Does anyone have ASD experience to share?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by AllisonLP, Mar 3, 2012.

  1. AllisonLP

    AllisonLP Rookie

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    Mar 3, 2012

    Hi,
    I am a student in a special ed program. I have 2 more classes before I intern so I have room in my schedule for the three class series for ASD endorsement.

    My math/science student teaching experience was with a middle school ASD class but they were all very mild ASD, Asperger's mostly.

    I really enjoyed this group and found them (7 boys) to largely be intelligent and stimulating to teach. I don't have any experience with younger or nonverbal ASD students where most of the jobs are in my area. Can anyone share there experiences that might help me decide if I want to pursue this type of position?

    Thanks!
    Allison
     
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  3. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Mar 3, 2012

    Well, I think you will need to actually experience it for yourself to see if it's something you would be happy with. I currently teach LD students (including one with Asperger's), but I spent 5 years creating curriculum and supervising a summer program for children with autism, and most were considered moderate to severe.

    You will have to have a great amount of patience, because many lower functioning ASD kids have difficulty communicating their needs and/or have more severe meltdowns than what you are used to. You'll also have to be good with consistency, because being consistent is the only way to shape appropriate behavior. Depending on the extent of their disability, you may have to take on roles such as feeding or changing. One of my favorite kids to work with is turning 14 soon and still in briefs.

    Like I said, it really is a unique experience. I have had days where I'm crying because a kid bit me on my face, and I've had days where I'm crying because a nonverbal kiddo said something intentionally. You'll really have to try it out and see if you're the type of person that can handle that type of intense, very hands on environment.
     
  4. Cenicienta

    Cenicienta Rookie

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    Mar 3, 2012

    I agree with BumbleB. I actually would encourage you to seek out an internship that focuses mainly on children with moderate to severe autism. I would venture to guess that any future employer who sees that you have had extensive work experience with children with moderate to severe autism would most likely perk up and take notice of you.
     
  5. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Mar 4, 2012

    Definitely try to find some time to observe in these type of classes just to see if it would be a fit for you. It takes a special kind of teacher to want to and succeed with students similar to those you are describing (especially when it is a class full).
     
  6. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

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    Mar 4, 2012

    I have worked at all levels with kids all over the spectrum in multiple states. Currently I teach a k-6 self-contained classroom for students with moderate to severe autism. Some days are really tough, but I love my job!

    I agree with what other posters have said about seeking out experiences with students with ASD, especially younger/more severely impacted students. The experience will not only help you decide if it is for you, but will serve you well if and when you ever wind up with a job in this field.

    Things to think about (in my experience):

    -typically you have a smaller caseload, because that's balanced with the fact that the students you do have are hugely hands-on and time intense. IEP's are typically longer and more time-intense because there are so many skills, sensory needs, behavior plan, transition planning, etc. that need to be addressed. And they change all the time. But in general, smaller caseload.

    -depending on where you work, you could have a lot more freedom in terms of what you want to teach and how you want to teach it. I have never taught general ed, but from the staff meetings and general ed inservices I have had to attend, it seems things are pretty scripted nowadays in terms of what to teach and how to teach it. Curriculum for students with ASD is limited and not everything works for every student, so there is lots of room for exploration and creativity. You will get to do lots of functional things, which I find really fun. There are tons of great resources and ideas, especially on the internet, but you will probably have to hunt for them. To do it well and to start from the ground up will be a TON of work, but if you love it, really fun.

    -you will likely have the same students for 2 years or more. Some students I have this year I've had for 3 and will likely have for 2 more. This is awesome because you can really see the progress. I have kids this year that are just starting to do things we've been working on for 3 years and, as BumbleB said, it makes you so happy you cry. It can also be a con, because some students can be really labor-intensive, exhausting, and hands on. It can be a long 3 (or more) years.

    -depending on where you work, you may or may not be an "island" where you are the only ASD teacher. You may not have access to colleagues who do the same thing and this can be lonely. You may have to "educate" your admin and other teachers about your students and advocate constantly for their needs. Purposely or not, my experience has been that my students often get ignored, left out, or worse, shafted completely in terms of use of common school areas, specials, access to activities, etc. I realize it is not like this everywhere, but be prepared.

    - if you are patient and consistent, you will have days where everything clicks into place. You will get to experience watching people who were previously helpless become independent, gain confidence, and enjoy activities that they were indifferent to at best and hated at worst. It is the most incredible thing to watch and have a part in. You will also have days where nothing goes right despite your best efforts, which you just have to shake off, chalk up to a full moon, and try again.

    -it does not happen overnight. Successful ASD classrooms take time to put together. If you are walking into a place with no established program, and you are building it all yourself, it can be tough. Sometimes you are in survival mode and that is OK. Sometimes you just have to pick one thing that you really want to work hard on developing or changing and make a list for later, next month, next year, etc. If you try to make it all perfect at once, you will crash and burn.

    -Developing relationships with the students is important too, and not every single thing you do has to have an academic focus. These are kids that often miss out on typical experiences of childhood like birthday parties, going to the park, etc. It is more than OK to do those things, even to plan them into your day.

    -if you are at all squeemish about poop, snot, vomit, spit, etc., now would be the time to walk away. It will happen. More than once. I have a kid now that went through a phase of making himself puke when he did not get his way.

    -you will likely have to work with and supervise aides. I have worked with some aides that are absolutely wonderful and some that could care less. I find that in general, if you are clear and specific about what they are to do, things go better. Lots of times aides get stuck in situations that they are really not equipped to handle and have not been provided training or guidance on, and these can be really challenging students. I believe collaboration time with them is a must. Some districts like to switch aides around all the time, which is really hard on this population, so you might have to advocate for what you need here too.

    -THE KIDS ARE AWESOME. Beneath the most challenging behaviors they are unique, intelligent, funny and caring. They are the bravest and most honest people I know.

    Good luck on whatever you decide!
     
  7. AllisonLP

    AllisonLP Rookie

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    Mar 4, 2012

    WOW! Thanks guys. There is an ASD program at my kid's elementary school. I am going to ask if I can shadow for a day or two. Unfortunately, around here we literally have almost no say in where we intern so my only sure exposure is the classes for endorsement. You guys gave me a lot to think about, I appreciate it.
    Allison
     

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