What Is Autism?
The criteria for an autism diagnosis have changed over the years and continue to evolve as medical experts gain an ever-greater understanding of autism. Symptoms usually present in children during or just after infancy, and can include issues with interacting socially, verbal and non-verbal communication differences, and problems with physical abilities. Autism is often diagnosed when children fail to achieve early developmental milestones.
An autism diagnosis can be difficult for a family. Many questions will arise – how will this affect my child’s growth and development? How can I properly care for a child who has difficulty communicating his or her needs and desires? How will I be able to tell if my child is enjoying a happy and fulfilling life? Luckily, there are many ways in which special education can be used to improve the quality of life for children diagnosed with autism.
1. Experienced Educators
There can be some unique challenges that arise when interacting with and educating children who are Autistic. These children are often unable to understand or respond correctly to social cues, and aren’t always capable of abiding by standard classroom rules. It takes a special type of person to appreciate and embrace the differences of teaching children with autism; patience, kindness, and a willingness to work on each child’s unique level are essential.
This is where a special education master’s degree can help unlock the full potential of every child. Students may participate in classes that teach the specifics of the behavioral, intellectual, social, and educational struggle children who are Autistic face every day. The advanced coursework that students complete enables parents to rest easy knowing that their children are in capable hands, so they can focus on maintaining a healthy and balanced family life.
2. Social Interaction Teaching Techniques
Social interaction is the basis of our society, our communities, and our families. It can be especially difficult to raise a child who is not as naturally able to interacting socially with family members, peers, and others. While most children learn social skills at regular stages over time, children on the Autism Spectrum benefit from social interaction teaching techniques.
Parents and caretakers don’t have to feel alone in this challenge. Over the years many techniques have been developed. Special education programs may include one-on-one instructional intervention, such as, ‘floor time,’ in which the educator focuses on teaching the appropriate communication of feelings, reciprocation, and other skills essential to developing relationships.
Over time, the child with Autism will grow comfortable interacting in a more meaningful way with the teacher. These social skills will continue to develop and may eventually help the child talk and play with peers and participate in mainstream social interactions.
3. Physical Recreation Teaching Techniques
Along with social and emotional delays, children who are Autistic often experience setbacks in their physical development. Special educators work with children using a combination of play therapy and exercise tailored to their skills and abilities. Children with autism often aren’t interested in traditional children’s activities and games, so it’s important they have access to programs developed specifically with them in mind.
Physical play can be one of the best tools to combat some of the symptoms of autism, and can be used to assist in other learning techniques. As a result of physical recreation activity, the motor skills of children with Autism are enhanced and they often gain a better sense of self-esteem and confidence, which can improve the likelihood of success in all areas of development.
4. Early Intervention
According to an article by the American Psychological Association, the primary method of working with children with Autism is through “early and ongoing educational intervention.” Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for families to provide this important early care, due to financial and work-related demands placed on parents.
Under the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, children with disabilities are eligible for low-cost or free, special education and treatment. Children who qualify under the age of three are eligible for an early intervention program, often run by teachers and therapists with a special education master’s degree. Because of these programs, the burden for improving life quality does not fall solely on the shoulders of parents or caretakers.
An early intervention program typically consists of play, behavior, speech, and physical therapy and may significantly decrease autistic symptoms. Goals of the program include teaching children to interact meaningfully with others, along with ways to communicate their needs and other important skills.
5. Continuing/Transitional Programs
Once the child is of preschool age, children with Autism traditionally transition to local schools. Teachers with a special education background can tailor the educational curriculum to effectively meet each child’s needs. Children may participate in one-on-one sessions or small-group academic lessons, and will continue to receive behavior, physical, play and speech therapy.
Both early and continuing programs for children with Autism frequently include treatment such as music therapy, sensory integration, auditory training, physical therapy, and facilitated communication. The method of applied behavior analysis, which encourages positive behavior and discourages negative choices, has been shown to be particularly effective in autism treatment.
These programs and techniques help autistic children to progress socially, physically, emotionally and intellectually. In some instances, children improve to the point where they can begin to spend part of their day in an inclusion classroom and may eventually integrate completely into a standard classroom setting.
Special education has helped to improve the lives of countless of autistic children in the US. Continuing research into the disorder and improvements in the science of special education will help to ensure that children with autism (and other developmental disorders) go on to live happy and fulfilling lives, and that families continue to receive the support and resources they need to make it through challenging times. The techniques discussed in this article are taught and addressed in a master’s of special education degree program so that graduates are able to work effectively and make the difference with children across the Autism Spectrum.
Start advancing your career today with an Online Master of Science in Special Education with a track in Autism Spectrum Disorder from Saint Joseph’s University. Call (610) 660-3400 or request more information below.