Students with ASD - what does it actually mean?
Course Presented By: antoinette masiero
To gain a basic understanding of students with ASD and how this impacts the learning in our classrooms.
The following article was taken from the ADHD Factsheet from the Kids Health from Nemours website
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a brain disorder that starts early in life. It affects social communication and interaction and is accompanied by repeating and narrow patterns of behavior or interests.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Children with ASD often have problems with:
- body language and eye contact
- social interactions
- building and maintaining relationships
- sensory input
- rigid behavior
- intense and unusual interests
In toddlers, parents might notice:
- delayed speech
- using only a few gestures (waving, clapping, pointing)
- not responding when someone calls their name
- avoiding eye contact
- not sharing enjoyment or interests with others
- unusual ways of moving the hands, fingers, or whole body
- being very focused or attached to unusual objects
- little to no imitating of others or pretending
- unusual sensory interests
- rituals such as repeating things over and over or lining up objects
Milder symptoms may not be recognized until a child is older and has problems with:
- forming friendships
- pretend play
- knowing how to act in different social situations
- unusual, intense interests in specific topics or activities
No two people with ASD have the same signs and symptoms. Many things can play a role, such as language delays, thinking and learning problems, and behavioral challenges. For this reason, autism is described as a “spectrum.”
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed?
Public awareness of the signs of autism and new screening tools have made early identification of autism easier. Doctors look for signs and symptoms at every checkup, ask about concerns parents may have, and do a screening test at the 18-month and 2-year visits.
If any concerns are found, doctors will suggest a complete evaluation. This usually involves a team of experts. The team may include:
- medical doctors who treat developmental disorders
- occupational therapists and speech therapists
They’ll observe and evaluate the child to understand his or her language/communication, thinking, emotions, development, physical health, social skills, and self-help skills. They’ll also ask the family about their concerns and the child’s birth, growth, development, behavior, and family history.
What Causes ASD?
The exact cause of ASD is unknown. It’s likely that many different things in combination lead to changes in the way the brain develops before a baby is born. The strongest evidence supports the role of a person’s genes.
Other things, such as problems during pregnancy or at birth, might play a role. Many children with ASD also have an intellectual disability.
Vaccines do not cause autism.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated?
The earlier treatment for kids with ASD starts, the better. Depending on a child’s needs, treatment may include behavior therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, and extra help with learning. The goal is to help kids:
- communicate better
- play with others and learn social skills
- lessen repetitive or bad behaviors
- improve learning
- be safe and take care of their bodies
Before Age 3
Before age 3, kids might be eligible for services through their state’s early intervention program. Families work with a team of experts on an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan outlines goals and comes up with a treatment plan.
A team of therapists provides therapy at home or in daycare to eligible families.
Services may also be available in hospital-based clinics or in community centers. Insurance companies may reimburse for many services.
After Age 3
Kids ages 3 to 5 years old with ASD who qualify are entitled to free preschool services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Therapy and/or extra learning help is offered through local school districts or other learning centers — either at home or in a classroom.
When kids reach kindergarten age, parents can ask to switch to an individualized education program (IEP) through the local school district. An IEP can include learning goals along with behavioral, social, and self-care goals. Special education services are available until a child’s 21st birthday.
Hospitals, medical centers, and clinics that provide children’s health services often have services for kids with ASD. Both public and private behavioral health clinics may have specific services for them. Freestanding autism centers in the community may offer some services that benefit kids with ASD.
There isn’t much research to show the benefits of many therapy approaches to ASD — such as diet changes; supplements; and music, art, and animal therapies. Tell your doctor and other team members about any other therapies you’re using or considering so you can discuss the risks and possible benefits.
What Teachers Should Know
Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities. People with autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), have differences in the way their brains develop and process information. As a result, they face significant communication, social, and behavior challenges.
Symptoms can be severe and interfere with everyday tasks, or they can be mild and cause only a few problems. Experts call this range of symptoms a “spectrum.” Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) are conditions that fall within the autism spectrum.
Signs of autism may include:
- trouble interacting, playing with, or relating to others
- little or brief eye contact with others
- unusual or repetitive movements, such as hand flapping, spinning, or tapping
- delays in developmental milestones or loss of already-achieved milestones
- difficulties learning in school
- playing with toys in ways that seem odd or repetitive
- low muscle tone, clumsiness, and poor spatial awareness
Although there’s no cure for autism, early intervention and therapy can help kids develop skills and achieve their potential. Therapy is tailored to each child’s individual needs and may include behavioral, educational, speech, and occupational therapies.
Students with autism may:
- get easily frustrated and act out in certain situations
- be sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, or busy hallways
- need to go to the school nurse for medications
- miss class time for doctor visits and therapies
- have trouble speaking or not speak at all
- seem insensitive or unemotional
- need extra time for class assignments and homework
- need to take tests in a separate area away from distractions
Because bullies often target students who seem “different,” health conditions like autism can put kids and teens at higher risk for bullying.
What Teachers Can Do
Many students with autism can thrive in a structured environment, so establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible. Adhering to daily schedules and allowing ample time for transitions can help with many students’ behavioral issues and frustrations.
Instructional support is often needed within the classroom setting. Students with autism learn better with pictures and demonstrations. Limit long verbal instructions and provide visual cues and written instructions, when possible. Also limit distractions and use positive rewards for positive behaviors.
Many people with autism have strong passions and deep interests. Getting to know your students’ likes and dislikes can help you understand what motivates them. Students with autism can participate in most activities that other kids and teens do, so provide encouragement to participate when appropriate.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. How does this understanding of ASD help you with the students in your classroom?
2. What challenges do you think a student with ASD will face when learning in the classroom environment?
3. What elements of your teaching practice will you change now that you have this information
Please join the conversation by either answering these prompting questions above OR by adding your own ideas and thoughts around this topic in the conversation thread below.