Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) Presented by Lynn Veale, OTR, Melissa Prather, Behavior Specialist/Autism Support & Shannon Baumbach, LSSP
Autism 101 • According to the CDC in June, 2013, 1 in 88 children are identified with an Autism Spectrum disorder • Autism is a developmental disorder, neurological in nature affecting the brain in 4 major areas – language/communication, social skills, sensory, and behavior. • ASD is diagnosed 4x more often in males than females
Autism 101 (cont) • The overall incidence of ASD is the same around the globe and within different social, racial, and ethnic communities. • Every person with ASD is unique with a different degree of severity . Consequently, it is viewed as a spectrum disorder. • ASD can range from those who are non-verbal with severe challenges to those on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. These children have been previously diagnosed with Asperger’sSyndrome (AS), who are intelligent with good verbal language but lacking social skills.
Impairment in Social Skills • Often viewed as eccentric and peculiar by classmates • Inept social skills often cause them to be made victims of “bullying” • Inability to understand complex rules of social interaction • May appear naïve, egocentric; may not like physical contact; talk at people rather than to them, and do not understand jokes • Unnatural voice and body language • Misinterpret social cues and cannot judge social distance • Often inflexible and unable to cope with changes/transition
Social Skills, cont. Children with ASD…. • are considered to have the social maturity 1/3 of their chronological age • Often socialize with adults or younger peers
Suggestions • Protect the child from “bullying” and teasing. • Attempt to educate peers about the child with AS/ASD. • Emphasize the academic skills of the child. • Teach appropriate social skills by explaining when they are being socially inappropriate and what would have been the correct response in that situation. • Foster involvement with others by encouraging social interaction and limit time spent in isolation in individual activities.
Insistence on Sameness • Children with ASD are easily overwhelmed by changes, highly sensitive to environmental stressors and sometimes engage in rituals. • Anxious and tend to worry when they do not know what to expect. • Stress, fatigue, and sensory overload easily throw them off balance.
Suggestions • Provide a predictable and safe environment • Minimize transitions • Offer consistent daily routine • Avoid surprises • Prepare the child in advance for changes in routine • Reduce fears by exposing the child to new situations beforehand
Restricted Ranges of Interest • Children with ASD often have areas of particular interests which they will extensively research and talk about excessively.
Suggestions • Do not allow the child to continually discuss and ask questions about isolated interests. • Limit this behavior by designating a specific time when the child can talk about his particular area of interest.
Poor Concentration • Children with ASD are often off task and distracted by internalstimuli • Have difficulty sustaining focus on classroom activities • Cannot figure out what is relevant, therefore attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli • Difficulty learning in a group situation
Suggestions • External structure must be provided if the child with ASD is to be productive in the classroom. (i.e. visual schedules, use of timer, help with organization, and sensory strategies.) • Assignments should be broken down into small units. Frequent teacher feedback and redirection should be offered. • Some children benefit from timed work sessions. • Classroom work that is not completed within the time limit should be made up during the child’s own time.
Suggestions cont. • Sometimes, seating the child in the front of the class and directing frequent questions to him/her may assist in attending to the lesson. • Use transition strategies such as visual schedule, warning, timers, objects, support, or early release. • Work out a non-verbal signal with the child for when he/she is not attending.
Sensory strategies • Children on the spectrum tend to have deficits in sensory processing and/or become easily overwhelmed in loud, chaotic, or over stimulating environments. • Possible sensory strategies (when appropriate) are weighted objects such as lap pillow or vest, heavy work, frequent breaks /safe area, head phones/ear plugs, “office “ area, etc. • Sensory strategies are not a “one size fits all” but individualized to meet the particular student’s needs.
Poor Motor Coordination • May be clumsy or awkward. • May have an unusual gait which results in difficulty with activities, involving motor skills • May have fine motor deficits that cause problems with handwriting and/or their ability to draw
Suggestions • Do not push the child to participate in competitive sports. • Consider alternative involvement in P.E. activities such as handling the equipment, etc. • Consider use of alternative devices for written output. i.e. computer, label maker, etc. • When assignments are timed, take into account child’s slower writing speed.
Academic Difficulties • Children with ASD range from Intellectually Disabled (ID) to gifted IQ but may lack high level thinking and comprehension skills. • Most often, their images are concrete but abstraction is poor. • Their impressive vocabularies may give the false impression that they understand what they are talking about; however, they may only be “parroting” what they have heard or read. • Frequently they have poor problems solving skills.
Suggestions • Do not assume that children with ASD understand something just because they can parrot back what they have heard. • Offer added explanation and try to simplify when lesson concepts are abstract. • Be aware that emotional nuances in reading material may not be understood. • Do not assume they understand what they so fluently read. • Firm expectations must be set for the quality of the work they produce. Academic work may be poor quality because the child is not motivated to exert effort in areas lacking interest.
Emotional Vulnerability • Children with ASD often have the IQ to participate in regular education but may not have the emotional resources to cope with the demands of the classroom. • These children are easily stressed due to their inflexibility, and rage reactions are not uncommon in response to frustrations. • These students may be unable to tolerate making mistakes and can be self-critical. • Interacting with people and coping with demands of everyday life take more effort for children with ASD. • Children with ASD are more vulnerable to depression.
Suggestions • Prevent outbursts by offering a high level of consistency. • Teach coping mechanisms for when the child is stressed (different for each child). • Be calm, predictable, and matter of fact in interactions with the child. • Be alert to changes in behavior that may indicate depression. i.e. greater levels of disorganization, inattentiveness, isolation. • It is important that individuals with ASD have a “trusted”adult with whom they can check in with daily.
Final Thoughts…. • Autism is a different way of thinking and learning. • People with Autism are people first… Autism is only one part of who they are. • With individualized and appropriate intervention, children with ASD can succeed and learn to adapt to the world around them.
Sources • Autism Asperger’s Digest, July 2007 • William, Karen (1995); Understanding the Student with Asperger’s Syndrome, Guidelines for Teachers. • Myles, Brenda Smith (2005); Supporting the Child with AS.