What is Autism?

Autism is a wide-spectrum developmental disorder that varies significantly in severity and that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment. This means that no two people with ASD will have exactly the same symptoms. However, in virtually all cases, ASD is apparent by age four or five and is characterized by some combination of differences in forming and navigating social relationships, impairments in the ability to communicate verbally and nonverbally that are sometimes subtle, and sensory defendedness, repetitive behavior patterns, restricted interests/activities, and difficulties with cognitive flexibility and adjustment to change. 

Classrooms are dynamic interpersonal environments that rely heavily on being able to interact, socialize and communicate with others effectively. A lack of social-emotional-communicative competence can lead to not only a decrease in a student’s connection with school, but also their academic performance. Not surprisingly, students on the spectrum are about four times more likely than their peers to require additional learning and social support services. Thus, it is important to remember that if someone is not learning the way we teach, we need to try to teach the way they learn.

For more about what is an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis please check out this video: 


Meet Julia: A Muppet with Autism

In 2017, Sesame Street welcomed a new character to the block: Julia, a young girl who has autism. A special premier episode features all the Sesame Street friends meeting Julia and learning to appreciate all types of people. This video is posted on Reading Rockets with a collection of other valuable resources and videos.


Top Ten Effective Classroom Strategies:


Use visual and non-verbal cues.


Provide structure with routine and schedules.


Support transitions and whenever possible, provide warnings about changes or unusual events.


Build in student choices and offer extrinsic incentives to complete tasks.


Give opportunities for breaks or access to alternative, quiet work space.


Help with activity level and alertness problems by building in walks or physical activities.

Facilitate communication opportunities with peers, as well as adults.


Teach to strengths, such as visual modality or memory for factual knowledge, and incorporate special interests.


Give options for expression, such as illustrations or charts.


Teach about autism: encourage self-awareness and use sensitization activities with peers.