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Reaching Students with Autism Through the Arts: Implications for Inclusive Arts Classrooms. Ryan Hourigan Ph. D. Ball State University. 7 Jumps!!!. Everyone stand up!!. My Background. Ball State University 11 years in K-12 Music The Prism Project Research

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reaching students with autism through the arts implications for inclusive arts classrooms

Reaching Students with Autism Through the Arts: Implications for Inclusive Arts Classrooms

Ryan Hourigan Ph. D.

Ball State University

7 jumps
7 Jumps!!!

Everyone stand up!!

my background
My Background
  • Ball State University
    • 11 years in K-12 Music
    • The Prism Project
  • Research
    • Learning conditions and children with autism
  • Personal background
overview for today
Overview for Today

What is Autism?

Communication and Children with Autism

Cognition Challenges for Children with Autism


Emotional Challenges and Children with Autism

Sensory Challenges and Children with Autism

Socialization Strategies for Students with Autism

Conclusion and Questions

what is autism
What is Autism?

“autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others”

More often in boys than girls

Autism Society of America, 2012

characteristics of autism
Characteristics of Autism

Communication challenges

Restrictive or repetitive behaviors

Struggle with socialization

Limited joint attention

Inability to read or understand body gestures or facial expressions

Sensory sensitivity

  • Autism is a spectrum disorder
    • Each individual is different
      • I have never worked with a two children on the spectrum that are the same
    • Use of the word “spectrum”
pervasive developmental disorders
Pervasive Developmental Disorders


Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)

Asperger’s Syndrome

Rett Syndrome

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

American Psychological Association

twice exceptional
Twice Exceptional
  • Many children with autism are twice exceptional
  • Diagnosed as Intellectually gifted as well as on the Autism Spectrum
person first language
Person-first Language

People do not want to be know by their diagnosis

Dignity and personhood

pl 94 142 or idea
PL 94-142 or IDEA
  • Six Basic Principles
    • FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education)
    • Nondiscriminatory evaluations
    • LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)
    • IEP
    • Parents have rights
    • Due Process
    • Amended several times since (86,90,97,&04)
inclusion philosophy
Inclusion Philosophy
  • Mainstreaming (older term)
    • The inclusion of students with special needs into general education for a portion of the school day

(Lewis & Doorlag, 2006, p. 424)

  • Inclusion
    • “Meaningful participation of students with special needs in general education classrooms”

(Lewis & Doorlag, 2006, p. 424)

inclusion theory
Inclusion Theory
  • Culturally Responsive Classrooms
    • “Support of children and accepting of difference”
    • “Difference is part of the learning environment”

(Banks et. Al, 2005)

communication and children with autism

Communication and Children with Autism

Autism is characterized by severe disturbances in communication skills.

  • Areas of concern for students with autism
    • Receptive Language
    • Expressive Language
    • Cognitive Functioning
    • Echolalia
    • Eye Contact Joint Attention
eye contact joint attention
Eye Contact/Joint Attention
  • Challenges for children with autism
    • Joint Attention
    • Eye Gaze
    • Echolalia
      • Speculations as to the cause
receptive language
Receptive Language

Receptive Language

Receptive language refers to the ability of a student to receive and process/decode information.

cognition as it relates to communication and autism
Cognition (as it relates to communication and autism)

Receive through sensory receptors (i.e. ears, eyes, etc.)

Understand and Process Information

Commit to Long Term Memory

Express Understanding

expressive language
Expressive Language

Expressive languageis defined as the ability to use symbols of language to express thoughts

(Lewis & Doorlag, 2006)

Expressive Language

adaptations and accommodations for arts educators
Adaptations and Accommodations for Arts Educators
  • Provide simple clear instructions. May need to provide individual instructions for a specific student.
  • Allow for longer processing time
  • Partner written instructions with modeling (either by a peer or teacher).
  • Establish a communication journal between you, the other classroom teachers, the special education team, and the parents (if possible).
adaptations and accommodations for arts educators1
Adaptations and Accommodations for Arts Educators
  • Utilize digital video and audio recordings for students to bring home and practice tasks and executive skills
    • Write instructions to go with the video
  • Write down instructions as well as express verbally (for high-functioning students)
  • Allow for materials/equipment access outside of class (e.g. lunch./recess/after school) to practice
  • Peer support (included students)
reflective question with a partner
Reflective Question (with a partner)
  • Discuss the following question with a partner near you:
    • How could you incorporate one of the communication ideas or strategies mentioned in this segment in your work with students on the autism spectrum?
  • The ability of a student to receive, process, and commit information to memory

(Davis, Gfeller, and Thaut, 1999)

other cognitive challenges for people with autism
Other Cognitive Challenges for People with Autism
  • Weak Central Coherence/Central Coherence Theory
    • Children with autism have a tendency to focus on the local rather than the global aspects of an object of interest.
      • Joshua example (church organs)
other cognitive challenges
Other Cognitive Challenges
  • Theory of Mind
    • Some people with autism have trouble predicting another person’s actions or intent by assuming their beliefs or state of mind.
    • Tone of voice
    • Often cannot get past their own state of mind
    • Often cannot understand looks, glances, figures of speech, tone of voice, etc.
        • Might need to be decoded
other cognitive challenges1
Other Cognitive Challenges
  • Executive Function
    • Multi-step directions
    • Processing Delays
    • Remembering them from day to day
    • Motor planning and fine motor issues
    • UDL Principle II- Students with autism navigate the learning environment differently
adaptations and accommodations for arts educators2
Adaptations and Accommodations for Arts Educators
  • Self-assess your delivery of material
    • Videotape your lessons
      • Are there ways to make the cognitive process easier for the the student (e.g. pace, modeling, directions, tasks)?
      • Are there interruptions in the cognitive process (e.g. receive, process, commit to memory)?
        • If so, how might I change my lesson plan?
teaching strategies for arts educators
Teaching Strategies for Arts Educators
  • Allow for pull out time with a peer or team teacher to reinforce understanding
      • With a task analysis (see previous)
  • The Affective Domain part of what we do as artists may not be easily accessible:
    • Emotions, language, intent, non-verbal expression may need a literal explanation
      • Joshua “sad crying or happy crying” example
other teaching s trategies for arts e ducators
Other Teaching Strategies for Arts Educators
  • Task Analysis
    • Take an activity that you teach and break it down into its smallest steps
reflective discussion
Reflective Discussion

