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When the "Autism Classroom" Doesn't Fit

By July 15, 2011

The educational world has a tough time with providing appropriate educational supports for individual kids.  And that's understandable: it's a whole lot easier to create an "autism classroom" than it is to meet the needs of individual children one at a time.  And so, in many districts, classrooms are created around an understanding of what it means to be autistic.  Generally speaking, it's assumed that kids in that classroom will have these characteristics:

  • Can't function without rigid structure.
  • Can't focus if there are any visual distractions in the room.
  • Is easily overwhelmed by any kind of loud noise or flickering light.
  • Is prone to tantrums and "meltdowns" when routines are changed.
  • Has focused and perseverative interests, and has a very hard time focusing on anything outside that interest.
  • Has little or no ability to speak - or, if he/she does speak, tends to perseverate on a topic of special interest.
  • Requires extensive preparation for any new activity, place or expectation.
  • Has little or no empathy or imagination.
  • Has a talent for mathematics.
  • Loves and is highly skilled in digital technology.
  • Tends to see details clearly and big picture not at all.
  • Rarely if ever expresses affection or love.

All of these statement are used to explain and describe autism, so that teachers, instructors and families can create an appropriate environment for learning and play.

Do any of these descriptors reflect the real person with autism in your life?

Our son, Tom, is nearly fifteen.  According to the present criteria, he is accurately diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) - an autism spectrum disorder.  Certainly, he has significant speech and language delays, and some real learning issues.

But at this point in his life, only ONE of these descriptors is accurate: he does tend to see the trees rather than the forest.

He has no more sensory dysfunction than many typical people.  He's a wonderful and creative writer and storyteller, and he has a large vocabulary.  He can talk a mile a minute when he's comfortable and relaxed.  He's dreadful at math and has very little interest in computers.  He can focus on anything that interests him, regardless of fluttering posters or loud surroundings.  He's delighted to experience new things, provided they sound like fun.  And he's one of the most sensitive, loving people I know.

Kind and caring teachers and others gladly create a setting for him that fits all the criteria I've listed above.  But despite his diagnosis, Tom doesn't need those things.

Removing posters, putting in incandescent lights, avoiding changes in routine and keeping him away from loud noise would be like offering a child with with cerebral palsy a wheelchair, even if he's fully capable of walking.  Yes, many people with the disorder DO need the supports - but this individual person doesn't.  When you provide unnecessary supports, you undermine independence, lower expectations, and - all unintentionally - provide a poor educational experience.

That's not to say Tom doesn't need supports.  He sure does.

In a world in which rapid language processing is a key to success, he can take a full minute to absorb a question, find an answer, put the answer into words, and speak up.  In a typical classroom, he'd be too late every time.  In a world in which facile, highly verbal social interaction is a key to success, Tom is often tongue-tied.  That means that making friends or even having a casual chat with a stranger is still beyond him.  In a world that demands instant calculation of time, money, speed and percentage, Tom just doesn't have the skills.

Yes, he's accurately diagnosed on the autism spectrum, at least for now (until new diagnostic criteria are implemented).  And yes, there are real and significant issues that make it impossible for our son to function well in a high school classroom filled with 23 of his same-aged peers.  But while all this is true, the "autism classroom" is all wrong for him.

Does your child with autism fit neatly into the "autism classroom?"  If not, how have you worked with your school to develop a setting that works well for her or him?

More About Autism and Education

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July 15, 2011 at 8:45 am
(1) Sandy-2000 says:

I’d scratch that Rarely if ever expresses affection or love in the educational setting. Regardless of disability or classroom, these days a kid can get in trouble for a simple hug. I’m also not so sure about that math or digital technology. I thought my son would be great with math, he could count before he could talk. But in the end by third grade, math became very difficult for him. I think that’s a misconception of those with autism.

