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Disability Resource Notebook Brytnei Rocha. What is Autism?. Definition of Autism.

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Definition of autism
Definition of Autism

Autism can be defined as a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.


  • Autism is the result of emotional deprivation or emotional stress

  • Autism is due to parental rejection or cold, unemotional parents

  • A person with autism cannot be educated

  • People with autism wish to avoid social contact

  • People with autism look different from other people


  • Autism is a complex developmental disability involving a biological or organic defect in the functioning of the brain

  • Autism has nothing whatsoever to do with the way parents bring up their children

  • With the right structured support within and outside of school, individuals with autism can be helped to reach their full potential

  • People with autism are often keen to make friends but, due to their disability, find this difficult

  • Autism is an invisible disability - most people with an autism spectrum disorder look just like anyone else who does not have this condition

What causes autism
What causes Autism?

There is no known single cause for autism but is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function.

Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome, and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU).

Some harmful substances ingested during pregnancy also have been associated with an increased risk of autism.

Diagnosis of autism1
Diagnosis of Autism

There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual's communication, behavior, and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors associated with autism are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited

Screening instruments
Screening Instruments

  • While there is no one behavioral or communications test that can detect autism, several screening instruments have been developed that are now being used in diagnosing autism

  • CARS rating system (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), developed by Eric Schopler in the early 1970s, is based on observed behavior. Using a 15-point scale, professionals evaluate a child's relationship to people, body use, adaptation to change, listening response, and verbal communication.

  • The Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT) is used to screen for autism at 18 months of age. It was developed by Simon Baron-Cohen in the early 1990s to see if autism could be detected in children as young as 18 months. The screening tool uses a short questionnaire with two sections, one prepared by the parents, the other by the child's family doctor or pediatrician.

  • The Autism Screening Questionnaire is a 40 item screening scale that has been used with children four and older to help evaluate communication skills and social functioning.

  • The Screening Test for Autism in Two-Year Olds is being developed by Wendy Stone at Vanderbilt and uses direct observations to study behavioral features in children under two. She has identified three skills areas that seem to indicate autism - play, motor imitation, and joint attention.

Diagnosing autistic children
Diagnosing Autistic children

  • A. A total of at least six items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

  • Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

    • marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.

    • failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

    • a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)

    • lack of social or emotional reciprocity

  • Qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

    • delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)

    • in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others

    • stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language

    • lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

  • Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

    • encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

    • apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

    • stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole body movements)

    • persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

  • B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

  • http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/diagnosis.php

Behaviors in autism
Behaviors in Autism

  • Socially avoidant. These individuals avoid virtually all forms of social interaction.

  • Socially indifferent. Individuals who are described as 'socially indifferent' do not seek social interaction with others (unless they want something), nor do they actively avoid social situations.

  • Socially awkward. These individuals may try very hard to have friends, but they cannot keep them. Failure to make enduring social relationships with others.

  • http://www.autism.org/social.html


  • Chelation Therapy

    Many children diagnosed with autism suffer from heavy metal toxicity.  Chelation therapy involves the use of chelating drugs which bind to and remove heavy metals from the body



  • ABA







    Speech therapy services focus on enhancing or restoring limited or lost communicative skills or swallowing capabilities lost due to injury, disease, aging or congenital abnormality

Disability resource notebook brytnei rocha


  • An individual with autism spectrum disorders may benefit from Physical Therapy if they have any of the following indicators:

  • ::  Increased muscle stiffness or tightness ::  Delay in obtaining motor milestones ::  Poor balance and poor coordination ::  Difficulty in moving through the environment ::  Postural abnormalities ::  Muscle Weakness ::  Pain


    Vision therapy is based on the fact that vision is learned. The ability to see and correctly interpret what is seen does not appear automatically at birth. It develops over a lifetime and is shaped by the experiences a person has.

  • VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS:Research shows that many individuals with autism spectrum disorders have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  One possible cause could be sensory integration dysfunction, which may cause one to self impose a limited diet which in turn effects biochemistry. Correcting this imbalance is the key to healing some of the symptoms of autism

General teaching tips
General Teaching Tips

1).People with autism have trouble with organizational skills , regardless of their intelligence and/or age. Even a "straight A" student with autism who has a photographic memory can be incapable of remembering to bring a pencil to class or of remembering a deadline for an assignment. In such cases, aid should be provided in the least restrictive way possible. Strategies could include having the student put a picture of a pencil on the cover of his notebook or maintaining a list of assignments to be completed at home. Always praise the student when he remembers something he has previously forgotten. Never denigrate or "harp" at him when he fails. A lecture on the subject will not only NOT help, it will often make the problem worse. He may begin to believe he can not remember to do or bring these things.

