Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Part I

In a home school model program, such as Gaithersburg Elementary, we have children with multiple differences.  We are hoping to give some basic information to help parents better understand the similarities and differences of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and how we can all better meet their needs.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
It is a term that encompasses autism, Asperger's syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder/Not Otherwise Specified, and Rett Syndrome.

What are the characteristics of these conditions?
While there are some commonalities there are significant differences between each of them.
Children with autism have differences in the areas of communication and social.  There may also be unique differences in movement, objects, and routines.

Children with Asperger's syndrome have no delays in language, cognitive development, or adaptive behavior.  However, there are differences in social interactions, patterns of behavior, and interests and activities.

PDD/NOS is diagnosed with the criteria for autism or Asperger's is not met but there are similar differences as students that have those conditions.

Rett syndrome shares some similar characteristics but is often see in girls and is characterized by stereo-typed hand movements.

What are the needs of students with autism spectrum disorder?  How can educators help students with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

  • Opportunities for active and collaborative learning
  • Lessons and examples with plenty of visuals, examples, demonstrations, manipulatives, and models
  • Stable routines
  • Organized spaces
  • Help with tasks requiring motor planning such as writing, shoe tying, and playing certain sports or games
  • Respect for sensory differences
  • Opportunities to make choices and have some control over their environment, learning, materials, schedules, and/or activities
  • Avoidance of power struggles, debating and long verbal explanations
  • Opportunities to take a break when things become overwhelming
  • Warnings and preparation about changes to schedules
  • Reinforcement of appropriate behaviors
  • Modeled expectations
  • Graphic organizers
  • Chunking tasks into smaller pieces
  • Visual cues and social stories to model appropriate social behaviors
  • If available, provide quiet study areas

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