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on 4 March 2015

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What is Autism?
What are the effective Teaching methods that have been developed to educate children with autism?
What it means to be a teacher (Special eD/General ed) for autistic children?
What are the major hurdles and roadblocks in the provision of education for autistic children?
Conclusive Notes
Shehnaz Ahmad

The Autism Society of America defines Autism as - "A spectrum disorder which is a complex developmental disability typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others."

Early Signs and Symptoms of Autism: (between 18 months to 6 years)

Lack of or delay in spoken language

Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)

Little or no eye contact

Lack of interest in peer relationships

Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

Persistent fixation on parts of objects

Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

Autism is a Spectrum Disorder - it is defined by a certain set of behaviors that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.
'High Functioning Autistic Individual' - Has milder symptoms.
'Low Functioning Autistic Individual' - Has severe symptoms.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - An umbrella term with complex combination of symptoms; Asperger's syndrome, Rett's disease, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) are other forms.
'Please watch the above video to get the general idea of what Autism is'
Prevalence of Autism (facts and statistics)
Prevalence is estimated at 1 in 68 births
1 percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder
Fastest-growing developmental disability; 1,148% growth rate
Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention
The cost of autism over the lifespan is 3.2 million dollars per person
Only 56% of students with autism finish high school
ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189)

[1] “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010.” Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbitity and Mortality Weekly Report, 28 March 2014.
[2] Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults living in households throughout England,” Report from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007, a survey carried out for the United Kingdom NHS Information Centre for health and social care.
[3] “Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Changes in the California Caseload, An Update June 1987 June 20007.” Cavagnaro, Andre T., California Health and Human Services Agency. State of California 2003 survey of developmental disabilities.
[4] Autism Society estimate, using Government Accounting Office Report on Autism 2007.
[5] Arch Pediatric Adolesc Med. 2007;161:343-349.
[6] (Wagner. M., et al. An Overview of Findings from Wave 2 of the National Transition Study, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA)
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis can be done in two ways - medical diagnosis and school evaluation
Medical diagnosis is most frequently made by a physician according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5, released 2013) of the American Psychological Association.
Educational determination is made by a multidisciplinary evaluation team of various school professionals who review the results and a team of qualified professionals and the parents determine whether a student qualifies for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Treatments can be divided into Nonmedical Interventions like behavioral and educational approaches as well as sensory, communication and other interventions, and Biomedical Treatments
Most cases that are diagnosed in early ages benefit from interventions and services offered as part of the IDEA law.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enacted in 1975, mandates a public education for all eligible children and the school’s responsibility for providing the supports and services that will allow this to happen.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) sets forth, as a civil right, protections and provisions for equal access to education for anyone with a disability.
IDEA provides for a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) for all children with disabilities.
IDEA provides that students with disabilities are entitled to experience the “least restrictive environment” (LRE) to educate students with disabilities in regular classrooms with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.
Special education services pick up where early intervention services for young children leave off, at age 3, and continue through age 21 for students who qualify.
The document that spells out the student’s needs and how they will be met is the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Why are we teaching autistic children?
Once Classified, children with ASD are taught and provided services in various settings which are specific to their needs; these can be: self-contained classroom, resources room setting, general class setting, inclusion with supplementary aids and services,etc.

Behavior analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by some sort of reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the use of these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.
ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective.
Effective ABA intervention for autism is not a "one size fits all" approach and should never be viewed as a "canned" set of programs or drills. On the contrary, a skilled therapist customizes the intervention to each learner's skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation. For these reasons, an ABA program for one learner will look different than a program for another learner.
Please watch the video below for an example of ABA one-on-one therapy:
Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) or the Lovaas Model
DTT targets skills and behaviors based on an established curriculum
Each skill is broken down into small steps, and taught using prompts, which are gradually eliminated as the steps are mastered.
The child is given repeated opportunities to learn and practice each step in a variety of settings.
Each time the child achieves the desired result, he receives positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise or something that he finds to be highly motivating.
Below is an example of DTT application.

