+ Challenges for Autism Spectrum Students

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From a helpful handout, some help with issues that challenge ASD students.

Executive Function — ASD students may lack the capacity to identify, plan, organize and carry out needed tasks, achieve independence as adults

How to help:  Help students organize themselves with minimal prompts, through rubrics, assignment directives, checklists, study guides.  Give clear due dates.  Create systems to check for missing assignments.

Hidden Curriculum —  ASD students lack the ability  to interpret the social world around them, as well as ways to communicate within it, without having to be told how to do it.  Hidden curriculum is closely tied to executive function in daily life.

ASD students are vulnerable to their own literal thinking, passivity,  social naivete, emotional responses and often noncompliant behavior.  From others, they are vulnerable to ridicule, misinterpretation, exclusion and exploitation.

How to help:  Give explicit instructions and explanations; be careful with ambiguities and assumptions.  Always give advance notice.  Use discretion, and never be sarcastic.  Be aware that  ASD kids are rule followers.  Remember that noncompliance has a logic: find out why.  Foster habits of mutual support, acceptance, courtesy in class.

Sensory Integration Challenges ASD kids may become distracted and overloaded by lots of noise, bright lights and crowds.  Eye contact is extremely powerful for them.  Symptoms are anxiety, unresponsiveness, placing hands over ears, humming, escapist activity.

How to help:  Ask your student what he or she needs to help them feel better.  Allow them to self-calm as needed.

Resistance to Speculation This is part of the hidden curriculum: the student struggles to take an imaginative leap when there is no basis in fact.  Symptoms are noncompliance, confusion, difficulty making inferences.

How to help:  Bear in mind that there’s a reason for an unusual behavior.  Be flexible.  Give advance notice, be consistent and avoid making absolute statements.

Processing Speed & Motor Skills —  Students may lack the ability to move, react and process quickly.  This affects social interactions, practical skills, and response times.  Multi-tasking may slow processing speed and generate confusion.

How to help:  Give verbal cues in class, advance notice, extra time.  Be patient.  Adults should practice social awareness, be observant, pay attention to classroom dynamics.  Foster mutual respect and acceptance, as well as a sense of community. 

Some Web Sites

These suggestions came from a handout provided at an autism awareness gathering at my local Barnes & Noble.  Sue Hardesty, Special Education director at Columbus Public Schools led the discussion.   Check to see what educational meetings your local bookstore may offer.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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