I think middle school and high school is awkward for many typical kids and many typical kids have bad experiences with their peers. As for special ed, I know some schools which don’t want to do inclusion so easily, and others where it’s the first option they try. I know parents who have kids who have a hard time in inclusion, yet that’s where they are with para supports. My school district where I live was and still is horrible, so I can only say at kindergarten age, my son belonged in a special ed classroom. So I never sent him to our school district, as you know. As it turned out, he’s never been in a special ed classroom except as a service specific for a particular academic need but I cant remember the service times. I think it’s an hour a week. The school I sent him to did well by him, and all their special ed students. Academically, he’s done very well with the supports, he has a academic para and there are only a few area’s where that para isn’t needed 1:1, but my son may never be a blossoming social person even with redireaction, which seems to be your main concern. My son’s been getting social skills class since kindergarten along with private, and it still does not come easily for him. He has no concept of time or organizational skills. If a Para doesn’t help him at the end of the day, he wont bring home what he should. I can say of the typical kids in his classes, they have issues with inappropriate behavior and words than my son does.

July 15, 2011 at 8:51 am
(2) Sandy-2000 says:

Ask yourself of any classroom, would your child be more social or not? I don’t think class setting would change that for most kids and it wouldn’t for my son. I think it may be more difficult for those who were home schooled to transition to a public class setting. I’m not sure when or if you’re planning this route however most schools do have transitional steps and I’d suggest having your son visit the class settings prior to going back to public school. In my sons school their transitional steps is having the student go to classes with a paired student. This year is that transitional year for us, so I’ll know more about that program later this school year. My son does very well with routine and actually functions better with it, so I think he’ll actually do well the class changes but he could surprise me. I think the difference though between my son and yours is my son has always had the larger peer exposure in a class room setting. If you decide public school, I hope your son does well

July 15, 2011 at 9:10 am
(3) autism says:

Just to clarify, that list was intended to describe “typical” autistic kids – my point being that it really doesn’t describe MY autistic kid at all!

Re school for Tom, yes, he’s moving from homeschool to high school this fall. But he’s been in various types of group classes all along, not “schooled at home,” and he’s been at the high school many times for science fairs, band concerts, etc. So while it’ll be a change it won’t be as huge as all that. He’ll get to see all the spaces before school starts, meet his guidance counselor and some of his teachers, etc.

For Tom, typical classes aren’t a great option, so he’ll be in mostly resource-room settings with smaller groups and adapted curriculum. He’ll also be getting social skills, study skills, adaptive gym, and (of course) typical band, which at our school meets DAILY.

We were warned early, btw, that the locker (!!) is a very big deal for all kids … so we’re working on “how to open a combination lock” all summer long!


July 15, 2011 at 9:28 am
(4) Sandy-2000 says:

I thought we’d have a hard time with the locker combo. My son had the combo lock starting last year. I always thought they had 3 numbers, these locks had 4. We started practicing on a safe lock, conveniently bought on clearance as an ‘I C’ item by hubby, but it worked out well and so far only used for the purpose of practice for a school locker. My son is quite visual so writing the numbers wasn’t enough, I needed arrow directions too but to my surprise, the first week of school he had no problem but a few times. I just had to watch how he problem solved, being no good with time he did the combo and left it at the last number so he could easily open it…. but then so could anyone else.

July 15, 2011 at 9:47 am
(5) HappyMomofTwoGirls says:

Good Morning All,
This piece is so interesting, Lisa. I am realizing how different services and schools are across the country. I teach in upstate New York in the same school district where my girls are students. It is a huge district, graduates about 900 a year. Both of my girls have always been in inclusive models at my insistence, although my youngest always have and always will need a 1:1 aide. While I understand that some kids need the self-contained classroom, I think it is VERY overused because it is easier for districts to just plop them altogether in one room. I can tell you as a teacher that this often does a great disservice to our kids. Our kids need exposure to the other kids for social skills and to feel a part of school and life. Plus, they need and deserve to be challenged and exposed to new things. Schools can and should modify for curriculum for students. The typical kids benefit as well; they develop patience and compassion and learn to see the people, not the challenges. I realize by high school that some kids will need a more practical education of life skills, but they should be given every chance to be with their typical peers. I have students, typical high school students, who visit the Life Skills class in our building to see the often quite significantly challenged kids who they were in class with in elementary school – still consider them classmates and friends in a way.
And as for those descriptors, autism is just a part of a child, so there is no way to develop a general description that fits everyone.

