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Supporting Children with Autism 

This toolkit is used to support parents and teachers of children with autism.

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By: Christy Deneen, Genevieve Denton, Grace Gaspar, and Megan Soellner

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What is autism?

“Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability that can generally be diagnosed between 18 months and 3 years of age. Indicators that an evaluation should be done include social interaction and communication differences like little eye contact, lack of shared attention and enjoyment, and an absence of interest in playing with other children. Some children with ASD may be nonverbal, while others may talk in scripted language or echo what they have just heard. Children with ASD may have very strong interests in one particular toy or type of toy (Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs), or they may use toys differently than other children (spinning the wheels on a car with their fingers for long periods of time). Small changes in the environment may make them very upset. ASD has been increasing rapidly, with a current prevalence rate of 1:59. The ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with ASD is 4.5:1”

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Autism is a spectrum

“The criteria are much more comprehensive,” explains Willis. “[DSM-5] recognizes that autism is a spectrum. Children are going to have varying degrees of challenges with the common areas considered part of autism, including communication, behavior, social awareness, and sensory integration.” Instead of “pigeonholing” children into subcategories, says Willis, DSM-5 focuses on how much support a child needs.

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Temple Grandin

"Kids have to be exposed to different things in order to develop. A child’s not going to find out he likes to play a musical instrument if you never exposed him to it…"

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Visual Support for students with autism

Children with autism often have trouble understanding the language that they hear. Visual supports such as pictures, objects, gestures, and texts (once students can read) can be used to help these learners and their processing of language.

Visual Support Strategies

1.Tell a child where to sit or stand. Placing markers and telling a child where to sit or stand lets students with ASD know where they are supposed to be. 
2. Show the schedule of classroom activities. Many pictures make a picture based schedule of the days activities
3. Help a child develop self regulation.For children with ASD, visual explanations and reminders can be helpful in them self regulating.

Visual Support Strategies

4. Support understanding what you are saying. Have pictures to accompany verbal directions
5. Foster independence. This can be done by visually presenting the steps to complete a task that encourages children to be independent. 
6. Expand the use of expressive language. Children with ASD often have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, so it's important to provide pictures

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Stephen Shore

"If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism"

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Rate of Austism

U.S. Department of Education 2015-16 school year data indicate that there are more than 620,000 children ages 3-21 attending school under the educational eligibility classification of autism

Ways Educators Can Support Students with Autism

1. Appeal to ASD students visual nature
2. Provide structure
3. Give space for sensory reactions,
4. Provide advance warning of any changes to routines
5. Use clear language
6. Be aware of social interactions and situations

Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment

Allow the student to explore the classroom environment before school starts, ask previous IEP team members about any visual supports specific to that student, find out if any adaptive equipment would be appropriate, learn from the child what works best for them, use their interests as a tool, and provide reminders about changes or transitions in the classroom.

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by Elana Arnold and Illustrated by Charles Santoso

A Boy Called Bat

After the mother skunk is killed, Bixby “Bat” Alexander Tam’s veterinarian mother brings home its kit to be kept only until its old enough to be released. Who would have thought Bat would want to keep the baby skunk, named Thor? Is it really okay for a skunk to become a pet? Bat is a unique character and the story offers a deeply heartfelt glimpse into the life of a boy on the autism spectrum, presented realistically in this touching (and surprisingly informative) novel.

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by Shaina Rudolph

All My Stripes: A Story for Children With Autism

Zane the zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his "autism stripe." With the help of his Mama, Zane comes to appreciate all his stripes — the unique strengths that make him who he is!

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by Dagmar Mueller & Verena Ballhaus

David’s World: a Picture Book about Living with Autism

David does not like when people are noisy; he does not like being hugged — not even by his own brother. David does not laugh when happy or cry when sad. He speaks his own language, which is difficult to understand at times. And he eats the same foods almost every day. However, David is a brilliant pianist and seems to have an amazing ability to communicate with the family dog. And even though he is not like most children, through the eyes of his brother we are able to see how he makes progress toward understanding his world.

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by Helen Bates and Illustrated by Ellen Li

A Girl Like Tilly: Growing Up with Autism

Tilly is struggling at school, she really doesn’t like surprises, she isn’t sure if she’s a girl or a boy, and she just doesn’t want to make new friends. Why is it such hard work to try and understand people, or for them to understand her? This poignant story maps the entire childhood of a bright young girl with autism. Growing up undiagnosed, she finds life increasingly difficult and confusing. Unable to communicate her thoughts and feelings, she retreats further into her own world while her family grows evermore perplexed and concerned. When a psychologist finally explains what makes her special, they can stop focusing on the problems and start to navigate a new way forward for Tilly.
With vividly expressive illustrations and minimal words, this story is a valuable tool for helping children aged 7-13 and their families understand female autism.

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by Pat Thomas

I See Things Differently: a First Look at Autism

This book will help children understand what autism is and how it affects someone who has it. A wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings. The story line is simple and easily accessible to younger children, who will learn that exploring the personal feelings around social issues is a first step in dealing with them.

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by Jennifer Veenendall

Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears?

Izzy takes you through her life as she learns to cope with sensory overload in new places and promotes the normalization of peers who struggle with sensory overload.

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Videos Supporting Autism

Ted Talk: Ethan Lisi

Ethan Lisi discusses what it is like to be an individual with autism in society today and the struggles he has faced. Ethan also discusses how to support those with autism without believing it is a disease or conforming to "societal normalities."

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Supporting Kids with Autism

This video focuses on Julia, a Sesame Street character recently introduced to the cast who has Autism. Using Julia as an example, the video discusses how educators can support students with Autism.

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Children's books featuring characters with autism or Asperger's. Reading Rockets. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2021, from

Greene, K. (n.d.). Teaching students with autism spectrum disorder. Scholastic. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from

Kabot, S. (n.d.). Support you can see (and feel): Teaching children with autism. NAEYC. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from

Lisi, E. (2020, February). Transcript of "what it's really like to have autism". TED. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from 

Stephanie, & Elcik, H. Z. (2019, February 12). Great Children's books about autism. Autism Journey. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from,illustrated%20by%20Ellen%20Li.%20Tilly%20is...%20More%20.

Three Ways Teachers Can Support Students with Autism . (n.d.). Education Weekly. broadcast. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from 

10 inspiring quotes from people with autism. Autism Speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2021, from

16 children's books about autism. Autism Resources. (2021, March 8). Retrieved September 29, 2021, from

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