2). People with autism have problems with abstract and conceptual thinking. Some may eventually acquire abstract skills, but others never will. When abstract concepts must be used, use visual cues, such as drawings or written words, to augment the abstract idea. Avoid asking vague questions such as, "Why did you do that?" Instead, say, "I did not like it when you slammed your book down when I said it was time for gym. Next time put the book down gently and tell me you are angry.

General teaching tips cntd
General Teaching Tips Cntd’

3). An increase in unusual or difficult behaviors probably indicates an increase in stress. Sometimes stress is caused by feeling a loss of control. Many times the stress will only be alleviated when the student physically removes himself from the stressful event or situation. If this occurs, a program should be set up to assist the student in re-entering and/or staying in the stressful situation. When this occurs, a "safe-place" or "safe-person" may come in handy.

4). Do not take misbehavior personally. The high-functioning person with autism is not a manipulative, scheming person who is trying to make life difficult.They are seldom, if ever, capable of being manipulative. Usually misbehavior is the result of efforts to survive experiences which may be confusing, disorienting or frightening. People with autism are, by virtue of their disability, egocentric. Most have extreme difficulty reading the reactions of others

General teaching tips cntd1
General Teaching TipsCntd’

5). Avoid verbal overload. Be clear. Use shorter sentences if you perceive that the student is not fully understanding you. Although he probably has no hearing problem and may be paying attention, he may have difficulty understanding your main point and identifying important information

O.A.S.I.S (print off)


What is assistive technology
What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. This definition is broad and includes a range of devices from low technology to high technology items as well as software.

The following can be used to help assist Autistic children.

Assistive technology
Assistive Technology

Phrase Maker

With this device, which is more expensive than others listed here, you can customize the icon sheets, as well as the recorded phrases.  This allows the user to say complete sentences

instead of one word phrases.

Assistive technology1
Assistive Technology

Track Balls

A trackball can be used in place of a mouse and uses a rolling stationary ball to move the cursor instead of having to moving a mouse across a mouse pad.  This allows children to more accurately position the cursor and the left and right mouse buttons are generally easier to use on a trackball. 


Assistive technology2
Assistive Technology

Therapy Brushes

Therapy brushes can be used as part of the sensory diet for kids with sensory integration issues.  Using them before play or any interaction can increase concentration and assist in the learning process.


Tips for teaching
Tips for teaching

1). In a series of steps to create an inclusive classroom environment, M.A. Prater (2003), lists elements relating to teacher attitude as the first two steps. The first step to a successful inclusive environment, according to Prater, is to set a positive tone for the classroom, and focus on the strengths and abilities of the students, not just their areas of weakness; the second step is to believe in the student, as well as yourself as a teacher.

2). Focus on Interests \Whenever possible, educators should use interests, strengths, skills, areas of expertise, and gifts as tools for teaching. For instance, student strength areas can be used to facilitate relationships. Some students who find conversation and “typical” ways of socializing a challenge, are amazingly adept at connecting with others when the interaction occurs in relation to an activity or favorite interest. One of my former students, Patrick, had few friendships and seldom spoke to other students until a new student came into the classroom wearing a Star Wars tee-shirt. Patrick's face lit up upon seeing the shirt and he began bombarding the newcomer with questions and trivia about his favorite film. The new student, eager to make a friend, began bringing pieces of his science fiction memorabilia to class. Eventually, the two students struck up a friendship related to their common interest and even formed a lunch club where students gathered to play trivia board games related to science fiction films.

Strategies for teachers
Strategies for teachers

People on the spectrum can have problems with abstract and conceptual thinking. Some may eventually acquire a few or even many abstract skills, but others never will. Avoid abstract ideas when possible. When abstract concepts must be used, use visual cues, such as gestures, or written words to augment the abstract idea.

Prepare the student for all environmental and/or routine changes, such as assembly, substitute teacher, rescheduling, etc. Use his written or visual schedule to prepare for change.

Considerations in Teaching More Advanced Students with Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Other Pervasive Developmental DisordersBy Susan Moreno, Mary Anne Neiner, and Carol O’NealIn this guide, the three terms used above will be referenced as “AS” or “the spectrum.”

