Autism FAQ - Educational Methods
See also the comments below
There are a number of methods & techniques used in the education of
autistic children. Many teachers use a variety of combination of
methods. Some teachers attempt to identify an individual student's
learning style and modify curriculum and materials to suit the
student's learning style. For example, many children with autism are
visual learners. Teachers will use pictures, charts and visual
representations when teaching. Materials developed for children with
learning disabilities who are visual learners are often helpful.
Teachers also use concrete materials (ie. Montessori materials) for
students who learn well through their tactile senses.
A general comment: autistic people don't generalize very well, and
one technique used to accommodate this is to give them the
opportunities to practice skills in real situations, not mock-ups.
Use real money to teach about money, use real foods to teach about
food, cooking, and nutrition, use real public places (stores,
libraries, etc) to teach about public behaviors.
Note: my division between "Treatment"
and "educational methods" and
placement of various activities among the two is far from a perfect
system, e.g. where does FC go? Is it an educational method? So
far, I'm just living with the imperfect system rather than trying to
invent the logical catagories allows perfect classification of
each approach/activity/treatment/educational method/etc.
- Whole Language Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Motor Planning Therapy
- Teacher Modelling
- Peer Modelling
- Mainstreaming (also called Inclusion or Integration)
Mainstreaming refers to teaching children with special needs
in regular classes with other children. Teaching
autistic children without the benefit of a specially-trained
teacher and classroom tailored for such teaching was first
attempted as a matter of necessity in small school systems with too
few autistics to make it practical to set up specialized
facilities. It was soon observed that autistics in such situations
in general did better than autistics in tailored classrooms, and
the policy of "mainstreaming" was born. Theory has it that
separating autistics from a normal environment just exacerbates
their problem. US law says that children with special needs must
be educated with as little restriction as necessary and school
systems have responded by placing autistics (and other children
with special needs) in normal classrooms as much as practical.
Arguments for mainstreaming include better role models for autistic
children, and increased opportunities for social interaction, and
higher expectations by teachers. Arguments against include more
opportunity for intense social skills training, more control over
structure and routine, crucial factors in the education, training,
and everyday lives of many autistic children.
In actual practice, few autistic children ever have the opportunity
to be educated in classrooms tailored to autistics--the choice is
often whether the autistic is mainstreamed, or in a
"general-purpose special-education" classroom, known in the
business as a "self-contained classroom".
- some schools teach autistic children sign language if they are
not developing speech. There is evidence that sign is easier than
speech: children of deaf parents who learn sign through normal
interaction usually start using it a bit earlier than other
children start using speech. Also, some autistic children seem to
pay attention to hands more than they do other people's faces.
- Facilitated Communication (FC or F/C)
- (a closely related term is: "Facilitated Communication Training", FCT)
Another person (the
"facilitator") holds the autistic's hand, allowing the autistic to
decide which key on a keyboard to press or which letter or sign to
touch. While computers are used for FC, often a letterboard or a
"Canon Communicator" (a device portable device manufactured by
Canon which is something like a "Brother labelmaker"; they were
originally designed for people who could not talk but were known to
be able to type, but they fit well with FC). The facilitator
typically provides resistance to the arm and finger, leaving it to
the autistic to push their hand and finger towards the right key.
The technique was developed for people with severe physical
handicaps, but was discovered to work with autistics and is now
part of the education of many autistic children. It has met with a
lot of success under the caveat that when you watch someone
communicating this way, it is impossible to tell if it is the child
who is communicating or if it is the facilitator. Critics suggest
either that facilitators are faking it (but there are far too many
otherwise credible educators who are successful facilitators to
give this much credit) or that somehow the autistic person picks up
the facilitators unconscious desires from minute hand movements.
Tests have sometimes proved that facilitation resulted in real
communication and sometimes that it did not.
One result of the use of Facilitated Communication is the use of it
to elicit accusations of abuse. In cases where the only evidence
of abuse is Facilitated Communication, the law and the courts have
been forced to evaluate its effectiveness in individual cases.
This has encouraged, even forced practicioners to start doing more
rigorous testing of individuals to assure that they actually are
saying what they appear to be saying.
The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution on
Facilitated Communication that ended thusly: THEREFORE, BE IT
RESOLVED that APA adopts the position that facilitated
communication is a controversial and unproved communicative
procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its
- Daily Life Therapy
- a method developed in Japan and imported
into the USA. It includes elements normally found in the
education of autistics, but places unusual attention to
physical exercise. It has been said to have achieved
"unprecedented results". The first school (Higashi School) to use
this method was opened in Tokyo in 1964, and a school following the
same principles was opened in Boston in 1987 (USA Higashi).
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- a functional
communication training approach that emphasizes teaching students
to give a picture of something they desire to another person in
exchange for that item. Pioneered by Andrew Bondy and Lori
Frost of the Delaware Autistic Program.
Considered a kind of augmentative communication.
- Meyer-Johnson pictures
- A set of pictures used for communication
often used for augmentative communication.
- Milieu Training
- method of teaching language and social skills to
children with disabilities.