What is Autism?

Breanne Hack and Tessa Vibe

About Us

We are both passionate about advocating for students with Autism. Throughout the years we have both worked with many exceptional children as early interventionists with the Autism Resource Center. Through our experiences and training we have gained knowledge and the realization that every child with Autism is unique and gifted in their own way.

Personal Perspective

"Autism, is part of my child, it’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis". –S.L. Coelho


Autism is a neurological condition, which affects the operation of the brain. Children struggle with communication, social interaction, and display unusual patterns of behaviours. People of all cultural backgrounds, socio-economic status are affected by Autism. The cause of Autism is controversial;however, biological and environmental are said to be factors. Children are diagnosed by the age of 3.

What Autism Feels Like

What Autism Feels Like


Characteristics to look for

  • Repetitive speech/behaviours
  • Delay in expressive language
  • Poor eye contact
  • Echolalia
  • Weak verbal and non verbal communication
  • Rigid routines
  • Social and emotional passivity
  • Hypo or hyper reactivity to sensory input
  • Difficultly in forming relationships
  • Anxiety
Individuals with autism have difficulties with social interaction, but the extent and type of difficulty may vary. Some may be very withdrawn, while others may be overly active and approach others in peculiar ways. Individuals with autism may respond differently to sensory stimuli and may exhibit odd behaviours such as hand flapping, spinning, or rocking. They may also demonstrate unusual use of objects and attachments to objects.


There are no medical tests that can diagnose Autism. Trained Physicians and Psychologists conduct Autism specific behavioural evaluations. Often parents are the first people to notice unusual characteristics

Teachers Role:

Teachers are not to diagnose. If a teacher identifies characteristics linked to Autism they should speak with parents and document daily observations. Also speak with school based teams to discuss supports and adaptations for the student. Consult with psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologist, and other professionals.

Implications For Teaching

· Disruptive behaviors

· Difficulty in changes in routine

· Poor social skills

· Over stimulation

· Fixations

· Difficulty with transitions

· Easily distracted

A Teachers Perspective


Instructional Strategies

Social Stories

Social skills describe situations, skills, and concpets using common social cues, perspectives, and common responses in interactions. Social stories help the child with their lack of theory of mind, as they are able to understand others perspectives through the story.

Benefits: It is developed to help individuals cope with social situations. Can be written or visual representing interactions, situations, behaviours, skills, and concepts.

Disadvantages: There appears to be little evidence as to the effectiveness of social stories and may only work for some individuals. It is also time consuming, as you need to make your own to connect to the child.

Visual Schedules (PECS-Picture Exchange Communication System)

It tells the students what activities will occur and in what order. It is critical in a structured environment. ‘First’ and ‘Then’ is a common visual schedule and is helpful to get tasks done. They must be taught to the student directly and used consistently .

Benefits: Visual schedules lessen the anxiety of individuals because they know what to expect for their day. It also helps individuals transition independently between different activities and environments.

Disadvantages: It has to be consistent at home and at school for it to be effective.
Big image
Big image

Establish Independence through Positive Reinforcement

It is vital to teach decision making and have students perform tasks on their own. This can be through providing 2 choices and providing prompts for communication with the ultimate goal of students not needing the prompts. When students perform the task asked of them reinforce the desired behaviour so that it will reoccur.

Also when an undesired behaviour occurs do not draw attention to the behaviour instead reinforce when the student is performing the positive behaviour.

Benefits: Students are able to effectively make decisions and be able to communicate with those around them. They are able to voice their own wants and needs. Students will be more motivated to perform desired tasks when positively reinforced.

Disadvantages: It is time consuming and the individual must have patience to give students enough time to respond. If using tangible rewards students will only perform tasks when they are given a reward.

Classroom Environment

It is essential to create a classroom environment that fosters relationships. The environment should be neutral and provide visuals, warnings for transitions, and structure. Teachers should teach acceptance to the entire classroom so that a student with Autism is seen as an equal peer. Have a quiet place or movement room for students to take breaks when frustrated or over stimulated. It is essential to implement fidgets, such as chewytubes, chewlery, and bean bags. Many students benefit from a sticker or reward program. Teachers should reward for positive behaviours so that they reoccur.
Big image

Movement Room

When students with Autism get over stimulated there are some schools that have movement rooms or quiet spaces. Every student has different stimulation needs; some students benefit from having their arms and legs squeezed to meet their deep pressure needs, some students require a quiet calm space with neutral colors for sensory overload and some students benefit from classroom breaks to a movement room. Here is a video of a movement room in a Regina Elementary School.
Movement Room


Documentation is key with children with Autism. A common way to document is using the ABC's of documentation.

A= Antecedent

B= Behaviour

C= Consequence

As a teacher if you are able to figure out what the antecedent is then it will help you eliminate future issues.

Some key considerations about the behaviour:

  • Is the behaviour potentially harmful to the student

    or others?

  • Does it interfere with the student's learning or the

    learning of others?

  • Does it result in negative reactions and/or

    avoidance by peers and adults?

What does the Autism Resource Center offer their clients and a Behaviour Specialist perspective


What do you know about Autism?

10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

By Ellen Notbohm

1. I am a whole child

2. My senses are out of sync

3. Distinguish between won't and can't

4. I am a concrete thinker. I interpret language literally

5. Listen to all of the ways I try to communicate

6. Picture This! I am visually orientated

7. Focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can't do

8. Help me with social interactions

9. Identify what triggers my meltdowns

10. Love me unconditionally

Autism Awareness Day

Big image