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    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Think About It Thursday-- Autism

    Last week I discussed how I felt about labels and how I didn't think it was fair for a child's label to dictate the services they receive. This made me think of the label/diagnosis of autism.

    Autism is basically diagnosed from a list of things a child cannot do...

    He cannot relate to others.
    She cannot communicate appropriately. 
    He cannot stop obsessing about that toy or TV show.
    She cannot handle loud noises.
    He cannot handle changes in routine.
    She cannot understand the risk of danger.
    He cannot stand being touched.
    She cannot make eye contact.
    He cannot play with toys appropriately.

    I hate all the focus on cannot for two reasons.

    1. There is no mention of any of the things the child can do! And kids with autism can do some pretty amazing stuff! I admit some of what they can do may be unconventional but how many of us can repeat a Disney movie verbatim, determine what day of the week someone was born on just by knowing the date, or recite the first 100 players drafted in the NFL including where they went to college and their position?!?

    2. It implies that the child will never be able to do any of these things. And from experience I can say this is 100% not true! Although I love teaching all students with special needs, working with children with autism has been remarkably rewarding for me. They have awed me again and again by exceeding expectations. Being able to help a child develop meaningful speech, eliminate difficult behaviors, and/or take interest in their classmates makes my job totally worth it.

    I think a lot of what makes my students so successful is intensive intervention. For my kids who are on the more severe end of the spectrum I try to provide 1-3 ABA (Applies Behavioral Analysis) direct teaching sessions daily in addition to group activities (cooking, theme reading, specials). I started out doing ABA before I was even interested in special ed so I am a strong proponent. I wish all of these kids received in-home ABA in addition to what I provide at school. However, unfortunately, a majority of my students come to me at age five with no early intervention. And if they do come with early intervention it is typically preschool which provides no ABA.

    I just don't know how in 2012 the awareness is still not out there about intensive early intervention for children with autism... specifically ABA? I wonder what resources doctors give when a child is newly diagnosed? Whose job should it be to educate these parents? Doctors? Parent Advocates? School Districts? It seems like no one is helping these parents unless they do the research themselves. Teachers and parents of children with autism... what have your experiences with early intervention been? Parents, how did you know where to go for help? Teachers, how do you approach parents when you think a child needs more intensive intervention? Perhaps a younger sibling of a student comes in and all of a sudden red flags start going off... what do you do?


    Amy Louise said...

    Hi Allison,
    I agree with you that the label of Autism can really have some negative conotations. Especially for people who are not familiar with kiddos and only with the label. I'm always careful with my wording to say a person WITH autism and not to say the autistic person. Then the child isn't as defined by their label; they are a person first and autism is just something about them.
    I teach in Michigan and before having my own classroom for students with Autism I did many long term sub positions in special ed classrooms. I find that Michigan (at least in the Metro Detroit region) does a pretty good job of early intervention. Not one of the children I have encountered with autism have been lacking early intervention services. This doesn't mean that I believe all of our programming is perfect but at least it seems to help.

    krisdono said...

    I am so hoping you recieve many comments on responding to many of your points you brought up in your blog. I am a paraprofessional who works mainly 1-on-1 with students in the inclusion classroom who are on the spectrum or beleived to be.I started working 9 years ago with my first autistic student and recieved no training from the school district or teacher I working with(I more or less had to train myself by reading everything I could and requesting seminars ~of which I went to two.)Now 9 years later I still find our school lacking in how to deal with students either because of funding or lack of knowlege and gumption. I still continue to read everything I can and feel blessed to find this blog.
    Thank you

    Allison Officer, M.S.Ed said...

    Thank you for your comments! I am glad to hear Michigan is doing well with early intervention. I am getting a new kiddo from the Detroit area so I am hoping some of this intervention reached him! Kris, it is AWESOME to see a paraprofessional reading my blog! I plan to post some cool stuff specific to paras in the next month or so. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Jerlyn said...

    I totally agree. I am a mom to an incredible boy that one part of him is autistic, just as he is artistic, loving, sympathetic, and absolutely amazing. In Arizona, the only reason he has many services is all the research I have done and how much time I spend figuring out what he needs and what the schools should be doing. I'm thankful for incredible blogs that I can sort thru and find incredible helps for my son. I've taken in all types if articles and ideas. Thank you for your encouragement and ideas.