April is World Autism Awareness Month. One might wonder if anyone remains unaware of autism, yet the impact of autism is subtle, multi-faceted, and lifelong. In this article we take time to explore the facets of a condition impacting up to 1 in 68 children in the United States alone.
We begin with my own daughter:
“Michelle wriggled and squirmed. She craved deep contact but could not sit still long enough to enjoy being held. Her sensory system seemed to malfunction. She leaned into our big dogs, especially her favorite black lab mix who leaned even harder back into her, slurping her face, giving her the constant sensory input she seemed to crave. Seemingly impervious to pain, Michelle combat-crawled into furniture and walls, banging into them as if on purpose. Nothing most toddlers would deem painful seemed to bother her, but then when we tried to remove a shirt over her head, she cried as if in agony. Only once in those early weeks, after she had developed a high fever, did she truly ‘snuggle in’ as a contented baby would. Language, too, appeared to be an early area of difficulty….” from Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, Cheryl Swope, M.Ed. (Memoria Press).
With a master’s degree in special education, lifetime K-12 teaching certificate in both learning disabilities and behavior disorders, and as a mom with twins on the autism spectrum, homeschooled from infancy through high school graduation, I am a strong advocate for early intervention!
If you suspect autism symptoms in any child, take these 5 steps:
1 – Know the Signs
Begin with knowing the characteristics of autism. As you read each of the lists linked here, make a bullet-point list of any symptoms YOU see in the child. Know the early Warning Signs of Autism in Toddlers. Learn the signs in older individuals. Find out how to distinguish between the symptoms of ADHD and autism. Ready for more in-depth study? Learn more about the newer, related diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder.
2 – Know the Impact
Autism impacts the child’s immediate family, extended family, and community. Understand the many aspects of autism. Know the safety risks for a child with autism, especially wandering, and obtain a medical identification bracelet such like this immediately.
3 – Know the Hope!
Discouraged? Fearful? Dismayed? Watch this encouraging video: The Joy of Knowing. Equip yourself to advocate for the child long-term. Pour yourself a cup of tea and read this free article, The Path Less Traveled, for greater hope. Know that you can accomplish more than many “experts” will ever tell you! Read and reread these two articles, and you will gain an understanding of all that can be accomplished through an effective education focused on mastery, skills, and knowledge while embracing the child’s delight, humanity, and joy.
4 – Know How to Teach
I have done this part for you! Simply begin with Level A of the Simply Classical Curriculum for Special Needs from Memoria Press with any young child or beginning student on the autism spectrum. This program uniquely encourages oral language through predictable repetition, provides a framework for habits of learning, and is “open-and-go,” which makes it easy to teach in 30-minute sessions.
Not sure where to begin? We offer free online readiness assessments for all Simply Classical programs: Readiness, Primary, and Grammar levels. All are fully customizable by subject for “asynchronous” learners who need subjects taught at varying levels; however, many students with autism succeed well when the program is taught exactly as written. More levels are coming in 2018.
5 – Know Where to Diagnose
You can obtain a formal evaluation from a pediatric autism specialist at a university, diagnostic clinic, or children’s hospital, or seek a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. If evaluators rule out anything of concern, this will be a relief. However, if they identify a real need, early intervention will be critical.
Take the above five steps, and you may well impact the child’s life in dramatic, measurable, and even inspiring ways. Let me know if I can help in any way. Email, or join our free support forum for Simply Classical families who are homeschooling special needs and struggling learner students.
This article first appeared on CherylSwope.com and is shared with permission