What is Autism?Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.
I need to sit cross legged in a comfy chair, and have access to the internet. I don’t want any food because I will snack instead of work. SOMETIMES I like to sit on the floor with everything laid out in front of me. I must wear jammies and not have long sleeves, because it annoys me. No watch or bracelet since it bugs me to type with it hitting the keyboard. I like to write with certain types of pens or pencils, and will search the house if all I have near me is the kind I don’t like. You get the idea…We all have our personal preferences and will go to great lengths to be comfy so we can be productive. If I can’t get comfortable or don’t have space to spread out, I might just give up for the night. Have you ever had a drink while you worked? Chewed gum? Listened to music or used a lamp instead of the flourescent lighting? Isn’t it still the “real world”? School is actually more restrictive than most work environments.Sometimes, kids are unsuccessful because they are uncomfortable or feel bombarded with sensory information in the educational environment. Creating a comfortable learning environment is key to a student’s success – for any kid. Students with ASD will be most ready to learn in a place where they are comfrotable and feel secure.
Glare from fluorescent on paper can be annoying – use color overlays
Some sounds can be painful, like a dentist hitting a nerveChange sounds if possible – if clapping bugs a student, have students develop another system for appreciation in class (ASL wave, spirit fingers, pat heads) If whistles hurt a student's ears, the physical education teacher might agree to use a megaphone, bell, music, buzzer, or hand signal to start and stop activities.
These smells make most of us think of schoolStudent with heightened sensory system may take in several smells at once (someone’s gym shoes, chalk dust, ketchup on friend’s sleeve, fish food from tank across the room, and associate hundreds of smells with school
Sniffing behaviors: may be associating you with a certain scent. Tend to sniff hair, neck, arms.Schedule changes: plan food events at the end of the day – food smells can be pleasing, but distracting to kids, even a few rooms away.
Why not offer this to all students?Arrangement of “old school” classrooms is for passive learners. Today’s kids are active, engaged learners.
Remember kids with ASD may have trouble knowing where body is in space. Floor seating may help.Give option to stand when needed, but in designated area.Arrange classroom seating so the child can be included with peers but not overly distracted. Personal cubby or study carrel.
All of the issues here impact reading instruction. As a gen ed teacher, it can be frustrating trying to include a child with limited reading ability. So much of our instruction is literacy-basedSome students don’t have reliable (verbal) communication
Teachers always underestimate the power of visuals – and the extreme learning deficit they create when they don’t use themRemember about auditory process disorder. They are not understanding what you are sAYING – you must SHOW them!
People with Asd have behaviors and bodies that work in atypical ways. It’s part of who they are. How can we work with that?Isaac: repeats instructions from the teacher very loudly. “OK get your books out” - how can teacher work with this? Ignore, ask Isaac to tell everyone other materials they need, invite other students to call out materials they need, encourage peer pressure to teach Isaac how to speak quieter
Creating comfortable classrooms
Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder<br />Tips, tools, and strategies for teachers<br />
DEFINITION<br />IDEA defined autism as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, which adversely affects educational performance.<br />
CHARACTERISTICS<br />Vary with each child<br />Appear early in life<br />More characteristics exist…<br />
Getting Comfortable<br />Sit in your chair.<br />Feet on the floor, together and touching.<br />Hands on lap, one on each thigh.<br />Knees together.<br />Back straight, not resting on the chair. <br />Now, get comfortable and relax. <br />
Creating a Comfortable Classroom<br />What do YOU need to work comfortably?<br />What do we know about kids with ASD?<br />Movement differences<br />Sensory experiences<br />Repetitive behaviors<br />Evaluate:<br />Learning atmosphere<br />Seating options<br />Use of space<br />
Lighting<br />Some kids with ASD are extremely sensitive to light<br />“Wrong” lighting can be distracting, annoying, even painful<br />Fluorescent lighting <br />TRY:<br />Alternating banks of lighting<br />Different colors<br />Replace with incandescents if you can<br />Sunglasses<br />Colored overlays<br />Got windows? Use them!<br />
Sounds<br />“Why do you think I have so much trouble paying attention in the classroom? I hear everything that goes on – every phone call that the principal makes in her office, every single time an eighteen-wheeler gears down on the highway three blocks away. I HEAR IT! I HEAR EVERYTHING!” (Bober, 1995, pp.114-115)<br />Difficulty filtering out everyday sounds<br />May not react at all to very loud sounds (fire drill, etc)<br />Plugging ears, humming, singing, talking aloud to ease discomfort of other sounds<br />TRY: tennis balls on chairs, allow headphones, soft voice, prepare for loud noises, allow music<br />
Smells<br />Can be overwhelmingly strong<br />Cause discomfort or be distracting (even if pleasant to the student)<br />Some smells can have a calming effect on some individuals<br />May lead to inappropriate behavior (sniffing others)<br />HUH? What can we do about SMELLS?<br />Keep unscented soaps and lotions in the classroom<br />Schedule changes<br />Seat near door/window/fan<br />
Sensory Overload<br />This video clip simulates what a person with ASD and/or sensory integration differences may experience during a period of “sensory overload.”<br />
Organizing the learning space<br />Make quiet study areas available (for any student!)<br />Carrels, tri-fold poster board<br />Offer room to move<br />Tape off areas, rolling white boards create walls<br />“sit and learn”, “move and learn” areas<br />Different areas for different activities<br />TEACCH model<br />Color coding (areas, folders, bins)<br />De-clutter the learning space<br />Organize all classroom materials<br />We can learn a lot from Kindergarten teachers!<br />
Seating options<br />Special section of the classroom<br />Available to everyone?<br />Rules for seating options<br />Option to stand<br />Minimize distraction while maximizing engagement<br />
Use of Space<br />Organize the learning space<br />
Instruction<br />Ideas for Inclusive Classrooms<br />
Literacy and the Student with Autism<br />Atypical developmental sequence<br />Receptive and/or expressive language delays<br />Affects literacy development<br />Reading skills are often scattered<br />May appear ineffective and without comprehension<br />Reading comprehension as a function of prior knowledge<br />May interact with books differently than other children<br />How do we assess?<br />
Give Comprehension Support<br />Vary mode of response<br />Picture choices<br />Allow illustration, pantomime, collage<br />Provide pictures, video<br />CONCRETE strategies<br />Abstract concepts elude kids with ASD<br />Think-aloud as you model comprehension strategies<br />
Supporting Behavior <br />Accentuating the Positive and Rethinking the Negative<br />
Behavioral Differences What kinds of behaviors did you see in the Video Glossary?<br />Restricted Patterns of Interest<br />Preoccupations with Parts of Objects<br />Repetitive Mannerisms<br />Insistence on Sameness<br />Tantrums<br />Self-injury<br />
Is There a Problem?<br />Are all atypical behaviors “problems”?<br />As long as behaviors do not hurt the student with ASD or others, can we cope with them?<br />How can we accept the behaviors and embed them into class routine?<br />Example: Some students who are noise-sensitive prefer to using earbuds with an iPod (playing music, generally). It may seem counterintuitive, but many people with ASD report that it reduces the number of sounds they must filter from hundreds to two (the music and the voice of the person to whom they should attend in class). How could this sensory need become part of class routine?<br />