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  1. 1. Autism and Writing<br />Rhonda L. Waterhouse, M.Ed.<br />Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness<br />The Pennsylvania State University<br />
  2. 2. Session Description<br />This session will examine how Autism Spectrum Disorders both positively and negatively affect students and their writing. Participants will explore methods, including using students’ interests, to improve their motivation for and engagement with writing tasks, ultimately improving their writing skills as a whole.<br />
  3. 3. Jaxson Age 9<br />
  4. 4. Fireworks: A Metaphor for ASD<br /><ul><li>Every kid on the spectrum is different – just like every firework.
  5. 5. They can be wonderful and at the same time terrifying.
  6. 6. They can be loud and attention seeking or they can be quiet and easily forgotten.
  7. 7. Everyone loves fireworks a few </li></ul>times a year, but all day long <br />everyday can be a lot for anyone<br />to handle.<br />
  8. 8. Main Topics<br /><ul><li>Defining Autism Spectrum Disorders
  9. 9. Effects (both positive and negative) on student writing
  10. 10. Methods to improve motivation for and engagement with writing tasks</li></li></ul><li>The Spectrum<br />Classic Autism<br />PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified)<br />Asperger’s Syndrome (HFA is not an official diagnosis)<br />RettSyndrome (rare – usually girls)<br />Childhood Disintigrative Disorder (rare – later onset than Autism)<br />
  11. 11. Common Signs of Asperger’s Syndrome<br />Unidentified school-age children will have more subtle symptoms. <br /><ul><li>Socially “odd” –
  12. 12. lack of or over-extended eye contact, odd facial expressions, body positions or gestures
  13. 13. Difficulty making friends
  14. 14. Doesn’t seek out play with other kids or doesn’t know how to approach other kids for play
  15. 15. Carries on only one-sided conversations where he dominates the topic and flow with little interest in the other’s opinions, experiences, or feelings
  16. 16. Appears to have little or no empathy – unconcerned when others are hurt or having difficulties</li></li></ul><li>Common Signs (cont.)<br /><ul><li>Restricted repetitive behavior, interests and activities
  17. 17. Intensely preoccupied with one topic – space, Thomas, Pokemon, video games, etc.
  18. 18. Strongly dislikes change in routine
  19. 19. Repetitive movements: arm flapping, finger waving, running
  20. 20. Preoccupied with parts of objects (spinning the wheel on the bicycle)
  21. 21. Since some of these behaviors are extensions of “normal,” the behavior must seriously interfere with the child’s ability to function socially or in the classroom
  22. 22. No speech delay (difference between HFA & AS)
  23. 23. Average or above IQ (difference between classic autism & AS)
  24. 24. Not Schizophrenic</li></li></ul><li>How Thinking Processes Differ<br />Things that make sense to us, don’t necessarily make sense to them. (Jaxson & Retelling Stories)<br />Sensory avoiding or seeking can interfere with learning.<br />Need direct instruction for things most of us innately understand (e.g., social skills)<br />He won’t be able to tell you that he doesn’t understand so he’ll show you instead.<br />Avoiding frustrating situations can interfere with learning.<br />Perseverating thoughts<br />
  25. 25. Autism’s Effects on Writing<br />Aptitudes<br />Strong interests<br />Structured – rule following<br />Factual<br />Unique perspective<br />Concrete<br />Practical<br />Individual strengths<br />Visual thinking<br />Challenges<br />Pragmatics<br />Difficulty thinking of particular words<br />Considering audience<br />Fine motor difficulties<br />Brainstorming ideas<br />Formulating a plan<br />Requires direct instruction<br />Staying on topic<br />
  26. 26. Use strengths to deal with challenges<br />Strong interests  Brainstorming ideas<br />Visual thinking  Brainstorming or planning<br />Strong interests  Computer for overcoming fine motor<br />Structured & rule following  grammar, organization, revision  requires direct instruction<br />Factual  non-fiction, teaching rules  direct instruction<br />Unique perspective  brainstorming ideas<br />Concrete  non-fiction  direct instruction<br />Practical  real life uses <br />Individual strengths topics  individualized instruction<br />
  27. 27. Prevention vs. Intervention<br />ABC – Antecedent  Behavior  Consequence<br />Prevention  known antecedent avoided or prepared for to prevent behavior<br />Intervention  consequence for known behavior<br />Different situations call for different solutions. <br />Discussion<br />
  28. 28. Fine Motor Difficulties<br />Fine motor skills in one area (e.g., musical instrument) does not indicate ability in other areas – different neural pathways<br />Dysgraphia – inability to produce letter legibly and quickly<br />Refusal to participate  interferes with academic performance<br />Acting out – throwing papers<br />Self-esteem<br />Fewest words possible  habit<br />Legibility  judgment on intelligence<br />Macrographia – larger letter size <br />More effort is focused on handwriting so content and quality suffer<br />Handwriting is not intelligence: it’s really an exercise in drawing!<br />
  29. 29. Fine Motor Difficulties (cont.)<br />Sometimes grown out of it or improve with practice, but MANY will have little or no progress regardless of method (even most gifted)<br />Significant long term academic impact – all areas<br />Not merely economy of words<br />Neuroanatomical differences (cellular and structural)<br />Difference in movement and motor planning<br />“highly prevalent across the spectrum” (Brown, 2009, p.15)<br />Hypotonia – low tone & strength<br />Apraxia - difficulty executing skilled movement regardless of physical ability and desire<br />Directly affect hands and ability to hold and use writing implements<br />