Disability resource notebook brytnei rocha

  • Talents:

  • Many students on the spectrum demonstrate exceptional abilities in a vast array of skills and talents. These can include but are not limited to: * Exceptional memory * Mathematical skills * Calendar projections * Computers * Music * Exceptionally early and advanced reading skills (“hyperlexia”) * Poetry * Writing stories and general writing skills * Spelling, punctuation and grammar * Imitations of people or animals * Painting, sculpture and other forms of visual arts * Chemistry *Physics.

  • Sometimes the interests and/or talents of the individual may become quite specific and somewhat obsessive. Some examples are: * cats, dogs, whales, llamas and other animals or plants * history (especially a certain period in history) * 1950’s stop lights * 1940’s airplanes * a subway system in a particular city * maps * cattle branding squeeze machines * Thomas the Tank Engine * The Little Mermaid * Lego toys * dinosaurs * sports.

  • Other students may not evidence exceptional skills in easily observed skills. Many are highly skilled in some areas and poorly skilled in others. Another group may have areas of exceptional skill they cannot or do not display to an instructor. Whenever these talents or interests seem obsessive, use them to widen the students learning adventures into other subjects.

  • Before teaching communication skills to individuals on the spectrum, be sure that YOUR abilities to communicate with them on their terms are properly developed. If you want them to speak and communicate and behave in neurotypical ways, be sure you give your best effort to understand their communication and behavior and keep that in mind when interacting with them. This doesn’t mean, for example, that you should flap when they flap. Rather you should try to understand what causes them to flap or what feeling the flapping expresses: joy, excitement, frustration, boredom… If they repeat phrases, are they expressing concern, frustration, confusion, or an attempt at humor? When you communicate with them, speak “normally”, but don’t use more words than necessary. Be clear. Emphasize what is most important in what you are saying.

  • While these considerations are meant to facilitate your interactions and successes with the AS student, ALL students are unique individuals. Each will have varying sets of talents and challenges.

Web sources for teachers
Web sources for teachers

Positively Autism


Here teacher’s will learn about inclusion in the classroom, positive attitudes and teaching tips to help autistic children.

Paula Kluth


This is about helping new teacher’s learn to work with autistic children and provides information on how to make a comfortable and safe environment.

The Source


Teacher’s will use several different steps to help train autistic children in organization skills.

Wings Learning Center


This is about helping mainstream autistic children for the regular education teacher. It guides you with several tips for dealing with autistic children.



This website offers tips and strategies on how to teach students with Autism

Tips for parents
Tips for parents

1) Know Your Child

Few autistic children are intentionally "bad." Many have difficult behaviors. So what's going on? Each child is different, and knowing your own child is key to taking action. Is your child extra-sensitive to sound and light? Does she need lots of sensory input? Is he likely to misunderstand a close approach? The more you know, the easier it is to troubleshoot a situation.

2) Modify Your Expectations

Your mother may have expected you to sit still through a full dinner hour. But that's not a reasonable expectation for most children with autism. Consider starting with a smaller goal -- sitting still for three minutes, eating with a fork, or whatever you think he can handle -- and building toward the larger goal of sitting through a full meal.

3) Modify the Environment

Safety is key. And for autistic children, creating a safe environment is a challenge. Since so many of your child's behaviors may have the potential to be dangerous, it's important to take precautions such as bolting shelves to the walls and floor, putting a dead bolt on the front door, and latching cabinets securely. One About.com reader even put plexiglass on the fronts of bookshelves to keep her child from climbing

4) Consider the Possible Sources of the Behavior

Many children on the autism spectrum either crave or over-respond to sensory input. Some alternate between the two extremes. Very often, "bad" behavior is actually a reaction to too much or too little sensory input. By carefully observing your child, you may be able to figure out what's setting him off.

5) Remove Overwhelming Sensory Input

If your child is over-reacting to sensory input, there are many ways to change the situation. Of course, the first option is to simply avoid overwhelming sensory settings such as parades, amusement parks and the like. When that's not an option, consider ear plugs, distracting sensory toys, or plain old bribery to get through difficult moments.

Disability resource notebook brytnei rocha

6) Provide Sensory Input

If your child is crashing into couches, climbing the walls or spinning in circles, chances are she's craving sensory input. You can provide that in any number of more appropriate ways. Some people recommend bear hugs; other suggest squeezing youngsters between sofa cushions, rolling them up like "hot dogs" in blankets, or providing them with weighted vests or quilts.

