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Introduction and Biodata
Janet Hurst is a female student in the 3rdgrade that I have observed and assessed for ten days from the 11th to 24 April 2012. The student was diagnosed with autism. She has had difficulties in previous schools. She, therefore, qualified as a special education student. The selection criterion for this student was based on the behavior, and social concerns noted. The student is easily frustrated in the presence of a group of people. This situation also occurs in hallways as she interacts with people. She is usually alone and lacks interest in anything around her. She is not good with words. Therefore, she resorts to making sounds, which are hard to interpret with communication being a problem. She also has some actions, which she repeats now and then.
The strange actions appear to be because of sub-consciousness. She has had difficulties while learning and notices the number seven in car number plates even before anyone else does. At home, she is not able to learn new things. She is reported to dislike strangers and visitors to her home. In class, the student has a problem concentrating. She is always moving around. Since her childhood, she has been experiencing problems with hearing. Most people including her parents have thought of her as deaf. She takes a long to respond to commands. This challenge makes people conclude of deafness. The student has had problems in classrooms with poor performance since her first grade. She always comes last in all classes. The teachers in the grades she has been through report behavioral problems associated with the student. She has, however, not experienced any visual problems. However, she cannot concentrate for long to read a passage. Her parents report difficulties in interacting with the other kids. She often ends up fighting and crying most of the time.
Throughout the grade and previous grades, the student has sat for many exams. Most of them have been based on the thinking process and communication skills. In most of the tests, reading and writing were tested, with each having its results and interpretations. In reading, the student was provided with passages to read out loud. The diagnosis was made using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence where the student recreated designs using two-color blocks. This exercise was timed. The pictures were also used as responses to questions on general knowledge, which was in the information subtest. In testing vocabulary, Jane was required to name some of the objects provided in picture form. Words were also written where she was required to explain their meanings. Groups of pictures were also provided where she was supposed to pick those that did not belong to the group. Besides, she was supposed to group those that were related. Jane also pointed out the objects in the picture as I named them aloud. She is also supposed to name all the pictures that I provided in the stimulus book.
Reading was tested using short words. The words were increased in size and number beginning with progression to sentences and later to paragraphs. In the process of reading, I would pay attention to the student’s concentration and ability to integrate what she was reading. Jane had difficulties reading long sentences and paragraphs. She would get lost in between the sentences. In such a case, she would ask questions for clarifications. The longer the time taken, the poorer the result. This test also considered the concentration of the student with the requirement that she did not answer things that were not related to the questions. In the test too, there was the incorporation of language, vision, and communication since I also noted the difficulty in hearing and responses.
Several Jigsaws were also provided as tests in themselves. The student was supposed to arrange the characters, which were mainly photos of animals and buildings. She was supposed to arrange them until they made sense of the object. Jane would get some pats correct, but would however lose concentration easily and abandon the jigsaws for something else. Puzzles were also provided to Jane. She was supposed to fill them and make them appear normal. Though the puzzles were simple, she would not easily answer them. She would get the wording wrong most of the time.
Another method of testing was by the use of common and general knowledge where a paper with questions was handed to her to fill in the gaps. These tests tested her general knowledge and ability to integrate her thoughts. I also asked her to write a story on topics such as her family, holidays, best friends, and food. The task tested her mental process and flow of ideas, as well as the ability to make a sensible story. Colors were also provided where she was supposed to draw and color images. They varied from bright to dull colors. She was also supposed to participate in group work, which involved participating in games under supervision. The contribution to this was then gauged. In most of these group works, she ended up fighting with most of the members and withdrawing from the group. This outcome is a poor indicator of social interaction and thus a poor score for Jane.
Test Results and Assessment Findings
From the test, the IQ scores for the patient could be interpreted. The scores could also be used to gauge Jane’s performance. In the block design test where she was required to create designs, Jane performed dismally. She was not able to concentrate long enough to arrange the designs. However, when she did, she often ended up making designs that did not make sense. She was, however, able to re-create picture designs that were provided in the stimulus book. In doing this, she took a long time, and she needed assistance in most of the drawings. She did not concentrate for long and ended up being interrupted by any sound and crying. When provided with information and or asked to choose a picture represented by it, she often got the answer wrong except for a few occasions, which involved motor vehicles. She also got half of the vocabulary questions right. She picked the right pictures for the description given verbally. In picture concepts, Jane was to match the groups of pictures but did not get the odd ones from the group. She also took long in doing this and did not want to stop the test. In word reasoning, Jane did not get most of the words she was supposed to come up with after I described a concept behind them. She named the pictures correctly. This effort made sense on most occasions.
