Definition Autism- A pervasive developmental disability characterized by extreme withdrawal, cognitive deficits, language disorders, self-stimulation, and onset before the age of thirty months. (Hallahan, D. and Kauffman, J., 2003).
Communication Skills ( SC Autism Society) Language develops slowly or not at all. Use of words without attaching meaning. Uses gestures instead of words. Short attention span. Echolailia- (repeating words or phrases). Not responsive to verbal cues; as if deaf. Difficulty in expressing needs.
Social Interaction ( SC Autism Society) Spends time alone. Little interest in making friends. Less responsive to social cues (eye contact/smiles.) Difficulty mixing with other children. Inappropriate laughing and giggling. Little or no eye contact/seems aloof. May not want cuddling or act cuddly.
Sensory Impairment (SC Autism Society) Unusual reactions to physical sensations (overly sensitive to touch or pain.) Sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste affected to lesser or greater degrees. May exhibit self-stimulating behaviors (hand- flapping or rocking.) May avoid cuddling or seek it. Apparent insensitivity to pain.
Play ( SC Autism Society) Lack of spontaneous/imaginative play. Does not imitate actions of others. Does not initiate pretend games. Sustained odd play. May spin objects inappropriately. Inappropriate attachment to objects. Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity.
Behaviors ( SC Autism Society) May be overactive or passive. Throws frequent tantrums for no reason. May perseverate one item, idea, person, words. Apparent lack of common sense. May show aggressive or violent behavior. Insistance on sameness/resists change. No real fear of dangers. Unresponsive to normal teaching techniques. Uneven gross/fine motor skills.
Related Disorders Autism Spectrum Disorder and Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). Both involve delays in the development of social relationships, communication of ideas and feelings, self-care, and participations in typical family, school, or community activities. Autism Spectrum Disorder also is often characterized by restricted, repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
Autism Spectrum Disorders Asperger syndrome (AS) - much like mild autism, but usually without significant delays in cognition and language. Rett's disorder - normal development for five months to four years, followed by regression and mental retardation. childhood disentegration disorder - normal development for at leats 2 and up to 10 years, followed by significant loss of skills. pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD- NOS) - pervasive delay in development that does not fit into any other diagnostic categories. (Hallahan D. and Kauffman J., 2003)
Prevalence Autism associated behaviors occur in approximately of every 10,000 people. This represents more than one in every 500 births. Autism is four to five times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle and level of education do not affect the chance of occurrence.
Prevalence continued… Conservative estimates say that nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. (approximately 9,000 in S.C.) have some form of autism. Its prevalence rate places it as the third most common developmental disability-more common than Down syndrome.
US Department of Education Statistics On Autism The following is taken from the statistics produced by the Department of Education in the United States, for numbers of children aged 6-21 served by IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Discrimination Act) who have autism. LINK TO FULL LIST OF STATES LINK TO FULL LIST OF STATES State % Increase Alabama687651,025% Arizona1991,119462% California1,60510,557558% Colorado14453almost infinite District of Columbia0103infinite Hawaii % New Hampshire0342Infinite New York1,6485,943260% Ohio222,217almost infinite South Carolina % Vermont6160almost infinite West Virginia % Wyoming % Total12,22278,717644%
Causes No one cause is known, but current research links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. Scans such as MRI (Magnetic Resource Imaging) and PET (Position Emission Tomography) show abnormalities in the structure of the brain, with significant differences in the cerebellum, including the size and number of Purkinje cells. In some families there appears to be a pattern that suggests a genetic basis for the disorder. However, no one gene has been linked to Autism.
False Theories Autism is not a mental illness Children with autism do not choose to misbehave Autism is not caused by bad parenting. There are no psychological factors in the development of the child that have been shown to cause Autism.
Diagnostic Procedure An accurate diagnosis must be based on observations of the child’s communication, behavior and developmental levels. Brief observations in a single setting cannot present a true picture of abilities and behaviors. Autistic children may appear mentally retarded at first glance or to have hearing disorders.
