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The national Institute of Health (NIH) defines Autistic Spectrum Disorder as
a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
The classroom is the behavioral environment in which the student will interact for 8 hours or more per day, and where he or she will be asked to perform specific tasks, and engage in a number of activities for the purpose of learning and monitoring. The restricted, repetitive, and stereotypical nature of autistic interactivity requires that the classroom environment as well as the activities are:
- noise controlled
The structure consists on routines. A structured routine as soon as the child enters the room will prove successful to keep control of the child throughout the day. Examples include the actual daily entrance entrance-- a step by step (restricted to 4 tasks) list of what the student will do as he enters the classroom. Ex: hang book-back, take a sit, take out reading/picture book, wait for directions.
1) Smartboards are great because they provide templates where the student can interact with his own checklist and gets immediate feedback that motivates the next step quicker. In such templates, the ASD student can select his name off a list, check off the completed task, select the next task to perform and reward himself for the completion.
Teachers who are good with computers develop routines for every major block of the day, ensuring instant interaction with the student of any age level.
2) The predictability comes from routine and from prepared activities that are relevant, meaningful, and purposeful. This entails that the activities will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is an essential strategy given the natural tendency of ASD students to repeat behaviors.
The best strategy is the KUD model (Sternberg, 1996). Know-Understand-Do is the equivalent of Beginning (Instruct), Middle (Engage), and End (Apply) for a differentiated instruction classroom. This strategy stems from Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Intelligence and the Concept-Based learning paradigm.
The stereotyped nature of Autistic behavior precludes that the child will become reactive, angry, and agitated with loud noise, or even a sudden change in schedule.
3) Therefore, all the activities that take place in an autistic-planned environment must be as non-invasive as possible in terms respecting the boundaries that autistic students create.
Limiting the activities to one on one instruction, Smartboard routines, limited check-listing, self-assessments where the student gets to "rate" herself, and consistent feedback will ultimately avoid voice and noise pollution and unnecessary multistep processes.
Sternberg, Robert J. Successful Intelligence. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996 - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/robert-j-sternberg#sthash.0SeQjurX.dpuf
The answer you already have is a good one for many autistic students. However, as a mother of an autistic son who also has Tourettes, OCD, ADHD, and is sensory defensive, my son would not necessarily fit into that model. With an IQ of 145, he could understand and verbally explain any question you asked him about his work. Writing was a totally different experience as he could not work with a pencil nor could he write so that anyone else could read it. If he tried, it took hours. He did need a structured environment, but if his OCD became unmanageable, he had to leave the classroom which a teacher must not stop. If he were touched, he escalated exponentially. What finally was worked out was that he could leave for the nurse's office, he was still responsible for the work which he did at home with no help except to write what he said, and he had to follow the school routine to the best of his ability. Because medication never produced the desired effects, he is in the medical record books. His salvation came with a university professor doing experimental research who never saw patients but saw my son on his lunch hour. Having said that, three strategies would be 1) shorten or divide long assignments so as not to overwhelm the student, 2) the classroom needed to be the same structure physically each day as change was very difficult or you needed to explain what was different, and 3)color code what was information, what needed to be written down or give him a copy, and what were assignments. He doesn't often catch the word signals teachers give about what assignments are and when they are due. He also needs to know that he can ask questions without being made to feel dumb as if he wasn't listening. His sensory system works so poorly that he doesn't hear well.
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