What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less. A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder."
At CRP, we have adapted the DSM5 severity levels to describe our ASD workshops and training events to help attendees match professional development to the students they are serving. To read more about ASD diagnosis and treatment, visit Facts about ASD at the CDC website.
How is ASD identified?
A medical diagnosis of ASD is made by clinical professionals including developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, and speech-language pathologists following a comprehensive evaluation. In the schools, multi-disciplinary teams evaluate students to determine if they meet Oregon's eligibility criteria to receive special education services under the category of ASD. If you want to learn more about the new ASD eligibility criteria going into effect January 1, 2019, view this training video comparing the previous and new criteria. It is also important to distinguish between a medical diagnosis versus an educational eligibility.
Educational professionals must not only identify a pattern of characteristics associated with ASD, to find a student eligible under ASD they must also determine that (1) the disability has an adverse impact upon educational performance; and (2) the student requires specially designed instruction. It is possible for a child to have a medical diagnosis while being found ineligible under the educational criteria, or vice-versa.
What interventions are available to help students with ASD?
As educators and clinicians, we still have much to learn. Yet there is is a substantial and growing body of research regarding "what works" for our students with ASD. For example, the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDCASD) and National Autism Center have conducted large-scale reviews of the literature to determine which teaching strategies meet their standards to be designated as an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP). Columbia Regional Inclusive Services is working in partnership with districts to narrow the research-to-practice gap in the schools and expand the use of instructional methods supported by research.