What is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that can be characterized by repetitive behaviors, deficits in social and language communication, and restricted interests.
Autism includes a spectrum of characteristics, so each person has a unique set of abilities, strengths, and challenges. Some autistic people cannot speak, and some have limited verbal communication. Additionally, autism can impair cognitive thinking for some, while other autistic people are extremely gifted. The ways in which austistic people think, learn, and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged.
Childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome (or Aspergers) are all examples of autism diagnoses that are considered autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. (Autism Speaks)
The Centers for Disease Control states that autism affects approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States. Autism signs usually appear by age 2 or 3, but it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that an autism test and early intervention for children with autism leads to positive outcomes later in life.
What is Neurodiversity?
“Neurodiversity” is a term used to describe differences in the way people’s brains work. The idea is that there is no “correct” way for a brain to work. There is actually a range of ways that a person’s brain can perceive and respond to the world, and those differences should be embraced and encouraged. (Child Mind Institute)
Neurodiverse people have many abilities. Each individual has unique strengths and characteristics that should be celebrated.
For example, some autistic strengths include:
- the ability to approach situations differently and think “outside of the box”
- strong abilities working with and understanding systems, such as computer programming and mathematics
- high level of creativity
- less pressure to conform to social norms
- musical abilities
- attention to detail
- strong visual-spatial skills
- skills in design and art
Autism Awareness and Acceptance
A few things you need to know to be aware and accepting of people with autism:
- Every child with autism is different.
- You cannot see autism.
- Nonverbal autistic children have the same feelings, opinions, and ideas as other children.
- Autistic children love to play with others and want to be included in sports, games, and playdates
- Autism is not something to be pitied.
- Autistic children and their families rely on routine and consistency.
DID YOU KNOW?
Public schools provide free screenings and assessments for children before they start school.
Early Childhood Intervention
Texas Health and Human Services provides Early Childhood Intervention services for children with disabilities from birth to age three. These services are family-centered, at the child’s home, and at no cost to the parents.
ECI case managers assist families with getting access to special services and resources to support their child’s development. Teams of specialized and licensed providers collaborate to build a plan to best serve each individual child.
Finally, when a child reaches age 3, ECI helps the child transition to public school, preschool, Head Start, etc with no gaps in services. (Texas Health and Human Services)
SPECIAL EDUCATION ACRONYMS
There are many acronyms used in special education. Here we break down some of the most common ones.
Supporting Parents With Autistic Children
Parents of autistic children face unique challenges. A few methods to support parents of children with autism can make a huge difference while spreading the theme of Autism Acceptance.
- Be Inclusive– Teach children to be understanding of the issues their autistic peers have. Children with inclusive parents are likely to be more inclusive towards autistic friends.
- Don’t Judge– It’s extremely challenging to be a parent of a child with autism. Don’t judge a parent for any perceived lack of control or discipline or how they raise their autistic child.
- Understand Autism– Learn about autism and understand it. There is much misinformation about autism out there, so obtain all information about autism from reputable sources like scientific journals, credible newspapers, and advocacy groups.
- Maintain Confidentiality– Keep everything a parent of an autistic child says confidential Breaking confidentiality can be rude or harmful. Respect the parent’s and child’s right to privacy.
- Advocate– Help parents by speaking up on behalf of themselves and their children when discrimination is encountered.
What Autism services do public schools provide?
The federal IDEA law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) defines an individual with a disability as a person with a physical or mental impairment that hinders critical life activities. This legislation ensures that students who need special services are given Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) personalized to their unique needs.
Texas public schools provide special services to over 70,000 students with autism yearly. Students with autism make up over 13% of all public school students who receive special education services. (TEA)
Public schools recognize the unique learning needs of students with autism. Texas regulations mandate that specific strategies be implemented in the IEP (Individualized Education Plan), in a portion of the plan called the Autism Supplement. The supplement provides guidance to educators on the best research-based educational practices for students with autism.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, and on April 2nd we honored World Autism Awareness Day. Autism Acceptance Month increases the awareness, understanding, and acceptance of people with autism. It fosters worldwide support and inspires a kinder, more inclusive world. (Autism Speaks)
TEA- Special Education
Autism Speaks- Signs of Autism
India Today- World Autism Awareness Day 2021
Go Public- Special Education Services
Applied Behavioral Analysis- Things Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum Want you to Know
Applied Behavioral Analysis- Five Ways to Support Parents of Children with Autism