July 15, 2011 at 10:29 am
(6) autism says:

As regards inclusion, while I have nothing against it, full inclusion in a typical classroom setting doesn’t work well for my son.

“Exposure” isn’t enough for him: it just gets him anxious. What’s more, because he has language-processing delays, he simply can’t keep up with the speed at which general ed teachers speak, or with the pace of typical classroom conversation (it can take him a minute to process; by then it’s too late). So he then winds up being taught by an aide, who winds up DOING things for Tom that Tom could do for himself in a smaller, slower-paced setting.

Thus, he’s better off in a smaller group, or with inclusion in a setting where he’s very confident and capable (in his case, that works well with band).

So far, though Tom is verbal, bright, funny and kind, he has not been able to really make friends with another peer. Some of that is lack of interest from peers – but most of it is that it is so anxiety-producing for Tom to come up with the “right” responses in an open-ended situation that it’s easier to just not bother! I totally understand that, and don’t push too hard – but we are seriously considering getting him into the “best buddies” program this year.


July 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm
(7) Christi says:

My 15 year old sounds a lot like yours. What is the “best buddies” program? Where do you live?

July 15, 2011 at 9:54 am
(8) HappyMomofTwoGirls says:

PS The last post closed. After some soul searching, I am saying this….I initially posted on the Age of Autism website having no idea what the site was about, and I was too strong in my statement. I did say something like “b***S***” studies when referring to continued money spent on vaccine/autism studies. I didn’t ever remember those words until Twyla mentioned them because it was months ago. I apologized for that then on the site and I apologize now. However, I never attacked a person, as I was attacked. As far as I know that is the only time I used anything close to a vulgarity.
From this point on, I will refrain from talking about AgeofAutism on here. I will respect their opinions and disagree politely if their posters will do the same.
Twyla is right about one thing – since I do not like the site, I will not go there. It just upsets me. Enough said.
Lisa, I am sorry if I derailed any conversations on here.

July 15, 2011 at 10:15 am
(9) autism says:

HappyMom – no worries. This stuff happens all the time, and after attempting to edit and mediate comments (and running up against some very angry commenters!), I’ve decided to just end threads when they start going in a personal direction.

As with everyone who comes to this site, you’re always welcome to come back and comment on any open thread.



July 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm
(10) Leila says:

My son is currently in the regular classroom with an aide(Elementary School) but I’m open to other options in the future depending on how he changes over the years. The regular classroom does help with social skills and more involvement in the school community. Our school district, which has both autism classrooms AND general special day classrooms, now has a pilot program that is abolishing all self-contained classrooms in 6 schools, and putting the special needs students in the inclusive setting provided there’s a special ed teacher in the regular classroom at all times. Of course parents have the freedom to move their child to a different school if they don’t like this new system.

July 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm
(11) Michelle says:

My 7 year old son has always been loving. He gives hugs and says “I love you.” He has empathy (That baby is crying, the baby is sad! He’ll feel better soon…) and a great imagination. He attended an autism lab for preschool for 2 years, then regular kindergarten at age 6 with 3 periods of inclusive resource. Next year he will have 1 period of resource in his 1st grade classroom.

July 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm
(12) Coleen says:

I am a fairly new teacher in an autism specific classroom. No child with autism is ever typical. It all boils down to what is best for the individual child. My students are in middle school and attend some general education classes. We have had great success with the elective classes. I have a student who will be taking drama for the third time. My quiet, reserved student is blossoming. She looks forward to the class everyday. I have had success with another student in woodshop. He thrives with the structure and rules. It is awesome!!!!
Are the specific classrooms the best choice…..all depends and it all depends on a number of issues.

July 15, 2011 at 8:41 pm
(13) Kaori says:

I am a tutor in a pre-school classroom specificaly for children diagnosed with autism. I see firsthand how the classroom curriculm benefits those children with specific deficits in sensory/social environments.
I have also witnessed how the teacher modifies her curriculm to those children who are ‘higher functioning’ in the sense that they need more ‘practice’ in a gen ed classroom.
Every child is different, and it takes a very special teacher who is savvy enough to create/modify a behavior plan to each child’s goals and expectations.
It is amazing to see the transformation in these children given the learning readiness skills taught.

