Teacher’s Toolkit for Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month

National Autism Awareness Month has been celebrated each April since the 1970s in order to raise awareness about autism, Asperger syndrome and other pervasive developmental disorders. According to the CDC, the developmental disability known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) currently affects about 1 in 68 children. It crosses all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries and is five times more likely to occur in boys than girls.

Because autism is classified as a spectrum disorder, it can affect individuals differently and can include symptoms of varying severity. In general, individuals with an autism diagnosis have problems with communication and social interaction. Body language and facial expressions are difficult to interpret. People with autism may exhibit obsessive and repetitive behaviors and interests, such as repeating certain words and fixating on specific objects.

The Autism Society reports that there is no “cure” for ASD, but it is treatable. Signs of the disorder are most apparent between the ages of 2 and 6. Diagnosing the disorder in infants and very young children can be difficult, but early diagnosis and treatment can lead to significant improvements. Developmental screening for babies and children is highly recommended in order to detect early symptoms.

According to the Autism Society, these are five “red flag” behaviors that signal the need for further evaluation:

  • Baby does not coo or babble by 12 months
  • Baby does not gesture by 12 months
  • Baby does not say single words by 16 months
  • Child does not say two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Child has a loss of language ability or social skills at any age

Parents are often the first to notice that their child is behaving in an unusual manner. One of the most important goals of National Autism Awareness Month is to educate parents about the importance of seeking medical advice and attention if they see red flag behaviors and other developmental delays in their child. The most effective interventions take place at an early age.

We have provided the following list of essential resources to help teachers, school administrators and parents understand and help children who have received an ASD diagnosis or who may have ASD.

Teacher’s Toolkit for Autism Awareness Month

Helpful Articles

How My Autistic Son Got Lost in the Public School System
by Amy Mackin, The Atlantic
 
The mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome describes the challenges she encountered while trying to help her son acclimate to the public school system.

Teaching Teachers About Autism

by Kymberly Grosso, Psychology Today
 
Grosso, the mother of an autistic son and a regular columnist for Psychology Today, discusses important competencies for teaching children with autism.

Teachers and Autism: One Parent’s Experience

by Erin MacMillan-Ramirez, USC Rossier Online
 
A teacher who is also the mother of a child with Asperger syndrome discovers that her son’s preschool teachers have no experience teaching children with ASD.

Autism Unlocked

by Bryn Nelson, Science News
 
This article covers recent research about autism diagnoses and how to spot early symptoms.

A Day in the Life of: Vicki Windham

by Vicki Windham, EdSurge
 
Teacher Vicki Windham describes why there is no such thing as a “typical” day in her high school class of developmentally disabled students.

Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew

by Ellen Notbohm
 
In an excerpt article from her bestselling book, author Ellen Notbohm describes 10 characteristics of children with autism. In addition to being a celebrated author, Notbohm is the parent of children with autism and ADHD.

What It’s Like on the Autism Spectrum

by James Hamblin, The Atlantic
 
A series of intense stories from The Atlantic about families dealing with autism spectrum disorder.

Films, Videos & Plays


Autism 101: Parenting Advice From Total Strangers 

This is a short, animated YouTube video that summarizes one parent’s experience interacting with other parents. It highlights the stereotypes many parents have about children with autism.



Carly’s Café – Experience Autism Through Carly’s Eyes 

Carly’s Café is a movie adaptation of the book Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism. This short film is about the experience of a 17-year-old girl living with non-verbal autism.



Wretches & Jabberers directed by Gerardine Wurzburg

A documentary that follows two men with autism who set off on an international quest to change people’s minds about disability and intelligence. Both have limited speech and face institutionalized lives until they learn to communicate by typing.



In the Key of Genius TED Talk by Derek Paravicini & Adam Ockelford

Despite being born blind and with severe autism, Derek Paravicini was gifted with perfect pitch and an innate musical talent. Adam Ockelford, Derek’s longtime piano teacher, explains how dedication and a unique relationship to music helped his pupil become an acclaimed concert pianist.



What I’ve Learned From My Autistic Brothers TED Talk by Faith Jegede

Writer Faith Jegede shares her experience of growing up with two extraordinary brothers, who both have autism, to spread awareness and understanding of the disorder.



The World Needs All Kinds of Minds TED Talk by Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, an expert in animal behavior and perhaps the most famous person with autism, explains how she thinks “in pictures” and argues that the world needs the kind of thinking found along the autism spectrum.



A Word Game to Communicate in Any Language TED Talk by Ajit Narayanan

Inventor Ajit Narayanan describes Avaz, an affordable tablet app that allows people with autism and other speech disabilities to communicate through pictures.


Neurotypical directed by Adam Larsen

This PBS documentary, which will have an encore broadcast in August 2014, explores the points of view of three people — 4-year-old Violet, teenager Nicholas and adult Paula — with autism who are at pivotal times in their lives.



Loving Lampposts directed by Todd Drezner

Filmmaker Todd Drezner, whose son Sam likes to visit each lamppost in a nearby park, explores differences and diversity in the autism community through interviews with parents, doctors, therapists and people with ASD.



Nerdicus
Play written and directed by Bernie DeLeo
 
Bernie DeLeo, a high school drama teacher and father of a son who has Asperger syndrome, wrote an award-winning one-act play about how his teenage daughter learned to cope with her brother’s disorder.

Apps & Games



Model Me Going Places

This free iPhone and iPad app is a visual teaching tool that helps children with autism and Asperger syndrome navigate through different social situations in their communities.



Go Go Games

Developed by a group of graduate researchers at Stanford University, this award-winning series of iPad apps provides increasingly complex shape-matching games designed to increase perceptual skills for children with autism spectrum disorders.