7) Look for Positive Outlets for Unusual Behaviors

While climbing the entertainment center may be "bad" behavior, climbing at a rock gym can be a great way to build muscles and friendships at the same time. While spinning at the grocery store may be odd, it's ok to twirl on a tire swing. What's a problem in one place may be a virtue in another!

8) Enjoy Your Child's Successes

We were the only parents on the block to cheer at our son's first intentional fib. We're thrilled when he says "yes" to a playdate, completes a full sentence, or kicks a ball back and forth a few times. He's not likely to captain the soccer team -- but he is successfully becoming himself.

9) Worry Less About Others' Opinions

Your child is really doing a fine job in the grocery store. He may be flapping a bit, but it's no big deal. Until you catch the eye of the mom with the perfect little girl -- staring at your son. Suddenly his flapping seems like a very big deal, and you find yourself snapping at your son to "just put his hands down!" It's not easy, but it's important to remember that he's autistic -- not intentionally embarrassing!

10) Find Ways to Have Fun Together

It's not always easy to associate autism and fun. But if you think about it, rolling your child up like a hot dog, bouncing on a trampoline or even sitting and cuddling together can be a lot of fun. Instead of worrying about the therapeutic value of each action, try just enjoying the silliness, the tickling, the cuddling...and the child. At least for a little while!

Disability resource notebook brytnei rocha

Helping Children with Autism Learn

Part I focuses on The Fundamentals of Autistic Learning Styles. It discusses the possible origins of autism, how learning proceeds, autistic learning disabilities and how these contribute to autistic learning styles. Some of the language in these chapters is highly technical and is not written for the reader casually interested in the subject. Chapters are divided into sections and words are clearly defined, but this might not be the book to start with if one is new to the diagnosis. I can mostly see it useful for those directly involved with teaching and therapy situations, and parents who have had some training and perspective on the disorder.Part II discusses learning styles. Social, communication for both non-verbal and verbal children, objects, and daily living skills are all explored. Different treatment styles are covered and success rates, strategies, and reinforcement is clearly defined. Questions such as "should I spank an autistic child?" and different strategies for handling situations will be extremely helpful to parents who are looking for practical advice. This section is much more applicable to parents and is not too technical to understand and apply.Part III talks about different methods of teaching children with autism. Applied Behavior Analysis, TEACCH, mainstreaming, model programs, and IEP are all thoroughly discussed and analyzed. Again, I think parents need a bit of perspective before tackling such detailed information. I have a friend with a son who has been diagnosed with autism for three years. I had her look through the book and make some comments to me. She agrees with a great deal of the information (her son attends Applied Behavior Analysis therapy) but also cautions that it's a gradual learning process for parents as well as their children.

Web sources for parents
Web sources for parents

About.com: Autism


This website will help the parent to understand and manage their child. Links and other websites are also available to them.

How to teach your autistic child


This will help parents learn different ways of teaching their autistic child and how to take that approach.

Curl Up Kids


This website offers three different parts to approaching and helping autistic children giving specific insights on what to do.

Teaching Children with Autism


Parents will be able to get information on how to parent their child and different strategies.

Teaching Play Skills


This website gives insight on ways to play with your autistic child and what kinds of toys to use.

Web sources for students
Web sources for students

Living With Autism


This explains what it is like to live with Autism so that you can have a better understanding.

Living with Autism in a world made of others


CNN has provided a autism page about a girl who is autistic and describes her feelings and thoughts about it. This can give autistic children an understand that others have autism as well and can have an example of how to deal with it.

Being Different: Living With Autism


This website will allow autistic children to play, discover and respond.

The National Autistic Society


This has several links to teach children about autism and answer any questions they have.

Living the Autism Maze


This website provides insight on many other families that have someone with autism. Also helping children with a guide to their future.

Local organizations
Local Organizations

Families for Effective autism treatment North Texas


Denton County Autism Society http://www.geocities.com/heartland/plains/3565/

List of meetings and support groups.http://www.autismonline.org/conferences/texas.htm

The North Texas Autism Education Center


Autism Treatment Center of Dallas


State organizations
State Organizations

Texas Autism Advocacy


Autism Education Services Center


Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Development Disorders


Texas Resource for Early Autism Treatment


Advocacy Incorporated


National autism organizations
National Autism Organizations

Autism Society of America


National Autism Association


Generation Rescue


Autism One


National Council for Exceptional Children