July 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm
(14) Richard Bard says:

Thanks for this excellent post. It will spark productive conversations that can make a difference. I’m rooting for Tom.

July 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm
(15) Momof3 says:

This is topic number 1 in my household. Our district has a)inclusion with teachers who have minimal training, b) SDC with mixed abilities or c) one autism classroom with a teacher, who when asked, didn’t know what Floortime was. And this is in a semi-large district in Southern California. My son is considered high functioning as he is very verbal, he’s great at math and many of those things listed as the “typical” autistic. But, he plays with other kids, has friends, makes everyone laugh and loves to be hugged. On paper, he looks like he would do fine in an inclusion classroom but like Tom, he processes slowly and can’t have a spontaneous conversation on a topic that is new or non-preferred.
His anxiety keeps him from being able to be in a typical classroom. I’m grateful that our district has approved for three years to be placed in a NPS that has reverse inclusion. He is in a classroom with 4 typical peers and the rest of the 15 total students have an IEP. This school doesn’t do anything that a public school couldn’t do. They provide continuous training, have wonderful programs in place for social emotional development, integrate social skills into the daily instructional time and have onsite OT, PT and Speech.
In my talking with public school teachers, they crave ways to help their students achieve but lack the proper coaching to be able to reach our kids. It perplexes us why they don’t get what they need. We spend too much time teaching to the test instead of reaching the kids and teaching them to love learning.
My son loves learning and luckily, his school sees that he has potential because of his intelligence. Unlike when he was in the public school. He was a diagnosis who needed to be taught in a “typical” way, not in the way he learns.

July 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm
(16) Fred Bass, Architect says:

As an education oriented Architect and two grandsons with autism, I tend to get mixed signals on design. We architects view the autism problem like a special education classroom, and it just isn’t so. An outline of specific do and do not is the easy way, but fails individuals as your article pointed out. My wife burned some toast during a visit by Titus and Tommy, when the smoke alarm(s) began screeching around the house, both the boys, with their hands over their ears, ran in circles terrified trying to get away from this terrible sound! If we had had flashing lights (like in a school) I can’t imagine the added confusion. Now put 10 or 15 autistic children in a classroom and repeat the same scenario. The building codes mandate alarms that sound and flash for ADA compliance, but that would send autistic kids into a frenzy. The simple answer is an over ride switch the teacher could trip to cut out the sound and lights and still stay within code compliance. And this is just scratching at the surface of specifics for classrooms tuned for autistic use. If I hadn’t seen the boys reaction I would have never come up with this idea. There’s lots more too. My guess is that there needs to be autistic standards that can be implemented and yet allow the classroom to be used by other students (special needs or general). Education is the answer. Since Autism is considered a disability, specifics need to be included in the Federal Register and documents for ADA like ANSI 117.1 that address specifics for spectrum individuals as well as general needs for the handicapped. How’s that for a hand full of problems to solve?

July 19, 2011 at 5:29 am
(17) dizzibissim says:

You make an interesting point, Fred regarding fire alarms and it is great to read that you are working on this. In my classroom we practice with a recorded fire alarm from day one [ at a much lower volume] so that those children who have sensory difficulties with noise are not taken by surprise. Although I see the benefit of the type of technology you are working on, for many children responding to fire alarms will be a vital part of life and an experience that needs to be practiced.

With regard to the main thrust of the article, I begin with a low stimulation /high structure approach and then adapt my classroom as the year progresses to more closely resemble a mainstream classroom as my new children are prepared for inclusion.

July 20, 2011 at 8:35 am
(18) Sandy-2000 says:

I agree about those fire alarms and one area a modification should not be done. A gorcery store or Target doesn’t alter those alarms and all kids, including those with autism, need to know what those alarms mean and what they need to do if they hear one go off no matter where they are. I think the problem with schools is the drills aren’t often enough for kids with autism for them to ever get used to the sounds and sights and learn what they mean and what they’re suppose to do. I think like many kids, fire drills should be repetitive. I think in a self contained class, since the school does plan these drills, they need many more Para’s if the class contains 10 to 15 kids with sensory issues, to help each individual child through this important life skill.

