Sunday, November 18, 2012

Autism / Special Education

Are you researching autism and/or special education? Here are some articles that have really helped Damien and me over the years:

“Autism.” ASHA. May 1994: 83. The article explains in detail the cause and diagnosis of autism. The article also explains how the developmental disorder affects the communication needs of those afflicted with the disorder.

Ahlgrim-Delzell, Lynn; Browder, Diane; Flowers, Claudia; and Spooner, Fred. (2005). "Teachers’ Perceptions of Alternative Assessments." Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30.2, 81-92. The authors state the purpose of the study is to “examine teachers’ perceptions of alternate assessments.” The authors surveyed 983 teachers from 5 states by using two inventories one with a 5-point scale rating and one with a 4-point scale rating to determine what influences the alternative assessment outcome and the impact of alternative assessment. The samples used were representative for each of the five states surveyed. The study shows that teachers often agree that students with disabilities should be included in general education settings and should be held accountable, but they did not agree that the alternative assessments were beneficial and added more paperwork and time to their schedules. Therefore, the researchers suggest that more resources should be offered to alleviate the demands of alternative assessments. The researchers state limitations to the study include confounding factors, and a lack of evidence that suggests their findings would improve the outcomes of students with disabilities. Also, the researchers warn about generalizing the results to states that were not sampled.

Attwood, Dr. Tony. “Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, and Andy Warhol: The Controversial Disorder They May Have Shared.” Biography Magazine. Dec. 2003: 86-88,114. Many people that others may feel is strange or unusual may have been afflicted with autism. Dr. Tony Attwood seems to feel this is the case with celebrities such as Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, and Andy Warhol. Attwood walks us through one of the many autism spectrum disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome. This is a high functioning autism.

Baird, Gillian, Simon Baron-Cohen, Tony Charman, Antony Cox, Auriol Drew, and John Swettenham. “Predicting Language Outcome in Infants with Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. July-Sep 2003: 265-285. This article is compiled of research done on a worldwide scale of the effects of autism on young children. The research was compiled in order to determine if the language abilities of autistic adults could be predicted from their language abilities as infants. A direct correlation in the studies has been noted in this article.

Baron-Cohen, Simon. “Need to Know Autism.” Pulse. 16 Feb 2006: 40-43. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen walks the reader through frequently asked questions on autism and autism spectrum disorders. These questions include topics such as causes for autism, the rise in the amount of people diagnosed with autism, possible risks to siblings, the prevelance of autism, etc

Cowley, Geoffrey. “Understanding Autism.” Newsweek. 31 July 2000: 46-54. The article gives a detailed description of what autism is, what symptoms autistic children have, how prevalent the disorder is, and treatments for autism. The article also explains how autism effects all types of language: verbal, non-verbal, and written.

Craig, Holly K., and Ann Sexton Telfer. “Hyperlexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder A Case Study of Scaffolding Language Growth Over Time.” Topics in Language Disorders. Oct-Dec 2005: 364-374. This is a case study about a young man that has developmental disorder that causes only single-word recognition and diminished comprehension skills. It teaches clinicians how to use what language skills those with autism have and how to use their skills to build new skills.

Crisp, Cheryl. (2007). "The Efficacy of Intelligence Testing in Children with Physical Disabilities, Visual Impairments and/or the Inability to Speak." International Journal of Special Education, 22.1, 137-141. Crisp indicates that the design of intelligence assessments may inhibit an accurate score for students with disabilities. Crisp states that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires all students, even those with disabilities to be held accountable on academic assessments, but it does not acknowledge that some of the students with disabilities may never attain the academic level of their peers. Crisp asserts that each person with a disability is an individual and must always be put before their disability, and each disability is different in that individual. Crisp argues that standardized tests fail to take the nature of the disability into consideration, and many fail to allow accommodations to be made to the test because doing so would hinder the integrity of the test. Crisp provides a list made by Fagan of those who are unable “comply with the requirements of standardized testing: cerebral palsy, all of the muscular dystrophies, dystonia, brain injury, some language disorders, developmental disorders, mental disorders, and cultural differences. Crisp provides several more appropriate options for measuring intelligence.

