ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Saturday, July 15, 2006: 12:15 PM-1:30 PM
Providence Ballroom I
#2195- Incorporating Visuals in the Education of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
This session will focus on the creative ways one can incorporate visuals to concretize abstract concepts related to language, academic, sensory, and social functioning. The method of “drawing through the day” in order to provide necessary information to students with ASD will be discussed. The presenter will relay stories from 24 years in the classroom to describe the power and versatility of visuals. This session is appropriate for beginning teachers and paraprofessionals interested in adding another tool to their repertoire.

Presenter:Shelley Green, M.S., CASE Collaborative, Autism Program Specialist - Shelley Green has worked in the field of Special Education since 1980. She has spent 24 years as a classroom teacher working with children, ages 3 – 22, with a range of functioning levels and needs. The past two years, Shelley has been working as an Autism Program Specialist at the CASE Collaborative in Concord , Massachusetts. Shelley has a special interest in the ways that students with Autism Spectrum Diagnoses process information that is presented visually. She has presented on this topic at many local workshops within school systems, day care centers and hospitals.
This presentation describes the issues that impact the way that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders function in the classroom. There is a description of learning style differences that affect language, social, sensory and cognitive functioning. Each area is discussed along with suggestions for ways to incorporate visual information as a tool for teaching. This topic is relevant as many people coming out of teacher- preparation programs are armed with theories and principles but lacking in functional, hands-on information about the way to educate these children. Research indicates that the visual modality is the “preferred” or strongest channel for many students on the Spectrum. However, finding ways of implementing this strategy can be difficult. This method is based on the notion that children with Autism often capture images as a way of remembering events. If a child is taught to pair an image with a concept, the information is recovered by the child more efficiently. We often think of visuals as Mayer-Johnson pictures used to create a schedule or label objects in the classroom. There is a presumption that that is often where the use of visuals ends. This notion is not only impractical, (How do you carry your computer and printer out to the playground) but also very limiting. When visuals are used in classrooms, adults become more mindful of the amount of language they are using . The issue of “flooding” or overloading a child with an attack of language decreases. Instruction often becomes more child-centered as it addresses the very areas that impact the child the most. Staff become focused on why a behavior may be occurring and take responsibility for making sure that students are presented with the information they need to make good choices. In this presentation, attendees will walk through, using real-life examples the many ways that pictures can be used as cues, concrete representations, and a delivery system for giving information . Learning Objectives v Attendees will understand the factors that impact language, social, sensory and cognitive functioning v Attendees will understand how behavior can be the result of not having enough information v Attendees will understand the versatility of presenting information visually v Attendees will learn how to “draw through the day” as a strategy for providing multisensory instruction v Attendees will be able to articulate how to use this information to enhance their curriculum v Attendees will learn to create visuals using the principles of how the brain works with children with ASD v Attendees will learn to use visuals as a way of organizing the child's environment

This method has been characterized as being incredibly simple yet powerful when utilized. The look on the students' faces when you've “spoken their language” by drawing or helped them understand a concept or behavior by concretizing it, is one of the greatest moments an educator can experience. However, adults aren't the only ones to use this method. Teaching students with ASD how to relay information through drawings/visuals is a strategy that allows these children a way to supplement what their verbal language is not able to articulate.

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