Autism

Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Understanding Autism

Autism

Pedagogue sits on grey armchair and observes boy sick of Haller’s syndrome. Autistic child therapy concept

Diversity in education also applies to neurodiveristy and special needs such as autism. Just as we celebrate diversity in cultures, so too do we need to honor the diversity of students who learn, think and behave differently.

Strength-based strategies are needed to help students with special needs. Autism is just one example, but it is one of the most common, impacting 1 in every 68 children in the United States.

What is autism?

Autism comes in many forms. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There is not one type of autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

 Teaching autistic students

Teachers and schools must embrace the strengths of neurodiverse students in order to help them thrive in school and beyond. They must acquire the knowledge necessary to emphasize the strengths of the autistic students in the classroom while continuing to provide support and encouragement in the needed areas.

Students with autism, ADHD and other neurological disorders require more attention than their peers, but with proper training it is possible for them to strive along with the rest of the classroom with minimum disturbance.

Experience improved results

A professional development course can assist educators with the following:

  • Knowledge about Autism
  • Knowledge of the concepts neurodiversity and positive niche construction
  • Awareness of current approaches to teaching Autistic students in your classroom
  • How to create a strength-based curriculum that helps autistic students become more successful at school and life.

One such course is titledThe Gifts of Autism” and it is a professional teaching course that will provide teachers with the knowledge necessary to emphasize the strengths of their autistic students while continuing to provide support and encouragement in the needed areas.

As an example, teachers will be encouraged to think of one autistic student they have worked with at their school and describe how autism affects this student. In the description, they need to include the student’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how he or she is supported at the school.

‘Gifts of Autism’

In the Gifts of Autism, teachers will study text references from the Universal Design for Learning and use information from The Center for Applied Special Technology as resources for helping neurodiverse students achieve success on the Common Core State Standards. Teachers will study each of the aforementioned organizations websites, http://www.udlcenter.org and http://www.cast.org

After studying these websites, they will list at least one methodology or strategy that they feel will improve the niche construction of the student described above and explain how they will utilize the strategy.

Utilizing positive niche construction, they will pick one standard they are responsible for teaching and create a plan for teaching this standard to the student in the case study assignment.

Along with a textbook – Neurodiversity in the Classroom — web-based resources will be studied to assist teachers to learn about autism. The following are just two examples:

Http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm