• Monica Gupta Mehta

A Guide for Teacher's: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Chances are high that you have already taught or will soon teach a child on the autism spectrum. The current estimate is 1 out of every 59 children is autistic; 1 out of every 37 boys. Having my own child with ASD has been really helpful for me as both a parent and teacher, to understand how to work with each child's individual needs. I have collected some basic resources here to help teachers to understand these special needs.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a collection of developmental disorders that historically have had multiple names. Asperger's, Autistic disorder, and Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). In 2013, these were combined into one diagnosis, ASD.

Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function.

One of the most helpful tips I have read for teachers is this: create a behavioral plan with the family and child early on. A behavioral therapist can assist, if available. This will help you understand the child's strengths and struggles, and will lay out a clear and understandable plan for the child. This can help ease the child's anxiety about what to do when overwhelmed.

Here is a useful article on Supporting Students with Autism

This article may also be helpful - it is a personal call out from a parent to teachers.

12 Things I'd Like Teachers To Understand About Autism

Here is a very thorough school community toolkit. I liked their 'about me' form for new students.

Here is information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Signs and Symptoms of ASD

People with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all behaviors, but most will show several.

Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:

Making little or inconsistent eye contact

Tending not to look at or listen to people

Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others

Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention

Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation

Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond

Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said

Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like

Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions

Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:

Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia

Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts

Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects

Getting upset by slight changes in a routine

Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature

People with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability.

Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:

Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time

Being strong visual and auditory learners

Excelling in math, science, music, or art

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