FWSU Raises Autism Awareness to Support Needs of Learners

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments.  FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Target 4-  Engaged Community Partners:  FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.

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Earlier this week, FWSU provided a professional development opportunity for all paraprofessionals. The focus of the presentation was to provide staff with a greater understanding of Autism and develop practical strategies for supporting students. The training was offered through a partnership with Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS), and was provided by Dana Postemski, MA, BCBA and Shawna Shappy, M.Ed. The learning focused on the complexity of autism, the diversity of people and families living with this disorder, and how increasing awareness and research will continue to shape outcomes.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports:

  • Autism diagnosis rate is on a steady increase of 10-17% annually
  • As of March 27, 2014, 1 in 68 were diagnosed with Autism – this is a change from 2004 when the identification rate was 1 in 166
  • If 4 million students are born in the U.S. every year, approximately 36,500 students will eventually be diagnosed with Autism
  • 2014 Vermont Autism profile data indicates 962 children ages 3-12 are receiving special education services have Autism

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Often, due to auditory dysfunction and sensory needs, the following adaptations are needed help students with Autism access the learning environment:

  • Provide a quiet area away from auditory distractions
  • Seat students in less distracting area
  • Provide earplugs, earphone to cut down on noise
  • Provide tactile replacements
  • Allow additional processing time
  • Use visual (picture) schedules

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Students with Autism may have an Auditory Processing Delay:

  • Most students with Autism may not understand your first direction, and may need it repeated 2-3 times to gain understanding.
  • Space out directions, giving 10-20 seconds in between prompts
  • Don’t assume students know what you are asking. If no response, use gestures or a visual cue
  • Overuse of prompts may intensify Autistic behaviors

There are four main functions of behavior that may indicate why undesirable response is occurring:

  • Attention- To gain access to one’s attention whether the attention is positive of negative
  • Escape/Avoidance- To escape/avoid a particular activity, situation, or person
  • Tangible- To gain access to tangible (items)
  • Sensory- To gain access to sensory stimulation

Other discussion points were:

  • Extinctions Bursts- Things may get worse before they get better
  • Data Collection – maintain a systematic approach to data collection (count, rate or frequency, duration percentage)
  • Environmental constructs
  • Targeting desired behaviors

FWSU is fortunate to have a strong community connection with NCSS  and we believe that through our combined efforts, students will be successful while accessing a wide range of services through developmental diagnosis, training, educational placement,  consultation in order to support our students and families.

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We also encourage everyone to remember that April 2 is Autism Awareness Day. Let’s Light it up Blue and show our support!

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