Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Educational and Clinical Interventions: Volume 14

Cover of Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Educational and Clinical Interventions

Table of contents

(18 chapters)

A great deal has been learned about autism and childhood developmental disorders since the 1960s. No longer is the teaching of children with developmental disorders nebulous or a matter of guesswork,. The special education field has become better delineated, and its goals have been clarified. Teaching materials and techniques are constantly improving and expanding.In the 1960s, teachers had to teach children with autism with intuition and often with handmade materials (Cohen & Volkmar, 1997). Teachers now have textbooks and workbooks especially geared for students with developmental disabilities and autism, as well as other teaching aids such as computers, cassettes, television, videocassette recorders, and copying machines. A generation of teachers has developed and refined teaching approaches such as behavior modification, signing, inclusion, prevocational and vocational training, special physical education and special techniques for music, art, and recreation. Special educators have been joined by occupational therapists, physical therapists, music and dance therapists, and specialists in other disciplines. They all work together in addressing the difficult task of communicating with, enhancing the general learning potential of, and otherwise solving or alleviating developmental problems of children and youth with autism.The college student who today contemplates teaching children with autism has a good chance of making a realistic decision. A variety of classes and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities can be observed in private schools, public school general and special education programs, state sponsored service centers, and early intervention programs. From these observations, the aspiring future teacher can decide whether she or he has the capabilities and personality traits needed to be a successful teacher of individuals with autism.All the progress made in the past 25 years has still not made teaching an easy job. Anyone starting off on a career of teaching individuals with autism or other disabilities often feels lost, not knowing which way to turn, where to go, or what to do. Physical endurance, emotional stability, flexibility, ability and willingness to improvise, and respect for the value of one's own intuition are all needed to work with children who have developmental disabilities. Various methods of research, new interventions and treatments are becoming available. These methods will ultimately have an impact on teachers and teaching methods. Even now, they are raising questions and beginning to bring about change. The basic necessary approach to teaching, however, has not changed: each child's strengths must be analyzed and used.Children with autism present unique and challenging qualities for instruction. Hardman et al. (2000) summarized it well when they stated: “These students need creative and innovative teachers with positive attitudes” (p. 269). Preparing an increasing supply of well trained professionals to serve the needs of students with autism is, by any standard, a daunting challenge.

Because language deficits are often present among individuals with pervasive developmental disorders, evaluation of language abilities is an essential part of a comprehensive assessment. According to Wetherby, Prizant, and Schuler (2000), assessment of language skills for persons with autistic spectrum disorders must focus on three broad areas of concern: linguistics, social and emotional communication, and language-related cognitive functions. Linguistic evaluation includes assessment of both expressive and receptive language. Examination of social and emotional communication must assess reciprocity of social interaction, understanding and expression of emotion, and regulatory strategies to manage emotional arousal. Finally, evaluation of language-related cognitive domains must include an assessment of the use of symbolic representations and imitation (Wetherby et al.).

Families of persons with ASD face significant challenges. A history of theoretical and treatment efforts which have indicted parents as instrumental to the development of their children's disorders has been replaced with clear statements regarding the biological basis of ASD. However, family influences may contribute to the management of ASD symptoms, and highlights from the literature on Expressed Emotion were discussed for their relevance to management of persons with ASD. Consideration of the deficits associated with the development of social cognition in persons with ASD was given in the service of fostering improved understanding of specific points of intervention. A review of the basic elements of the Lovaas (1987) method was presented as a foundation for understanding current trends in treatment. Suggestions for counselors of families of persons with ASD concluded the chapter.

Mental health medications are used to treat a broad range of symptoms that can be experienced by individuals with one of the autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs). The psychoactive medications are targeted toward the specific symptom rather than the disorder itself. The medications work either by enhancing or mimicking a natural process, and they either increase or decrease the activity in an area of the brain or affect a communication route within the brain.Many clinical trials have demonstrated the usefulness of mental health medications for altering the psychological and biological functioning of the individual treated. Medications work best in conjunction with and coordinated with psychological, educational, and social interventions designed to enhance the individual's functioning. No medication is without side effects, and an analysis of the potential benefits and risks of the use of a medication must be undertaken when medication to enhance an individual's functioning is considered.

Cover of Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Educational and Clinical Interventions
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Book series
Advances in Special Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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