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Children and Youth with Asperger's Syndrome and Higher-Functioning Autism: Strategies for Achieving Positive Outcomes. 2010 Beyond the Diagnosis: Autism Across the Lifespan Conference Richard L. Simpson University of Kansas October 15, 2010.

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Children and Youth with Asperger's Syndrome and Higher-Functioning Autism: Strategies for Achieving Positive Outcomes

2010 Beyond the Diagnosis: Autism Across the Lifespan Conference

Richard L. Simpson

University of Kansas

October 15, 2010

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): The Facts and the Caveats Related to Asperger Syndrome and Higher-Functioning Autism

ASD is a complex developmental disability that typically occurs early in life (usually by year 3).

ASD is a neurological disorder; there is no known psychogenic etiology for autism.

Exact prevalence is unknown, however current estimates are approximately 1 per 100.

  • Fastest-growing developmental disability; more common than Down’s syndrome, juvenile diabetes, and childhood cancer (CDC, 2008).
  • Approximately a 1,148% growth rate.
  • 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.
  • 10 - 17 % annual growth.
  • $60 billion annual cost; in 10 years the annual cost is estimated to be $200-400 billion

Approximately 4-5 times more common in boys than girls; there are no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries.

Family income, lifestyle and educational levels do not affect the chance of ASD occurrence.

primary characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorders
Primary Characteristics of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Social Interaction Deficits

Speech/ Behavior

Language Deficits Problems

asd classification and diagnostic systems
ASD Classification and Diagnostic Systems
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-1V (DSM-1V-TR)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act(IDEIA)
diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 1v classification system
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-1V Classification System

Pervasive Developmental Disorders:

1. Autistic Disorder

2. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

3. Rett’s Disorder

4. Pervasive Developmental Disorder--Not Otherwise Specified

5. Asperger Disorder

dsm 1v diagnostic criteria asperger syndrome
DSM-1V Diagnostic Criteria: Asperger Syndrome

Qualitative impairment in social interaction:

  • Significant impairment in use of nonverbal behavior, such as social interaction gestures, facial expression, eye-eye-contact, and body postures
  • Inability to form and maintain developmentally appropriate relationships with peers
  • Failure to spontaneously seek out others for interactions, such as by sharing interests, achievements, and so forth
  • Difficulty with social or emotional reciprocity

B. Repetitive and restricted stereotyped patterns of behavior, activities, and interests:

  • Significant preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted interests
  • Significant manifestation of nonfunctional routines or inflexible adherence to rituals
  • Repetitive and stereotyped motor movements
  • Significant and persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

C. Clinically significant social, occupational, or other functioning impairment

D. Absence of a clinically significant general language delay

E. Absence of a clinically significant delay in cognitive development of age-appropriate adaptive behavior (other than social interaction) and self-help skills

projected amendments to dsm v
Projected Amendments to DSM:V
  • There will likely be one diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • There will likely be two primary diagnostic domains:
    • Social-communication problems and fixated interests and repetitive behaviors, including stereotyped language
  • There will likely be dimensional ratings of domains, likely on a 5 point scale from most severe to mild/normal variations
  • There will likely be categories for ASD with intellectual disability, ASD with specific genetic syndromes, and so forth.
  • There will likely be additional attention given comorbid psychiatric diagnosis
  • There will likely be diagnostic information with a focus on looking at ASD as a constellation of attributes with a clear effect on function, range of etiologies, and a spectrum that presents from severe to mild disabilities
salient elements of asperger disorder
Salient Elements of Asperger Disorder


  • Social withdrawal
  • Unskilled initiations and responses
  • Socially stiff, awkward, emotionally blunted, self-centered, unable to understand social cues, inflexible, lacking in empathy and understanding
  • Emotionally vulnerable and easily stressed
  • Easy targets for teasing and bullying


  • Good speaking fluency
  • Poor pragmatics
  • Poor non-verbal skills
salient elements of asperger disorder continued
Salient Elements of Asperger Disorder(continued)


  • Generally average intellectual abilities
  • Obsessive, narrowly defined interests
  • Concrete/literal thinking style
  • Rigidity and inflexible demeanor
  • Poor problem solving skills
  • Poor organization
  • Difficulty in discerning relevant stimuli


  • Hypo-and hyper-sensitivity to stimuli
  • Poor auditory processing, including sound sensitivity


