Essay on Autism spectrum disability
Autism Spectrum Disabilities
Autism is a general word that refers to a group of developmental brain disorders that are collectively referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In Australia, autism spectrum disorders are serious and complex neurodevelopmental disorders that affect approximately one person in every 160 people (Tonge and Brereton 1). The use of the term “spectrum” is meant to show the wide range of symptoms and levels of disability that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders can have or develop. The word “autism” was used to refer to children who had difficulties in relating to others, had repetitive behaviors, delayed and disordered language and the drive for sameness. These three symptoms have become central to the diagnosis of ASDs (National Institute of Mental Health 1).
There are five disorders that are currently categorized as autism spectrum disorders namely; Autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, Rett’s disorder, Pervasive development disorders not otherwise specified and Childhood disintegrative disorder. There has not been a breakthrough in identifying the exact causes of ASD. Scientists have, however, identified both genetic and environmental factors as causes of ASD. In a situation involving identical twins sharing the same genetic code, where one twin has ASD, the other twin also has the disorder in approximately 9 out of 10 cases. People with certain genetic conditions such as fragile X syndrome are also at a higher risk. The fact that most people with ASD have no family history of the disorder means that random and rare gene mutations increase an individual’s risk (National Institute of Mental Health 17). Regarding environmental factors, there are studies on factors such as family medical conditions, the age of parents and complications during pregnancy. Pregnancy-related factors include where children are born too early or too small and where cesarean delivery is used (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1).
Abilities Related To ASD
Autism is a disease with symptoms that vary from one individual to the other. The first extreme is of high functioning people who can fit into the world and get along with other people. On the other extreme is the low functioning people who are mostly diagnosed with mental retardation and who cannot operate on their own. Such diagnoses focus on what these people cannot do rather than what they can do (Eveleth 1). Research shows that less than 30% of individuals with autism have intelligence that is in the normal range. There are individuals with autism that possess unusual skills and exceptional abilities. Some autistic individuals possess exceptional talents despite the fact that they have other functional disabilities (Bright Tots Inc. 1).
Autism can bring certain strengths and special abilities. Some of these strengths and abilities include math skills, strong memory skills, musical abilities such as playing instruments, artistic abilities such as exceptional drawing, three-dimensional thinking and the ability to effectively focus on an interest (Bright Tots Inc. 1). Autistic individuals may also have strong visual skills, Computer and technology skills, intense concentration on a preferred interest, strong encoding skills such as spelling and problem-solving ability. The unique talents and strengths that individuals with autism possess reflect the focus they have on a certain area. The ability to develop these exceptional abilities or skills also depends on an individual’s understanding of the patterns that are involved and the motivation that drives them to focus on them. Many autistic children have a good rote memory. They can memorize large amounts of material and store many lists of materials or items in their minds for long periods and recite them accurately (Autism Speaks Inc. 10). The musical abilities of children with autism arise from the fact that many of these children have outstanding skills in tone recognition.
Real and Perceived Blockers to Inclusion
The use of the term “inclusion” means bringing children and other individuals with disabilities into normal or regular settings rather than placing them in special and secluded places. The concept is used to eliminate traditional practices where children with additional needs were placed in different institutions from other children. Social inclusion of persons with autism means ensuring that such people have equal access to the services enjoyed by other members of the community such as education services. It also means supporting them in accessing resources that enable them to remain connected to the community. There are barriers that prevent the inclusion of children with autism into the community and in schools (Community Child Care Victoria 3).
Discriminatory attitudes of educators, families, children and communities are the leading barriers to inclusion of people with autism. The fact that individuals with autism are different has led to them being discriminated against at school and even in the society (Cologon 30). Inadequate access to information on autism has also been a hindrance to inclusion. The fact that most people are not aware of ASD, its causes, symptoms and how to handle people with the disorder has led to the discriminatory treatment of such individuals. This has also affected teachers in schools such that they do not know how to handle children with autism. The lack of adequate resources and access to government funding meant t provide support with additional needs has also hindered inclusion of children with autism in schools and the community. As a result of the barriers to inclusion, the affected children become victims of discriminatory actions which impact on their sense of belonging. Families with individuals who have autism feel reluctant to share information about the condition of their child due to the fear of rejection (Community Child Care Victoria 3).
Strategies to Overcome Blockers to Inclusion
The major problem with inclusion is the fact that most people do not understand autism hence, interaction with autistic individuals becomes difficult. One of the strategies to overcome discrimination is by building an understanding of autism for educators, parents, children and the community (Cologon 30). Once educators and the community understand ASD, they can handle and relate to individuals with autism. Education for these stakeholders ensures that they learn about the diversity and disability that is associated with autism. Support for the teaching staff through education on autism enables them to assist children with autism by knowing how to treat and relate with them (Chapman 10). Such an understanding also makes way for the introduction of services such as speech therapy in schools to help autistic children in learning.
