Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers (Part 1)
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Understanding Autism: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers (Part 1)

ask people to describe a child with autism and you’re likely to get a stereotype Oh a child that’s non variable inside themselves cut off from the world who doesn’t understand language they don’t think the way to should think Rain Man everybody says Rain Man has difficulty communicating someone who’s severely intellectually disabled while these descriptions apply to some children with autism it’s not the full picture once you understand what autism is and how it affects individuals you’ll be better prepared to teach students with the disorder and successfully integrate them into your classroom autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate form relationships and respond appropriately to the environment it results from a neurological condition that impedes normal brain development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills there are many more of these individuals in our midst to them there ever have been before and the likelihood that we’re going to encounter them in our classrooms in our communities is extremely high an accurate perception of autism from the child’s point of view may be hard to convey but a comparison is useful if you were to say to me how are hearing impaired individuals different from typical students I would simply say they don’t process auditory information in the same way that’s a pretty easy explanation visually impaired they don’t process visual information in the same way people with autism don’t process the environment in the same way oftentimes they can’t pick out what you’re talking about they have a hard time understanding the main idea so they’re not processing the world in the way you think they are autism is called a spectrum disorder because it’s symptoms and characteristics appear in a variety of combinations from mild to quite severe as a result children on the autism spectrum range from those with extreme developmental disabilities to those with surprising intellectual abilities IQs can vary from an IQ of 20 to an IQ of 150 or greater you have children with autism who are non-verbal and then you have children with autism who know more words than a university professor you have children with autism who would rather be by themselves and then you have those who want friends but who do not know how to make them students with autism may also exhibit extreme sensitivities to the environment being overly distracted by the hum of a computer or feeling overwhelmed by a particular odor some of our students may have here so sensitive that they can hear construction three blocks away they may be distracted by the sound of pencil on paper turning of a page can disrupt them and sometimes it makes it extremely difficult for them not just to stay kind of calm behaviorally and to kind of regulate their reactions to those things but also to attend to whatever else is going on in the classrooms polytheism means beliefs in many gods at the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum are those individuals who tend to be more adept at speaking and using language and are capable of doing so convincingly academically these students tend to be very capable and because of this are often included in the general education classroom however they still exhibit many of the common characteristics associated with autism so on so on ah without autism or asperger’s very little spectrum the source is the same as a regular process just this a little bit different about how they communicate their problems are often in the areas of social skills they have a difficult time navigating the social environment um they they may have anxiety which really compromises their ability to to deal with complicated environments and you’re not gonna find anything more complicated than middle school in high school in preschool and very early elementary grades students with autism may not seem developmentally different than their peers but by the time they enter secondary school the differences become more pronounced and visible and challenges posed by the new environment can seem overwhelming so now they’re gonna have to deal with many different teachers they’ve got to understand all the different rules how to move from class to class what materials are needed for each class how do you clean up your materials so that they are cleaned up by the kind of bell rings how do you arrive a class on time how do you even hang out in the halls and socialize with other kids one teacher may it may be fine for you to just get up from your chair to go do things the other may require hand raising what do you do at one how much time do you need for your homework so you wanted to come and talk to me about your grade is that correct yes okay school is really great but there’s challenges that I have to face like getting to class on time I used to run in the hall so I would get to class on time which too I joined the track team that way I would run where it’s safer on the track not in the halls autism impacts many areas of a young person’s development and varying degrees so while they may exhibit similar characteristics no two individuals with autism are alike secondary school teachers should be especially attuned to their students language and communication skills okay does anybody here now they can talk and they can talk in full sentences but their language comprehension may be quite impaired they’re often very difficult with subtle language they don’t understand sarcasm or jokes a child with autism may not understand humor um may need more direct instruction on I need for you to do this I need for you to stop doing this because and they feel more confident when you you give them clear information on how they’re doing what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong honest but the less better touch communication with students with autism has to be learned one student at a time I ask my students to tell me how they want me to communicate with them I have worked out with students that a hand gesture will indicate don’t call on me I don’t want you to call another characteristic students with autism share is repetitive patterns of behavior the repetitive behaviors are this can range from the very impaired kids where it’s the more classic stuff like the rocking and the flapping all the way up to the individual who may fixate on a specific topic and be very repetitive about it or need things done in a specific order some students with autism have strong verbal abilities that suggest social and emotional maturity I’m very interested in the study of aquatic fish especially freshwater it like it fascinates me how a guppy can live in salt water that has more salt than the ocean itself just because they can talk very intelligently to you and a monologue doesn’t mean that they don’t have a disability wild beta’s will fight each other until one goes away because a monologue is not a conversation it is them telling you all the facts about their preferred subject so I was thinking of going to the mall you guys all yeah we are okay can I come oh I don’t maybe I don’t know moms can’t it’s not what we know is social emotionally our kids are one-third to two-thirds of chronological age and so a child who is 12 who has high functioning autism has the social skills of someone who is between four and maybe eight years yet many of these students also lack basic social skills do you guys see that all men last night um what song are you singing to get in um I don’t know I can’t decide