Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is something that has always fascinated me. Perhaps it is because the cause for it is unknown, or maybe it is because of the increasing frequency of children diagnosed with ASD. Either way, as an educator I feel as though it is important to understand what this disability is, how I can teach effectively to those affected by it, and what life is like for students with ASD after they graduate.
For one of my summer courses, I took a class called Educating Exceptional Students. I had no real expectations walking into this class, but it truly changed the way that I perceive my students with disabilities. For an assignment (see attached below) I chose to delve into my questions about students with ASD. This blog post will be a way for myself to summarize what information can be found in my paper.
The first part of my research looking into the differences found in autistic children in comparison with their normally developing counterparts. I looked into the physical, social, and behavioral differences. Physically autism is not recognizable by specific features to the naked eye. My research came across a study however that compared the facial structure of children between the ages of 8-12 with autism to those who did not have ASD. “After mapping out 17 points on faces, the researchers found significant differences between the two groups. The study found children with autism had wider eyes, and a broader upper face, compared with typically developing children. According to the study, children with autism also had shorter middle region of the face – including the nose and cheeks – as well as a wider mouth and philtrum” (Jaslow). In addition to having different facial features, those diagnosed with autism are also discovered to have heavier brains and different molecular structures of brain tissue. When looking at the social and behavioral aspects of those diagnosed with ASD, the difference becomes fairly apparent. It is my understanding that autism is directly correlated with the inability to appropriately deal with stimuli. Specifically this can be seen in interactions or relationships with people. This is where the stereotypical hand flapping and rocking stems from.
As for how educators can best accommodate for students with ASD, it is important to look into the instructional methods. Those with ASD, tend to process things visually or spatially. Asking them to lesson to a series of informational lectures is not going to help with understanding and more than likely lead to frustration on both teacher and student parts. In order to best convey information to a student with ASD, pictorial representations of tasks are the best way. This gives the child a chance to look at something and decode the information on their own time and own terms.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this research paper was the information I found on transitional services for those with ASD. I feel like it would be more accurate to say the lack of services. All through their formal primary and secondary years of education, they have a team of specialists, therapists, parents, and advocates all helping them to get to their final goal, whether this be a diploma or simply finishing high school. After they graduate the rates for programs provided, numbers of of ASD people getting jobs or graduating post-secondary programs drops dramatically. In addition to having little to no work, finding healthcare and housing options are difficult because there is no system in place to help our citizens with ASD. It is my plan that now I am more educated about ASD, I will be able to find longer term programs for my students with ASD. Because of the dramatic increase and seriousness of this disability, it is my hope that others will feel motivated to make changes for students who otherwise are stranded after high school.
Jaslow, R. (2012, March 28). Children with autism have distinct facial features: Study. CBS News.