Autism and Autism Spectrum disorders can be incredibly debilitating, but if your reading this you are probably already aware of this. Hopefully this brief post will help you understand and help yourself or the person you are reading this for to become more able in dealing with their unique intake of information.This post will be dealing with mostly milder form of Autistic Spectral Disorders and verbal Autism.
It is tempting to think of psychological disorders the same way you would think of a car problem; that one malfunctioning part is what causes the issue. Recent studies at the National Institute of Children's Health has suggested that it is not simply one or two parts of the brain, but the connections throughout the brain that are not working "normally". This explains why many Autistic or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) patients can perform some individual tasks at normal or above normal levels, but have trouble with more complex tasks. Many patients of this disorder simply have difficulty in coordinating different ideas together, interpreting data, emotions, or other sensory information which makes planning or responding difficult.
Since the connections between different areas of the brain are "loose," it is helpful to make complex tasks, or mental tasks into physical tasks. For example an Autistic child may struggle with word problems, primarily because they can't mentally envision the problem. Some research also suggests that the ASD mind is hyper sensitive to incoming information and has trouble turning input into output. So the more you can put on paper, or a word document, the easier it is to stay on track and process the correct information in the correct order. As an example...
Sally has 28 apples, 3 friends, and wants to share her apples equally with her friends. Divide the apples between Sally and her friends.
You could approach this problem using either real items or drawing a picture they could do something like this. Draw a picture of a girl holding a basket of apples with the number 28 on it. Draw Sally and 3 friends, and then successively give Sally and her three friends one apple at a time until the apples are gone, or can no longer be given out equally to herself and her friends.
Using methods like above ASD and Autistic individuals can develop a cognitive ability called theory of mind. The brain is truly a muscle, if you do not work out the weak areas, they will either get weaker or disappear all together. With Autism and ASD syndromes the most valuable thing you can do is find different ways to create solvable challenges to help develop the "loose" connections in the brain.
Every person has individual areas that need to be addressed. For some this may mean creating social challenges to overcome and master, for others it may mean solving a ton of word problems and developing the ability to mentally envision what is happening, for yet another it may be learning an instrument or a sport that challenges their current coordination and planning abilities. Whatever you or your student struggles with most is the area that should be challenged the most. Be patient, it may take time, and remember the only true failure is giving up.
*If you have questions that were not addressed in this post, please send me a message and I will be happy to give you a prompt and informed response. I am always available for questions.