  • Fine and gross motor challenges
salient elements of asperger disorder continued10
Salient Elements of Asperger Disorder(continued)


Based on the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children (BASC)

  • Significant difference between the perceptions of parents and teachers on Externalizing Problems and Adaptive Skills Index: parents ratings were “Clinically Significant”
  • Depression and Atypicality were areas of concern
  • Students’ self-perceptions were within the average range
  • Students may be able to control behaviors at school more so than at home
co morbidity and asperger disorder and high functioning autism
Co-Morbidity and Asperger Disorder and High Functioning Autism


Obsessive Compulsive Disorders

Mood disorders and Depression

Anxiety disorders

Explosive disorders

Cognitive and learning challenges

as and hfad characteristics affecting school performance
AS and HFAD Characteristics Affecting School Performance
  • Distraction/Inattention
  • Difficulty comprehending abstract concepts vs. concrete information
  • Tunnel Vision; narrowly focused and fixated unique interests
  • Rote Memory
  • Visual vs. Auditory Processing
  • Problem Solving Difficulties
  • Motor Skill difficulties
  • Motivation problems
  • Difficulty distinguishing relevant and irrelevant information
suggestions for improving school performance
Suggestions for Improving School Performance
  • Students with AS/HFAD often require direct problem-solving skill instruction to effectively use and retain information
  • Often need more time to complete written work
  • Often need abstract concept comprehension assistance
  • Provide problem-solving support
  • Provide schedules and supports for time management
  • Individualize and modify assignments and grading
  • Provide supports for small group work
  • Provide supports for writing, homework and exams
  • Provide stress breaks and stress reduction plans
recommendations for improving school performance
Recommendations for Improving School Performance
  • Incorporate students’ interests within curriculum
  • Provide sufficient “wait time”
  • Reward quality rather than quantity
  • Offer alternatives to paper/pencil tasks
  • Provide reasoning for tasks and task objectives
  • Check frequently for understanding
  • Carefully consider homework assignments
  • Provide notes/outlines or note taking assistance
  • Monitor learners’ affect and emotions
  • Use graphic organizers
  • Provide guided practice and “No Fail” Practice
foundational supports for learners with as and hfad
Foundational Supports for Learners with AS and HFAD
  • Consistent schedules, routines and predictability
  • “Home-base” programs
  • “Safe harbor” programs
  • Visual supports
  • Classroom transition supports
  • Competent buddy pairing
  • Protection from teasing/bullying
  • Structured teaching, task organization and clear behavior and task requirements
  • Systematic performance monitoring
visual supports for learners with as and higher functioning asd
Visual Supports for Learners with AS and Higher Functioning ASD
  • Task Organizers
  • Turn Taking Cards
  • Waiting Symbols
  • Choice Making
  • Rules and Alternate Behaviors
  • Consequence Maps
  • Calming Supports
  • Transition Supports
  • Activity Completion Signals
  • Introducing Change
  • First, Then Cards
  • Video modeling
additional instructional supports for learners with as and hfad
Additional Instructional Supports for Learners with AS and HFAD
  • Priming
  • Assignment Modifications
    • Length modifications, study guides, models for assignments, alternatives to paper-and pencil tasks, and so forth
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Outlines
  • Task Cards
  • Supports for Preparing for Changes in Routine
  • Early or Late Release
  • Homework Assignment Notebooks and Homework Modifications
  • Timelines
  • Travel Cards
  • Instructional Modeling and “No-Fail” Practice
novel and promising albeit largely unproven asd intervention strategies
Novel and Promising (albeit Largely Unproven) ASD Intervention Strategies

Consequence maps

Power cards


consequence maps
Consequence Maps
  • Consequence maps or Contingency Maps are graphic representations of a behavior and its consequences. Consequence maps identify two (or more) tracks. One track depicts a present (and typically undesirable) behavioral response and an alternate (and more socially desirable) behavior along with the consequences connected to the options. Teachers and other educational personnel use the maps to assist students understand and make decisions about their behavior and to become more involved in the process of understanding the choices available to them and the consequences associated with their actions.
power cards
Power Cards
  • The Power Card strategy connects an appropriate or desired behavior or social skill to an individual’s area of special interest.
  • Power Cards involve scenarios wherein a child’s special interest, a hero, or a model connected to a special interest models a solution to a problem similar to the one experienced by the child.
  • Cartooning uses “cartoon-like” illustrations to describe and interpret social situations and problems; and to create a forum for social problem solving and choice making.