Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reflection on TEACCH Workshop

I feel the TEACCH workshop was beneficial to my future goal of becoming a special educator because it provided me with vital information about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and provided me with ideas on how to teach students with ASDs. It is no secret that the number of students with an ASD is on the rise. In 1996, studies showed that 1 in 160 children were diagnosed with an ASD. Not even a year ago, the number was 1 in 150; and today, a new study shows that the number is now 1 in 90 children are diagnosed. What this means to the education community is that all teachers must adapt their curriculum to include methods of reaching students with ASDs.

The TEACCH workshop provided me with concrete methods of teaching students on the autism spectrum. Gary Mesibov showed us how to use manipulatives and what types of manipulatives can be used. He showed us how to teach our students with ASDs to become more organized so they will be better prepared for their futures. The use of colors, lists, and schedules were stressed for this purpose. Mesibov taught us the importance of teaching new skills or skills to be mastered in context so the students with ASDs can generalize their skills from one setting to the other. He showed us how using real world situations to teach these students can be beneficial to their learning. Mesibov also talked to us about teaching social skills to students with ASDs.

What I enjoyed about the workshop is that all of the methods we were taught can be used to teach mainstream students as well. He provided me another method of differentiating instruction so that I may reach the educational needs for all of my students, not just my students with autism. I feel that all teachers should receive similar autism training because of the rise in the population of students diagnosed with ASDs. In order to provide my students with ASDs with an appropriate education, I do plan to use many, if not all, of the methods Mesibov has provided us with.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Alternative Assessments for Students with Disabilities

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Special Education

You have to really push some school districts to get what your child needs. Being professionally trained in special education services and law, I can tell you the sad fact of the world that our children live in. School districts get less money for children in special education than what they do for regular education. Fortunately, my extensive knowledge in what I could and could not ask for more than benefitted my son, Damien. He started as a fully resourced (special education) student, to now being a fully inclusive student. Damien still receives special education services, but they are as he needs them, not how the school needs them for him. I can tell you from experience that your number one goal should be inclusion. It helps in all aspects of your child's life, particularly communication and social abilities. I also have a friend who is specialized in autism (one of my professors) that can help me find answers that I cannot. He was my go to person when I needed help with Damien, and he also has inside knowledge that helps. Most of all advocacy and self-advocacy are your two greatest tools. Furthermore, your state education system should have free advocate services for special education students that will help you to determine what is best for your child. They can attend the IEP meetings if you need them to.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maximize Autistic Potential

High Functioning vs. Low Functioning

My son was first classified as low-functioning at 16 months. He didn't learn to speak and didn't speak until he was 4. He banged his head on the wall and bars of his crib. He would scream if anyone would touch him, and he would not let anyone hold him, even as a newborn. It was heartbreaking. After he started talking, a lot of the self-destructive/self-injurious behaviors subsided (note that I said subsided, not ended). We had moved and his new doctor diagnosed him as just having autism, not low-functioning but not high-functioning either. The main differences were his frustration levels were lower and he was having an easier time learning. When he was re-tested at 15 years old, we were given the diagnosis of high-functioning. Now, we aware that the APA says children cannot move along the spectrum, but a lot of autism specialists, including Dr. Tony Attwood disagree. Damien still has all of the same difficulties as he did at 16 months other than the speech problem. However, he can keep them in check and control MOST of the time. He is fully inclusive but still gets special education services. He has a job at the zoo and does really well at work. As long he has the supports - checklists, pictures, color coding, etc., then he is able to function on his own. I truly believe the higher the functioning, the more invisible it is to the outside world. There will always be social difficulties, fine motor difficulties, and sensitivity difficulties no matter the functioning. I suggest checking out Dr. Tony Atwood, Temple Grandin, and Stephen Shore for an idea of what high-functioning is. Both Grandin and Shore are individuals with high-functioning autism.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

