Neurological/Developmental Disability

Definition (The General Educator's Guide to Special Education):

Autism, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) and/or Pervasive Developmental Disorder(PDD), is a developmental disability that affects a child's ability to communicate, understand language, play, and interact with others.

Types of Autism (

  • Autistic Disorder (autism)
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Pervasive Development Disorder
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Causes (MayoClinic.Org)

The specific cause of Autism is unkown. However there are said to be multiple possible causes, two of which include:

Genetic Problems:

  • Several different genes
  • Autism spectrum disorder can be associated with Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome
  • Genetic changes may make a child more susceptible to autism or create environmental risk factors
  • Still other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic problems seem to be inherited, while others happen spontaneously

Environmental Probelms:

  • Researchers are currently exploring whether such factors as viral infections, complications during pregnancy or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder

Characteristics/Symptoms (

Social Relationships and Interactions

  • difficulty with everyday interactions (failure to respond to name, prefer to play alone, social cues have little meaning)
  • difficulty seeing from others perspective
  • hard to control emotions

Communication Difficulties

  • delayed in babbling, speaking, learning gestures
  • difficulty with non-verbal communication (eye-contact, facial expressions, body posture)
  • difficulty combining words to form sentences (some have problems with echolalia)
  • hard time keeping up a conversation
  • monologues on a favorite subject/topic (professor-talk)
  • inability to understand body language/tone of voice
  • Their facial expressions, movements, gestures may not match what they are saying, people might not understand, which leads to frustration and innapropriate behavior by the child
  • repititive behaviors (hand-flapping, playing with string)

Associated Medical Conditions

  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Sleep Dysfunction
  • Sensory Processing Problems
  • Pica (eating non-food items)
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Arthur- When Carl Met George (full episode).mov
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Recommended Medicines/Treatment Options(The General Educator's Guide to Special Education/AutismSpeaks.Org)

While there is no single treatment, individuals respond best to structured behavioral programs.

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Goal: child to function independently in various settings

  • Verbal Behavior Intervention Goal: helping students get wants and needs through word usage

  • Floortime Goal: Move child through six developmental milestones in emotional and intellectual growth

  • Gluten-Free/Cassein Free Diet Goal: Theory that this diet helps in bowel habits, sleep activity, habitual behaviors, and overall progress

  • Occupational Therapy Goal: Independently to participate in meaningful life activities using various skills

  • Picture Exchange Communication System(PECS) Goal: Communicating through picture cards

  • Relationship Development Intervention Goal: Improving long-term quality of life

  • The SCERTS model Goal: Enhancing abilities in social communication and emotional regulation

  • Sensory Integration Therapy Goal: Facilitate development of nervous system's ability to process sensory input in a more typical way

  • Speech Therapy Goal: Improving overall speech

Recommended Medicines

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two drugs:

  • risperidone and aripiprazole- treats irritability/can ease core symptoms because relieving irritability often improves sociability while reducing tantrums, aggressive outbursts and self-injurious behaviors
  • No medicine for three core characteristics: FDA has yet to approve a medicine for communication difficulties, social challenges, repititive behavior
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Recommended Instruction

Differentiated Learning Article by Tracy Huebner

"a process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent is to maximize each student's growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is . . . rather than expecting students to modify themselves for the curriculum. (Hall, 2002)"

Some strategies and approaches for instruction:

  • One direction a time
  • Avoid giving repitition of directions
  • Break instructions down into chunks
  • Provide clear expectations and rules
  • Provide positive behavior management opportunities
  • Provide visual aids
  • Practice functional life skills
  • Confer with other support teachers
  • Encourage the use of talent areas and provide learning opportunities in these areas
  • Use real places when learning about acceptable public behavior
  • Plan field trips to provide concrete learning experiences
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What do you need to know as the teacher? (Autism-Society.Org)

1. Every child with autism is unique. Some children are nonverbal and may never be able to speak. Many children with autism are highly intelligent and learn to read and write at an early age. Some children with an autism diagnosis can have an unbelievable gift for math, music, or art. Teachers should know that autism is a spectrum, and each child is distinct and should not be labeled based on his or her place on the bell-shaped curve. A child labeled low functioning today with proper therapy can move up the spectrum.

2. Every child with autism has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Learn to embrace the student's strengths and interests.

3. Like all children, children with autism need your love and encouragement. Many children with autism may feel isolated due to having been bullied. Your love and support will encourage your students.

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Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm:

"Every day individuals with autism are showing us that they can overcome, compensate for and otherwise manage many of autism's most challenging aspects as part of their fulfilling and dynamic lives. Some even seek to do away with the notion of "cure". In a widely read New York Times article in December 2004, Jack Thomas, a 10th grader with Asperger's Syndrome, got the world's attention by stating: "We don't have a disease, so we can't be cured.' This is just the way we are.

Jack and I are on the same page here: when "neuro-typicals" frame the challenges of autism in neuro-typical terms, they unwittingly close the door to the kind of alternative thinking that has everything to do with how far those ASD can go."