July 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm
(19) Dianna says:

My son was first in a pre-school environment that took special ed kids and some kids with speech problems and social delays. He thrived in that classroom. He’s been in an all autistic school for about 6 years now.

At first, he really liked it and did fairly well, but recently, I observed him in class and he seemed to be bored to death and just on the verge of falling asleep unless there was music playing. I feel like the whole time he is in school, the teachers are teaching him and the other children how to shut up and sit down. My son complains that he hates going to school. “It’s boring and there’s nothing to do.”

I’m REALLY open for another option!

July 19, 2011 at 2:11 am
(20) zusia says:

I agree with HappyMom that self-contained classrooms are overused. The only students that should be in self-contained classrooms at age 15 are those with severe behavioral issues that compromise safety. The rest can be mainstreamed, with supports, in at least some if not all their classes. There is always an abundance of general ed students to provide peer interaction and support.

Many of the students I’ve worked with in middle school have successfully bridged to high school programs that included both resource and general ed classes, including elective classes. I’ve worked with several students who are like Tom in that they are best characterized by their strengths and learning differences than autism. These students tend to mature in middle and early high school and, if given the opportunity, blossom both academically and socially. This is where the hard work you put into Tom’s musical skills will pay back big time.

My son fit the “typical” list you included here, and while school was a poor fit for him in preschool and Kindergarten, each year became increasingly more comfortable as the schools learned better ways to handle my son without actually creating an “autism classroom” for him. Instead, we simply turned all his weak areas (and any of their complaints) into IEP goals, and worked from there. It can be done.

July 19, 2011 at 7:39 am
(21) Lisa says:

Zusia – what I really can’t wrap my head around, relative to “mainstreaming” or “inclusion” in a typical classroom, is the issue of language processing speed. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

Basically, Tom takes 2-3 times as long as a typical person to process spoken or written language. And sometimes he only really “gets” a small part of what’s written or said. What that means is -

- he may only answer a specific question when it’s asked more than once, and when he is given time to formulate an answer. even then, he may answer incorrectly when he KNOWS the answer, because he says the first, fastest thing that comes into his head in order to meet the expectation of speed.

- he may not fully grasp the spoken or written material, and if it’s said or read too fast he stops listening. As a result, he hears only the first few words, and then “disconnects” because he isn’t really understanding the content.

- he will never raise his hand in a typical setting, because he will never have the answer available in appropriate language fast enough to bother. By the time his answer is formulated, the question was already answered, a new question is on the table.

- there are many concepts in typical curricula that are either outside his knowledge base or too complex for him to grasp. He needs to go slow, look for clues, and talk through the content point by point.

So my question for you is this: short of having each class taught twice, once for understanding and once for the experience of inclusion, how in the world can a kid like Tom do well in a general academic classroom? We had an aide at one point, but in the typical classroom she wound up doing half the work for him or teaching him separately because he simply wasn’t responding fast enough to keep up with the class.

Thanks, Zusia – looking forward to your thoughts.


July 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm
(22) hera says:

Hi Lisa,
My son is very similar to yours in that slow processing time is a major issue for him.
It seems in his case to be linked to his speech apraxia/agenesis of the corpus collosum.He has great imaginative play and is really good with geometrics , building etc, likes and understands music, but “return time” for speech/communication takes a while.
The best analogy I can find is that it seems like he is in a classroom where everybody is speaking a foreign language, that he can understand if he puts effort into it, but that takes him time to translate.
Interestingly, he did not have that problem with sign language; he became fluent extremely fast, at least to the limits of what I could teach him.And when he is tired or groping for words, he will still sometimes sign, I think without even noticing that he is doing it.
I have sometimes wondered whether there is any chance Tom shares the same condition; apparently unless someone has a brain scan, the condition normally goes unidentified.