The results of the assessment supported the diagnosis of Autistic Disorder. Jane is not good with language, communication, and interpretation of ideas. Besides, she is weak in the thought process. From the test, she has difficulties paying attention and is of low IQ compared with an average student in her grade. Her social skills are also poor. She has difficulties interacting with her fellow students in group work. She is also a slow learner, slow in working and solving problems. She performed poorly in jigsaw puzzles. She would get most of them wrong. She would also give up in the middle to blame others. Her language skills are also poor compared to those of students of her age. She scored poorly on this test. Her performance has, however, been improving compared to lower grades and reports from her previous teachers in the school.
Her arithmetic calculations were less than perfect. She scored poorly in simple calculations and mathematical reasoning. She also had difficulties in following instructions in the test. Jane did the opposite of what she was commanded to do. In picture naming, she could name a few of the images described, and these were mainly the common pictures in the class environment. She also had difficulty integrating the stories read to her and or understanding the plot. Based on the test findings, the student requires special education with special attention at home and school environments. Her interaction with other students was observed to be wanting. She mainly ended up crying in most of the interactions. Her performance in drawing was not bad, and she drew most of the common diagrams impressively for her age. She, however, liked drawing people only and drew nothing else even when commanded. When she did, these were poor and darkly shaded. From the results of this test, Jane should have special education instituted.
Jane is a special student who needs specialized care and education. Her autistic behavior and poor communication skills limit management in the normal class setting. Poor skills are also a barrier to the provision of care. In managing her, the teacher needs to pay attention to her repetitive behaviors and stereotyped actions in planning for things to do during the day. Most researchers have concluded that teachers are increasingly facing problems in managing autistic behaviors. They often give up easily in the course of management. Most researchers have concluded that the management of special students in classrooms with other normal students increases their chance of improvement and that any plan should accommodate their disabilities (Uppal, Kohen, & Khan, 2008, p. 2).
In all the plans that a teacher makes in the management of autistic or students with special needs, it has been shown that positive strategies with an emphasis on the building of those behaviors viewed as pro-social are effective (Ducharme, 2007, p. 29). A teacher should therefore reinforce and focus on the positives in these students rather than focusing on the negatives for which to punish the child. There should also be a session on social skills in the training of Jane. There is evidence that developing social skills provides people with ways of interacting with others, correctly responding to social cues, understanding social relationships, and becoming fully integrated into society (Matson et al., 2006, p. 498).
In the structuring of programs for autistic students, the teacher should plan for playtime in the programs. This time will contribute to social interactions. In one of the researches, peers without disabilities were trained to initiate social interactions with autistic children during structured playtimes in their classrooms (Lee, Odom, & Loftin 2007, p. 71). This was observed to increase their social interactions and the stereotypic actions that are characteristically observed reduced. The results were later replicated in studies done on three children with autism (Loftin, Odom, & Lantz, 2008, p. 1132). In the study, the three autistic children exhibiting repetitive motor behaviors were taught how to initiate social interactions with their peers and to self-monitor and record their initiations as well as a concomitant decrease in repetitive motor behavior (Loftin, Odom, & Lantz, 2008, p. 1133).
In communication strategies, Thatcher, Fletcher, and Decker (2008, p.123) emphasized the need for communication skills to be integrated into the remedial plans for students with special needs. In the case of Jane, communication may play a role in determining her management. Since she ends up crying when told to do something she does not desire, she could be taught to complain and to state what she wants to do. This can be the basis for establishing communication.
In preparation for classes with autistic students, it is a requirement that there should be a schedule of events. It should incorporate independent working time for the students where they are allowed to do their work with and without supervision. The schedule should also have time for structured play, activities aimed at improving fine motor skills, group work, and social skill instructions (Autism Classroom Management Edutopia, n.d., p. 1). The classroom setup should also consist of an environment meeting the needs of these students. It should therefore have items such as building blocks and cushions. The environment should also have visual supports and boundaries. It should be organized with the students being taught how to coordinate instructions (Autism Classroom Management Edutopia, n.d., p. 1).
