It is important to have HIGH LEARNING EXPECTATIONS for children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Encourage use of the core educational curriculum and modify it in order to meet the individual needs of the child.
What you need to know
ASD covers a large continuum of skills that differ from child to child.
- Not all signs or traits listed apply to every individual.
- It is important to identify a child’s strengths and challenges.
Complete developmental and educational assessments (including speech and language evaluation, and occupational/physical therapy evaluation) are recommended for planning.
- A multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary team approach is helpful.
- Open communication with the special education team is critical if a child in the classroom is showing behavioral signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
All children with ASD have individual communicative needs. For children with ASD, communication often comes slower and differently. Some children never acquire expressive language, while others are well spoken and have high linguistic abilities. However, the common theme across ASD is differences in social communication.
- ASD has been associated with delays in social skills and social communication. Often, children with Autism have difficulty initiating conversations, turn taking in conversations, and/or maintaining a conversation.
- They may have difficulty “reading between the lines”. Understanding humor may also be difficult, often due to their focus on literal interpretations. Many children with Autism have difficulties telling understandable stories, role playing, and using imaginative play.
- In some cases, children with ASD will display a general lack of eye contact, have reduced emotion, and include imitations of environmental sounds (echolalia) in their communication.
What you can do
- Integrated teaching approach
- Support for developing friends; direct modeling and instruction for developing social relationships
- Occupational therapy and speech therapy evaluation and ongoing therapy as needed
- May provide individual support
- Can work together to design programs such as social-motor groups.
- Special education and anticipatory management. For example, avoiding too much stimulation may prevent behaviors.
- Goals that emphasize the child’s learning style and strengths
- Concrete, high interest examples and materials
- Recognize need for individual attention
- Small class size
- May need 1:1 support or floating classroom assistant
- Avoidance of sudden change
- Modeling and imitation for both behavioral and communication goals
- Highly structured, predictable routines with visual cues for changes in expected events
- Inclusion of functional skills, along with the academic skills
- Self-help goals integrated with language and motor skills (i.e. eating, dressing, toileting).
- Occupational therapists ensure appropriate settings and equipment for a calm, structured learning environment. Use of special chairs, postural supports, etc. may be helpful.
- Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) are often effective in working with a child with Autism. The idea behind PBS is to understand the function of behavior, teach more effective methods, and change the behavior of adults. It includes an effective support plan.
- Autism Speaks summarizes PBS. Key components of creating an effective plan for implementing PBS are clarity, consistency, simplicity, and continuation.
- Keep distractions to a minimum
- Use visual and tactile aids
- Provide periodic sensory breaks
- Teach using several short periods of time
- Help with organization
- Present information in concrete manner
- Repetition will help children remember basic facts
- Individuals may learn better when material is presented as a whole rather than in sequence
- Visual cues, including logos, pictures, and sign language are helpful
- Break down word problems to help with reading
- Help children apply information they have learned to new situations
- Use concrete examples
The following evidence-based practice communication programs have been implemented with individuals with Autism and proven successful, or have in some way benefited the individual’s communication:
- Functional Communication Training
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII)
- Pivotal Response Treatment
- You may want additional information about your child’s disability, early intervention, school services, therapy, local policies, transportation, and much more. Every state in the USA has at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to offer families just this kind of information. To find your state’s center, go to the Center for Parent Information and Resources.