Q. What are Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)?
A. ASD is associated with Pervasive Developmental Disorders. To receive a diagnosis of ASD (based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, Fourth Edition – Text Revised 2000), a person must experience significant impairment (affecting daily functioning) in three areas:
- social interaction
- repetitive and restrictive thoughts, interests, and/or movements
Impairments in these areas may vary among persons with ASD, and cognitive ability may range from gifted to severely challenged. An ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person's life.
Q. What are some of the signs of ASDs?
A. The following are some of the signs of ASDs:
- Little or no attempt to engage others, preferring to play/be alone
- Difficulty understanding or responding to another’s feelings or interests
- Avoidance of meaningful eye contact
- Little or no response to someone communicating
- Difficulty imitating and/or understanding modeling behavior
- Unusual responses to sensory stimulation (smell, taste, touch, sound, sight)
- Difficulty with abstract concepts or symbolic play
- Tendency to repeat words or phrases without apparent meaning
- Display of repetitive movements, often for long periods of time
- Difficulty expressing needs using typical words or motions
- Difficulty with changes in routine
- Loss of skills previously demonstrated (for instance, not saying words once used)
Q. Why must students with ASDs be taught so differently from other students?
A. Often a person with ASD may not appear “available for learning” due to the intensity of developmental/neurological challenges such as impulsivity, anxiety, motor coordination, ritualistic patterns, self-satisfying sensory needs, expressing meaningfully, among others. Based on the varying levels of autism, each student may need supports different from every other student in his/her class and may require such differentiation throughout the entire school day.