The Increased Prevalence of Autism
In 2000, only one in 150 children was diagnosed with autism. By 2010, that number had nearly doubled. Today, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and many experts anticipate that rate to continue to increase. 1
Today’s educators must be ready and able to meet the varied needs of the rapidly growing number of students diagnosed with ASD. Becoming familiar with the latest research and evidence-based practices is a vital step toward making the most of limited resources and instruction time. Since the late 1970’s, the University of Kansas Department of Special Education has offered an internationally renowned specialization program in autism spectrum disorder, taught by experienced faculty who are familiar with recent research and best practices for actively applying that research.
Teachers must be equipped to help all students learn.
Stephen Shore is often quoted as saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”2 Educators and caregivers can attest to the fact that children on the ASD spectrum have a wide variety of needs at home, at school and in the community. While there are some loosely described overarching characteristics of ASD, the disorder affects individuals differently, which means they each think, learn and communicate in different ways.
Educators and service providers at all levels are ethically responsible for fully utilizing their time with these students by employing scientifically proven strategies associated with the individualized needs of this group of children. Teachers must know what evidence-based practices (EBPs) have been established for working with children with ASD, and how to effectively plan for and implement effective learning experiences that meet the academic and social/behavioral needs of these students. Learning about these EBPs will enable teachers to connect with students and capitalize on their unique strengths, as well as maximize their engagement in the learning process.
Education—whether through undergraduate, graduate or certificate programs—can help the next generation of teachers better educate these students. Although a large number of students with the intellectual ability to master academic coursework are served in general education settings, many special and general education teachers are unprepared to meet the needs of these students. As more students with ASD enter the school system, more instructors with the skill set for educating those pupils will be required to become experts in the field who can provide services and professional guidance to students, families and colleagues.
Learn More About Inclusive Classrooms
Educational professionals have spent decades researching effective ways to build inclusive classrooms that meet the educational needs of students, while minimizing disruptive behaviors.3 This is an important skill set for all educators to develop, given the increasing numbers of students with ASD who spend at least a portion of the day in general education classrooms.
If you’d like to augment your own teaching ability with mastery of this concept, look for a graduate education program that includes coursework on universal designs for learning and strategies for teaching diverse learners. Consider a graduate degree, certificate or endorsement program from the University of Kansas School of Education and Human Sciences.
1. Retrieved on September 25, 2018, from cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
2. Retrieved on September 25, 2018, from ibcces.org/blog/2018/03/23/12748/
3. Retrieved on September 25, 2018, from sagepub.com/kwilliamsstudy/articles/Harrower.pdf