Floortime or Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR)
The premise of Floortime is that an adult can help a child expand his circles of communication by meeting him at his developmental level and building on his strengths.
Therapy is often incorporated into play activities – on the floor and focuses on developing interest in the world, communication and emotional thinking by following the child’s lead.
In the given video we can observe
how does a teacher engage an
autistic child in productive floortime
when he is repeatedly asking her
for pieces of tape.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
The PECS system allows children with little or no verbal ability to communicate using pictures.
It starts with teaching the child to exchange a picture for an object. Eventually, the individual learns to distinguish between pictures and symbols and use these to form sentences.
Although PECS is based on visual tools, verbal reinforcement is a major component and verbal communication is encouraged.
As shown in this video, PECS can make it possible for a child with cerebral palsy and autism, with no verbal communication; relay his thoughts and needs through PECS.
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)
PRT is a child-directed intervention that focuses on critical, or “pivotal,” behaviors that affect a wide range of behaviors.
The primary pivotal behaviors are motivation and child’s initiations of communications with others.
The goal of PRT is to produce positive changes in the pivotal behaviors, leading to improvement in communication, play and social behaviors and the child’s ability to monitor his
own behavior.
This can be a focus on anything such as teaching the child daily activities, self-care, names of colors, identifying spoon, fork, a bowl etc.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
RDI seeks to improve the individual’s long-term quality of life by helping him improve social skills, adaptability and self-awareness through a systematic approach to building emotional, social and relational skills.
Social Communication/Emotional Regulation/Transactional Support (SCERTS)
SCERTS uses practices from other approaches (PRT, TEACCH, Floortime and RDI), and promotes child-initiated communication in everyday activities and the ability to learn and spontaneously apply functional and relevant skills in a variety of settings and with a variety of partners.
The SCERTS model favors having children learn with and from peers who provide good social and language models in inclusive settings as much as possible.
Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)
Individualized assessment and planning is used to create a highly structured environment (organized with visual supports) to help the individual map out activities and work independently.
Verbal Behavior (VB)
VB employs specific behavioral research on the development of language and is designed to motivate a child to learn language by developing a connection between a word and its value.
Therapies Used For Students with Autism
Many students will be eligible the following services, usually termed Related Services on the IEP:
Occupational Therapy (OT) - A Certified Occupational Therapist, (OT) brings together cognitive, physical and motor skills to enable the individual to gain independence for e.g. appropriate play, fine motor and basic social and life skills such as handwriting, independent dressing, feeding, use of the toilet.
Physical Therapy (PT) - A Certified Physical Therapist (PT), focuses on challenges with motor skills such as sitting, walking, running and jumping, and also address poor muscle tone, balance and coordination.
Speech-Language Therapy (SLT) - Certified Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) is designed to address the mechanics of speech and the meaning and social value of language.
Sensory Integration Therapy (SI) - therapy addresses disruptions in the way an individual’s brain processes sensory input, developing strategies to help process these senses in a more productive way.
Assistive Technologies
Used For Students with Autism
Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used by a person with a disability to perform specific tasks, improve functional capabilities and become more independent.
Smart phones and Devices (iPad, iTouch, iPhone) have become increasingly popular because of the wide variety of applications available to support a wide variety of needs.
It is important to look carefully at the student’s needs in advance of putting devices and apps in use. Different apps will be used for different purposes, including communication, literacy, development, modeling and motivation and organization.
Assess students both formally and informally, understanding their strengths as well as their needs, also their strengths and weaknesses in terms of learning style

Be an anthropologist, study the culture and communications of specific cultural groups, observing students closely to understand them without prejudice, address their needs and to use their strengths as well as their needs to design instruction

Create a safe place where calm and order reign, establish routines, create positive behavior support, create specific curriculum of instruction for every child, set goals and objectives, monitor progress regularly

Manage yourself, pay attention to details, collect data and
keep records, keep your deadlines