on song because there so many phones one time I want a softball tournament and we were crowned the champions the rules and interactions of casual conversation which most typically developing children understand are often lost online the interact with someone you have to know how to take turns in conversation you have to know how to interpret their facial expressions and their gestures you need to be able to ask questions now those are all challenges that are seen within individuals with autism it’s a lot harder for I think people with autism sometimes to watch what we say because sometimes we don’t really understand what the right thing to say is the unwritten rules and codes of social interactions which students with autism often find elusive are called the hidden curriculum it’s everything about the environment and the world that somehow we just know you know for example you just know that when you get on a public bus and there’s only one person on the bus that you just know that you don’t sit next to him but how do we know that no one never said please never got a bus and sit next to him if there’s only one person on the bus and yet interestingly enough right the kids with autism they’re inclined to sit next to the person because they’ve been grilled for years that you should be social that you shouldn’t ignore people the hidden curriculum is a term that’s used for all of the unwritten social rules kind of the social nuances that we all understand and respond to even though they aren’t explicitly discussed and possibly no one ever told us because those things are so subtle many individuals on the autism spectrum missed them completely so they don’t understand how do i modify how I behave with somebody who I’m very close to versus someone I barely know how should I behave went on in the classroom versus when I’m on the bus versus on the playground lots of different reasons why you might not be invited to do something so you never assume that it’s because someone dislikes you many schools offer interpersonal skills development courses for students with autism in effect teaching directly what most children learn intuitively from daily experience it’s based around working on social skills and interacting with other people and things that they’ll need in life forever not just in Middle School in high school all right so what we’re going to do is we’re going to work on appropriate facial expressions hey learn what’s in appropriate distance when you’re talking to someone and tone of voice things like that they don’t know making eye contact I still have some trouble making eye contact but I try to at least part of the time you making eye contact we tend to pull in a lot of general education students and have socials and times to interact with people we’ll work on certain skills beforehand and then we’ll try them out in a situational experience for them so that’s the girl I know one over there oh godö she’s fat she’ll look are you sure yeah girls while the personal development classes help prepare students with autism for everyday situations they can’t prepare them for everything you look fat why would you say that to me they don’t recognize often that they’re being bullied so they’re bullied a lot longer I think that the fact that they their language is compromised on the fact that they don’t know they’re being bullied the fact that they do these kind of odd things that make them make them prime cards because we did that in the secondary classroom teachers will likely see students with autism struggle with basic skills for the most part organizing their materials organizing the sequence of tasks that they should do are often formidable challenges for individuals with autism from a teaching perspective it’s probably the the way in which students with autism in your classroom are most high maintenance so kind of getting them on track reminding them of what they ought to be doing noticing that they’re not doing steps two three and four that they’re supposed to be doing their anxiety levels can be very high when they feel like they’re confronted with a whole lot of information it wants a whole lot of stuff it’s at one time and I’m or they fall behind and the more disorganized they get more anxious they get which then leads to the potential for behavior problems even if no two students with autism are exactly alike they can learn in common ways I couldn’t go this way they couldn’t go through the Mediterranean our souls are visual learners and require the ability to see something and to interpret it anything that is not literal that is expected or assumed must be spelled out and it’s most beneficial if it’s written out also students with autism are far more likely to thrive when there’s consistency and predictability in the classroom they come to class they’re expected to be in their seat on time with their materials bell rings they better be ready to go but also on the board I consistently put down what the schedule is going to be so they already know what’s going to happen that day and also the homework assignments so it doesn’t change and I’m the same day one and the last day when that Bell last bell rings and the last student walks out I haven’t changed at all so it’s at that structure that consistency that I think is really important for them routine leads to comfort in the classroom and may enable many of these students to flourish I know a young man who has a special interest in carnivorous house plants and because he cannot read nonverbal he can’t tell if someone is bored or disinterested he will continue to talk about carnivorous house plants for as long as he is able to now you may look at that as a challenge however this young man will probably grow up to be a botanist the specialized knowledge and unique abilities of students with autism can expand the learning experience for both students and teachers beyond the academic realm having a student with autism in the class can teach typically developing students that there are differences and embrace the differences nobody’s normal there’s no one normal everybody’s got their own quirks and that’s what makes everybody interesting and so this is just another dynamic of interesting and so I think that that kind of helps them embrace differences children with autism will expand your way of thinking if you listen and if you ask the right questions and if they feel confident and accepted enough to volunteer and answer you will find that the quality and richness of what you’re teach is increased by answers and ideas they can bring to the table ultimately with students on the autism spectrum in their classroom teachers have the opportunity to reinforce a broader lesson to all their students if we can make sure that part of what fellow students in a classroom learn about a person with autism is some of the ways in which they might be similar some of the interests that they share some of the activities that they also enjoy I think it goes a long way toward building first of all a more comprehensive understanding of this person but also a bridge to you know thinking well we’re not we’re not just different from each other we’re also similar to each other this segment provides an understanding of autism’s characteristics and how it affects secondary students diagnosed with the disorder the next segment called integrating supports in the classroom presents an overview of strategies that can help students with autism succeed in your classroom for additional information and resources please visit the organization for autism research website at www.mckaymagic.com [Music] [Music] [Music] you

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