The first blog I wrote as part of this segment was all about Down Syndrome on my personal website, www.mskaraline.weebly.com I also wrote a piece called “Teacher Guide to Terminology Etiquette” that is related to these blog posts, here on VoicEd. I will now be focusing on Autism. The word autism raises many different ideas and assumptions, however autism spectrum disorder is very broad. As a teacher, you will probably have students in your classroom with ASD, and it is important to know how we can integrate their learning styles, and needs. ‘The More You Know’ posts are dedicated to debunking myths and assumptions.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
According to autismspeaks.org, “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.” Most of the time, when people think of ASD, certain images or preconceived notions come to mind. However, we need to be aware that the spectrum is vast, and we cannot allocate a certain idea of what we think autism is to everyone.
Are children with ASD in a specialized classroom? No, not always. I have personally had students with ASD in an integrated classroom. The important thing to remember here is differentiation; and students with ASD do not solely benefit from this. All students need differentiation. Everyone learns a different way- with or without ASD. We all have needs. We can do this by getting to know our students, and learning about the different ways in which they learn best, and ways in which they don’t. Something I have done in the past is creating different worksheets, all on the same subject. For example, if we were learning about different cultural groups, and I created a worksheet to answer a few questions, I would have different worksheets designed to meet the needs of all my students, however, they are all still learning the same thing. Perhaps the questions are worded differently, or there are more images on some worksheets than others. This does take up a lot of time, but I guarantee you it’s worth it!
Are children with ASD unable to form social relationships? They are absolutely able to form social relationships. It is true that many individuals with ASD have difficulty with social interaction, however they are fully capable to form meaningful relationships. I have worked witha variety of students with different levels of ASD, and I personally was able to form a bond with them, as they were able to form relationships with others as well.
Can Autism be cured? No, because Autism is not an illness. We all need to simultaneously stop using the words cure and autism in the same sentence. There is a wide range of therapy available (read my ABA therapy blog post from earlier) for different needs and reasons, however there is no cure for autism as it is not a disease or a sickness.
Is ASD genetic? According to autism-society, “In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited” The idea of ASD being genetic is still ambiguous, but researchers are continuously trying to find new information. According to the Genetic Literacy Project, “In fact, the researchers found that 56 percent – 95 percent of the effect is estimated to be genetic, according to a study of 258 twins suggests. (Genetic influences on autism are estimated to be between 74-98 percent according to research by the Medical Research Council in the UK.)”
If you’d like to read up some more information, check out these great websites below:
Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org
Autism Ontario: http://www.autismontario.com
Autism Montreal: http://autisme-montreal.com/en/
Autism UK: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is.aspx
Let’s end the stigma about autism. How can we do this? By being aware about the facts and truth behind ASD, and continuing to share this information with others.