
    More on Communication –Creating Opportunities
  • 20. Social Scripts – short encounters, involve other students
    Video modeling – research shows students can gain skills and generalize into other situations
    Peer Buddy – with someone who has similar interests
    Practice – Engineering situations for the child
    … most handled by SPED case manager and/or Guidance Counselor
    Social Strategies –Behavior interferes with social interaction
  • 21. Be aware of loud areas and noises (open classrooms, assemblies). May offer different choice if possible.
    Be aware of textures
    Provide a Sensory Box for those who need more input (box with items to provide sensory experience – rice, bean bag, stress ball, Velcro…) ** if sensory activity is detrimental, ex. Nail biting, find an equal alternative
    Opportunities for movement and weight – (“floppy body”) – may carry heavy object, binder on head, may need lap weight to feel tethered to seat.
    Allow for computer time and/or drawing
    Sensory Strategies
  • 22. Did you recognize any traits we discussed?
    Did you come across any strategies you can try with him/her in the classroom?
    Please stop by or email me if you find something that works –I’d like to hear about it!
    ** Keep in mind – With Autism, each child differs VASTLY from one to the next, so with your NEXT student, you’ll want to revisit it ALL! 
    Think Back….. To your “Autistic” Student
  • 23. Learning is circular
    We are a Team
    I think Differently
    Behavior is Communication
    Communicate Effectively
    Teach the Whole Me
    Be Curious
    Can I Trust You?
    See Me as Capable
    Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wants You to Know…