The provision of resources and funding for individuals with autism is also a strategy to eliminate the barriers. Children with autism have special needs that, if met, enable them to stay connected to the rest of the community. The provision of the necessary resources enables the children to feel like part of the community and minimizes the incidences of discrimination. This is because these resources enable individuals with autism to connect with other people (Ashford 6). Increased government funding both at the state and national level is necessary to ensure that the autistic individuals have access to the services and resources that are necessary for their wellbeing. The creation of community support systems for individuals with autism will also help eliminate discrimination and promote the inclusion of such individuals in the community. There need to be community organizations whose role is to identify and provide support to individuals with autism and their families. Further, these organizations also educate the community on how to interact with people with autism. They also provide the required resources and support structures for the affected persons (Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders 4).
Community Support Organizations for Individuals with Autism in Victoria
Community support organizations for families with children with autism are necessary to enable them access resources and funding. These organizations also provide an opportunity for training, counseling, and guidance to families where an individual has recently been diagnosed. These organizations act as the support system for the individuals and their families.
In Victoria, there are several organizations that provide support to individuals with autism together with their families. Autism Victoria (now known as Amaze) is one of the not-for-profit organizations that represent approximately 55,000 Victorians who have ASD. The organization works to ensure that the families and the community have a better understanding of ASD. The organization’s objective is to improve the quality of life for people with ASD together with their families and carers. It administers government funding to children with autism, provides education sessions for individuals with a recent diagnosis together with their families and works to improve the conditions for those affected (Amaze 1).
There is also the Victoria Society for Children with Autism (VSCA) which educates, supports, encourages and inspires families in Victoria who are living with children with ASD. The organization organizes monthly social activities for families, provides access to resources and provides support for families after diagnosis (Victoria Society for Children with Autism 1). The Autism Family Support Association (AFSA), on the other hand, is a volunteer group which serves the families with members that have ASD. The organization provides emotional and practical support for parents and carers of individuals with autism. AFSA provides such families with links to other organization and government offices where they can access the necessary resources as well as information. Other than providing education to the community on autism, AFSA also raises the concerns of the community to state and federal policy makers for better support services (Autism Family Support Association 1).
Assistive Technology for Individuals with ASD
The continuing inclusion of students with autism into regular school settings has led to an increased need for availability of resources that effectively cater to the needs of such students. The use of assistive technology has been widely adopted for students with ASD. The availability and functionality of assistive technology have greatly improved the lives of students with autism by addressing their areas of need (Dianne 20).
An assistive technology device refers to any item, equipment or product system that is used to increase or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities (Dianne 33). These assistive devices can be classified as low-tech, medium-tech and high-tech depending on the level of sophistication involved. Assistive devices that are not electronic or that are simple to acquire are known as low-tech devices. Such devices include built-up spoon handles, communication boards, pen grips and sticky notes. These devices require minimal to no maintenance. These devices may be easily replaceable especially where the student has destructive tendencies such that he/she regularly damages equipment. Devices such as pencil grips and book holders may be useful to boost the physical access of the student when writing (Dianne 59).
Medium-tech assistive devices, on the other hand, have an increased level of complication such as talking calculators, wheelchairs, tape recorders and visual timers. They require basic instructions since they are not so complicated to use. Students with ASD find them easy to use in an education setting due to the low cost compared to high-tech devices. Visual timers are helpful to a student with ASD to provide organizational support. Audio books are also helpful to provide the student with reading access where the student cannot see. There are also simple computer software that fall into this category where they require minimal training or knowledge to use (Wirkus et al. 32).
High-tech assistive devices are complex and specialized to serve a specific functional area or an impaired function. Such devices include electronic page turners, voice output devices, computer hardware and software and prosthetic limbs. These devices require training for the student and the classroom teacher to ensure that appropriate support is provided to the student with ASD (Dianne 62). Speech Generating Device (SGD) also fall under this category. These devices include voice output devices that are designed to provide an alternative means of verbal communication for students whose natural speech is impaired as a result of ASD. SGDs are preferred to sign language and low-tech picture-based systems because the speech output can be understood by other people such as family members and other students (Missouri Assistive Technology Advisory Council 2).
High-tech assistive technology devices are used in different functional areas. Simple high-tech devices such as computer switches allow the autistic student to have physical access to the process of learning. Virtual reality systems enable the student to improve their social and cognitive skills while subject specific software also improves a student’s learning skills such as in Math. There is also the voice to text software that boosts the student’s writing skills (Dianne 63).
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