Diagnostic Procedure continued… Doctors may order a variety of tests because many behaviors of autism occur with other disorders. Locating a medical practitioner who has experience with autism is most important. Ideally, a child should be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team which may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant or other professional knowledgeable about autism.
Diagnostic tools developed in the past several years CHAT: Checklist for Autism in Toddlers CARS: Childhood Autism Rating Scale PIA: Parent Interview for Autism GARS: Gilliam Autism Rating Scale BRIAC: Behavior Rating Instrument DSM IV: Diagnostic and statistical manual, edition IV (1994) ADI-R: Autism Diagnostic Interview –(Revised) ADOS-G: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - Generic
Strategies for Modifying Curriculum Physical Structure: Provide environmental organization for people with autism. Have clear physical and visual boundaries help the person to understand where each area begins and ends. Provide minimal visual and auditory distractions.
Strategies for Modifying Curriculum Visual Schedules: Help address the child's difficulty with sequential memory and organization of time. Assist children with language comprehension problems to understand what is expected of them. Lessen the anxiety level of children with autism, and reduce the possible occurrence of challenging behaviors.
Visual strategies continued… Assist the student in transitioning independently between activities and environments by telling them where they are to go next. Are based on a "first-then" strategy; that is, "first you do ___, then you do ___",
General Considerations to Provide Effective Instruction Ensure that the student is in good health, free from pain and irritation, and in a safe, stimulating and pleasurable setting. Provide structure in the environment, with clear guidelines regarding expectations for appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Provide tools, such as written or picture schedules, to ensure that the flow of activities is understandable and predictable.
General Considerations to Provide Effective Instruction continued… Base the curriculum on the student's individual characteristics, not on the label of autism. A diagnosis of autism does not indicate what or how to teach. Focus on developing skills that will be of use in the student's current and future life in school, home, and community. Carefully plan transitions to new placements and new school experiences usually require careful planning and assistance Encourage parents and other family members to participate in the process of assessment, curriculum planning, instruction, and monitoring. They often have the most useful information about the student's history and learning characteristics, so effective instruction should take advantage of this vital resource
South Carolina Autism Society Lowcountry Support Groups Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties Trident Head Injury Support Group meets the 1st Tuesday of each month at 7:30 at the HASCI Center, St. Andrews Shopping Center, Charleston - West Ashley Head Injury Support Group for Survivors (HIPS) meets the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:30 at the HASCI Center, St. Andrews Shopping Center, Charleston - West Ashley Lowcountry Multiple Sclerosis Support Group meets the 2nd Thursday of each month at 7:30 at Trident Regional Medical Center, Doctors' Dining Room, North Charleston Lowcountry Polio Survivors Network meets the 4th Sunday of each month at 3:30 at Roper Hospital North (formerly Baker Hospital), North Charleston Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD) meets the 3rd Thusday of each month at 7:00 at Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health (formerly Charter Hospital), North Charleston Trident Cerebral Palsy Parent Support Group meets the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 11: :30 at the Otranto Branch Library Conference Room, Ortanto Road, North Charleston LINK TO FULL LISTING
References BOOKS & JOURNALS Cowley, G. (2003, September). Girls, boys, and autism. Newsweek, Winebrenner, S. (2003). Gifted and Learning Disabled. Gifted Child Today, 26(3), 7. Hallahan, D. & Kauffman, J. (2003). Exceptional Learners: Introduction to Special Education (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Hollander, E. & Phillips, A. (2003). Targeted treatments for symptoms domains in child and adolescent autism. The Lancet, 362(9385), 732. Macias, M. (2003). Autism prevalence in the United States. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 24(4) Thompson, M. (1996). Andy and his yellow frisbee. Maryland, Woodbine House, Inc. WEBSITES Autism Today Structured Teaching: Strategies for Supporting Students with Autism? ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education- South Carolina Autism Society – -click on Autism info (on the left) for a list of regional resources/contacts Lowcountry Support Groups-http://www.scautism.org/trident.html LD Online-Assistive Technology info.