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It’s Time To Update Classroom Strategies For Those With ASD

September means back to school, transitions, and changes in routines. Judy Endow, an adult with autism, wrote a blog post about changing classroom strategies, asking us to alter the way we do things based on past knowledge in light of new information. This is good advice for all of us as autism is a relatively new field where knowledge is rapidly changing, challenging our long-held views which may no longer be applicable.

For example, asking for eye contact should not be a goal, although you can still see this written on IEPs. Many people with autism find eye contact too painful or looking at the eyes while hearing information can result in sensory overload leading to a shut down.

What is most poignant about Judy’s post is the need to be kind to ourselves in the face of changing information. We did our best with what we knew at the time. As we learn new things, it is important not to cling to our old ways and strategies and be willing to investigate a possibly better way of doing things without guilt. This is good advice for both professionals and parents!

Speaking of changing beliefs, we have long had the notion that individuals with autism can’t read emotions. A new study is challenging this idea because there is more to reading emotions than just looking at the face – you have to look at the whole body too. People with autism tend to struggle with eye contact, but the study suggests that perhaps reading body language to identify emotions isn’t as challenging.

In the study, Candida Peterson of the University of Queensland in Australia and her colleagues “showed children between the ages of 5 and 12 full-body photos of trained actors portraying happy, sad, angry, afraid, disgusted or surprised emotions. The actors’ faces were blurred. The children with autism did just as well as the children without the disorder in identifying the posed emotions. In a similar test that just showed people’s eyes, the children with autism did not score as well as those without.”

This new information could change the way we teach emotions within the context of social skills.

 

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