Autism Spectrum Disorder Yoon Kyung Cho & Giuliana Tirella
What is Autism (ASD)? • A range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. • Autistic disorder (autism or classical ASD) is the most severe form of ASD & a milder form of ASD are known as Asperger syndrome, the rare condition called Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder -- ASD varies in character and severity. • May occur in allethnic and socioeconomic groups and allages.
Common Characteristics • Impaired social interaction • Fail to respond to their names • Often avoid eye contact with other people • Difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions • Don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior • Lack empathy • Don’t know how to play interactively with other children • Engage in repetitive movements: rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging • Persistent fixation on parts of objects (obsessive) • Visual thinkers: likes to draw • High anxiety
Less Common Characteristics • No smiling • Little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking • Higher than normal risk for certain co-occurring conditions, including Fragile X syndrome (causes mental retardation), tuberous sclerosis (tumors grow on the brain), epileptic seizures, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder • About 20 to 30 percent of children develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood • Sounds that hurt their ears may create fear to be in certain places • Creates a word and uses it until told to stop, where then the child replaces it with another newly created word
Misconceptions • Hallucinations and delusions are NOT found in autism • People with autism are good at drawing, art and computer programming – talented in strategy games (chess) – SMART • People with autism may still appear just like the others – different levels of autism • Not caused due to parental practices • Symptoms do improve – with treatment and with age, but cannot be cured • People with ASD continue to need services and supports as they get older, but many are able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment
Accommodations(Effective practices teachers can implement) • A structured day, and teachers who know how to be firm and gentle • High anxiety for autism require visual schedules and reassurances to responses multiple times • Implement visual aids as many people with autism are visual thinkers • Best way to deal with fixations is to use them to motivate school work – if a student likes fish, use fish as an example for school work assignments or have a fish tank in the classroom • Avoid long strings of verbal instructions as problems of remembering the sequence occurs – write the instructions down on a piece of paper • Deep pressure is required for some autistic children to calm the nervous system • Use computers to type when writing since typing is often much easier than handwriting • Teaching generalization is often problematic as the child may understand that one rule only applies for one specific place rather than in general, for example, running across the street • Sequencing is very difficult in which requires demonstration and having the child experience by feeling every moments and steps with numerous repetitions
Additional Information • http://www.autism.com/edu_educators.asp • www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm (National Organization) • www.dealingwithautism.zedicate.com/autism-facts-for-teachers/ • www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html • www.naset.org/autism2.0.html • www.autismspeaks.org/whatisit/facts.php • www.autism.org.uk/teacherpack • www.firstsigns.org • www.autism-society.org/about-autism (National Organization) • www.childrendisabilities.info/autism • www.cindysautisticsupport.com/talkingtokids.html • www.autismsafetyproject.org • www.autism.org (National Organization) • http://hubpages.com/hub/Students-with-Aspergers-Syndrome-Tips-for-Teachers-and-Parents
Curricular Modification Autism is a very big spectrum consisting of many different disorders within the one disorder. The children that are in our classrooms appear under Aspergers Syndrome. It is important when dealing with children of Aspergers that you don’t categorize them. Every one of them is unique and different. And therefore you have to treat them/ help each differently. Things that may work with one child with Aspergers may not work with another child who has Aspergers. Children with Aspergers interpret the world in a unique way, and they sometimes react to their environment in unpredictable ways. They may refute doing work, have a tantrum, “freak” out, and retreat into their shell. These students are visual learners therefore when it comes to “showing work” they may shy away from it. “Showing work” just does not make sense to them and just seems like a pure waste of time. They picture how to solve the problem in their head and thus writing it out just seems very illogical. As far as Nathan is concerned, his para has to write things for him mostly. He can tell what he wants to say but often refuses to write it out. There are times he will even refute even telling and we have to push him a little bit. Most times he will break down and get down to business and other times it’s really just a lost cause. It just depends on the day he is having or how fixated he is on a something else. Joey does not like writing. He often chooses to doodle instead of write and his para has to be standing next to him giving him constant support to make sure he is on task. He also likes to make up words in his writing. These words he makes up don’t make sense and once one word is taken away he picks another. For both boys having a para and parents who help them strive for success and teachers who understand is crucial.
Curricular Modification These students may also often seem like they are not paying attention. They may be doodling, staring into space, playing with objects, and building etc. Nathan will often be seen building paper objects (i.e. paper planes, cards, ships, etc). He also has certain toys that he likes to play with. Joey often doodles and fidgets with pencils. He likes to tap pencils and pretend they are guns. Although they may seem like they are not paying attention, they are. They just need these types of focuses in order to keep them focused on learning. Thus as teachers we must let them have these types of fidgets and sometimes look past their actions and know that they are still learning. Often times the lack of focus is due to concentration on another object or subject and thus their focus is not on the information being presented. This is because the subject they are focused on is something that doesn’t overwhelm them or make them frustrated. When Nathan feels frustrated he retreats into a shell. He loses all communication, gets very angry and often throws a temper tantrum and Joey cries. Nathan constantly is off focus. He chooses to do projects for the teacher instead of what he is supposed to be doing or asks to go on the computer to look things up. We let them do these things. They will soon come back to what they are supposed to be learning. Also, if as teachers we connect these types of subjects with what they are supposed to be learning it is easier to corral them back in.
Curricular Modification Students with Aspergers Syndrome have difficult time with transition from one activity to the next. To help them cope with these there are many different strategies we have adopted. Each student is given a visual schedule of the day. This is to help them see when and what they will be transitioning to. We have to talk to them about upcoming events and constantly remind them of what they will be doing or what they are supposed to be doing. They also need someone to walk them to each transition outside of the classroom and get them settled. Lastly, you have to accept their gifts as much as you do their challenges. Students with Aspergers are often challenging but they also have so much to offer. They are very smart, full of different information, and exciting. As teachers we often have to just take a breath, take what comes, and remember that each day is a new day. You never know what you are going to get when they walk through the door and often times neither do they.
Facts! • Experts estimate: 3 to 6 children out of 1,000 will have ASD • Males are 4 times more likely to have ASD than females • About 20 to 30 percent of children develop epilepsy (seizure disorder) by the time they reach adulthood