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Autism workshop to touch base on possible changes in categorizing the illness

BY: Tiffany Monde, Tonawanda Source | September 12, 2012

TONAWANDA - Kathy Doody, a professor at Buffalo State College, will be running a workshop on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. this Thursday at Mullen Elementary. While her background in exceptional education gives her the qualifications for teaching, it is her personal experience on the topic that will bring passion to this workshop.

“I’m a teacher, but I’m also a parent. My son is 16, and was diagnosed with Autism when he was 14-months-old, he’s been in a general education setting since he was 5,” said Doody.

While some children within the Autism Spectrum need extra help, higher functioning students are able to learn in a normal classroom setting. According to Least Restrictive Environment law all children with disabilities must have access to normal children as much as possible. Doody said it’s not good for a child to be in an individualized setting when they could be in a classroom making friends and having social interactions.

Children with Autism tend to be visual learners and often don’t do well with spoken directions.

“We have a lot of kids who are very bright and just need to be taught in the right way,” said Doody.

One such way is with a ‘social story’ where photographs of the child are used to create a story that would explain how to handle social situations in an appropriate way.

In school, starting as early as 12 years old children with disabilities start to think about what they want to do when they grow up. They see what they are good at and what their interests are in and hone those skills through high school to make the transition into the workplace a more comfortable one.

“With autism they have a lot of technical skills, but need more instruction on how to get along socially on a job,” said Doody.

There are five types of ASD: Autism, Asperger syndrome, Childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, and Pervasive developmental disorder. This, to the distress of many, may be changing soon. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder is planning to change this and categorize all these types into just ASD. This is planned to go into effect May of 2013.

Doody said these five different types of autism present themselves in very different ways.

“They could be on either end of the spectrum. They might do really well in their day to day life and may just be a little quirky or shy,” said Doody. “There might be a child who needs supervision 24 hours a day, eating, dressing and then there are children in-between that can go towards either end of the spectrum.”

Doody said that experts, teachers, parents and people themselves diagnosed are unhappy with the possible change.

“They put it up for public forum about nine months ago and the backlash has been crazy,” said Doody. “People that are high functioning are upset and feel like they are robbed of their individuality.”

She said experts think we will diagnose fewer children and many won’t meet this new definition. This will impact what they get in schools, the services they can obtain and the coverage they will get from health insurance companies. They will lose out on recreational and afterschool programs as well. Children that need these things will begin to slip through the cracks.

The workshop is one of 22 through the year and is geared towards anyone in the community with an interest in Autism. It will cover the ways people with Autism think, learn, and ways to manage their behavior. For more information on registration visit http://www.parentnetworkwny.org/Workshops/WorkshopRegistration.

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