Downing, June E.; and Peckham-Hardin, Kathryn D. (2007). "Inclusive Education: What Makes It a Good Education for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities?." Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32, 16-30. The authors of the article are Professors with the Education Department at California State University. The purpose of the study was to identify the outcomes of inclusive classrooms on the education of students with disabilities. Although the study included a diverse focus group, the group used was not representative of the population as a hole. Furthermore, the study was isolated in a metropolitan area of southern California. Also the study was done with a small group of 58 participants at only 3 inclusive educational sites. The interview questions were open-ended which allows room for less objectivity and staff interpretation. Other problems in the study include the gathering of observation data in which the observations only lasted from 20 to 60 minutes and were not repeated. Therefore, the students being observed may not have acted normally since they were not desensitized to the presence of observers. The study shows that students with and without disabilities benefit from inclusive programs, a positive outcome is evident when the parent/teacher relationship is formed, and teachers in inclusive classrooms often need more support than what they receive. Unfortunately, the study does not address educational issues faced by all students in an inclusive setting.

Dykeman, Buce F. (2006). "Alternative Strategies in Assessing Special Education Needs." Education, 127.2, 265-273. Dykeman states that Response to Intervention relies on standardized, norm-referenced assessment to determine special education needs of students with disabilities. Dykeman argues that functional assessment, authentic assessment, curriculum-based measurement, and play-based assessment should be used within the RTI model, but psychometric issues of reliability, validity, and fairness have become issues when determining the needs of students. Dykeman explains how students with disabilities are assessed and outlines the guidelines of diagnosis according to IDEIA 2004. However, Dykeman argues that IDEIA 2004 does not tell how assessments and evaluations are to be conducted. Dykeman argues, as does Crisp, that standardized, norm-referenced tests cannot always be indicative of the cognitive abilities of students with disabilities. Therefore, Dykeman suggests the use of the alternative assessments he discusses, which the language of IDEIA does encourage. Dykeman suggests more evidence based assessments be used that address the individual needs of students in order to allow fairness while determining special education needs.

Friedlander, Diana. (2009). "Sam Comes to School: Including Students with Autism in Your Classroom." Clearing House, 82, 141-144. Diana Friedlander is a special education inclusion teacher in elementary education in Ridgefield, CT, and a doctoral candidate at Western Connecticut State University. The article tells the story of a boy with autism, Sam, and the issues faced by him and his teacher when he began school. The author covers in detail many struggles students with autism have as well as giving an in-depth definition of autism. Friedlander recommends communication with the parents of children with autism both before and during the school year. The author’s definition of the parent/professional relationship is supported by Downing and Peckham-Hardin. She goes over the supports and intervention strategies that can help a student with autism adjust to the environment around them such as organization, visual cues and supports, sensory supports, social supports and models, and behavioral intervention plans. Friedlander asserts that an inclusive education is beneficial for a student with autism, which is also supported by Downing and Peckham-Hardin’s article.

Gross, Thomas F. “Global-Local Precedence in the Perception of Facial Age and Emotional Expression by Children with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities.” Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders. Dec 2005: 773-785. Gross explores the inability of most autistic people to read facial expressions. He tells us that autistic patients can be taught how to appropriately use facial expressions.

Keane, Elaine.; and Roberts, Jacqueline. (2008). "Making Inclusion Work." TEACHING Exceptional Children, 41.2, 22-27. The authors of the article are leading specialists and consultants in Australia on autism spectrum disorders and education. The project discussed in the article is centered on the Autism Spectrum Australia Satellite Class Project in which students with an autism spectrum disorder are put into small specialist classes and eventually transitioned into a more inclusive environment. At the time of the article, the project had been in operation since 1992 and had expanded to 57 classes throughout the Sydney, Australia area. The program has shown a sixty-one percent success rate in transitioning students with autism from the specialist classes to the general education classrooms. Of those students, 95% remain in general education and several students have gone on to continue their education past their high school education. Students in the program benefit from mainstream and special education supports, resources provided to educators, ASD consultants and ASD specialized teachers, as well as ASD-specific skills-based programs.

