April is Autism Awareness Month so I wanted to do my own research on how to work with these children. I personally know several kids and teachers learning to adapt and incorporate this disability into their everyday lives.
What is Autism?
According to Fredda Brown, Ph.D., Sima Gerber, Ph.D. and Christopher M. Oliva, Ph.D.; City University of New York - Queens College, autism is a disability that affects the way children behave, learn and interact in everyday situations. Children with autism often have difficulties with communication and social interactions. They may seem uninterested in being part of typical activities or playing with other children. Very often, children with autism engage in repetitive activities and body movements, such as rocking, pacing, or repetitive hand movements.
Autism is called a "spectrum" disorder — meaning that there is a great range of characteristics that you may see. For example, some children may learn to speak, while others may not develop verbal language.
The number of children reported to have autism varies greatly. Not too long ago reports indicated that this disorder occurred in as many as 2-5 people out of every 10,000 people. However, in the last several years this estimate has dramatically increased. Some current reports indicate as many as 1 out of 150 children are somewhere on the autism spectrum. Autism is four times more common in boys than girls.
How You Can Help
Social skills is a hard area for teachers and caregivers to teach and incorporate into their classrooms. While there is no set way to teach social skills, it may be helpful to focus on a few areas first. First, think about lessons that teach the individual self-management to help them recognize their own behaviors. Second, teach the individual to identify emotions in themselves and in others. Next, promote self-awareness so that students understand how they interact with the world around them. Last, encourage communication through pictures, gestures, writing or words.
There are lots of great resources and tips to help parents and teachers at the Autism Classroom website.
For more information on early childhood development and resources contact Audrey Rider.