Autism is a neurological disorder. There are various theories regarding the cause of autism:
-abnormal brain development
None have been scientifically proven.
Students range in their abilities and skills within the spectrum.
Autism Affects the following three areas:
1. Communication :
Non-verbal, minimal speech
Difficulties with comprehension
Literal interpretation of language
May use words without attachment of meaning.
2. Social Interaction :
Poor eye contact
Limited facial expressions
Limited or inappropriate interactions with peers
Limited understanding of social rules or cues
Unusual reactions to social situations
Minimal cooperation with peers
3. Behavior Patterns :
Repetitive movements, self-stimulation
Resistance to change/transitions
Behavior episodes (meltdowns/tantrums)
Possible aggressive behavior
Possible Self-injurious behaviors
Approximately 1 in 150 children have the diagnosis of autism. It is the fastest growing developmental disability.
Ratio of 4 boys to 1 girl
Approximately 560,000 individuals in the United States between the ages of 0 and 21 have autism.
Autism is increasing at a rate of 10-17% per year. At this rate there could be 4 million individuals with Autism in the U.S. in the next decade.
(Dr. Jennifer Sellers, Auburn University)
Seizure Disorder– 25%
Low muscle tone—30%
( Dr. Jennifer Sellers, Auburn University)
Weak Processing Speed
Verbalize more than they understand
Slow work speed
Poor writing skills
Poor organizational skills
Difficult to see the big picture
Immature and inappropriate social skills
Perception and theory of mind issues
Sensory Integration issues
Challenge for students with autism
Difficulty seeing the perspective of others
Isolation from peers
Difficulty managing day-to-day interactions
Struggle with communication skills
Poor problem solving skills
Confusion with “hidden curriculum”
The ability to pick up and act on social assumptions
The ability to think about other people’s thinking (Are they interested in what I’m saying ?) Generally have “wrong” perceptions of what others are thinking
Mind reading (facial expressions, body stance, voice tones)
They may not realize their comments can offend or embarrass others
Problems with planning, organizing, shifting attention and multitasking
Difficulties approaching complex tasks, breaking them down into parts and budgeting time
Waste time talking and worrying about a project rather than planning and working on it
May lead to losing supplies, forgetting assignments
Cannot take notes and listen to the teacher
Need to finish one task before beginning a second
Unable to leave a task if it is not finished
The ability to draw diverse information together to construct higher level meaning in context
Understanding the “gist” of a story
Grasping an underlying theme within a message
Seeing parts over wholes
Represents both strengths and weaknesses and should be thought of as a cognitive style
What is it?
It is the ability to take in sensory information, process the information and then respond to the information.
What are the sensory systems?
Visual-seeing where your body is in space
Sensory processing can be affected by medication, lack of sleep, nutrition, holidays, etc. Be aware of what is going on in a child’s life.
May experience sensitivities to textures as in soaps or other “messy things”
Bothered by certain fabric or tags in shirts, waistbands
May like to be touched or to feel deep pressure or may want to avoid it
Experience high or low pain tolerance
May bite which may or may not be caused by sensory issues
Squint, blink, or rub eyes
Avoid certain foods or crave others (limited assortment)
Some require a gluten free diet
Be aware of sensory needs because over-stimulation and not getting sensory needs met may lead to a behavior “melt-down”.
“ Sensory Diet”: Breaks given for sensory activities, jumping, deep pressure, swinging, music, walking
Personal space: Be aware of proximity of others, line up first or last
Bathroom Accommodations: Difficulty with toilet training, (noise issues with flushing, routine in going)
Provision of fidgets: Helps with over stimulation, May use koosh balls, hand exercisers (some available in health room)
Social Stories to help with changes and to teach compensatory strategies for deal with sensory issues
Be generous with praise
Be specific about what the student is doing “right”.
Use token cards/visual systems to manage behaviors
Establish reinforcements/incentives for the students to complete work and to maintain positive behavior. These may change throughout the year.
Consult with Behavior Specialist (Functional Behavior Analysis )
Remember comprehension is not guaranteed
Clearly define your expectations, tell the student specifically what you want them to do
Combine verbal instruction with pictures and/or gestures
Be specific with directions (call the student’s name, have the student paraphrase directions)
Encourage the student to clarify any direction he does not understand
Use simple verbal language
Have “rules” specific for the student and teach him those rules.
Use “gestures” to help in understanding
Teach him strategies to relax and to use those when he requires them.
Use social stories to help in understanding situations
Always prepare student for changes
Rules for Seeing the Nurse
Come into her room with my teacher
Sit quietly and wait my turn
Listen to the nurse and follow her directions
____Close my eyes
____Take 2 deep breaths
____Count to 10
____Squeeze my arms
____Take 2 deep breaths
___A. Am I relaxed? YES. Then go back to class/work
___B. Am I relaxed: NO
___Then start over again
“ When you have met one child with Asperger Syndrome, you have met one child with Asperger Syndrome.”
“ They live in OUR world, but in THEIR OWN WAY rather than “in their own world.”
“ When I was younger, I didn’t realize that I thought differently; therefore, It didn’t occur to me to ask for help or clarification.”
“ If they can’t learn the way we teach them, let’s teach them the way they learn”. Paula Kluth
“ Students with AS/HFA live in a world that is often puzzling and unpredictable to them and therefore, stressful. In order to help them meet their potential, educators must help these students understand the world around them with strategies and supports that will foster success and independence.”
Simple Strategies that Work by Brenda Myles
Autism Society of America: www.autism-society.org
Autism Research Institute: www.autismresearchinstitute.com
Autism Society of Alabama: http://www.autism-alabama.org
(Lending library available)
Center for the Study of Autism: http://www.autism.org