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

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Thursday, July 13, 2006: 1:30 PM-2:45 PM
Narragansett Ballroom B
#2243- ASD Awareness Kits and Disability Awareness Workshops, Preschool through Adult Hands-On Learning
Students, teachers and the general public interact daily with people who face challenges in learning, communication, behavior and daily living. The Disability Awareness Workshop is a hands-on activity based parent volunteer program that has been used in Michigan schools, churches and organizations to teach over 70,000 participants about people with disabilities. The ASD Awareness Kits contain scripted lectures and activities for early childhood, primary, intermediate, secondary and workplace audiences. Learn how to create these low cost programs.

Presenter:Lisa Kowalski, MS, Engineering, Management, Parent - Lisa has served as a Special Education Parent Advisory Committee and PTA member for years. Lisa co-authored the Disability Awareness Workshop. This program has spread throughout the state of Michigan. More than 65,000 students, 8,000 parents and 1,500 teachers have participated. In 2004, the Oakland County Autism Focus Group created the ASD Awareness Kits. Thousands of students and professionals have learned through these presentations. Lisa has presented at the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children Conference, the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators Conference, the Oakland Schools Professional Development Institute, and the Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education.

Mission Statement: Present a program, which will provide community awareness and promote a more empathetic understanding of how difficult and complex daily living can be for individuals with disabilities.

Overview: Today's students are given daily opportunities to interact with people who face challenges in learning, communication, ambulation and daily living. This program supports inclusion and mainstreaming efforts by providing diversity training. Students will become more aware that an illness, injury or disability can seriously affect an individual's life. Responsible citizenship will be encouraged by reminding the students that people should be respected no matter how they may look, act, walk, or talk. The students will learn that people with disabilities have abilities too. The goal is for students, parents and professionals to gain a stronger empathy for all people with disabilities, young and old. The program is recommended for ages ten years old and up. It is a fun experience that works to change attitudes, increase patience and answer basic questions.

This hands-on activity-based workshop travels to schools in Michigan each year reaching thousands of students. Students rotate through nine different stations dealing with hearing and speech impairment, vision impairment, physical impairments, learning differences. Each activity is presented through simple instruction about impairment, not disease or diagnosis. Students work in teams to complete an accessibility checklist activity that requires measuring and math computations. In addition, children's storybooks, a writing assignment, videos and attitude discussion tools are available. Students with ASD are represented indirectly through twelve different activities throughout the workshop including speech impairment activities and augmentative communication devices, learning differences activities, Social Story examples, various types of schedules and common sensory integration aides. There are specific storybooks about children with autism and peer mentoring. Parent volunteers and staff from each school building present the program to their students. A step-by-step manual has been written that describes how to coordinate the workshop at individual schools and throughout school districts. The complete workshop is a full day of active learning for elementary students and reduces to a two-hour professional development program. A complete outline of how to create a Disability Awareness Workshop will also be provided.


Purpose: There are four main purposes for the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Awareness Kit: 1) The kit guides ASD Awareness Training for all Oakland County Michigan students, all school employees and the community. Parents and staff should be offered opportunity to present this program to various extracurricular groups and community members such as extended school age care, school clubs, recreation programs, etc; 2)The kit offers a “Box Full of Hope” to families who have a child with ASD. This is especially important when a child is first introduced to potential special education services. Professionals bring this kit with them at the first meetings with parents discussing educational determination of autistic impaired. The kit explains at an introductory level the differences in communication, sensory integration, social and learning styles. Common education interventions can be easily explored offering a “Box Full of Hope” to the family. It is especially important to allow the families to review the Advocacy Materials folder and the adult only information; 3) The kit is an intervention tool filled with generic examples that can be easily adapted for specific students. The kit includes a compact disk of the document, presentations and most of the display items; 4) The kit is an Early On and Project Find tool for early identification of Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and ASD at Child Care Centers, Preschools, community programs, etc.

Module Descriptions: The kit is divided into four modules based on the age and understanding of the audience. The presentations at each level are estimated to last between thirty minutes and an hour. Of course the facilitator can adapt each module to meet the time constraints. The four modules are: · Early childhood Module recommended for preschool and kindergarten audiences. · Primary Education Module recommended for first through third grade audiences. · Intermediate Education Module recommended for fourth through eighth grade audiences. · Secondary Education and Workplace Module recommended for high school through adult audiences.

Within each module, the information about Autism Spectrum disorder is divided into these main areas: Communication, Sensory, Social, and Differences in Learning. Behaviors that are the result of these challenges are imbedded within each lecture segment. The lecture modules include examples that cover the entire spectrum.

Each lecture module covers the same information at a level the audience can understand. Each module contains presentation directions and a script for the facilitator. The audience is encouraged to manipulate items and participate in activities. This helps satisfy curiosity and build empathy leading to greater acceptance of people with ASD and the tools they use for support.

Additional Kit Materials: Beyond the four modules, the ASD Awareness Kit also includes a collection of storybooks. There are eleven different Social Story examples ranging from pictures to high school students with Asperger's Syndrome examples. Sample schedules range from object to adult reader schedules. There are seven different communication aides such a Blackhawk, PECs, picture cards and communication books. Sensory items include a seat disk, weight vest, fidgets and more. Work systems, lecture aids and display cards are included. The Advocacy and Resource Materials are updated annually. There are also suggestions on how to personalize the modules to help present information about a specific individual with ASD to a specific group.

Presentation Summary: These ASD Awareness kits have been recognized at the state level as excellent tools for generally describing Autism Spectrum Disorder. This session will include the entire ASD Awareness kit on display. Lisa will explain the purpose of the kit and how to use the kit. She will then how to duplicate the kit. Both of these programs are Awareness training, but they have very different formats. They have both had overwhelming parent satisfaction and teacher approval in Michigan. Both of these programs contributed to the best practice of least restrictive environment for special education students by helping general education students and teachers understand from an empathetic point of view and accept differences created by disabilities. Specific students have received better services because parents were exposed to devices and services that they weren't aware existed. Many teachers have claimed that they have a better understanding of how to interact with special needs students in their classroom. Students have reported relating to their relatives with disabilities as well as their peers. Most importantly, students with disabilities have thanked the coordinators and volunteer presenters for helping to explain what it is like to be in their shoes.

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