What is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by an impairment in emotional expression, difficulty with social relationships, delayed communication skills, and repetitive behavior. The Autism Spectrum includes: Autism, Asperger’s, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. It affects 1 in 68 children and is more common among boys. The cause of Autism is currently unknown. Autism is typically diagnosed at an early age and is a lifelong diagnosis as there is no cure. Possible therapies include Behavior Modification and Social Skills Training.
Common characteristics of Autism include abnormal social interactions, monotone speech, repetitions of movements and behaviors, and trouble comprehending body language. Repetitive behaviors can include hand flapping, head banging, word phrases, self-injurious actions, and self-soothing actions. People with Autism may have different ways of thinking and learning. Some different types of thinking are visual, music/math, and verbal. Visual thinkers think in realistic pictures and love art. Music/math thinkers think in terms of patterns and are advanced at music and math. Verbal thinkers think in lists and numbers and are good at memorizing dates, history, and languages. With proper accommodations by the instructor, and an understanding of each student’s learning style, children with Autism are very successful in the classroom.
“Autism.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2016): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Jan. 2017
Hyche, Karen, and Vickie Maertz. Classroom Strategies For Children With ADHD, Autism & Sensory Processing Disorders. Eau Claire WI: Pesi Publishing & Media, 2014. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 11 Feb. 2017.
Slaughter, Virginia, Ph.D. “Autism.” Magill’S Medical Guide (Online Edition) (2016): Research Starters. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Autism in the Classroom
Students with Autism may have trouble making friends in class. They may prefer working alone to working with a parent or group. They may be disruptive by shouting out in class whenever they have a thought or idea. Also, students with autism may come across as rude or disrespectful, due to their lack of communication skills.
Setting boundaries with clear communication is important. Tell students with autism what you expect in the classroom and also when those expectations are not met. Make accommodations when you are able by allowing them to work alone or take a break if needed. Staying calm while communicating with compassion and understanding is important to set up a nurturing classroom, where students with autism can thrive and can learn to communicate with students who do not have autism.