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But I Didn’t Sign up to be a Spec Ed Teacher!. Sad Stats. 1 in 88 births will result in an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis Girls are not being diagnosed early…anorexia As many as 50% of individuals with autism are non-verbal

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sad stats
Sad Stats
  • 1 in 88 births will result in an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis
  • Girls are not being diagnosed early…anorexia
  • As many as 50% of individuals with autism are non-verbal
  • 75% of children with Asperger’s syndrome also have Attention Deficit Disorder (Attwood)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders are now more common than Down’s syndrome, childhood cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, blindness and deafness
by the end of this session you will
By the end of this session you will…
  • Gain understanding of a parent and teacher perspective
  • Identify key areas of challenge that are not always obvious for students with ASD
  • Identify essential methods and attitudes integral to successfully teaching a student with Autism


Loss of dreams for child

Questioning diagnosis

Repeating the nightmare

Waiting lists

Funding for therapy

Financial stress

Time stress


Everyday is a birthday party

Meeting each child’s needs

Self doubt

Fear of judgment

and criticism

Island syndrome


If you have taught One child with Autism

You have taught ONE child with Autism

bring in the parents and the student
Bring in the parents and the student
  • What are your dreams? Nightmares?
  • What are some words that describe your childthe best?
  • What are your gifts? Talents? Interests?
  • Needs?
  • What would an ideal day at school look like? Feel like?
start with what works
Start with what works
  • What are the student’s strengths, preferences and abilities?
  • In what contexts, school situations or environments is the student successful?
  • When does he successfully interact with peers in meaningful ways?

Paula Kluth, You are Going to Love This Kid!

good for all necessary for some
Good for all, Necessary for some
  • Routines and schedules
  • Transition tools
  • Checklists and Rules
  • Organization support
  • Choices
  • Non verbal supports and cues
the triad of impairments
The Triad of Impairments







Impaired Social



Processing Problems

Executive Dysfunction

Language Problems

Imitation Deficits

Weak Central Coherence

Mind Blindedness

Sensory Problems

communication and language
Communication and Language


  • A lot of words but no meaning
  • What happened at recess?
  • Can we talk about something else?
  • Why are you talking like that?
  • More dialogue please!
communication and language1
Communication and Language

Receptive difficulties :

  • It was just a joke!!
  • I read it but I don’t get it!
  • I heard you but I don’t get it!
  • I heard you but I don’t know what you said
  • Do you want me to look at you or hear you?

Don’t assume that a verbal individual understands you and that a non-verbal individual lacks understanding!

what do we do
What do we do?
  • Be compassionate
  • Each Strategies for academics (PALS, SSRD) for reading comprehension
  • Teach social thinking and skills
  • Keep instruction systematic and direct
  • Teach listening
  • Support what you say with a picture or written word
  • Stop talking so much!
repetitive routines behaviours and movements
Repetitive Routines, Behaviours and Movements
  • What do you mean we aren’t going to library today????
  • Inflexible thinking and behavior (brainstorming, problem solving, multiple meanings…)
  • Why does he keep doing that?
what you might see
What you might see…
  • Continue using an ineffective strategy
  • “Why isn’t it working?”
  • Less likely to learn

from mistakes

what might you see
What might you see?
  • Does not ask for clarification
  • Asking the same question repeatedly
  • Rigid adherence to rules and routines
  • Keen interest with a particular topic
  • Difficulty applying what is

learned in one situation

and apply it to another

impaired executive function
Impaired Executive Function

Frontal lobe is responsible for much of the executive functioning of the brain. These functions include:

  • Attention
  • Working memory
  • Planning, organizing
  • Forethought
  • Impulse control
organizational issues
Organizational Issues

“Without appropriate support, the child with AS may feel he is drowning in a million sub tasks. Many of us have trouble prioritizing and organizing tasks.” Stephen Shore


Do you know this student?

  • Poor ability to inhibit impulses
  • Often impulsive; acting without thinking; interrupting
  • Difficulty focusing, concentrating
  • Problems inhibiting distracting stimuli; picking out relevant details
  • Difficulty planning: setting goals, predicting future outcomes and designing course of action

• Difficulty following sequential steps


Do you Know This Student? He/she has problems:

  • Organizing materials, turning in homework, bringing what is needed, and remembering to deliver messages
  • Making predictions or inferences, and

drawing conclusions

  • Putting events or steps in sequence
  • Getting the main idea and making

judgments about an event

  • Evaluating ideas

Do you Know this Student?

