Teaching Autism

This work will provide a scientific explanation, as best that can be offered with regard to autism spectrum disorders as well as detail and define some of the varied controversies, regarding causation and educational standards of care for those who exhibit its pervasive commonality, social impairment. The work will very briefly discus the history of the disorder and then examine some aspects of controversy surrounding it.

Autism is an impairment with as many questions as answers, when it comes to its history and causes. Scientifically, the only answers available are simply the knowledge that it exists and that it manifests in certain ways with regard to individual behaviors, yet even such knowledge is complex as autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that individuals recognized to have it to varied degrees and clinical presentation. Yet, each of the varied presentations of autism share one common scientific trait, that being the defining feature of autism the presence of a distinctive impairment in the nature and quality of social and communicative development (influenced by the specific biological and environmental circumstances of the individual). It is this impairment that distinguishes autism from other neurodevelopmental conditions (e.g., mental retardation, developmental language disorders, specific learning disabilities). For example, whereas mental retardation is characterized by a pervasive developmental delay, autism is characterized by a distinctive impairment in the nature of social-communicative development. The prognostic significance of this autistic social dysfunction is underscored by preliminary studies that report a negative correlation between the severity of this social impairment and treatment responsiveness

Bregman 3)

Social and linguistic growth are frequently determined by not only the nature of the impairment in its clinical representation but also by the quality and character of early interventions. From diagnosis to intervention the science of autism is varied and teaching children with autism then relies on adaptability and symptom or though recognition on the part of the educator.

Additional complexity in the differential diagnosis of autism and related PDDs results from a wide range of accompanying abnormalities within cognitive, adaptive, affective, and behavioral domains of development, including mental retardation, limitations in adaptive skills (especially in socialization and functional communication; learning disabilities (e.g., nonverbal learning disability, mood instability, stereotypic and self-injurious behaviors, anxiety disorders and aggression.

Bregman 4)

The scientific nature of the disorder, as well as the science of educating those with it are all in a state of the unknown, yet the later is much more indicative of recognition of the varied challenges of the various levels and natures of the social and cognitive impairment that accompanies the disorder, while much of the clinical history of the disease is unknown.

Autism in History

The recognition of autism in all its varied forms did not occur in an discrete diagnostic way until the 1940s when sadly science adopted an idea of autism as a disorder associated almost completely with lack of parental care and nurture. Though at least two scientists were publishing on the disorder, the one who was successful and whose work became widely known drove the idea that autism was an environmental disorder, which became the persistent view of it through the 1940to the 1960s. This is not to say that the disorder could not be found in history as a pervasive one marked by social impairment, it previously defied clinical diagnostic criteria and again was of unknown origin. Thus begins the controversy of autism and its convoluted historical representation including limited treatment options, even in cases where it was abundantly clear that the disorder and its characteristics were pervasive, rather than conditioned.

Hollander iii) One man's opinion drove the idea that autism was preventable, rather than treatable and therefore blame, shame and inaccurate treatment ruled the day, until such time as the federal government and the states began to pass education laws that demanded equal education for children with disabilities and such children began to enter the education system in numbers enough to observe and reformulate opinion upon. Yet, this is not and will not remain the final controversy regarding the disorder as it etiology is still very much unknown and debated

Correlation assumptions, associated with growth periods, language development and in one case even the nature, potential damage associated with childhood immunizations of all things have been controversially linked to autism and its substantial increase in occurrence over the years. Instead of underlying probable causes is the recent immunization, and specifically the MMR connection to autism. In the last fifteen or so years the concerns about vaccinations, and particularly the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR) have come to the forefront of societies debates from a limited connection to autism that is most likely associated to the correlation between onset of symptoms of autism and autism spectrum disorders and standard immunization practices. The fear created a general public that was afraid to allow their children to get the life saving MMR and in turn many parents have denied their children vaccinations at all. Parents' fears of some connection between the vaccination and/or its ingredient makeup cause or trigger autism and an accompanying serious bowel disease is related to a single, very limited research study conducted in the UK (n 12). There has been a substantial increase in incidents of autism over the last 20 or so years and the extreme social, physical, emotional, financial and educational complications it can have parents and others seek to find a common link.

Steuernagel 138)

Controversy

Beyond the historical and current controversies regarding autism and its causes the simple fact that the medical model of autism is still pervasive in education and diagnosis creates additional concern and controversy surrounding the disorder.

The medical model of disability which was outlined in Chapter 1 has led to autism being defined as a disability which is characterized by deficits in the areas of communication, social interaction and imagi- nation. This definition locates the 'problem' within the individual and measures the deficits against what is considered to be the neuro- logically typical 'norm'. This traditional way of viewing autism leads us to believe that autistic people are the same as their neuro-typical peers, but that they have something missing. This does not account for or explain many of the features of autism.

(Breakey 122)

The medical model leaves many believing that the child is the source of the problem and the behavior and therefore the child needs to be altered to resolve or even simply cope with the clinical manifestation of the disorder. This then leaves many thinking that the environment in an education, home and community setting has no need for alteration to better meet the needs of such children and adults. "For years, debate has raged over the best methodology to use in educating children with autism. A wide body of research advocates developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) as the best guide for teaching children in early childhood (Bredekamp" (Francke, and Geist 125) With regard to education, the idea that autism behavior is something the child must alter to succeed, is clearly not the case as environmental and socially adaptive approaches to education are effective in helping these students achieve at higher levels than ever thought possible. In other words educators changing their opinions and approaches have shown many effective ways to help children with this disorder overcome their divergent thought processes and achieve success in social as well as cognitive function improvements.

Constant time delay (CTD) and simultaneous prompting (SP)]the results of these studies showed that both procedures promote the acquisition of target skills, and efficiency data indicated that the differences between the two procedures are minimal in favor of SE [special education] Because only three studies have compared the two procedures, the existing data from these studies are far from generalizing the findings, even for the acquisition of discrete skills. On the other hand, a wide range of skills must be taught in chaining, such as self-help skills, leisure skills, and daily living skills. To teach chained skills, educators and researchers need to know various procedures. The existing literature on this issue provides no guidance regarding the comparison of CTD and SP on teaching chained skills. However, none of the above studies was conducted with young children with autism. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to extend the existing literature in terms of teaching chained skills to young children with autism.

Kurt, and Tekin-Iftar 53)

Another well made point associated with the education of autism controversy is that autistic children are frequently seen as visual learners and therefore;

The most effective mode of presenting materials to this population is through nontransient visual supports (Hodgdon, 1999; Janzen, 1996; Schopler, 1996), such as black-and-white line drawings or the written word. Picture schedules, destination books, social stories, and other nontransient visual cues are critical for helping children with autism to organize and know what to do in a given environment (C. Grey, personal communication, March 8, 2000). It is also believed that children with autism use a Gestalt-type of information processing system (Hodgdon,…