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Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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  • 0:04 Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • 1:01 ASD Causes
  • 1:27 ASD Diagnosis
  • 3:36 ASD in Academics
  • 5:32 Autism in Adulthood
  • 6:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marquis Grant
This lesson will highlight issues that are relevant to teachers of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), including causes, diagnosis, education and transition into adulthood. A short quiz will follow to test your knowledge.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

As a teacher, it's really important for you to understand the different types of autism spectrum disorders so that you're better able to support students with these disorders in your classroom.

The term autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is used to describe five disabilities that generally impact an individual's neurological development. These disabilities include autism, Asperger's syndrome, pervasive developmental delay-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD).

Once classified as separate disorders, these five disabilities are now classified under the umbrella of ASD. The three most common types of ASD that you, as a teacher, may encounter in your class are Asperger's Syndrome, PDD-NOS, and autism, with Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder being the rarest forms of ASD.

ASD Causes

Research has indicated that there may be multiple factors that cause autism spectrum disorder, including genetics (or your DNA, in other words) and environmental influences. Other more controversial links to autism spectrum disorders include parental age during fetal conception and gestational diabetes. It's important to note that scientists haven't established a definitive answer as to the cause of ASD.

ASD Diagnosis

When working with students with ASD in your classroom, you should be aware that symptoms vary with each individual. Children with ASD sometimes experience social, behavioral, or language difficulties. Symptoms of ASD may be evident between 18 to 24 months or even as early as nine months, when a child doesn't meet important developmental milestones, such as making eye contact, bonding with parents, making age-appropriate attempts to communicate, or sitting up, crawling, and walking without extensive support.

As a child with ASD continues to develop, there may be noticeable behaviors, such as repetitive or stereotypical behaviors like repeating certain phrases or words, flapping their hands, humming or rocking back and forth. The child may not engage with his peers or may prefer to play with objects, such as coat hangers and shoes, as opposed to playing with toys.

Early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve the outcomes of children with autism spectrum disorders. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, the most prevalent and commonly known of the disorders. It's estimated that boys are diagnosed at rates four to five times higher than girls.

In a clinical setting, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is assessed by a trained psychologist or psychiatrist. These professionals may use several screening instruments to assess for ASD, including:

  • Autism Rating Scale
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)
  • Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT)
  • Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT)

Information about early child development and family history will likely be gathered from the parents as well in order to gain a complete picture of a child's medical and social history. This information may be gathered through:

  • Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ)
  • Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS)
  • Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS)

ASD in Academics

Students with ASD can be successful in school. Some may need the support of special education services in order to receive specialized instruction as well as additional services like speech, occupational, or behavioral therapy.

If a parent or you, as the teacher, feel that a child may need more specialized instruction, the child will need to be referred to the school assistance team so that a determination can be made as to whether the child needs to be evaluated. Remember, a disability doesn't automatically mean a student with ASD needs special education. Instead, the team must decide, based on the student's data, if the disability affects the child's academics.

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