Training Activity: What Educators May Say About Student with Autism

Explore What Educators Say when describing a student who is later identified as eligible for special education services under the ASD category.  Identify the terms used in the IDEA definition that reflect the descriptions provided.

 

IDEA DEFINITION.... “Autism” means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term autism does not apply if the child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance.  A child who shows the characteristics of autism after age 3 could be diagnosed as having autism if the criteria above are satisfied.”

 

What Educators May Say in the Preschool Years

Potential Fit with the IDEA Definition

“Usually I can tell what he wants, because I know him so well, but he doesn’t really give you much to go on…he doesn’t make many sounds, but he usually just stares at whatever he wants, or he tries to go get it himself.  He can be surprisingly effective in findings ways to solve his own problems.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o   unusual responses to sensory experiences

“Loud noises absolutely terrify him – once we had an unexpected firedrill – no warning whatsoever – and he got very panicky, very upset, and kept clinging to Ms. P.  For days …no weeks …after that when he saw Ms. P and say “no loud” over and over again and cover his ears.  Sometimes he’d get really upset at the sight of her and once she left, he’d just calm down right away.  She felt so bad – she loved that little guy!”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“She seems to be “out-of-step” with the other kids.  It’s hard for her to follow directions – I’m not completely sure she understands what I’m saying – or maybe she’s not listening? I’m not sure…anyway…she doesn’t seem to have that instinct to watch what the other kids are doing and follow their lead.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o   unusual responses to sensory experiences

 

What Educators May Say in Elementary Years

Potential Fit with IDEA Definition

“He doesn’t seem to “get” other kids.  He seems to want to have friends, but seems absolutely clueless about how to listen to another person, or take turns, or let someone else be in charge... It’s like he’s on his own page all the time and it’s really hard to help him see it can’t be done his way all the time.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“He is very smart – especially at facts, pretty good at math…not great handwriting though -- and he can all-of-a-sudden just lose his cool and he’s inconsolable.  He has trouble handling even the smallest amount of frustration…and then, when we try to help him out he usually gets even more agitated, so it’s very difficult to know how and when to push and how and when to support.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“When she’s talking to you, sometimes she looks right at you and nods her head and you feel like she’s kind of “with you” and then other times, she stares – usually straight ahead and it’s hard to know who she is talking to.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“This is a kid who really struggles with making mistakes, losing a game, not being first.  He does not like change and he makes sure you know it.…For example, when his teacher told the class she would be going on maternity leave in a few weeks, he wrote “ does not listen to subs” on a post-it note and put it on the whiteboard. …from what I hear, he’s living up to his word!”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“I’m not sure what to do because it’s very clear to me that he’s a bright 3rd grader – with some pretty nice skills in some areas – but he is so disorganized!  I don’t think he’d ever hand in an assignment if we didn’t remind him repeatedly to put it in the box. Getting anything out of his desk seems to take forever.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“Oh my goodness, he’s so literal and concrete in his thinking…very black and white; something is right or wrong, no in-between. I don’t think he can tell when the other boys are teasing him – sarcasm just goes right over his head.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“His general ed teacher told me that he absolutely loves, loves, LOVES anything having to do with dolphins or whales.  He knows more than most first graders on the topic, but he talks about it all the time.  Even the other kids have told him to please stop.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“It’s like he can only do one thing at a time – only think about one thing at a time.  I’ve told the team we need to give him time and not try to push him to hurry in a transition …he’s got this slow to get-up-and-go style and if you talk to him or try to help him it gets him all confused.  He’s trying – its just better if we let him work it out, however slowly.  He does better going to specials if I get him started on leaving before the other kids.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“She’s a great speller.  But when you ask her what a word means, she really struggles…She usually says something that is sort of connected to the word, but not in a way that means anything.  For example, I asked her what the word “boat” meant and she said “fishing”.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“He’s immature in his play.  He’s in 5th grade and all he wants to do on the playground is re-enact video games – most of the other boys are beyond that; but at this time he has a few others who like that stuff too. I worry that once he gets to middle school, even those kids will have grown out of it before he will.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“He has a lot of trouble answering questions.  He usually seems to focus on one of the words in your question and then he gives you a running list of words that somehow connect to the word he heard…for example, one time I asked him what he had for lunch and he said “Lunch on the run? Lean Cuisine”…later I learned he had a peanut butter sandwich.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“At first, I thought reading was going great with him – he decodes words better than anyone else in his 2nd grade reading group – but pretty soon we realized he’s not understanding what he’s reading at all.   But he loves to read out loud!”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

 

What Educators May Say in Secondary Years

Potential Fit with the Colorado Definition

“He can be very blunt…painfully honest…and seems absolutely amazed when I tell him he just hurt someone’s feelings. “

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“He can get really irritable if you interrupt him or if he doesn’t have enough time to finish something he likes doing.”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“He has a lot of trouble getting started on something – like a worksheet.  He’ll sit with it on his desk, everyone else is halfway done, and he still hasn’t done the first item. …when I tap on his paper, he sort of “returns” and then seems …I don’t know…sort of sheepish or embarrassed.  Funny thing is, he can totally do the work – he knows his stuff… he just gets stuck at the beginning of things.  If I can get him started, he can usually keep the momentum up for a bit, but if we were to wait him out, I’m afraid he’d be on one worksheet all day.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

unusual responses to sensory experiences

“He does fine with writing if we let him make a list.  He’s learned that basically every essay can become a list; what he’s not good at is coming up with any kind of connection between the stuff on the list.  Or making conclusions or building an argument.  Ask him to write something personal or reflective? Forget it! He prefers the facts.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“I don’t think he has any idea about what should be private and what’s for all to hear, if you know what I mean.  He tells us stuff about his family that we know should be kept private – like things his mom said when she was trying to diet and no one else was joining her -- he just repeated her comments over and over and announced his observations without a thought of how absolutely mortified she’d be.”

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences

“Once he learns to do something, he will do it that way forever. No matter what.  …In his high school cooking class, he learned to microwave one of those individual frozen pizzas…one time, the microwave was broken and we tried to show him how to use the toaster oven instead, but he got really agitated and insisted on putting it into the microwave; basically going through all the steps even though it wasn’t even plugged in.  He got more upset when we wouldn’t let him eat it frozen; that was so upsetting for him…ruined his whole day…”

 

o    verbal communication

o    nonverbal communication

o    social interaction

o    repetitive activities

o    stereotyped movements

o    resistance to environmental change

o    resistance to change in daily routines

o    unusual responses to sensory experiences