Friday, July 21, 2006

Autism Guide for Classroom Teachers

The National Education Association, the 2.8 million-member teachers union, recently published a useful guide for classroom teachers designed to help them understand what autism spectrum disorders are, how they affect children, their development and behavior in unfamiliar and stressful situations such as hectic schools and busy, noisy classrooms. The 44-page guide called "The Puzzle of Autism" reviews some definitions and characteristics of ASDs, discusses strategies for behavioral intervention, communication and social skills and even has some information about directions for future research in the area.

The NEA worked with the Autism Society of America to produce the guide and says its seeks to answer the question, "How can general education teachers and other educational professionals address their complex communication, social and learning needs?" To the NEA's credit, this report doesn't pretend to be the be-all, answer-all panacea for teachers, rather "it should be considered a brief summary of these students’ strengths and deficits, the challenges these deficits create in the classroom, and strategies that education personnel can use to facilitate positive educational and social experiences for students with ASD."

The guide is well put together, though it is fair to say this will be most useful for teachers who have a high-functioning kid in class. The examples and illustrations emphasize teachers dealing with students who have verbal and writing skills. Still, the information is valuable and intended for an essential audience -- educators -- who, the NEA says, are seeing more and more students with ASDs in their mainstream classrooms.

Parents could use this guide, too, not only to share it with other parents, their family members who may have trouble understanding what's going on with your child. You could study what the teachers' guide says -- consider it a baseline for the-least-educators-can-do in class -- and then map it against what you're seeing when you visit school, or discuss educational goals (including special classroom provisions) in meetings for a student's individualized educational plan.

The NEA was offering to send printed copies of the report for free to any one who requested one. In early June, the group posted this note on its website: "Due to an overwhelming number of requests for the guide, they are temporarily out of stock. They will be reprinted in the near future so check this page later for updates."

For future reference, I've added a link to this guide under "Reports and Books" in the right-hand column of this blog.

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