Social Clues 
developed by USC Students

Children play as one of two characters: ParticiPETE or communiKATE. In an effort to find their lost toys, they must then converse with characters in virtual depictions of real-world settings.

Blogs

AutismAdventures header

The Autism Adventures of Room 83

Melissa Toth is a teacher and blogger who shares tips and ideas on how to work well with severely handicapped students in elementary school.



Teach Early Autism

An early intervention autism teacher shares teaching techniques and curriculum planning suggestions for educators working with learners who have autism and behavior/language delays.



Autism Tank

This blog is filled with suggestions, resources and products developed by Hailey Deloya, a special education teacher for students with autism.



Autism and the Art of Communication

This speech-language pathologist’s blog, by Sheila Bell, is dedicated to the use of drawing and other art forms as a mode of communication for people on the autism spectrum.



Laura Shumaker

Mother to an adult son with autism, Laura Shumaker is also a blogger who openly discusses autism and other developmental disabilities. Laura Shumaker is also a blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism.



The Autism Helper

Created by Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Certified Education Teacher Sasha Long, and features resources, tips and materials to help teachers work with children who have autism.

Pinboards

Follow Christine Reeve-Autism Classroom News’s board Awesome Elementary Special Educators’ Ideas on Pinterest.
Follow early intervention autism teacher Whitney Rowland’s boards dedicated to autism intervention.
Follow Autism Classroom.com (Autism Classroom)’s board Real Autism Classrooms on Pinterest.
Follow USC Rossier Online’s board Teacher’s Toolkit for Autism Awareness Month on Pinterest — our pinboard of all these resources!
Follow The Stir’s board Autism Awareness on Pinterest.
Follow PediaStaff’s board Autism on Pinterest.

Podcasts

Autismpodcast is a series of 100 episodes recorded over a six-year period by Michael Boll, the father of a son on the autism spectrum. This podcast includes conversations with medical providers, parents, children and people with autism.
Rethink Autism is a series of 20 podcasts offers advice, tips and resources for families with a child on the autism spectrum.
Autism Voice is a podcast and blog for parents of children who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

Books



1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children With Autism or Asperger’s
by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk

This award-winning book provides parents and teachers with more than 1,800 tips, ideas and strategies to help children with autism or Asperger syndrome achieve success at home, in school and in the community.



A Work in Progress: Behavior Management Strategies & A Curriculum for Intensive Behavioral Treatment of Autism
by Ron Leaf, John McEachin, Jaisom D. Harsh

This book is easy to digest and filled with ideas on how to understand behavioral treatment of autism.


Teaching Language to Children With Autism
by Mark L. Sundberg and James W. Partington

An essential guide to using a verbal behavior assessment and intervention program for children with autism.


A Guide for Parents and Teachers of Children With Special Needs Including Autism
by Cindy Stringer Wismer

A valuable resource for parents trying to navigate the special education system, this book includes tips for teachers based on the author’s 35-year career as a special education and general education teacher.


Educating Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Teachers, Counselors, and Psychologists
by Erin E. Barton and Beth Harn

This guide offers strategies for teachers, school counselors and psychologists to help address the needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families. Topics covered include communication, socialization, instructional development and student progress assessment.


We Said, They Said: 50 Things Parents and Teachers of Students With Autism Want Each Other To Know
by Cassie Zupke

Rather than working together to educate a child with autism, parents and teachers often are unable to function as a team due to a lack of understanding and mistrust. The author provides parents and educators with the tools to build more supportive relationships based on hundreds of conversations with parents, teachers and school administrators.


I Hate To Write: Tips for Helping Students With Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders Increase Achievement, Meet Academic Standards, and Become Happy, Successful Writers
by Cheryl Boucher and Kathy Oehler

According to authors Boucher and Oehler, people with autism spectrum often have difficulty coordinating all the skills needed for writing. This book focuses on the writing areas that are most difficult for students on the autism spectrum and provides strategies and tips for teachers to help their students.


Teaching Music to Students With Autism
by Alice M. Hammel and Ryan M. Hourigan

A comprehensive resource that focuses on helping music teachers understand and overcome the unique challenges inherent to working with students with autism.


Asperger Syndrome, Second Edition: What Teachers Need To Know
by Matt Winter

With Asperger syndrome diagnoses on the rise, every teacher needs to understand the condition and have strategies for helping AS students in the classroom. This resource points teachers, teaching assistants and school administrators in the right direction.


Me and That Asperger Kid
by Matt Winter

The true story of an anonymous teacher and her Asperger syndrome student describes the experimentation required to find “what works” and the sometimes unorthodox methods employed by the teacher to address her student’s learning potential.

More Resources

NEA: Autism Resources for Teachers

The NEA: Autism Resources for Teachers site lists useful autism resources provided by the National Education Association. This resource includes general information as well as instructional methods, activities and materials for teachers.

NEA: The Puzzle of Autism

The Puzzle of Autism, an informational guide for all school personnel who work with students with autism spectrum disorders, can be downloaded from this National Education Association website.

TeachersFirst’s Resources on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger’s

This is a list of reviewed resources that explain autism and Asperger syndrome and provide practical suggestions for teachers and parents who want to help students learn and succeed.

TeacherVision: Social Skills and Autism

This website provides strategies and techniques to help students with autism spectrum disorders learn to interact with their peers.

ASD from A to Z

This website provides handouts from experts Barbara Doyle and Emily Doyle Iland on autism spectrum disorders. “A Note to All Teachers: What You Can Do When You Notice Significant Differences in a Child or Young Adult in Your Class” is a handout of special interest to teachers.

Red Flags for Classroom Teachers: Identifying Students Who May Have Features of an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Johns Hopkins School of Education provides this checklist of social differences that may signal that a student has autism spectrum disorder or a special learning need.

Do you have resources you use in your classroom? Add your favorites in the comments below!