As we close out 2011, it's important to circle back and recall the valuable lessons of the year so we take them with us into 2012 and apply them effectively. When I participate in conferences and other continuing education opportunities, I return with volumes of new material to consider. I have to revisit those folders to reclaim their treasures! And that's one of the blessings of studying autism: There's always new research (some promising, some lacking credibility) and theories. And as the years go on, sometimes those of us who care for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have to up-end completely our approach to certain aspects of interacting with these often misunderstood individuals.
Think about it -- Thirty years ago, "refrigerator mothers" caused their children's autism, then believed to be a psychological manifestation of a failed mother-child bond. Twenty years ago, a British researcher translated the writings of Hans Asperger and coined the diagnosis Asperger's Syndrome. Ten years ago, occupational therapists starting exploring the sensory integration aspects of treating ASD. And now, we realize that lacking the ability to talk doesn't mean a person has nothing to say.
So when earlier this year I had an administrator tell me that the school staff had been "in-serviced to death" on the topic of autism, I wondered aloud what their last training was. I learned one hour five years ago was the exposure. I recognize that autism accounts statistically for 1% of a school's population, but the good news is that best practices in teaching a child with autism often apply typical students as well! Establishing expectations, maintaining a visual schedule, and employing regular movement breaks are examples of these.
So next time you think your school couldn't use another hour of training (for staff and/or students), consider the virtue of life-long learning and give us a call.