A Parent’s Guide
Semmes Elementary School
What is the Autism Spectrum?
• The Autism Spectrum encompasses a
number of childhood disorders to include:
– Autistic Disorder
– Rett’s Disorder
– Degenerative Disorder
– Pervasive Developmental Disorder-
Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)
– Asperger’s Syndrome
• Autistic Disorder (Classic) is the most
severe form of autism.
• Nearly half are eventually diagnosed with
• A 2008 study indicated that “classic”
autism occurs in about 4 of every 10,000
• “Classic” Autism is characterized
extreme difficulty in the following areas:
– Social interaction
– Hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimuli
– Lack of empathy
– Verbal and nonverbal communication
– Repetitive behaviors
– Narrow interests
– Self-injurious behavior
– Perception of self
• In infancy, autistic children tend to be
unresponsive to parents and people.
Faces are unimportant.
• Older babies and toddlers do not respond
when their name is called.
• They may show a reduced sensitivity to
pain and hyper-sensitivity to sounds,
smells, lights, touch and taste.
• Rett’s Disorder is a neuro-developmental
disorder that affects females almost
• Age of onset and severity of symptoms
• Rett’s Disorder is known to be cause by a
specific gene mutation. Less than 1% of
cases are inherited.
Characteristics of Rett’s Disorder
• Lack of purposeful use of hands
• Slowed brain and head growth
• Gait abnormalities
• Mental retardation
Progression of Rett’s Disorder
• Loss of muscle tone
• Hands become floppy and the child is
unable to grasp and hold objects.
• Gradual loss of the ability to speak.
• Life expectancy ranges from early to late
• Degenerative Disorder is similar to Rett’s
Disorder in that there is continued and
• Characterized by normal childhood
development for the first two to three
years of life followed by significant and
• Cause remains unknown.
• Degenerative Disorder is progressive and
– Loss of motor skills
– Loss of bladder and bowel control
– Loss of receptive language skills
– Loss of expressive language skills
– Violent behavior
– Psychiatric disorders
• Children diagnosed with Pervasive
Developmental Disorder-NOS possess
characteristics that meet most of the
criteria for a specific disorder that falls
within the Autism Spectrum, but it can
not be diagnosed with the highest degree
• Asperger’s Syndrome is much more
common and is believed to occur as
many as 20-25 children per 10,000.
• Range of the severity of symptoms within
the syndrome. (Mild, moderate, sever)
• Mildly affected children often go
undiagnosed and may just be considered
odd or eccentric
History of Asperger’s Syndrome
• Identified by a Viennese pediatrician
named Hans Asperger in the 1940’s.
• Became officially recognized in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders as for the first time in
More Asperger’s facts…
• Asperger’s is much more common in
boys than in girls. The ratio is 4:1.
• It is the mildest and highest
functioning form of autism.
Characteristics of Asperger’s
• Difficulty with two-way social interaction
• Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication
• Reluctant to accept change
• Rigid thought patterns
• Possess “all absorbing” narrow areas of interest
• Appear physically awkward or clumsy.
• No substantial delay in language development or
• May possess higher than average IQ.
Socialization in Asperger’s
• Inability to interact with peers in an age
• Lack of desire for social interaction
• Inability to read social cues
• Display socially and emotionally
Communication in Asperger’s
• Language development is not delayed.
Perfect expressive language.
• Odd or peculiar voice characteristics
• Impaired comprehension and
misinterpretation of implied and literal
Nonverbal Communication in
• Limited use of gestures
• Clumsy body language
• Limited and/or inappropriate facial
• Difficulty with personal space and
Rigidity in Asperger’s
• Limited interests
• Hyper-focus and preoccupation with
parts and pieces, toys, subjects, etc.
• Repetitive rituals or routines
• Inability to adjust to change
• Elementary –
– Hyperactivity, inattention aggression
– Immature social skills
– Underdeveloped fine motor skills
– Obsessive areas of interest
– Well developed rote learning skills
– Academic progress may remain strong
• Middle and upper grades-
– Behavioral flare-ups
– Poor attention and concentration
– Lack of organizational skills
– Anger and aggression
How to help…..
• Keep classroom routines consistent,
predictable and structured.
• Prepare student in advance for changes if
• Make sure rules are clearly stated and
understood. (Literal verses implied
• Provide explicit, step-by-step instruction.
• Utilize visuals. (charts, schedules, lists,
• Practice rehearsing and practicing social
• Avoid figurative speech, idioms, sarcasm.
• Keep instruction concrete. Abstract
thinking is difficult.
• Assign a non-Asperger peer person.
• Avoid power struggles. Behaviors can
• Head off potential outbursts by taking
• Encourage calmness
• Present no more than 2-3 choices
• Divert attention elsewhere
Asperger’s Through the Years
– Difficult to distinguish from “classic”
– No evidence of developmental delays
with the exception of possible
– No delay in language development
– Observed difficulty regulating social
and emotional responses
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as
manifested by at least two of the following:
marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal
behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression,
body postures, and gestures to regulate social I
failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to
a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment,
interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by
a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of
interest to other people)
lack of social or emotional reciprocity
B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of
behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at
least one of the following:
encompassing preoccupation with one or more
stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is
abnormal either in intensity or focus
apparently inflexible adherence to specific,
nonfunctional routines or rituals
stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g.,
hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-
persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant
impairment in social, occupational, or other important
areas of functioning
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in
language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years,
communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive
development or in the development of age-appropriate
self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social
interaction), and curiosity about the environment in
F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive
Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS