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Autism Spectrum Disorder


Definitions of Autism Spectrum Disorder

IDEA definition: A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance. A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be diagnosed as having autism if the criteria in paragraph of this section are satisfied.

APA definition: A complex developmental condition involving persistent challenges with social communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behavior. While autism is considered a lifelong disorder, the degree of impairment in functioning because of these challenges varies between individuals with autism

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Although the specific cause of ASD is not completely understood, many professionals think that the symptoms of ASD is activated by genetic differences or other malfunctions in the brain

  • There are biological factors, such as many genes that may play part in the development of ASD. There is no one specific gene that causes ASD, but instead many combinations of certain genes that combine to form a wide range of developmental malfunctions.

  • Researchers have discovered that a number of brain functions that may trigger autistic symptoms, such as  people with ASD have been discovered to have  abnormalities in the cerebellum (balance and cognition), frontal lobe (social/cognitive functions), and the temporal lobe (social cues and memory)



  • Students with ASD can have difficulties with language, whether it is a delay with learning the language or they fail to use language to communicate or lack of desire to communicate with others

  • Some behavioral characteristics students with ASD may have is self-stimulatory behaviors, difficulty with generalizations, and sensory responses.

  • Most individuals with autism usually have some sort of comorbid disorder, such as depression or ADHD

  • Have troubles with problem-solving, over relies on route memory and has a difficult time understanding that others have their own point of view

  • Some challenges people with ASD may have is self-stimulatory behaviors, difficulty with generalizations, and sensory responses.


  • A team, including parents, must participate in the assessment that would be held for the student, and the students developmental history would be looked over and their behavior would be observed and assessed

  • Psychologists might use an instrument for Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised. Teachers or other professionals may be asked to complete a rating scale, such as Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale

  • Intelligence tests would occur, as well as developmental measuring, and an assessment of behavior

Education / Recommended Educational Strategies 
  • Since children with ASD vary in skill levels, their course of action with education varies also

  • Early Childhood: Early intervention before age 3 is recommended, active family involvement, assessment of students' progress over time, learn life skills and how to maintain them, and focus on communication and developmental areas

  • Elementary and Secondary School: primarily taught in a special setting separate from a general education classroom 

  • Transition to Adulthood: careful planning goes into the transition for students with ASD into adulthood by making sure they learn the skills needed to pursue a job or college

  • Autism inclusion collaboration model: Designed to support general educators in their work with students with autism through collaboration with special educators and ancillary staff

    • The four components: Environmental and curricular modifications and general education classroom support, attitudinal and social support, coordinated team commitment, home–school collaboration

  • Visual supports, such as a task card or a visual schedule

  • A home base for when a student is feeling anxious and needs to calm down

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