Unit 1: What is ASD and how is it diagnosed?

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IMPORTANT NOTE: Use the back button on your browser to return to each unit after accessing external links (articles, Videos, etc.)

Objectives

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  1. Develop an understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by learning all the disabilities the spectrum encompasses.
  2. Learn how ASD is diagnosed by evaluating the criteria for an ASD diagnosis.
  3. Understand the developmental differences between students diagnosed with ASD and typically developing students by comparing the developmental milestones of each.
  4. Understand why learning about ASD is important as an educator by evaluating graphs that show the rapid growth in ASD amongst current and future students.

Beginning Activities

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To begin this unit I would like you to reflect on what you know about ASD. Use these guiding questions to assist in filling out the K and W sections of the KWL chart.

  • What does it look like?
  • What characteristics are associated with ASD?
  • What causes this disorder?
  • Why is it so prevalent?
  • Any other thoughts, observations or opinions you have heard about this disorder.


Autism KWL Chart



The following video is of Peggy Halliday who is a board certified behavior analyst with a specialization in Autism. She is speaking about ASD, what it is and some characteristics of this disorder. While watching this video think about the following questions:

  • What is ASD?
  • What is affected by ASD?
  • Is autism a single disorder?
  • What disorders are encompassed in the Autism Spectrum?
  • Name some characteristics of ASD.
  • At what age do Autism characteristics emerge?
  • How prevalent is ASD?


[Autism Video] (Halliday 2009)

(use the back button in your browser to return to Unit 1).

Rationale

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Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continue to grow rapidly each year. From 1993-2007 the number of confirmed children with ASD has grown 1558% (fightingautism.org, 2009) From 2003-2007 the growth has been 753% (fightingautism.org, 2009). These numbers mean that we have a growing number of students with ASD in our school system, and a huge number of children diagnosed with ASD who have not yet entered our school system. Students diagnosed with ASD have unique needs that require teachers to have knowledge of this disorder and the accompanying educational challenges. With the push for inclusion classrooms, all teachers, not just special education teachers, need to have a better understanding of students diagnosed with ASD.

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  • After looking at these graphs, where you surprised by the Data? Why?
  • What do these graphs tell us?
  • After evaluating these graphs why do you think it is important that educators have some knowledge about this disorder?

Question to Ponder? Autism diagnosis’ prevalence’s have concentrated pockets near some major cities, with Washington DC and Silicon Valley, CA near the top of the list. Why do you think this might be?

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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“Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities caused by a problem with the brain. Scientists do not know yet exactly what causes this problem. ASDs can impact a person’s functioning at different levels, from very mildly to severely. There is usually nothing about how a person with an ASD looks that sets them apart from other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary – from gifted to severely challenged. Autistic disorder is the most commonly known type of ASD, but there is other” disorders within the spectrum (CDC.gov 2009)


What disorders are incorporated in the Autism Spectrum?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is an Umbrella term for:

  • Autism
  • Rett’s Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • PDD – NOS or Atypical Autism
  • Asperger’s Disorder


Definitions

  • Autism: “A pervasive developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication, by an extremely limited range of activities and interests, and often by the presence of repetitive, stereotyped behaviors.” (“Autism” 2009)


  • Rett’s Syndrome: “Familial disorder that affects females usually during infancy, that results from arrested brain development, and that is characterized by cognitive and psychomotor deterioration, dementia, stunted head growth, stereotyped hand movements, and mild hyperammonemia” (“Rett’s Syndrome” 2009)


  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: “Childhood disintegrative disorder is a condition occurring in 3- and 4-year-olds who have developed normally to age 2. Over several months, a child with this disorder will deteriorate in intellectual, social, and language functioning from previously normal behavior.” (Healthline 2006)


  • PDD – NOS or Atypical Autism: “Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a ‘subthreshold’ condition in which some – but not all – features of autism or another explicitly identified Pervasive Developmental Disorder are identified. PDD-NOS is often incorrectly referred to as simply “PDD.” The term PDD refers to the class of conditions to which autism belongs. PDD is NOT itself a diagnosis, while PDD-NOS IS a diagnosis. The term Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS; also referred to as “atypical personality development,” “atypical PDD,” or “atypical autism”) is included in DSM-IV to encompass cases where there is marked impairment of social interaction, communication, and/or stereotyped behavior patterns or interest, but when full features for autism or another explicitly defined PDD are not met.” (Yale School of Medicine, 2008)


  • Asperger’s Disorder: “In Asperger's Disorder, affected individuals are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. There are impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical, their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behavior. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, French Literature, door knobs, hinges, cappucino, meteorology, astronomy or history. The name "Asperger" comes from Hans Asperger, an Austrian physician who first described the syndrome in 1944.” (Aspergers.com 2009)

Diagnosis

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Since the cause of ASD is unknown diagnosis is evaluated by the patient meeting at least 6 of the listed criteria for diagnosis. Follow the link below which will bring you to a list of criteria for an ASD diagnosis. (Use the back button on your browser to return to unit 1 when finished)

While looking at the criteria for an ASD diagnosis think about the following questions:

  • What are the subheadings?
  • How are the different criteria connected? Is there a common theme?
  • Do you know a student who meets some, but not at least 6 of these criteria?
  • Because there is such an array of criteria, do you think it is possible for 2 students with ASD to present differently?

When you are finished looking at the criteria for diagnosis, click on the link on the bottom of the page where Catherine Lord, Director of the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center, answers frequently asked questions about ASD.


[ASD Diagnosis Criteria] (Lord 2009)

Developmental Milestones

The following link has information about developmental milestones for typically developing children. Use this information to compare differences amongst typically developing children and those diagnosed with ASD.

  • What milestones do children with ASD miss?
  • Is there a theme in the missed milestones?
  • What are the skill sets that students with ASD are lacking?


[Developmental Milestones] (Boyce 2009)

Reflection

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  1. What is ASD and what disorders are encompassed in the ASD umbrella?
  2. What are the defining characteristics of each disorder?
  3. Evaluate similarities and differences amongst the disorders in the spectrum.
  4. What developmental milestones are missing in students diagnosed with ASD?
  5. As an educator, why do you think it is important to have an understanding of ASD?

Unit 2: Social Skill Development

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After completing reflection questions follow the link to procede to Unit 2.

References

References are available on design project main page: Students with ASD: Developing Socialization and Self-Management Skills

Links

Students with ASD: Developing Socialization and Self-Management Skills

Jeff's Portfolio Page

ETAP 623 Fall 2009