July 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm
(23) Lisa says:

Gee, Hera, what you’re describing sounds very similar … I’ve actually used that “foreign language” analogy for Tom, especially when describing his idiosyncratic use of grammar. But we’ve never even thought about having a brain scan since there seemed to be no particular reason for one – he never had any kind of injury, and there are no health issues (seizures, etc.) that would necessitate it.

If you don’t mind my asking -

What got you to the place of requesting a brain scan, and do you think you learned much about how to help your son as a result of getting the results you did?


Is your son now mainstreamed? If so, how in the world does the school make it work for him?

Thanks so much for your insights!


July 20, 2011 at 8:25 am
(24) Sandy-2000 says:

It actually sounds like Central Auditory Processing Disorder, I’d have him tested for it.

July 19, 2011 at 4:57 pm
(25) hera says:

Hi Lisa, I would be happy to answer re the brain scan, but that would require a fair amount of personal information, so is there an email address I could use to answer privately?
Yes, he mainstreams in a very small private school that has tiny classes ( about 12 kids in a combo/ grade ), which works really well for him. There is not a lot of homework and my son is given smaller chunks of work to do in class than the other kids,( it takes him much longer) so we have time to do a fair amount of catch up teaching at home.

By the way, have just found and started working with the Jump Math books; a Canadian series that seems to work well for kids who find math a challenge.
He had a great teacher last year who left ; we are hoping the new teacher will work out as well for him.

July 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm
(26) Lisa says:

Hera – you can reach me at autism.guide@about.com. Many thanks!


July 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm
(27) zusia says:

Lisa– the learning differences you describe could be pinned to one or more root causes. I agree with Sandy that CAPD could be part of the problem. It’s always my initial thought because I have CAPD myself and so does my son. CAPD, by the way, is not a singular set of symptoms and it can cover a broad range of presentations. A dozen years ago there were two websites that mentioned it. Today there are hundreds. When that happens, as with other conditions like hyperlexia, the information disseminated tends to take on a life of its own. So be careful. There really is no one true source of information on CAPD.

(Typically written CAPD it’s pronounced CAP-DEE.)

In my experience, CAPD is more prevalent in children who have a strength in visual processing, as seen in the *typical* presentation of autism. These children are more often delayed in language skills, even if they can speak. CAPD can appear in children who do not have a strength in visual processing but it’s going to look a lot different. That’s why you can’t say a child has or doesn’t have CAPD on the basis of symptoms you see.

Many, many children have symptoms of auditory processing problems because auditory processing continues to develop until adolescence. It has to be tested by an audiologist with specific training in CAPD, and they don’t usually test children until age 7. Tom, being 15, could probably be easily tested since he’s far past the age for continued development.

What testing of any kind (including MRI, EEG) does is rule in or out various anomalies and conditions. It often helps parents see the problem in black and white.

July 20, 2011 at 4:24 pm
(28) zusia says:

There are other possibilities for what you’re seeing, Lisa. Since I (and others here) can’t see it, you’ll have to pick and chose from what looks familiar to you.

I don’t know if you’re aware, but some people are beginning to call ADHD-Inattentive, or similar symptoms, as Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. I ran into it last year while working with some students who seemed to fit its profile. To me there is some element of CAPD within SCT, but since the concept of SCT is so new, I don’t know that it’s been looked at. I do know that brain scans of people with ADHD-Inattentive are very different than those with other types of ADHD to the point of it being thought that ADHD-I is really a completely different form altogether; some think it’s more closely related to autism. I’ve had forum discussions with adults with autism who concur, although they only represent a faction.

Another consideration is Receptive Language Disorder but that’s usually ascribed to younger students. My son had both receptive and expressive language disorder as a small child, but both improved with continued development. Some children mature slower in these areas and that could be what you’re seeing. Testing by a very experienced speech pathologist would give you a very detailed profile of Tom’s language issues. Keep in mind that very few SLPs have the ability to do thorough testing. Our neurologist told us there were only two in my state. Testing involved three days over three weeks, at 4 hours per day.

