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What is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is "a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non verbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's educational performance" (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2018, p. 590).

Social 
  •  Difficulty understanding other people's point of view

  • Impairment in reciprocal social interactions

  • Inability to maintain appropriate eye contact

  • Difficulty reading non-verbal cues

Academic
  • Difficulty understanding abstract ideas

  • Difficulty understanding sarcasm, idioms, and double meanings

  • Responds with anxiety to transitions

  • Often has impaired executive functioning skills

  •  Able to visualize in 3D

  • Thinks outside of the box

  • Detail oriented 

  • Honest

  • Strong sense of justice

  • Able to hyper focus

  • Often has a high IQ depending on level of functioning

Strengths
Physical
  • Hypotonia 

  • Deficits in fine and gross motor skills

  • Poor prioperception

Affective
  •  Bound by rigid thinking 

  • Engages in repetitive behaviors

  • May exhibit flat or inappropriate facial expressions in response to emotional stimuli

  • May engage in "stimming" behaviors due to anxiety

    • Hand-flapping​

    • rocking

Cognitive
  • 30% experience cognitive deficits 

  • 10% demonstrate savant abilities

  • Poor prioperception

Levels of Severity
  • People with Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can have mild, moderate or severe autism.

  • People with mild autism used to be diagnosed with Asperger's, but the most recent version pf the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) changed the diagnosis to Autism Spectrum Disorder.

  • People with moderate to severe ASD may be non-verbal, and usually require additional educational, vocational and self-care considerations.

 

Incidence

  • It is estimated that 1 in 54 children are on the autism spectrum.

    • As many as 40% of people with ASD are non-verbal.

Educational
Implications
  • Less than 2/3 of students with ASD are educated in a mainstreamed classroom.

  • Students with ASD need a structured educational environment.

  • Behavior modification strategies can be helpful in classroom management when working with students with ASD.

 

Student Questions
  • Grades K-4:

    • Do you want to see my Bionicles?

    • What are the rules in class?

    • What should I do if I feel bullied?

  • Grades 5-8:

    • Can you remind me to hand in my homework?

    • What do I do if things are too loud or bright in the classroom?

    • Do I have to do group work?

  • Grades 9-12:

    • Who can help me if I feel overwhelmed by an assignment?

    •  Is there a place in school where I can go to calm myself?

    • Who can I talk to if I’m feeling anxious?

Parent Questions
  • Who do I talk to about getting an Individualized Education Plan for my child?
  • Are there transitional supports for after high school?
  • How do I get my child screened for ASD?
  • What therapies are available in school for my child?
  • Does a medical diagnosis of ASD qualify my child for services?
  • Who do I go to if i have concerns about my child's interactions with their peers?
Teacher Questions
  • Where do I get additional training for working with students with ASD?
  • What assistive technology do I have available to help me differentiate instruction for students with ASD?
  • What should I do if I have a student on the spectrum who is panicking?
  • What administrative and additional support do I have to help me support my students with ASD?
  • How can I model tolerance and inclusion in my classroom?
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