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There should be an appropriate data system to be used to collect data mainly on the individualized education plan. The sheets should be ready at the beginning of class, with the students being shown how to make their own. Roles and responsibilities in the class should be assigned and written down. The roles should include the responsibilities of the various staff members and their area of jurisdiction. They should also be given a specific area in which to operate during the class sessions. This strategy will go a long way in increasing the productivity of the students and their performance in classrooms.
There should also be time incorporated for staff debriefing in which the team members of the autism management update their strategies and or compare notes for the day and week. In this session, the performance of the students is of priority. A review should be done to see if there is any improvement. A written behavior plan should be put in place for each student. The plan should incorporate the desired behaviors of students for the time. A copy should be given to all the staff members involved in management instructions (Autism Classroom Management Edutopia, n.d., p. 1). In Jane’s case, a behavioral plan can be made describing what can be done when she picks up a fight with other students in the group work or when she leaves class in the middle of the session to chase birds. The school sessions should address any sensory issues that Jane may have, and these should be the same for every child’s instructions (Autism Classroom Management Edutopia, n.d., p. 1).
The classroom should have few distractions as autistic patients are easily distracted by things such as visual information and background noise (Autism Classroom Management Edutopia, n.d., p. 1). The class should therefore have a limited number of posters. Their seats should be away from openings such as doors and windows where they can see the outside of class (Sebastian, Blakemore, & Charman, 2009, p. 1128). The language to be used also needs to be simple in words that they can understand. It also needs to be concrete (Sebastian, Blakemore, & Charman, 2009, p. 1128). A program of events needs to be followed with transitions being made smoothly as autistic students are known to have fear of changes. They are afraid of new things and do not like venturing into new fields and events.
In teaching autistic students, the training should incorporate independence since they will learn more this way. For activities, which Jane does with ease, she should be shown how to do them alone without supervision. This includes tying her shoelaces, zipping her bag, combing her hair, and feeding herself. It is reported that students with autism improve with training on how to perform their daily tasks. As a basic similarity with other normal students, Jane also requires rewarding to reinforce those characters viewed as being desirable and appropriate. The focus should be made not on the negative aspects of a task that she performed, but on the positive things that she did upon repeating the task.
In the intervention for Jane, her sitting position needs to be adjusted to reduce distractions. For this to be accommodated, she needs to be seated in front of the class where teachers can pay attention to her and prevent distraction from other students. Since she is slower than the average student, her assignments should be given more time. She should also be given more time to get to class and attend other types of activities. Visual support should also be provided with provision for objects and diagrams emphasizing the ideas being taught. For her to keep time and enable her to attend all classes as scheduled, Jane needs to know how to tell time. To achieve this, a clock should be drawn with the hands pointing at the time she is required to do the activity.
Parents and other Professionals
The management of autism is multidimensional with the contribution of all members of society. Away from school, parents bear the greatest responsibility in management since they spend the most time with their children. Collaboration with other players such as teachers, medical professionals, and relatives is however crucial. Collaboration between teachers and parents is important in diagnosing, instituting early management, and in other areas of intervention. The parents should understand the program that their child goes through in school so that they can facilitate it and contribute positively. This relationship between the teacher and parent should be two-way with the teacher being aware of the family conditions surrounding the patient.
Based on the different requirements of autistic patients compared to the normal ones, parents often face challenges in meeting these demands. It is therefore important to start a counseling program for the patients of autistic students, as it will improve the overall outcome of management. In the case of Jane, the teacher will need to meet more often with the parents to discuss the progress of their child in school and the extent to which results are being achieved. For patients like Jane with autism, the traditional teacher-parent relationship where a parent meets the teacher after a long time in PTA meetings should not be followed.
In the contribution to be made in the management of Jane by the parents, most of it is in behavioral modification. The parents need to collaborate by rewarding the positive behavior of Jane and avoiding punishment in the many instances that she will be doing the wrong things. In the case of Jane’s parents, they need to engage her in discussions besides teaching her to do basic things such as clapping her hands to sing, dancing, passing things, and greeting guests. Any progress at home should be reported to the class administrator and teachers. This progress can be used as a basis for any further management needed.
Collaboration is also necessary between medical professionals such as psychiatrists and doctors involved in the management. Parents should keep records of any medication, treatment instructions, and admissions made. This effort will make it easy to keep track of improvement or changes within the course of management. Other members to be involved in the management include friends and relatives of the patient from where information can be gathered for use to formulate a plan. Jane is therefore effectively managed. The prognosis for this condition is dependent on it.
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