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Autism Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities. People with autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), have differences in the way their brains develop and process information. As a result, they face significant communication, social, and behavior challenges.

Symptoms can be severe and interfere with everyday tasks, or they can be mild and cause only a few problems. Experts call this range of symptoms a "spectrum." Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) are conditions that fall within the autism spectrum.

Signs of autism may include:

Although there's no cure for autism, early intervention and therapy can help kids develop skills and achieve their potential. Therapy is tailored to each child's individual needs and may include behavioral, educational, speech, and occupational therapies.

Students with autism may:

Because bullies often target students who seem "different," certain health conditions, including autism, can put kids and teens at higher risk of being bullied.

What Teachers Can Do

Many students with autism can thrive in a structured environment, so establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible. Adhering to daily schedules and allowing ample time for transitions can help with many students' behavioral issues and frustrations.

Instructional support is often needed within the classroom setting. Students with autism learn better with pictures and demonstrations. Limit long verbal instructions and provide visual cues and written instructions, when possible. Also limit distractions and use positive rewards for positive behaviors.

Many people with autism have strong passions and deep interests. Getting to know your students' likes and dislikes can help you understand what motivates them. Students with autism can participate in most activities that other kids and teens do, so provide encouragement to participate when appropriate.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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