Lessons on college life and living with autism

LIKE MOST college students, the kids at the College Internship Program have spent the last few weeks gearing up for classes, meeting roommates, readying for life away from home. But on this tiny campus in the Berkshires, they’ve been getting extra help.

For instance, they take courses in “executive functioning’’ — not business techniques, but the cognitive work of decision-making and self-control. In their classroom, posters offer tips for talking to acquaintances. “Smile and say ‘hello’ to initiate a dialogue. Ask them how they are to build rapport.’’

For people with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s disorder, this is hardly intuitive stuff. And if the number of autism diagnoses has risen dramatically, so too will the number of teenagers who reach this tentative place: ready to leave the cocoon, but not quite ready for the world.

via Lessons on living with autism – The Boston Globe.

Autistic boy can bring service dog to school

A legal battle over a boy and his dog has ended, allowing an autistic second-grader to bring his service dog to school for good.

In a ruling released Aug. 24, the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois said the Villa Grove Community Unit School District #302, located south of Champaign-Urbana, could not keep seven-year-old Kaleb Drew from attending school with his service dog, Chewey, setting a precedent in the first known case to challenge the Illinois School Code regarding service animals in schools. The school district has now granted Kaleb and Chewey a permanent hall pass, apparently ending the year-long battle.

via Dog fight ends with hall pass.

Autism and social skills: Make playtime count!

When a child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD, you know how hard he or she has to work to achieve academic success in school. But is this child given a chance to practice social skills, which are also affected by ASD?

Children with ASD sometimes have a great deal of difficulty understanding social behaviors and interactions, and these skills are usually not taught directly in school. On the playground and other places at school, there are large amounts of unstructured time that leave them to sink or swim in a complex social environment.

They often have trouble:

  • opening and closing a conversation.
  • initiating peer interaction and joining play decoding facial expressions and body language.
  • observing and imitating appropriate social behavior in specific situations.
  • predicting and understanding the emotions and reactions of others.

via The ABCs of Social Skill Development, Encouraging children with autism spectrum disorder to socialize. :: PARENTGUIDE News.

A school district that takes the isolation out of autism

The family of the autistic teen in this New York Times story moved from Tennessee  to Madison, Wis., because Madison is known for including children with autism in mainstream classrooms.

Madison, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., and Clark County, Nev, are the three districts nationally recognized for including children with disabilities in regular classes, the head of the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative told the newspaper.

MADISON, Wis. — Garner Moss has autism and when he was finishing fifth grade, his classmates made a video about him, so the new students he would meet in the bigger middle school would know what to expect. His friend Sef Vankan summed up Garner this way: “He puts a little twist in our lives we don’t usually have without him.”

People with autism are often socially isolated, but the Madison public schools are nationally known for including children with disabilities in regular classes. Now, as a high school junior, Garner, 17, has added his little twist to many lives.

via On Education – A School District That Takes the Isolation Out of Autism – NYTimes.com.

Speech-language teacher co-treats with occupational therapist in Pennsylvania school

Valerie Lill is a speech-language pathologist in a school-setting who works with children with autism and other disabilities. She became frustrated with all the therapy scheduling conflicts involving the students, who at times were missing out on valuable treatments required by their IEPs. She decided to co-treat with one of the occupational therapists at the school.

She explains, “That’s the great thing about communication — no matter what she [OT] was working on with the students, it was easy for me to embed the students’ speech-language targets within the sessions.”

Lill says that it doesn’t work for every child, but she found success in involving the OT because it allowed the children to generalize skills into different environments.

Lill’s post on the Speech in the Schools blog.

via  Healing Thresholds.

College students with Asperger’s; Teach independence in high school

Education of autistic students and preparing them for life after school were the big topics at the National Autism Conference at Penn State last week. More than 2,000 teachers, people with autism, parents of autistic children and others attended the five-day Pennsylvania conference. One researcher told attendees that high school is the time to start teaching the independence needed for college and beyond.

Dr. Janet Graetz, assistant professor of human development and child studies at Oakland University in Michigan, presented a session on her study that followed 19 college students with Asperger’s syndrome.

Graetz found that students living with Asperger’s exercised less, had high anxiety levels and failed to take advantage of campus disability resources as the school year went on.

She stressed the importance of teaching independence in high school to students with disorders like Asperger’s syndrome.

“Students in high school must be taught self-advocacy,” Graetz said. “The best thing you can do for your student who is younger is to teach them about self-advocacy.”

via Autism Conference Held at Penn Stater