Through the Eyes of a Child Conference
November 12, 2009
Brian Johnson, Education Consultant - Autism
Marge Resan, School Administration Consultant
Special Education Team
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Nuts and Bolts:
Autism Spectrum Disorders
November 12, 20093
Will is currently 7 years old, the middle child in a family living
in an mid-sized community inWisconsin.
Will was a content, quiet infant. Some described him as
Will’s speech development was delayed; however, once he
began to speak he exhibited advanced vocabulary.
November 12, 20094
When he was 3 years old,Will
began expressing extreme interest in
carrots. He did not like to eat
carrots; rather he liked to talk about
carrots, hold carrots, draw carrots,
make Play-Doh carrots, etc.
Will REALLY enjoyed talking about
carrots – all the time -to the
exclusion of other topics.
November 12, 20095
Will’s parents became concerned about his extreme love of
Will also became easily frustrated, and would occasionally
become so upset he hurt himself by banging his head or
scratching his tummy until it bled.
Will’s parents took him to see his pediatrician, who referred
them to a pediatric neurologist.
November 12, 20096
The pediatric neurologist took a health
history, ruled out seizure activity, and
administered some screening tests.
Will was diagnosed with Asperger’s
Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
November 12, 20097
Will’s parents were told he might benefit from occupational
therapy, speech therapy and other interventions.
However,Will’s parents found out their insurance did not
cover these kinds of interventions.
Will’s pediatrician told his parents the county would help
them obtain services.
November 12, 20098
The county early intervention program assessedWill, and
determined he was too high functioning to qualify for any
kind of services.
The county assuredWill’s parents their school district would
November 12, 20099
Will’s parents took him to a screening program through the
The schools learnedWill was a very smart little boy, but
agreed he had some confusing behaviors. They placed him in
aTitle I preschool program.
November 12, 200910
EventuallyWill’s parents referred him for a special education
evaluation by an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
team at his school.
Will’s parents provided the IEP team information from his
pediatrician, the neurologist, and the county evaluators.
The school staff conducted observations and did lots of
November 12, 200911
Will’s parents hoped he would finally get some of the
therapies that could help him.
However, the IEP team determinedWill did not qualify for
special education and did not need services.
What’s the moral of Will’s story?What’s the moral of Will’s story?
November 12, 200912
Support systems (medical, social, educational) operate for
different purposes and often don’t speak the same language.
Parents and families must learn “on-the-fly” to navigate
complex systems, often without much help.
This can lead to great confusion and stress for families and
Autism Spectrum Disorders
November 12, 200913
Physical differences in the brain
Range of Severity
Prevalence rate is dependent on study:
National Children's Health Survey Report FindsAutism Prevalence Now
1 in 91
1 in 150 children (1 in 94 boys)
November 12, 200915
Medical versus Educational Eligibility
November 12, 200916
Not required to determine whether a student meets eligibility
criteria for the educational impairment area of autism.
If medical information is available, it should be considered as
part of a districts evaluation but must not be the sole
Not mutually exclusive
Do not have to have a medical determination to have an educational
determination nor do you have to have an educational determination to
have a medical determination.
November 12, 200917
IEP teams make the eligibility determinations for an
educational impairment of autism.
IEP teams do not make medical diagnosis.
November 12, 200918
Autism affects socialization.
Autism impairs one’s ability to Communicate;
affecting Receptive Language, Expressive Language
and Pragmatic or Social Language abilities.
Autism may affect motor development.
Autism may affect the “thinking process.”
Autism may affect the entire sensory system.
Autism may affect behavioral repertoire.
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The child displays difficulties or differences or both in interacting
with people and events.The child may be unable to establish and
maintain reciprocal relationships with people.The child may seek
consistency in environmental events to the point of exhibiting
rigidity in routines.
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This is NOT because the child doesn’t want social interaction
JER: all I wanted was a girlfriend
Rigidity in routine, following a schedule
Initiation or maintaining interactions
November 12, 200921
The child displays problems which extend beyond speech and
language to other aspects of social communication,both receptively
and expressively.The child’s verbal language may be absent or,if
present,lacks the usual communicative form which may involve
deviance or delay or both.The child may have a speech or language
disorder or both in addition to communication difficulties associated
November 12, 200922
Communication is everything!
Expressed through behavior
Highly verbal with excellent vocabulary
Problems may arise in both receptive and expressive language
November 12, 200923
Developmental Rates and Sequences
The child exhibits delays,arrests,or regressions in motor,sensory,
social,or learning skills.The child may exhibit precocious or
advanced skill development,while other skills may develop at normal
or extremely depressed rates.The child may not follow normal
developmental patterns in the acquisit ion of skills.
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Usually involves splintering skills
Clear strengths and weaknesses
Usually do not follow a normal developmental pattern or
No looking at faces and smiling back by four months
No big smiles and joyful expressions with gaze by six months.
No back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles, and other facial
expressions by nine months of age
No reciprocal gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving
by twelve months of age.
No babbling by twelve months of age.
Any loss of language or social skills at any age.
November 12, 200925
The child exhibits abnormalities in the thinking process and in
generalizing.The child exhibits strengths in concrete thinking while
difficulties are demonstrated in abstract thinking,awareness,and
judgment.Perseverant thinking and impaired ability to process
symbolic information may be present.
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Concrete and literal understanding
Difficulty with executive functioning skills, i.e. attending,
problem solving, organizing, prioritizing, and generalizing.
Academic difficulties (despite intellectual ability)
Critical thinking (comparing and contrasting, discerning
main ideas, sequencing, organizing, etc.)
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The child exhibits unusual,inconsistent,repetitive or unconventional
responses to sounds,sights,smells,tastes,touch,or movement.The
child may have a visual or hearing impairment or both in addition
to sensory processing difficulties associated with autism.
November 12, 200928
May exhibit hypersensitivity (over sensitivity or sensory
May exhibit hyposensitivity (under sensitivity or sensory
OT skills are critical!
Inability to be able to function
Can manifest through behavior
Should be incorporated as part of day
November 12, 200929
The child displays marked distress over changes,insistence on
following routines,and a persistent preoccupation with or attachment
to objects.The child’s capacity to use objects in an age-appropriate or
functional manner may be absent,arrested or delayed.The child may
have difficulty displaying a range of interests or imaginative
activities or both.The child may exhibit stereotyped body movements.
Strategies for School and Home
November 12, 200930
Use concrete and visual cues as much as possible
Evidence Based Practices
Building the Local Capacity for Students with Autism
Spectrum Disorders withinWisconsin Schools
Webinars and Face-to-FaceTrainings
November 12, 200932