This month, we review information and advice for educators who teach autistic students — or, as they are now more commonly described, those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, so-named because it covers a range of developmental brain disorders. Great Britain’s National Autistic Society defines autism as “…a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.” The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that autism affects one in 68 children in the US and Canada’s rate is similar. [by Jim Lang, M.Ed. PhD, Associate Faculty Department of Social Justice Education, Philosophy of Education, OISE/University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario]

  • Autism, definedThere are many definitions of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Speaks provides one of them via a website “…dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support….” The link above takes you to a page where you can learn more about autism, how to recognize the signs and screen children, and access services.
  • Resources for Teachers – The National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom offers a broad range of free resources for teachers, including information and strategies for recognizing autism; teaching autistic students; dealing with bullying; including autistic pupils in field trips; helping students in transition to college or university; as well as resources for pre-school children and for young adults in higher education programs.
  • Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching Children with AutismLet’s Talk claims to hire the best and the brightest speech/language/autism specialists and advises what to do or not to do when working with ASD students. For example, do understand the importance of ‘learning the child’ before you attempt to teach; when possible teach in a natural environment; avoid reinforcing negative behaviour and avoid confrontation; “gradually desensitize a child to a difficult situation.”
  • Videos for TeachersThis five-minute YouTube video “was made to help teachers create an effective learning environment for students with Autism (ASD).” The page on which this video appears includes several more videos on the subject, including a one hour presentation on The Autistic Brain; a half-hour video Essentials for Educators: High Functioning Autism & Asperger; and Small Wonders, Big Gains: The Preschool Autism Classroom. If these videos do not appear on the page, they can readily be searched by their titles.
  • Book: Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through AutismFind out what it is like to live with and to overcome the challenges of autism via the book, Carly’s Voice, by Carly Fleishman. She says, “I think people get a lot of their information from so-called experts but I think what happens is that experts can’t give an explanation to certain questions. How can you explain something you have not lived or if you don’t know what it’s like to have it? If a horse is sick, you don’t ask a fish what’s wrong with the horse. You go right to the horse’s mouth.”
  • Book: The SparkFor deeper, more personal reading into the subject, you may wish to consider ordering the book The Spark, by Kristine and Jacob Barnett. Kristine became involved in autism via her autistic son, Jacob. Jacob finished his master’s thesis in physics at age 15, and is currently completing his PhD in advanced theoretical physics. According to their website: “The Spark is the critically acclaimed international bestseller that details the real-life journey of Jacob Barnett, a child prodigy who was also diagnosed with severe autism.”

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