What is Autism? 

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. For a designation such as autism, “it is estimated that 1 in 59” (Autism Speaks, 2018) will be classified with this learning challenge.

Below are some questions and answers that hopefully will provide you with some more clarity!

How do you diagnose autism?

  • Autism is diagnosed in BC by a diagnostic psychologist
  • Typically the whole process starts with a parent or teacher who has some concerns about the student and they will take them to their family paediatrician who will make a referral to the autism assessment network
  • Diagnosed by a set of behaviours that are observed by parents and doctors
  • Not a blood test or neurological exam

What are the characteristics of autism?

  • Social communication impairments (probably the main one)
  • Stereotypic behaviour, which is a child that engages in repetitive ritualistic kind of behaviours. Examples include flapping hands, tiptoe walking, any kind of repetitive speech
  • Sensory issues, anxiety, and other characteristics

What do students with autism struggle on a day-to-day business?

  • A whole list of social demands including: social interaction, understanding social content, reading non-verbal cues, sharing, co-operating with others
  • Difficulty with organization, mental planning, prioritizing transitions

What are some strategies that support their challenges?

  • Not over talking!
  • Use pictures and diagrams
  • Allowing kids to have breaks
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Having set routines and predictability in your classroom (super important)!!!!!

What are the resources you can use to help these kids?

  • POPARD (Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders
  • POPARD website: https://www.autismoutreach.ca

How do you create a good environment for the students in a PHE setting or even just in a normal classroom setting?

  • Learn as much as you can about autism. Read research, do in-service professional development
  • Have predictability and set routines in your class
  • Provide visual information
  • Be a good role model for the students

I received all of this information from Kari Bennett who is a Special Education Teacher