  30. 30. Overcoming Fine Motor Difficulties<br />Don’t overemphasize handwriting – really only necessary for name, address, and phone number<br />Allow use of keyboard<br />Practice when others are practicing handwriting<br />Reasons given for not allowing computer (fairness, cost, importance of handwriting, instruction time)<br />“Fair” does not mean “the same”<br />Inexpensive laptops<br />Keyboarding main communication skill now<br />Paraprofessional or software for instruction<br />Questions to consider<br />Fine motor exercise or academic task?<br />More important to print or give answer?<br />Use interests<br />
  31. 31. Keyboard Bingo<br />(Brown, 2009, p. 17)<br />
  32. 32. Progress from Keyboarding Instruction<br />
  33. 33. Tips for Keyboarding Instruction<br />Keyboard bingo for letter location<br />Remove physical prompts quickly<br />Cause and effect of hitting key<br />Show word on page & on screen<br />Type word and student retypes<br />Use Arial or other clear font (younger or less experience = bigger font size)<br />Use class vocab or spelling for practice<br />Software<br />Single words  phrases  sentences  paragraphs<br />Fill in the blank or cloze<br />Work independently<br />Monitor web access<br />
  34. 34. Theory of Mind<br />The ability to consider another person’s thoughts or feelings as a way of understanding and predicting behavior (Tager-Fleisberg, Baron-Cohen, & Cohen as cited in Jurecic, p.426).<br />Writing is a social practice<br />Poor comprehension and communication when accounting for the thoughts or feelings of another (Frith & Hath as cited in Jurecic, p.424)<br />Extreme egocentrism without deliberateness<br />Lack of empathy<br />Seeing another’s perspective<br />Formulating argument or counterargument<br />Transitions between and within ideas<br />Eliminating extraneous background information<br />Organizing thoughts<br />Tendency to be writer-based rather than reader-based<br />
  35. 35. Tips for Dealing with Audience Issues<br />Direct one-on-one instruction “explicit teaching of implicit rules” (Frith as cited in Jurecic, p.436)<br />Provide rules and structure for all steps of the process<br />Require transitions<br />Require topic sentences – helps see line of argument<br />Use tutors – shows multitude of readers/audience<br />Narrate experience as reader during conference<br />
  36. 36. Behavior = Communication<br />This is the key to understanding autism<br />He can’t tell you what’s wrong – even if he seems very articulate<br />If he’s “acting out,” there’s a reason.<br />The team needs to decode the behavior in order to come up with a solution<br />Punishing the behavior will get you nowhere if you don’t know the root cause<br />Behavioral Assessments - BSC<br />When teachers and other team members learn to decode these behaviors, they can provide the student with strategies to survive and learn in a regular classroom.<br />
  37. 37. Military Family Readiness:<br />prepared to effectively navigate the challenges of daily living in the unique context of military service; <br />equipped with the skills to competently function in the face of challenges; <br />awareness of the supportive resources available; and<br />utilizing these skills and supports in managing challenges. <br />Ready families contribute directly to the service member's state of readiness to accomplish the mission at hand.<br />
  38. 38. Penn State’s Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness<br />The Clearinghouse is a distribution and implementation framework for professionals (practitioners and researchers) supporting military families. <br />Exceptional Family Member Program: The military’s program for families with a member who has special needs (educational, medical, or psychological) <br />
  39. 39. The New Research (and Practice) Frontier: Dissemination & Implementation<br />…very little is known about the processes required to effectively implement evidence-based programs/practices on a national scale. Research to support the implementation activities that are being used is even rarer.National Implementation Research Network, 2007<br />
  40. 40. The Clearinghouse is designed to promote and support:<br />the use of research-based decision-making; <br />the selection, dissemination, and evaluation of evidence-based or evidence-informed programs and practices; <br />the continued education of professionals assisting military families. <br />
  41. 41. The audience will have access to:<br /><ul><li>A searchable database of Evidence-Based Interventions and 4-H Programs of Distinction;
  42. 42. An interactive program selection tool through a series of questions that provide a logical decision-making tree;
  43. 43. User-friendly practical guides, research reports, and briefs on various topics (e.g., family recruitment, principles of effectiveness in evidence-based programming);
  44. 44. Various features to help users navigate the site, answer questions, think through a program implementation issue, or make referrals (e.g., 800 number; a help email address, and a “Live Chat” feature);
  45. 45. Implementation planning sessions for specific programs; and
  46. 46. Capacity building opportunities (e.g., webinars and communities of practice) and ongoing technical assistance (e.g., one-on-one consultation sessions).</li></li></ul><li>References<br />Brown, L. (2009). Take the pencil out of the process: Instruction and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(1), 14-21.<br />Jurecic, A. (2007). Neurodiversity. College English, 69(5), 421-442. <br />Mayes, S.D. & Calhoun, S.L. (2007). Learning, attention, writing, and processing speed in typical children and children with ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, and oppositional defiant disorder. Child Neuropsychology, 13, 469-493.<br />