Children with Autism and Learning Challenges

Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This set of signs distinguishes autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as Asperger syndrome. Autism is highly heritable, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is generally unclear which genes

are responsible. In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Autism affects many parts of the brain; how this occurs is poorly understood. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life. Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills. There is no cure. Few children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, but some become successful, and an autistic culture has developed, with some seeking a cure and others believing that autism is a condition rather than a disorder.

Schools have developed four guidelines to help teachers understand ways of learning in autistic children. 1. Be social “engineers.” Children with autism do not always know how to approach a social group. Autistic children are always looking to make friends just like everyone else, but do not know the proper steps, or ways to approach other children. That is why it is important for the educator to encourage other children to interact and socialize with them. For instance, you could re arrange the desks to form small groups and have the autistic child in a group with other students in the class. This would help with creating social skills to work together on social communications.

Children with autism can have trouble with transitions, but they respond well to regular routines. 2. Be clear and consistent with routines. Educators can use “written scripts” to post the class schedule and classroom rules, then consistently apply those scripts on a daily basis. Educators have to be precise about the order in which activities will take place, where they will take place, and how long they will last. Be sure to use the same words to describe the different activities posted and repeat what needs to happen before each transition is made. One key point educators need to emphasize is warning before a transition is going to be made. For instance, while students are working on a task, remind them that they have five minutes before it is time to go to lunch. Then later say “we now have two minutes to finish your work before we go to lunch”.

When a child is interested in a particular subject, allow the student to use that knowledge in other areas of education. 3. Use focused interests as a window of opportunity. For example, if a student has a confined interest in frogs, you can use this subject to engage him or her in questions and answers to involve other amphibians and reptiles, and then eventually incorporate that into the lesson. Other students will gradually engage in the discussion and become more interested about the different types of creatures. This type of teaching process will lead to a full classroom discussion engaging all students in the classroom. Although this is effective, it takes time, but can ease students with narrow interests to engage peers and expand their own interests. Language and social skills that come easier to other children can be picked up by an autistic child when the skills are presented in gradual, slowly moved steps.

Inclusive settings are crucial for all students with autism, especially when structured properly by the educator to help them stay on tasks assigned and not overwhelming them. 4. Embrace inclusive settings. When exposed to different social situations, children with autism can build interaction as well as social skills they may not acquire in other areas of education. Inclusion not only builds interaction, but helps all children succeed in most academic and social activities. The earlier a student without a disability is introduced to students with disabilities, the earlier the students will become comfortable and accept them in their classroom culture and everyday activities.

M.I.N.D. Research Institute is dedicated to education program excellence and cutting edge scientific research. The institute has successfully transferred more than thirty years of breakthrough brain and learning research into applied education programs for K-12 students. M.I.N.D. research continually improves its programs through data mining over 20 million student sessions and nine years of standardized math test results, and publishes its scientific and educational research. Standardized test results have shown remarkable increases for participating students. An eventual goal of M.I.N.D. is to establish an assessment and intervention school near the institute where current knowledge about K-12 education and neurodevelopmental disorders can be directly and immediately applied in order to help the students, and gain knowledge faster and easier.

Some schools may not be fully prepared and have the resources needed to provide the proper learning environments required to helping and educating the growing number of autistic children. This article lists four easy to follow ways for the educator to incorporate learning to all the children in the classroom, as well as the students with learning disabilities. Being a social engineer, having clear and consistent routines, use focused interests as a window of opportunity, and embracing inclusive settings are the steps needed to help educate and incorporate students with disabilities into the whole classroom setting with the other students. Also, the M.I.N.D. institute is a great facilitator in the study of disabilities. This institute is embarking on a new and effective type of learning for all students, disability or not.