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Diversity in the Classroom

Diversity in the Classroom: Accommodations for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


Courtney Whetzel
Bridgewater College
Bridgewater, Virginia

Education 215-01
Dr. Harris
May 1, 2014

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Abstract
All teachers should have some knowledge about students with disabilities.
Regular classroom teachers juggle many tasks each day, including making lesson
plans and planning activities for their students. On top of planning the basic lessons
and activities, they will have to make accommodations and modifications for their
students who have disabilities and exceptionalities. This essay focuses specifically
on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the impact that they have on student
learning as well as how this knowledge about accommodations can impact the
general education teacher and the classroom setting. This essay focuses on what
Autism Spectrum Disorders are and how general education teachers can provide
students with them with accommodations and modifications in an inclusive
classroom setting. After discussing the accommodations that can be made
specifically for students with ASD, this essay will discuss how the accommodations
can be applied to other students with disabilities, as well as the general education
classroom as a whole.

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Diversity in the Classroom: Accommodations for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Introduction
The topic that I chose to research was special education accommodations in
the classroom for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). I chose this as
my topic for three reasons: First, being that I want to teach Special Education;
Second, being that my little sister has a disorder that is in the Autism Spectrum;
and Third, being that it is important for all teachers to know how to meet the needs
of their students in the classroom and Autism is one of many of the diverse needs in
which they need to be aware of in their classroom. One in sixty-eight American
children is diagnosed with autism (AutismSpeaks.org), so there is a good chance
that a teacher will have students with Autism Spectrum Disorders sometime in their
teaching career. Teachers need to understand what ASD is and know how to make
accommodations for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders within the classroom,
so that the child can learn to their full potential. It is important to understand that
the disability that a student has is part of them and their identity. As part of the
culturally responsive pedagogy and multicultural education, teachers need to be
responsive to all the cultures that are present in their classrooms and those with
learning disabilities or are considered exceptional need to be treated just the same.
Exceptionality in the classroom is one of the subcultures and multicultural education
topics that we talked about in class. In a classroom a teacher may not have a
student who specifically has Autism, but instead some other disability that is in the
same category, so it is important that they understand what the category is and the
accommodations that go along with it.
What is Autism/ an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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Autism is a pervasive disorder that primarily affects social interaction,
language, and behavior (Smith, T.C., Polloway, E.A., Patton, J.R., & Dowdy, C.A.,
1998, p. 242). Autism is one of many different branches that are under the Autism
Spectrum. According to the Virginia Department of Education in, Guidelines for
Educating Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders Autism Spectrum Disorders
are a group of complex neurological developmental disabilities with core features
that include significant social and communication challenges, and restricted
repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior(2010, p. 6). There are several
specific disorders that fall under the umbrella category of Autism Spectrum:
Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder
(Judd, 2012, p.265) just to name a few. Each of these has its own characteristics
that make it its own disorder, but they are all so similar that the IDEA and other
learning disability sourcebooks combine them and place them under the ASD
umbrella. Some characteristics of ASD that may hinder the way a child learns and
gets along in the school setting include: playing with toys and objects in unusual
ways, repetitive body movements or behaviors, and other characteristics exhibited
by individuals with speech and language disabilities (Judd, 2012, p.265). These
characteristics may hinder a child from being able to learn/function like a normal
student would in the classroom and they may require accommodations and
modifications, so that they can learn and participate in their least restrictive
environment.
Why Accommodate/ What Are Accommodations?
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is the federal law that ensures
that all children with emotionally-impacting disabilities, from birth through age 21,

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receive an appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and
related services to meet their unique needs and to prepare them for employment
and independent living (VA Department of Education, 2012, p. 13). With this being
said, it is the school and the teachers job to make sure that all students with
disabilities are provided with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) so that they can
have accommodations made to their learning; so that they are able to learn to their
full potential. According to Educational Recommendations for Autism Spectrum
Disorders, a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder requires a highly structured
program (Williams, 2011). The education and treatment of individuals with Autism
has undergone extreme changes since 1943. At one time, the education of a child
with Autism would only be considered within a specialized school or psychiatric
family. (VA. Department of Education, 2010, p. 15). Today, students with ASD are
placed in the regular education classrooms, right along with all the other students,
unless their diagnosis is severe enough that they need to be placed in a special
education classroom, but in most cases they are placed in full inclusion classrooms.
Accommodations for These Students
As with all students with exceptionalities, the least restrictive environment
should be taken into consideration when placing the students in the appropriate
classroom settings. Individuals with ASD can successfully learn in a regular
education classroom setting, depending on the severity of the disability, the
attitude and the training of the educator, and the collaboration of the educating
parties involved (John Hopkins School of Education, 2005). For most students, this
is the best situation, but for many this is not the most productive setting, instead
they learn better in a separate educational classroom setting, where there are fewer

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students and they can receive more attention (Williams, 2011).

Individuals with

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders often have difficulties adjusting to changes
in routines or familiar surroundings (Judd, 2012, p. 265), so this is something that
classroom teachers will have to take into consideration with classroom organization
and changing the classroom around when they have a student with an ASD. It may
be that the teacher has to make the accommodation that they give the student
their own place in the classroom, which they know is theirs, and will not change
throughout the year, unless they change it themselves. Another way that teachers
can help these students follow and adjust to schedules is by providing them with a
picture schedule of the activities that they will be completing throughout the day.
This can either be mounted on a large chart somewhere in the classroom for all
students to see and benefit from it, or it can be on a smaller version that the
student can keep with them (Richmond, 2007, p.1). It is important for the
classroom teacher to make sure that they always prepare the child with ASD for any
schedule changes that may take place, as far in advance as possible.
According to Teaching Children with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings, to
get the best out of the inclusive setting several accommodations need to be in
place. Instructions need to be clear and simple and students should be prompted as
needed (1998, p. 248). This holds true for all students in the classroom, not just
those with ASD, so this is something that a teacher can use with all students within
the classroom. For many students with an ASD, just seeing and hearing the new
information being taught, may not be enough. A teacher can accommodate this by
integrating visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli into the lesson to help the students
transfer and generalize the information (Richmond, 2007, p.1). A teacher should

