Autism Educational Lessons

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Autism Educational Lessons


Chapter 1: Introduction


Teaching children with autism is a significant challenge and presents as a very complex disorder. Despite the large amount of research that has been published on the topic of autism, there appears to be very little consensus as to which is the optimum way to teach children with autism. Autism is one of several pervasive development disorders that have a spectrum from mild to severe. It is defined by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual-Fourth Edition-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) as impairments in three behavioral domains; social interactions, language and communication, and the range of interests and activities. Three different interdependent levels classify autism: a neurological disorder, a psychological disorder, and a relationship disorder (Kabot, Masi, & Segal, 2003). Not every child diagnosed with autism will have the same impairments in the same areas or with the same severity. There is a wide spectrum of differences between children with autism, requiring a number of different teaching methods. There are several different treatments, interventions, and teaching methods that are currently being implemented and studied that pertain to the effectiveness of teaching children with autism spectrum disorder. Many of the approaches deal with difficulties in socialization, language, sensory processing, or behavioral manifestations (Autism Society of America [ASA], 2006). Common teaching methods are picture exchange communication (PECS), treatment and education of autistic, applied behavior analysis (ABA) and related communication of handicapped children (TEACCH), sensory integration, floor time, and social stories (ASA, 2006).

Adults with autism often live in environments that do not take into account their different and unusual responses to sensory input. If their sensory responses and preferences are understood better, then their families and the service providers who support them, may be more able to create housing that meets individual needs. Autism is a lifelong and complex neurological condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to other people and the world around them. As a spectrum condition, it affects people in different ways. People with autism might have rigid routines and special interests, they can be very sociable or find social relations difficult; some have learning disabilities whilst others possess high levels of intellectual ability. With an estimated prevalence rate of one in 100 people autism is not rare (Leekam, Neito, Libby, Wing & Gould, 2001). People with autism not only face difficulties in communicating and social interaction, they also display unusual responses to sensory input. Studies using sensory profile questionnaires with people with autism have shown special sensory processing in over 90 per cent of the participants (Leekam, Neito, Libby, Wing & Gould, 2001). Some adults with autism seek out sensory experiences, whilst others try to avoid them. It is therefore essential to provide environments in which the visual, acoustic, olfactory and tactile qualities can be modulated to suit a person's preferences and to eliminate their sensory dislikes.

People on the spectrum experience difficulty with sensory input, either hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity (Clements & Zarkowska, 2000). “Many autistic people process informational input from the five external-directed senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, ...
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