Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Autism

   First identified by Leo Kanner in 1943
   1:500 children have autism (more common than down syndrome)
   More common in males (80%)

Definition:  A developmental disability affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3.  Characteristics may include engagement in repetitive activities, resistance to environmental change or changes in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.

   Autism is a pervasive disorder (PDD). PDD: Includes impairments in communication, impairments in reciprocal social interactions, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
   Asperger disorder:  Describes individuals with behavioral and social features associated with autism but without significant delays in language development or impairments in cognition.

Characteristics:

Language
   typically have a number of language impairments
   language intervention is most successful if it occurs in natural contexts and begins before age 5
   Delayed Language:  Half of the children with autism don't develop communication enabling them to converse with others.
   Neuromotor impairments block cognitive processes.  They involve a breakdown in the brain resulting in the brain's inability to direct the body in movement that produces speech, gestures, and written formats.
   Facilitated communication may help an individual with autism.
   Echolalia - constantly repeated a portion of what they hear (This happens with almost all young children who are learning to talk, but disappears around age 3.)  

Social Interaction
   lack of eye contact
   forming weak attachments to people
   spends large amount of time alone
   develops strong attachment to particular objects
   tends not to seek comfort from others when hurt or upset
   find it hard to connect with the feelings or needs of others
   may not be aware of their own and other's thought processes and moods

Stereotypical Behavior
   inappropriate, repetitive acts (i.e. rocking back and forth, waving fingers in front of face, twirling objects)
   these behaviors may be attempts to communicate boredom and agitation or to regular own level of awareness

Behavioral Challenges
   self-injurious behavior
   tantrums
   property destruction
   aggressive behavior
   these behaviors enable the student to seek attention, avoid an undesirable activity, or escape an unpleasant situations

Need for Environmental Predictability
   predictability and structure are sources of security

Sensory and Movement Disorders
   under- or overresponsiveness to sensory stimuli
   abnormal posture
   abnormal movements of face, head, trunk, and limbs
   abnormal eye movements
   repeated gestures and mannerisms
   awkward gait

Intellectual Functioning
   majority have mental retardation
   20% have IQs above 70 (higher functioning autistic disorder, which is often associated with Asperger disorder)
   Savant Syndrome - a condition in which individuals typically display extraordinary abilities (splinter skills) in areas such as calendar calculating, musical ability, mathematical skills, memorization, and mechanical abilities; low abilities in other areas.


Causes:

Myth:  Psychogenesis
   Bruno Bettelheim

   Autism is caused by brain and biochemical dysfunction before, during, or after birth
   May be triggered by vaccines


Assessment:

Functional Assessment:
Specify and carefully define the target challenging behavior so it can be observed and measured.
Identify all circumstances that are regularly associated with the occurrence and nonoccurrence of the behavior.
Determine the student's reasons for the behavior.
Describe in very specific hypothesis statements the relationship between the behavior and the environmental events.
Develop an intervention plan.

Curriculum:
   self-determination
   curriculum similar to students with mental retardation
   life skills
   vocational preparation
   functional academics

Methods

Facilitated Communication:  A training method that involves supporting a person who doesn't speak or has highly repetitive speech to use a human facilitator and keyboard to communicate.

Reducing echolalia:  Teaching children to say, "I don't know" or "I need some help"

Classroom supports: schedules, routines, and strategies for accepting some change; let students know in advance when there will be a time change and when the schedule and routines will return to the typical schedule

Positive Behavioral Support:  An approach to decreasing or eliminating challenging behavior by creating a responsive environment that is personally tailored to the preferences, strengths, and needs of individuals with challenging behavior.

Social stories:  Stories written by parents or educators, describing social situations in erms of important social cues and appropriate responses to those cues.  Help students with autism to focus on relevant social cues, learn new routines and rules, and expand their social skills