Say hello to a new partner this time…

Based on the information that was given, reflect on one aspect of your teaching that could be accommodated for children with autism who have cognitive challenges. Discuss this change with your partner.

break time

Break Time!!!

10 Minutes

emotional challenges
Emotional Challenges
  • Typical cause of behavior outbursts
    • Frustration
    • Anxiety
    • Fear
    • Impulse control
  • Children with autism often have self-regulation challenges as well
meltdowns outbursts
  • Typical causes:
    • Communication disruptions
    • Disruption in routine
    • Regulating the emotions attached to above (UDL Principle III)
strategies for arts educators questions to ask yourself
Strategies for Arts Educators(Questions to ask yourself)

If trying to curb a behavior that is disruptive, think of the following questions:

  • Is there an antecedent to the behavior?
    • Speak with classroom teachers/parents
  • Is the behavior due to impulse control or attention issues?
    • Could sequence of lesson be changed?
  • Is the behavior interrupting the learning of other students in your classroom?
    • If so, action must be taken. Seek assistance
teaching strategies for arts educators1
Teaching Strategies for Arts Educators
  • Establish a clear routine for learning.
  • Be aware of anxiety with concerts, festivals, trips, and special events. This may lead to new behaviors.
    • See task analysis.
    • Rehearse the trip, festival, etc.
  • Understand the impulsivity of materials such as paint, drums, and other equipment. Plan in advance.
  • Try to praise appropriate behavior as well as ignore inappropriate behavior.
  • Attempt to use positive reinforcement (i.e. earning privileges) rather than negative (see next two slides).
  • Be aware of students who are introverted. Consult counseling staff when you have questions. These students may need assistance with socialization.
personal behavior checklist
Personal Behavior Checklist

5 Days of no “x”s = ???

4 Days of no “x”s = ???


scenario 1
Scenario #1
  • You are teaching a lesson on ballroom dance. In the first lesson, you try to match students with their partners. While you are doing this, Toby puts his hands over his hears a yells “No way, I am not touching her!!”. You try to calm him down and reason with him. In order to avoid the activity, Toby attempts to run out of the room.
    • With your group, discuss the steps you would take to curb this behavior in the future with Toby.
areas of sensory concerns
Areas of Sensory Concerns

Tactile Sensitivity (touch)

Visual Sensitivity

Aural Sensitivity

other sensory issues you may not have thought of
OTHER SENSORY ISSUES You may not have thought of…
  • Vestibular Sensory Issues
    • Balance and movement
  • Proprioceptive
    • Body position
sensory integration disorder
Sensory Integration Disorder
  • Often occurs in many persons with Autism
  • Seeking sensory input
    • Hyper/hypo
  • Contributes to the issues previously (e.g. behavior)
sensory considerations for arts educators
Sensory Considerations for Arts Educators
  • Be understanding when it comes to devices such as fidgets, weighted vests, and other sensory needs. These may be needed to regulate sensory needs.
adaptations and accommodations for arts educators3
Adaptations and Accommodations for Arts Educators
  • Be mindful of dynamics (extreme loud and soft dynamics). Student may need a warning before rehearsing.
  • Be aware of proximity to unpredictable sounds, instruments, lights (e.g. drums, sound systems, stage lights).
  • Again, be mindful of materials that have different textures (paint, drum heads, costumes, etc.). Students with autism can be hypo/hyper sensitive
  • Try to understand your learning environment from the students prospective (e.g. someone who has visual challenges) and make adjustments.
lesson preparation considerations learning environment
Lesson preparation considerations (learning environment)
  • Highlight, enlarge, extract parts (visual)
  • Headphones/Microphones for amplification (or DE amplification)
  • Be mindful of movement activities. Can they be simplified for students with autism?
  • Sunglasses/Lamps/Christmas Lights
  • Other technology
adaptations and accommodations for all
Adaptations and Accommodations (for all )
  • (for students who are visually sensitive) set up room exactly the same way every day.
  • Understand that new environments (e.g. concert halls, museums, large studios) are different than classroom environments. Adjustments may need to be made.
  • Provide materials well in advance for those who have hearing or visual needs
socialization challenges for people with autism
Socialization Challenges for People with Autism
  • Theory of Mind (revisited)
  • Joint Attention (revisited)
    • Age appropriate social interests
  • Affective Development
strategies for arts educators
Strategies for Arts Educators
  • Make eye contact
    • May seem insignificant, but its not
  • Encourage appropriate responses to simple social events (e.g. greetings)
  • Extend joint attention
  • Create an inviting social atmosphere that encourages acceptance
other considerations
Other considerations

Reverse Inclusion opportunities

Be aware of how you “buddy up” kids for activities

Again, extend joint attention and provide literal explanation of social cues

reflective question 3
Reflective Question #3

With your partner on the right….

How could you create a more positive, inclusive social atmosphere in your classroom?


Team Approach