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After having studied this module, the learner should be able to:
- Have a better understanding what the term Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD refers to.
- Understand that ASD is associated with intellectual profiles across the whole cognitive ability range.
- Understand that the diagnosis of ASD is a complex process involving assessments by various professions over a period of time.
- Understand that all students with ASD are not affected in the same way and not to the same extent and that individually designed programs therefore best meet the needs of students with ASD.
This objectives of this module is adapted from information in the following resources: “Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders” (page 10-17) in Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Resource Guide Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2007 2. DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet.
Questions to be Answered
- When was the term “autism” first defined
- What are the causes of ASD?
- What is the prevalence of ASD?
- How is ASD diagnosed?
- What are the characteristics of an ASD student in the classroom?
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders represents a spectrum of neurological dysfunctions that have a lifelong effect on the development of various abilities and skills. It was first identified in 1943 by Leo Kanner, an American psychologist. Kanner noticed distinctive, common characteristics and an inability of the subgroup he was working with to relate in the ordinary way to other people and situations. He described this behaviour as “extreme autistic aloneness”.
ASD is characterized by impairments in communication and social interaction, as well as unusual patterns of behaviours, interests and activities.
- The range and intensity of the disability varies widely
- Presentation of symptoms may change over time
- Definitive cause or cure not yet known
- Most challenging behaviours of any developmental disorder
- Highest level of parental stress of any developmental disorder
- Functioning level does not equate with severity of need
- Specialized interventions can provide the skills needed to lead full and productive lines
Autism Specturm Disorder
According to DSM-5 guidelines, autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive development disorder (PDD), and PDD not otherwise specified (atypical autism) have now been replaced by one collective term Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Students with ASD have:
- Noticeably abnormal social interactions
- Impaired development in language and communication skills
- Restricted repertoire of activities & interests
Abnormalities in the development of cognitive skills may be present. There will also be a delay in social interaction, language, imaginative play that was recognized before the age of three.
How is ASD Diagnosed
The complex nature of ASD makes it difficult to diagnose. In general, various professionals are usually involved in the diagnosis process.
Accurate diagnosis of ASD usually includes the following:
- Assessments of multiple areas of functioning (eg. Intellectual & communication skills)
- A review of developmental history
- Parental input
Diagnosis is often not a quick process and is much like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. All students who currently have an diagnosis of autism disorder, Asperger disorder, or PDD-NOS, based on DSM-4 criteria, should retain the given diagnosis. However, according to the new DSM-5 criteria, the previous use of three domains of impairments has now been reduced to two domains:
- Social communication and interaction.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.
Sensory behaviours are now included under the restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviours.
The DSM-5 also introduced a “new” condition named “social (pragmatic) communication disorder”. This would be the appropriate diagnosis when issues are seen only with social communication and interaction, but issues with restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities are absent.
The Prevalence of ASD
ASD is now recognized as the most common neurological disorder (Geneva Centre for Autism, 2006).
- 1 in 155 people are estimated to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Occurs across all racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups
- 4-5 times more boys than girls are affected
- 7,888 students in publicly funded elementary & secondary schools in Ontario were IPRCed as exceptional students in the category Communication: Autism (2006)
- A total of 96 students (1 in 165) in AMDSB have Communication: Autism as their primary exceptionality (October 2011)
- 1 in 165 students in AMDSB are identified as Communications: Autism (October 2011)
Characteristics of ASD as seen in the Classroom
Reference: Ross W. Greene “Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them” 2008
ASD represents a spectrum of neurological dysfunctions that have a lifelong effect on the development of various abilities and skills. ASD is characterized by impairments in communication and social interaction, as well as unusual patterns of behaviours, interests, and activities. As each student affected by ASD
For further information, visit the AMDSB Special Education Handbook on FirstClass
Every AMDSB school should have the following resource guide:
1. “Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders” (page 10-17)
Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Resource Guide
2. DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet
DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet
- Practical Classroom Strategies
- Workshop Materials
- Discussion Materials
Thames Valley Children’s Centre Resource Kits (one per school)
- Transition Kit
- Visual Strategies
- Reinforcement Kit