Autism Awareness

April was Autism Awareness Month. It seemed like a fitting topic for my blog post since I have been immersed in information on all things Autism over the past few years. Being a teacher of several students with Autism and a mother a son who was diagnosed at three years old, it has become somewhat of a specialty. The Autism community is growing rapidly, 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. Awareness is becoming more and more important in society. Whether you are a teacher, a student, a soccer coach, a server at a restaurant, or someone walking down the aisle at Wal-Mart; awareness can make a big difference. ASD is such a general diagnosis that includes developmental delays in communication, social, and adaptive skills in a wide range of severity. A commonly used quote is, “When you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met ONE person with Autism.” Some people with ASD are non-verbal, some talk too much, some are gifted, some have extreme academic deficits, some have serious behavior problems, and some are quiet and introverted. The best way that I’ve had it explained to me is comparing a person with ASD to a video game console. If you are playing a PS4 and you put in an XBOX game, that game is not going to work properly. The system is not able to read the information on the disc, because it is not wired to process it the data. People with ASD are wired differently. In reality we are all wired differently. We learn in different ways, have different preferences, and have different reactions. As a community, we need to educate ourselves on those differences and be accepting and supportive. These families affected by ASD have had to learn a new way of life. Their world now revolves around therapy appointments, routines, and meltdowns. The struggle is real. Autism is real. These children, as well as adults, with ASD have to navigate through a world they don’t fully understand that is full of people who don’t fully understand them. They have to learn behaviors and skills that come naturally to most of us. We can make life a little easier for them by being informed and understanding.

Helpful Tips on Managing Autism in a School Setting

· Keep your language simple, avoiding sarcasm

· Minimize distractions

· Provide clear choices

· Recognize behaviors that result from overstimulation, anxiety, or frustration

· Offer calm down breaks in a designated “safe” area

· Structure! Routine! Use timers

· Positive reinforcement to keep students motivated

· Assist in navigating social situations

· Capitalize on teaching moments

· Visual lessons

· Have patience

· Develop a thick skin

· Show compassion

· Be consistent

· Find more patience

Additional Resources:

www.autismspeaks.org

www.autism-society.org
www.autismnow.org

www.thearcnwms.org

-April Kinney 6th grade Special Education Teacher

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