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Autism Awareness Month – Education

It’s National Autism Awareness Month! This week, the ASO is focusing on sharing information and resources related to EDUCATION with our community members.

At the ASO, we have resources and tools that can be used by students, parents, teachers and school administrators to better understand the unique needs and challenges of students with AS and to support them in their educational journeys.

For individuals living with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), schooling is one of the most critical, valuable, and challenging aspects of life. When a student and their peers are learning to socialize and interact, education becomes a vital aspect for both academic teaching and understanding of social tendencies and relationships. In addition, the school system provides an important avenue to educate all students to identify, understand, and respect the challenges that their peers may face. Consequently, societal stigmas around AS need to be addressed early in schooling. Education is also key to building the foundations for further skills training and development.

Many individuals with AS may struggle to develop relationships, an issue that is most pronounced early in their school careers. They may find it challenging to interpret social cues, particularly with culturally diverse and changing ways of non-verbal communication (including facials expressions and body language). Therefore, it can be exhausting and stressful for students with AS to consciously react to social cues in their surroundings. Those with AS may also experience difficulty with abstract thinking and problem solving, making certain subjects and courses more challenging. In addition, novel tasks performed or encountered for the first time may be more stressful and difficult. However, as students with AS typically demonstrate interest in memorizing and arranging facts, they have a tendency to become deeply knowledgeable about certain subjects. While this type of obsessive-compulsive behavior has its benefits, it may also make it more difficult to maintain focus in the classroom and build reciprocal relationships with peers.

The key to effective education is tailored and integrated learning provided in the classroom and supported by the curricula. Students with AS commonly excel and show interest in a particular subject. As such, there needs to be systematic efforts to identify these areas of potential, and tailor teaching resources to support them. If executed appropriately, this strategy may enhance the skills that they require for employment later in life. Furthermore, there needs to be a focus on social development and interaction.

In addition to social training (i.e. role playing) in a closed classroom, students with AS must be better integrated with other students in their schools. Under supervision and with support from peer mentorship and other similar programs, these social settings may improve communications skills, and aid in breaking the stigma that may exist with their peers. For those with AS to be more successful in their interactions with neurotypical students, educators should also implement programs to educate the entire study body on autism, addressing both strengths and deficiencies, and examples of effective communication methods (i.e. literal language). In addition, students with AS should also be educated on the pragmatics of language, allowing for a better understanding of context in language. Gym classes/physical activity can also provide a good social setting to facilitate this sort of interaction, although consideration should be given to those who find physical activity anxiety provoking and/or those who have motor skill weaknesses.

In addition to enhancing curricula and social learning, the classroom environment also needs to be better adapted to address the needs of students with AS. For success in the early years, schools and their supporting boards of education must also be willing to take the necessary steps to ensure that classrooms are built with consistencies that minimise visual distractions and provide a calm and relaxing learning environment.

Without question, improving the learning experience for students with AS requires effort and commitment from educators, advocates, parents, and policy makers, and must be addressed with the objective of tailored learning and integration.

 

Some of the ASO’s many educational resources include:

Ministry of Education’s “Special Education document” provides a great overview of the special education program in Ontario. Includes helpful information about the Identification Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) process as well as information regarding developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP): http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/Questions_and_Answers_Parents_English.pdf

Ontario Ministry of Education Special Education web page includes helpful resource documents: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/speced.html

Autism Speaks has developed a guide to help parents create a useful IEP for their child: http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/iep-guide

A link to an informative article about IEPs: http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2011/08/individualized-education-program-iep.html

“An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome” can be a good tool in helping school staff and administrators understand the needs of a student with Asperger’s: https://researchautism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/An_Educators_Guide_to_Asperger_Syndrome.pdf

This guide, “Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders” provides a lot of great tools, techniques and strategies that can be implemented within a school to support a student on the spectrum: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/autismSpecDis.pdf

Organization for Autism Research (OAR) has created a series of videos available on Youtube aimed at providing information to secondary school teachers about students with autism spectrum disorders. There are four videos available (free of charge), each are between 12-18 minutes in length and feature known experts in the field. Here’s a link to video 1 of 4 (the other 3 can be found in the playlist along the right hand side of the screen) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yAAOI6JUsM&noredirect=1

This guide, “Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders” provides a lot of great tools, techniques and strategies that can be implemented within a school to support a student on the spectrum: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/autismSpecDis.pdf

Prepare to Launch is a guide that helps parents of adolescence begin planning for the transition into the post-secondary world: https://www.theabilityhub.org/sites/default/files/Prepare%20to%20Launch%20-%20Resource%20Guide%20for%20Parents%20of%20Adolescents%20with%20ASD.pdf

This Transition Resource Guide for Students with Disabilities includes a lot of really helpful information, tools and resources: http://www.transitionresourceguide.ca

York University is offering a unique pilot project for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. For more information visit this website: http://lds.info.yorku.ca/pilot-project-strengthening-transitions-for-students-with-autism-spectrum-disorders/ or call (416) 736-5383.

Algonquin College is also offering a pilot transition program for students with ASD. Their website has some helpful resources: http://www.algonquincollege.com/cal/transition-planning/asd-transition-pilot/

Identifying Trends & Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disordershttp://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ASD.pdf

Facing the Challenges of Post-Secondary Education: http://www.autismontario.com/client/aso/ao.nsf/docs/149395542949b52a85257bc10060dbc6/$file/facing+the+challenges+of+post+secondary+education.pdf

Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor’s Guide: http://www.researchautism.org/resources/AspergerDVDSeries.asp

While American-based, this ‘Transition to Adulthood’ guide offers a great deal of relevant (and helpful) information, tools and strategies: http://www.researchautism.org/resources/reading/documents/transitionguide.pdf

This document provides an overview of disability support services at many post-secondary campuses in Ontario, but also offers information about bursaries and scholarships, assistive technology and Transition Program links: http://www.dpcdsb.org/nr/rdonlyres/043bc812-e3b0-4963-ba1c-1153346de49a/77985/supportforstudentswithadisability.pdf

Transition guide: http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesSpecEd/SchoolLeader/ASD/TransitiontoPostsecondaryPathwaysforStudentswithASD_TranslatingResearchintoPractice.pdf

This short video was made to help college professors understand what Asperger’s might look like in the classroom. It’s American, but the information is still really relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=divmxBBQ5Zw

Want to ensure resources like these remain freely available and accessible to people across Ontario? Please donate today: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3783990&langPref=en-CA#&panel1-1

 

 

2 Responses to “Autism Awareness Month – Education”

  1. Christiana Says:

    At last! Something clear I can unnddstare. Thanks!

  2. Demelza Says:

    Until I found this I thohugt I’d have to spend the day inside.

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