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learn everything they can about the student with a disability, including their
development, behavior, and what services have been provided in the past/ what
services can be provided to them (Smith, Polloway, Patton, &Dowdy, 1998, p. 248).
Knowing the information about the student will better prepare the teacher for what
they need to do to provide for the needs of the student. Teaching students with
Autism Spectrum disorders should be seen as a team approach with many
professionals involved and helping the classroom teacher (Smith, Polloway, Patton,
&Dowdy, 1998, p. 248). This is important for the classroom teacher to remember;
so they know that they are not alone, and they can always consult someone else if
they are unsure how to accommodate the student or if the accommodations they
are trying are not working. Teaching Children with Special Needs in Inclusive
Settings also states, that the classroom teacher should prepare the class as a whole
for a student with Autism (1998, p. 248). This means that the class should discuss
what it means to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, so that they understand the
needs of the student who has the ASD, and they know what to expect, or how they
can help. This could be done as a diversity lesson at the beginning of the year,
using a number of strategies to show that everyone in the class is different and
there are ways that they can all help one another learn.
Having students with Autism in a full inclusion classroom helps them develop
the social skills that they may be lacking as well as learning age-appropriate
behaviors from the environment and what is being modeled by their peers
( Koegel, R.L & Koegel K.L., 1995, p. 13). Since children with Autism Spectrum
Disorders often struggle with communication and socialization, a teacher can place
the students in situations where they can better develop these skills. One way that

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the teacher in the inclusive classroom can do this is by paring them with a peer to
help with social skills and activities in the classroom and other settings [ex:
cafeteria, gym, playground...] (Richmond, 2007, p.1). Teachers can make small
accommodations that will aid the student with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it
is important for them to remember that any of the accommodations that they make
in the classroom can benefit many of the other students.
Conclusion
Regular classroom teachers should educate themselves about Autism and
Autism Spectrum Disorders. Knowing the information about the broad spectrum can
be beneficial for all teachers, no matter what grade or subject they are teaching. As
Richmond says in Accommodating Children with Autism Within an Inclusive Setting,
Having a teacher that is both knowledgeable and understanding gives ASD
students the best chance for classroom and social success(2007, p.2). All teachers
should have some knowledge on students with exceptionalities and learning
disabilities and how they can make accommodations and modifications to their
lesson plans to meet the needs of their students. Every teacher will have students
with learning disabilities in their classroom, so they should have some sort of basic
knowledge, so they can adequately meet the needs of all their students. A regular
education teacher should know about accommodations and modifications for
students, so that they can meet the needs of their students when the SPED teacher
isnt available or isnt in the general education classroom. It is also important for
them to have the basic understanding about Special Education, so that they can
understand and work with the aids and special education teachers in their school, to
meet the needs of their students.

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Knowing the information that I do now after completing this research on
Autism Spectrum Disorders has helped me gain a better understanding of how I can
provide accommodations and modifications to my lessons to meet the needs of my
students. I know some of the modifications and accommodations that are specific to
Autism Spectrum disorders can be used for students with other learning disabilities,
and I now know ways that I can use some of these accommodations to benefit the
whole class as a whole. One of these accommodations that I think I am going to use
in my classroom regardless of the learning disabilities present is a visual schedule
somewhere in the classroom. After researching and learning this information, I now
know how beneficial this can be to my students. When it comes to working with
students with exceptionalities, it is important for a teacher to remember that they
need to be flexible, patient, and build relationships with these students.
Through my research and what I have learned in this class, students with
exceptionalities play a big role in multicultural education. I know that I need to do to
make sure that these students feel like they are valued and are accepted in the
classroom. I want to have a classroom where all cultures and values are represented
and students dont have to hide their differences. One way that I can do this by
having activities during the first week of school where my students learn what their
own self-identity is and how their cultures may be different/ similar to their
classmates. I want my classroom to be one with collaborative learning where
students who may have learning difficulties and those who do not can work together
in their learning. My classroom will value multicultural education and everyones
diverse needs.

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References
Autism Speaks. (2014). Autism Speaks. Retrieved April 29, 2014, retrieved from
http://www.autismspeaks.org/
John Hopkins School of Education. (2005) Inclusion of Students with Autism
Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved from:
http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Exceptional
%20Learners/Autism/Articles/Inclusion%20of%20Students%20with%20Autism
%20Spectrum%20Disorders/
Judd, Sandra. (ed). (2012). Learning Disabilities Sourcebook. United States: Peter E.
Ruffner.
Koegel, Robert & Koegel Lynn Kern. (1995). Teaching Children with Autism.
Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.
Richmond, M. (2007). Accommodating Children with Autism Within an Inclusive
Setting. Retrieved from
http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/134_autismintheclassroom.pdf .
Smith, T.C., Polloway, E.A., Patton, J.R., & Dowdy, C.A. (1998). Teaching Students
with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings (2nd ed). Needham Heights, MA:
Allyn & Baccon
Va. Department of Education (2010). Guidelines for Educating Students with Autism
Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved from
http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/disabilities/autism/technical_asst_docu
ments/autism_guidelines.pdf
Williams, E. (2011). Educational Recommendations for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Pathfinders for Autism. Retrieved April 29, 2014, from
http://www.pathfindersforautism.org/articles/view/educationalrecommendations-for-autism-spectrum-disorders