Mount Allison University, University of New Brunswick Fredericton and Saint John, St. Thomas University, New Brunswick Community College, New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, and the office of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour have collaborated to develop and launch on-line disability awareness training modules for use by faculty and staff working with students with disabilities.
Additional disability-specific information is provided below.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that an individual’s impairment can range from mild to severe. Further, the type of impairment can vary from person to person. Each individual with ASD is unique. However, there is a clinical presentation, which includes:
· Impairments in:
o Social interaction
Sensory stimuli response
· Physical or cognitive Ritualistic Repetitive Behaviours (RRBs)
A student with ASD may have difficulty building relationships with others, understanding other perspectives, a lack of empathy, etc. They may have difficulty understanding both verbal and nonverbal communication norms such as personal space, keeping eye contact, the reciprocal nature of discussion, sarcasm, facial expression, etc. They may not understand that interruption or dominating a discussion is socially unacceptable.
Social skills can often be learned. For example, a person with autism may learn to focus on a point on someone’s forehead when they are speaking (keeping “eye contact”) or to pause after speaking to let another person speak. They may learn that specific facial expressions are a sign of particular emotions.
Stimuli may trigger stress or anxiety. For instance, particular sounds, smells and lights that are not noticed by others may be create stress for an individual with ASD. Since there is often impairment in emotional control, such stressors may cause an “outburst”. This may include yelling, slamming doors, etc. It may also trigger “stim” behaviour, such as pacing, spinning, etc.
RRBs may present as a student having an intense interest in a particular topic or thing, such as computers, cars, physics, math, history, etc. They may have difficulty in transitioning between tasks and be inflexible with routines. Individuals with ASD may take instruction and rules very literally. Some individuals with ASD also present with motor RRBs, such as hand flapping, hair pulling, etc.
Again, it is important to note the students with ASD are unique. However, some of the recommendations below may be of use.
· Provide clear written instructions for tasks, assignments, etc.
· Speak in the positive (e.g. “I would like you to raise your hand before speaking”)
· Avoid speaking in the absolute with terms like “always” and “never”
· Be clear with directions.
· Define objectives, due dates, etc. clearly and in writing.
· If necessary, set rules and boundaries (e.g. only allow 3 questions per class, the student is not allowed to barge in to an office)
· If a student is exhibiting inappropriate behaviour, be clear with what you want them to do. Give reasons if possible (e.g. “I need you to sit in this chair and calm down because you are causing a disturbance to others”)
· People with ASD often have a low processing speed. Give them time to process information when teaching and asking them questions.
· Avoid unnecessary changes to routine. If there is to be a change, give as much notice and preparation as possible.
· If possible, include the student’s interest into what is required of them.
· Contact the Meighen Centre.
o Matt Maston: firstname.lastname@example.org, 364-2175
o Anne Comfort: email@example.com, 364-2257
Powers, M. D. (2013). Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome: Advances in evidence-
based assessment and treatment, Proceedings from New England Educational Institute. Cape Cod: Massachusetts.
Wolf, L. E., Thierfeld-Brown, J., Kukiela Bork, G. R. (2009). Students with Asperger
Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
For more information, contact Anne Comfort at firstname.lastname@example.org