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Understanding and Teaching Students with Autism. Aman, Brenda, Joan, and Terry. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) OR Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). Classic Autism, Autistic Disorder Or Kanner’s Syndrome Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder Rett’s Syndrome PDDNOS.

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Understanding and Teaching Students with Autism


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    1. Understanding and Teaching Students with Autism Aman, Brenda, Joan, and Terry

    2. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)ORPervasive Development Disorder (PDD) • Classic Autism, Autistic Disorder Or Kanner’s Syndrome • Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder • Rett’s Syndrome • PDDNOS …..DSM-IV

    3. The Triad Of Impairments Socialization Unable to share and direct attention Have problem with imitation Unable to recognize emotions Imagination Lack spontaneous pretend or “symbolic play” Show little interest in fiction Great preference for facts Possess obsessional interests

    4. Communication • Delay or lack of speech, without any compensating gesture • Failure to respond to others speech • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language • Pronoun reversal; idiosyncratic use of words; abnormalities of prosody • Failure to initiate or sustain conversation normally • Semantic/Conceptual difficulties • Abnormal non-verbal communication

    5. STEPHEN: The Eccentric EntomologistStephen has been interested in wasps for several years. This is not just a passing fancy or a hobby that he finds amusing or that fills in the time between episodes of his favorite TV shows. He is obsessed with wasps, passionate about them. He talks about them all the time, with his teachers, his parents, and grandparents, even with complete strangers. He only wants to go to the park or the garden centre to chase wasps around the plants and bushes and try to catch them. Stephen has been bitten several times, but this in no way diminishes his enthusiasm. He catches wasps in a bottle and then releases them in his bedroom and enjoys watching them fly around the room, listening to the sound their legs make when the wasps fly through the air. During winter, when the wasps go into hibernation, he spends hours in his room, pouring over his collection of wasps encased in epoxy. …………from “A Mind Apart” by Peter Szatmari

    6. What causes autism? • Biological Causes: No single cause • Autism runs in families: Faulty Genes that causes abnormal brain development • A link between the growing number of autism cases and the standard childhood vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). • Environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and; harmful substances ingested during pregnancy

    7. Autism: Some Facts And Fiction • It is a biological disorder • It is not confined to childhood • It is a developmental disorder which lasts throughout life • It is not always characterized by special, or “savant” skills • It is found at all IQ levels, but is commonly accompanied by general learning difficulties • It is not caused by “refrigerator parenting”.

    8. Prevalence: Third most common Development disability; 1 in 1,000 births As many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. Gender Ratio: 4 times more prevalent in boys than girls. If a family has one child with autism, there is a 5 to 10 percent chance that the family will have another child with autism. [Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR)]

    9. Autism and Aspergers • Aspergers is described as a PDD along with autism in the DSM-IV • Criteria: “Qualitative impairment in social interaction” “Restricted, Repetitive, & Stereotyped Behavior” • Similar to autism, except no “clinically significant” delays in language or cognitive development • People with Aspergers often gifted in one or more areas, with good verbal skills • But they face similar challenges in the social arena as do people with autism • Is Aspergers the “high end” of the ASD? Controversial …

    10. Aspergers • Intense absorption in certain subjects • Little or no ability to form friendships • One-sided interactions • Lack of empathy • Obsession with order and routine • Clumsy movements and odd postures

    11. Aspergers: Social and Emotional Issues • Desire social interaction, but don’t understand social cues • Are easily stressed and overstimulated • Desire continuity and routine, don’t handle change well • Naïve, and often bullied or teased • Can suffer low self-esteem and depression • Intense fixations/perseveration • Problems with motor skills

    12. Autism Teaching Strategies Teach About Autism • When students are given information about students with autism it’s easier for them to understand sensory sensitivity and communication differences. Provide Opportunities for Breaks • Some students with autism work more effectively when they are allowed to take breaks between tasks.

    13. Help With Movement Problems • Touch: When a student is unable to move, give a touch cue to the part of the body that seems “stalled”. • Rhythm and Music: Music, chants, or rhymes can facilitate movement. • Modeling: Some autistic students need to see a task performed before they can do it. • Imagery or Visualization: Running around the bases after hitting a homerun.

    14. Teach to Student’s Strengths and Areas of Expertise • Many students with autism have interests or preferences that are important to them. • Teachers can incorporate the student’s interests into the curriculum. • Important: Some students want help from the teacher to restrict the time they spend on these interests, particularly if they are dangerous or embarrassing.

    15. Provide a Safe Space • Teachers should create a quiet area where students can study or relax. • Important: Quiet area should not be used or seen by the student as a place for punishment. Provide Nonverbal Supports and Cues • Some students with autism feel overwhelmed by or cannot understand verbal interactions. • Teachers can experiment with other ways of communicating with their students. • Examples: Sign language/gestures; verbal and written instructions; use slides or OHP • Conversations on paper can be effective for some students who seem to ignore verbal directions

    16. Give Options for Expression • Writing can be stressful and challenging for students with autism. • Be encouraging when student attempts written work; let them use computer for some lessons. • Peers, volunteers, teachers, and EAs can act as scribes in the classroom. Get to Know the Student • Getting to know the student personally and seeing them as an individual helps the teacher develop effective supports and recognize when the student is showing his or her understanding.

    17. Sensory Differences • Touch: avoid light touch; add tactile materials to the pen or pencil of a student with poor tactile discrimination; allow students who are sensitive to touch to enter the class before others • Visual: minimize visual clutter and accessories; provide visual cues to define physical space • Auditory: felt or tennis balls on chair feet to minimize noise; reduce volume on intercoms & loudspeakers; headphones/earmuffs to muffle sounds • Taste/Smell: avoid use of perfumes, deodorants, lotions, fabric softeners, etc

    18. Communication Differences • Many students with autism have communication differences that affect speech and language and many use few or no spoken words. • Facilitate communication through typing, writing, and picture exchange communication systems.

    19. Provide Calming/Organizing Activities • Movement: slow rhythmical swinging, rocking, bouncing, or rolling; seat or wall push-ups; pull on a theraband; progressive relaxation • Touch: hold a fidget toy; stroke a soft material strip on the inside of a binder or underneath the desk • Oral Motor/Taste: chew gum; suck on mild flavoured candy; drink from narrow or curly straw • Other: smell jars or sachets with calming scents; small water fountains; watching fish in an aquarium

    20. Provide Alerting Activities • Movement:play a clapping game; erase the blackboard; pass out papers; walk to the water fountain • Touch:touch a textured board; hold a fidget toy with a variety of surfaces; hold cold objects • Oral/Motor Taste:candies or foods with a strong taste; eat something crunchy; drink ice water or water flavoured with lemons; suck on ice or popsicles • Other:smell jars or sachets with strong scents; play with smelly stickers; listen to music with an arrhythmic movement

    21. Personal Experiences/Case Studies • Terry to provide, with input from rest

    22. RESOURCES • Szatmari, Peter A mind apart: understanding children with autism and Asperger Syndrome (2004) The Guilford Press NY • Happ’e, Francesca Autism: an introduction to psychological theory (1998) Harvard University Press Cambridge Massachusetts • Richard, Gail J. The Source Of Autism (1997) Linguisystems Inc IL USA • http://www.autism99.org :The most coherent and comprehensive website for autism with great visual impact