National Institute of Mental Health. "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (Pervasive Developmental Disorders). This publication gives detailed information on what autism is, how prevalent autism is, how autism effects every aspect of those afflicted with the disorder, how to diagnose autism, possible causes for autism, etc.

Pearson, Sue. (2007). "Exploring Inclusive Education: Early Steps for Prospective Secondary School Teachers." British Journal of Special Education, 34.1, 25-32. Pearson coordinates the MA (SEN) program in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. Her article explores the importance of preparing future secondary educators for an inclusive classroom setting. The 5 phase plus follow-up approach was a simulation of the development of provisions that form active learning required for special needs students in an inclusive classroom. The author stresses the appropriate resources will create problems for the students and a “lack of clarity about the role of teaching assistants can impact on the teacher and pupils.” The study shows that university-based learning activities can provide a foundation to assist prospective teachers in an inclusive setting. Though the study was only done in one subject area, Pearson asserts that the findings can be generalized across the curriculum. Therefore, the addition of such programs can enhance the initial teacher training of secondary teachers, thus enabling them to be more prepared for an inclusive classroom. The limitations to the study is that the study was centralized in one university. Because the programs in other institutions may or may not better prepare prospective educators for an inclusive classroom, the program may not be an effective approach.

Roach, Andrew T. (2006). "Influences on Parent Perceptions of an Alternate Assessment for Students with Severe Cognitive Disabilities." Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 31.3, 267-274. Roach states the purpose of his research was to “understand the variables that influence parents’ perceptions of the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment.” The study included special educators in both elementary and secondary systems across the state of Wisconsin. The sample of students included was representative of the gender population and grade levels in which the study was done in Wisconsin. Demographics on parents were not gathered, but parents were given pencil and paper rating scale surveys to ascertain their understanding of the WAA. The findings show that parents were positive about the WAA process, supportive participation of all students, and pleased with the alignment of the WAA to Wisconsin’s academic standards. Roach also found that student age was directly correlated to parent’s perceptions of the WAA. Parents with older students were less likely to be satisfied with the WAA, which mirrors parents’ perceptions of inclusion. Furthermore, Roach found that parents were confident in the WAA results, and those parents who were more involved with their students education were more satisfied with the outcome. Therefore, Roach suggests that resources, support, training, and support materials be provided to facilitate parent understanding of the WAA.

Schwarz, Patrick A. (2000). "Special Education: A Service, Not a Sentence." Educational Leadership, 64.5, 39-42. Patrick Schwarz is an associate professor and chair of the Diversity in Learning and Development Department of National-Louis University, Chicago. The author advocates that segregation of students with disabilities into a special education classroom is can be detrimental to the development of the students. The author feels that all students should be in an inclusive classroom setting. The author believes an inclusive classroom setting is the least restrictive environment for all students. However, the author does not take into consideration the impact of a student with special needs on the other students or the impact on students who are far behind their classmates. Some students may be disruptive or some students may not be able to keep up with the curriculum in the general education setting. The author offers a process developed by Udvari-Solner that takes into account the range of learners in a classroom and honors diversity to help with the unification of the inclusive classroom. The author concludes that the betterment of the students can be found in a fully inclusive environment.

Vacca, John J. (2007). "Incorporating Interests and Structure to Improve Participation of a Child with Autism in a Standardized Assessment: A Case Study Analysis." Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22.1, 51-59. Vacca, an assistant professor of Individual and Family Studies at the University of Delaware, states that research indicates standardized assessments fail to predict concrete suggestions on supporting students with autism and fail to offer insight as to how behaviors of these children will be manifested in multiple environments. Vacca also points out that some attempts to assess children with autism by using standardized testing is unsuccessful, so researchers are looking at alternative assessments, which include interest areas to provide supports and instructional strategies for students with autism. Vacca accommodated the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Second Edition by using interest areas to assess the developmental level of a child with autism, who was once deemed untestable. Vacca found that the use of the interests particular to the child helped the child complete the BSID II. Therefore, Vacca recommends that assessments for children with autism be accommodated by using the child’s interest area.

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