Awareness of Students with Diverse Learning Needs,
What the Teacher Needs to Know, Volume 1

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Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that is treatable in varying degrees with early diagnosis and intervention.

Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls and occurs in all races and social and psychological backgrounds.

Autism is caused by an underlying physical dysfunction within the brain or central nervous system, the exact nature of which is yet unknown. The result is unusual or abnormal behaviour, ranging from passivity to aggression. Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that is treatable in varying degrees with early diagnosis and intervention. Autism is caused by an underlying physical dysfunction within the brain or central nervous system, the exact nature of which is yet unknown. The result is unusual or abnormal behaviour, ranging from passivity to aggression.

Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls and occurs in all races and social and psychological backgrounds. It is usually diagnosed in pre-school years but may be confused with mental disability, deafness, epilepsy and/or other disorders.

The chief difficulty for a child with autism seems to lie with processing information. Abnormal responses to sensations as well as hearing irregularities may trigger unusual behaviours. It may require extreme efforts to make sense of a world that is not understood, to seek structure and routine in the midst of a confusing muddle. If the individual experiences confusion, the result may be withdrawal or an emotional outburst. Similarly, children with autism experience difficulties in communication and in establishing social relationships as they try to respond to overlapping messages. Any change to a known routine constitutes a challenge, and the individual may panic in an attempt to cope with sensory overload.

There are currently no medical tests for autism; diagnosis is based on observation of behaviour. Most children with autism do not explore and seem to lack curiosity. They may then fall back on what appears to be obsessive behaviour, trying to re-establish a routine. Unfortunately this does not break the log jam of unexpressed emotions.

A student with narrow interests or a preoccupation with one topic can be guided to use that interest to learn new skills. A strong focus on increasing communication skills and promoting a structured, organized environment increases the potential for children with autism to grow to their full potential.

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