July 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm
(29) zu says:

All of what I’ve written has to do with processing itself, and as others have written, processing issues are what’s really at the base of all the issues Tom’s presenting.

You ask what can be done in the classroom. Yes, pre-teaching is how I handled my son’s early years of instruction. This works because information already understood does not need to be processed the next time it comes up.

For instance, Joe used to come apart when the class had to create some sort of project. Because he not only had CAPD but a strength in visual processing, Joe needed to be able to see something in his mind before he could understand it. The CAPD made it difficult for him to understand the spoken language, which made it impossible for him to visualize what was being said. He’d collapse in frustration.

When his teachers learned to show him the items he’d be working beforehand, and where to find them, how to use tools, and most importantly, what the finished project should look like, he could then sit through the class instruction and follow along. He wasn’t wasting energy trying to comprehend information that was rushing past him.

Regardless of age or subject, preteaching makes all the information available beforehand, so that the student has an easier time processing the instructions.

There are other things a classroom teacher can do: providing lists on boards, step-by-step (1,2,3) classroom instructions, examples of all finished work, rubrics from which to work, etc.

I need to run right now but can give all sorts of examples of what teachers can do to accommodate not only Tom but the many undiagnosed students who have processing issues of some kind.

July 20, 2011 at 5:15 pm
(30) Lisa says:

Wow – this is probably the most interesting and informative thread I’ve had the pleasure of reading!

Zu – I would love to learn more about SCT, etc. – are you actually a professional in that area? If so, perhaps I can interview you for some articles on topics related to cognition in the classroom. Let me know via email – autism.guide@about.com.

Of course, it’s a long way from knowing what works to actually getting it implemented… but that’s a whole nother issue.


July 22, 2011 at 9:02 am
(31) jodifla says:

Lisa, you might want to join the Auditory Processing@ yahoogroups.com. They are currently discussing just what you are talking about….trouble with digesting the information that comes at typical speed in an typical classroom.

There’s been lots of great suggestions including LiveScribe pens, getting the notes for a fellow student or even the teacher (can be written into the IEP) , learning memory tips to take notes, etc.

It’s run by an audiologist, and I’m sure she’d be glad to take your questions.

July 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm
(32) Marie says:

I would like to say how frustrating it is for me to read the list. My son is nearly 15. He’s very bright, loving and caring…..and he show’s it. He is very good at math. Yes, he’s easily distracted…however, he has been with an instructional aide since Kindergarten. Someone once told me (when my child was first diagnosed) You’ve met one autistic child you’ve met one autistic child…that means don’t lump them all into one stereo -type. That’s an unfortuate issue that happens for these kids with special ed criteria. My son fortunately is mainstreamed in a typical classroom,(I had to fight for this) in which he does the same work as his neuro typical peers. He had struggles, they have not gone away….but have been “curved”. Some of his behaviors, and anxieties have been lessoned overtime. However, he is able to do the typical classroom work. His aide is very helpful in that she pushes him to be independent, however she’s very mindful of helping him get organized and remember things to bring home at the end of his school day.

The main point I want to make here is that this “Autistic Classroom” is for the birds. These kids are individuals and have individual needs. Yes the learn differently, but do not lump everyone together in on pot. Otherwise, these miss out on opportunities to be outstanding in their own level of successes.

July 25, 2011 at 9:15 am
(33) Jim says:

I guess that’s what the IEP is for, right? I mean, having visited with the teachers at my daughter’s new school (she will attend Kindergarten this Fall), I know that hey have some baseline idea of what percentage of time they’d like to see her in her “homeroom” (Typically Developing Classroom) and what percentage of time they’d like to see her in the Autism Classroom.

I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that I will be able to steer the IEP team toward an appropriate balance of time in the Autism Classroom and the Homeroom. Obviously THEY have no idea what her strengths and weaknesses are, so if I ALLOW them to just make the assumption that her AS diagnosis means all of the things you mentioned in your piece then you’re right. . . it won’t necessarily be a good fit.

But that’s why she’s got me (and her mom). . . to act as her advocate and push the district into providing her with instruction that better suits her strengths and helps her with her weaknesses.

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