DSM Categories: Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorder

DSM Category 1: Schizophrenia
            Diagnostic Features:
A.    Two or more of the following each being present for a significant portion of time during a one-month period
1.)  Delusions
2.)  Hallucinations
3.)  Disorganized speech
4.)  Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
5.)  Negative Symptoms
Note: Only one criterion is required if numbers 1-2 are overwhelming and impede normal functioning.
B.    Social occupational dysfunction: One or more areas of major functioning are affected due to regression
C.   Duration: Continuous disturbance for at least 6 months, with 1 month of Criterion A Symptoms and may include prodromal or residual symptoms
D.   Schizoaffective and Mood Disorder Exclusion: Ruled out due to no major depressive, manic or mixed episodes occurred with active phase symptoms or mood episodes occurred during active phase symptoms for a brief period of time.
E.    Substance/General Medical Exclusion: Disturbance that is not due to drug abuse or a medical condition
F.    Relationship to a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD): If there exists an autism spectrum disorder there must exhibit prominent delusions or hallucinations for at least 1 month.
Associated Features:
1.    Inappropriate Affect
2.    Depression, Anxiety, or Anger
3.    Loss of Interest or Pleasure
4.    Disturbances in Sleep Pattern
5.    Changes in Eating Routine
6.    Abnormal Psychomotor Activities
7.    Concentration, Attention, and Memory Difficulties
8.    Poor Insight towards Illness (manifestation rather than coping)
9.    Depersonalization, Derealization and Somatic Concerns
10. Phobias
11. Motor Abnormalities
12. Short life expectancy (suicide, stress, etc.)
13. Assaultive and Violent Behavior
14. Substance Abuse (Rates of comorbidity are high with Substance-Related Disorder)
15. Other Comorbid Disorders- Anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, schizotypal disorder, schizoid disorder, paranoid personality disorder, etc.
16. An increase has been found due to prenatal and childhood factors, exposure to illness, famine, obstetric complications, etc.
Specific Culture, Age, and Gender Features:
Cultural differences should be considered for example delusions in one culture might not be seen as delusions in another. Hallucinations may be acceptable in other cultures (religion, sorcery, witchcraft, etc.). Disorganized speech may be due to not speaking in one’s native tongue. Be cautious of cultural bias and insensitivity.
Onset occurs between late teens and mid-thirties, early onset is rare.  Children’s hallucinations and delusions are less elaborate, where as adults most commonly experience visual hallucinations. 
Proportion of late onset cases is greater in women.  Schizophrenia differs in men and women.  For men the age of onset is 18-25 years old and for women onset is around 25-35 years old.  Women may experience a late life second peak, however women have a better premorbid functioning than men.  Women express more affective symptomatology, paranoid delusions and hallucinations.  Men have more negative symptoms; therefore women tend to have a better prognosis.  There is a higher incidence of schizophrenia in men than in women.
A worldwide condition that affects 0.5%-1.5% of adults. Also more prevalent in urban born adults rather than rural born adults. 
May be variable, for instance it could become progressively worse over time, go into remission (complete remission is not common), or be consistently chronic. Positive and Negative symptoms exist.
Familial Pattern:
First degree biological relatives are 10 times more likely to have schizophrenia.  There exist a stronger correlation in identical twins rather than fraternal twins.  Schizophrenia is more likely to appear in biological relatives of individuals with schizophrenia, as well as other mental disorders. 
Differential Diagnosis:
·      Psychotic Disorder due to a general medical condition
·      Delirium
·      Dementia
·      Substance Induced Psychotic Disorder
·      Substance Induced Delirium
·      Substance Induced Persisting Dementia
·      Substance Related Disorders
·      Mood Disorders with Psychotic Features
·      Schizoaffective Disorder
·      Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
·      Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
·      Mood Disorder with Catatonic Disorders
·      Schizophreniform Disorder
·      Brief Psychotic Disorder
·      Delusional Disorder
·      Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
·      Pervasive Developmental Disorder
·      Childhood Presentations combining disorganized speech (From a communication disorder)
·      Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
·      Schizotypal, Schizoid, Paranoid Personality Disorder
Schizophrenia Subtypes
            Subtype 1: Paranoid Type
            Subtype 2: Disorganized Type
            Subtype 3: Catatonic Type
            Subtype 4: Undifferentiated Type
            Subtype 5: Residual Type
            Subtype 6: Schizophreniform Disorder
            Subtype 7: Schizoaffective Disorder
                        Bipolar Type
                        Depressive Type
            Subtype 8: Delusional Disorder
                        Erotomanic Type
                        Grandiose Type
                        Jealous Type
                        Persecutory Type
                        Somatic Type
                        Mixed Type
                        Unspecified Type
            Subtype 9: Brief Psychotic Disorder
            Subtype 10: Shared Psychotic Disorder
            Subtype 11: Psychotic Disorder due to General Medical Condition
                        With Delusions
                        With Hallucinations
            Subtype 12: Substance Induced Psychotic Disorder
                        With Delusions
                        With Hallucinations
            Subtype 13: Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Damienism #50

"My mind never shuts off. I cannot stop thinking."

~ Damien A. Brown

Friday, January 11, 2013

Damienism #46

The boys are cracking me up. Dylan is trying to teach Damien how to speak properly. He is making Damien say all kinds of words with v in them and trying to get Damien to say /v/ instead of /f/. And, he's also making Damien say words that start with h since Damien always drops the h in words. The funny thing is that Damien keeps saying, "You know what I am trying to say, so what does it matter?"

Dylan replied, "It matters when you go into a job interview. If you mispronounce everything, they will not know how smart you are." What Dylan does not understand is that in over more than ten years of speech therapy, Damien was discharged because he is understandable, not because he can speak perfect.

I wonder. Maybe, Dylan is right, and he can accomplish what many speech therapists could not. He plans on working with Damien for hours every day until Damien gets it right. Hmmm....

...Me: "I think he's got it. I think he's got it."
Damien: "Twelve, huge, hairy humans have hairy faces."
Me: "By George, he's got it. By George, he's got it!"

... Then I proceeded to show the boys this:

Now, they are dancing together, like the professor and Eliza.

Teaching Strategies for Students with Autism