• Difficulty shifting attention between task and active memory

• Difficulty with multi-step tasks and complex instructions

• Often forgets directions once task is started

• Poor ability to monitor and check work

• Poor self-monitoring of behavior

• Tends not to use past experiences to evaluate present actions

what can we do
What can we do?
  • Show compassion
  • List the sequential steps of the task, providing visual cues to each step
  • Teach self monitoring
  • Visual schedules: pictorial, written
  • Clear beginning and ending to tasks…stop signs
  • Clear visual rules and regulations
  • Provide outlines for assignments/graphic organizers!!!
  • Lists, written sequences, step by step
teach kids how to think flexibly
Teach Kids HOW to think Flexibly
  • What else could this be?
  • How many uses can you think of for…?
  • Model Flexible thinking aloud

We can do this, but we can also do this…”

“If I stay calm, I’ll find the solution mre quickly…

“The smart and friendly thing to do is to ask for help.”

socializing and relationships
Socializing and relationships
  • Misunderstanding of or inattention to facial expressions in others
  • Perimeter walkers
  • Prefer to be alone OR does not

know HOW to “be” with others

  • Lack social thinking: inappropriate comments or responses
problems with play
Problems with Play
  • Seems to not know HOW to play with toys or children
  • Lacks a soundtrack
  • May play by himself
  • Intense reaction if play does not goes his way (rules)
  • Extreme difficulty sharing toys
  • Lacks imaginative play (sticks are swords)
what can we do1
What can we do?
  • Show compassion
  • Develop relationships through activities/groups
  • Teach social thinking™ not just social skills
  • Use social scripts and social skill picture stories
  • Video modelling
  • Role Play
  • Teach social secrets
  • Write objectives for participation in community building activities and focus on collaborative learning

Overly reactive to sounds, lights, fabrics, food textures, smells

“One of my sensory problems was hearing sensitivity, where certain loud noises, such as a school bell, hurt my ears. It sounded like a dentist drill going through my ears.”

Temple Grandin

hypo sensitivity
Hypo sensitivity
  • May seek deep pressure (bang into things and people, hug really hard)
  • Unaware of clothes “falling off”
  • Oblivious to smells
  • Unaware of where his body is in space (movements are big and all over the place)
what do we do1
What do we Do?
  • Show compassion
  • Understand that the child may delay in understanding what someone may be thinking or feeling
  • Understand what the child may be thinking or feeling
  • Avoid of sarcasm
  • Look atthe literal interpretations rather than rudeness
  • Stay Put box
  • Teach relaxation…deep breathing, progressive relaxation
  • Yoga?
motor skills difficulties
Motor Skills Difficulties
  • Poor coordination…clumsy and awkward in space
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Possible odd gait when walking or running
  • Poor eye hand coordination
visual skills issues
Visual Skills Issues
  • May be unable to see something “right in front of the eyes
  • May have difficulty covering wide areas of space
  • May be unable to “imagine” a scene
  • Visual memory may be awesome ( can picture where something was put a year ago)

“Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. There seem no clear boundaries, order or meaning to anything. A large part of my life is spent just trying to work out the pattern behind everything. Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life.” Therese Jolliffe


To sum up…A student with autism may struggle in these areas:

Communication and Language

Cognitive deficits and patterns of thinking

Social Interaction

Emotional regulation


Motor Issues

Visual differences

the good news
The Good News

There are gifts associated with autism:

  • Incredible memory for topics of interest
  • Perservence for subjects of interest… (think about your most specialized doctors)
  • Visual memory can be outstanding
  • Long term memory

Computer skills

  • Computing skills
  • Decoding skills
  • Many deficits can be explicitly taught
  • Less concern with peer’s opinions
  • Detail oriented
q ualities of teachers who get it
Qualities of teachers who “get it”
  • What is the most effective way to engage him in his learning?
  • Bold and creative supports
  • Meet students “where they are”
  • Constantly interrogate their own teaching practices?
  • Calmness at all costs
  • Reduction in homework
  • Likes the child, admires his/her abilities and perspective on life

Make the kid’s day more comfortable, fun, productive and successful rather than trying to “manage behavior”


Autism Aspirations