Stay in close touch with parents, therapists, peers and
consult frequently

Success lies greatly with parent participation and advocacy; if parents are not as engaged as they should be then teacher efforts do not give their full effects

Incorrect accommodation specially in cases of emotionally disturbed classification of students, lowering of standards thus perpetuating academic inferiority and enabling underperformance, IEP not formulated rightly

Lack of establishing appropriate expectations for growth and competence, setting lower goals, not promoting critical thinking, staying in the comfort zone, fewer challenges, limited progress

Restriction of services to limited time and frequency because of limited and regressing school budgets, quantity and quality both get sacrificed and result is poor rate of progress and more pressure on families

Teachers are not as trained as they should be, even after qualifications they require specialized training which is not available free of cost to handle severely autistic kids

Issues with assessment techniques provided by private firms who have been given responsibility to devise new tests for alternative assessment

Transition services at the age of 16 are not fully organized,
limited options for severely disabled individuals and heavy
financial burdens

"Thinking of each student as an individual is critical in providing appropriate support and growth. Instruction and Curriculum for educating Autistic children has to be individualized approach combined with specialized instruction and use of time-tested techniques such as those listed in the 'teaching methods'. Autistic children are unique and different from each other and no two cases are alike. It is imperative for the educator to know the child, its needs, strengths and weaknesses, the background and culture, the family situation before devising the curriculum."
"Establishing appropriate expectations for growth and competence. Supporting the student in learning and help in building skills and independence. Although it is easier to keep the child in a comfort zone, it is more important for progression that their boundaries be stretched and their thinking challenged. Building competencies requires patience, setting priorities and establishing small goals to reach the desired outcome is the key. Ensuring yourself that the mindset is committed to teaching, as opposed to care giving, and expecting to be surprised, impressed and rewarded by all that a student can do is essential."
"Meeting the student where he is. For each of the skill areas that need to be addressed with a student with autism, developing a scaffolding of the individual’s current ability, and build from that level. This approach applies to social and communication issues as well as academics. Understanding where a student is, then developing the teachable, scaffolding steps that will help him move forward. As progression is observed, remove the scaffolding and introduce new goals."
"Motivation is critical to attention and learning. Knowing what motivates a student with autism, being aware that this may be very different from what motivates a typical child is very important. Use their interests to focus attention to a less
interesting or non-preferred activity (e.g. for a student who is dislikes word problems but loves dinosaurs, create word problems that add triceratops or multiply the food requirements of a brachiosaurus) and embed preferred activities as naturally as possible. This instills more confidence in problem solving."
"Utilizing reinforcement strategies - social reinforcement (such as praise or a high five), as well as concrete reinforcement (such as a favorite activity, toy or food item) is also another way of motivation and positive behavioral technique. The reward for learning a new skill or
needs to have more value than the reinforcement for not developing the replacement behavior. Token economy systems can be extremely effective and reinforcements can be faded over time to decreasing frequency or more naturalistic social rewards as the child grows up."
TEACHER SUCCESS - love, patience, intelligence, reflection, adaptation
• “Effective education for autism” by By LEA WINERMAN, December 2004, Vol 35, No. 11, retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/dec04/autism.aspx

• “Educating Students with Autism”, 2012 Retrieved from http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files sctk_educating_students_with_autism.pdf

• “Asperger’s syndrome: that explains everything” by Bradshaw, S. (2012). London: Jessica Kingsley

• “Facts About ASD”, March 20, 2014, Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

• “About Autism”, Retrieved from http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism/

• ‘The Dream Keepers, Successful Teachers of African American Children’, by Gloria Ladson-Billings. 2009, John Wiley & Sons.

• From ‘Schools with Spirit – Nurturing the Inner Lives of Children and Teachers’, by Linda Lantieri, 2007

• ‘To Teach, the journey in comics’ by William Ayers & Ryan Alexander-Tanner

• ‘Public Policy - Education Issues for People with Disabilities’, from http://www.thearc.org/what-we-do/public-policy/policy-issues/education
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