3.22.2014

Superior visual thinking may be key to independence for high schoolers with autism




As with the general population, some of us have specific capacities and abilities to perform in certain areas, whereas others focus their energy and deliver their abilities in different outcomes. This relates to the fact - obvious to everyone - that although we share a common human genome, our differences are very significant. Even identical twins are not bounded to have ASD, as there is a 20% chance that one doesn't have it. 

This leads to the fact that independence is crucial for us to travel our own paths and for some that is easier said than done. Think for a minute about the adolescent with severe social anxiety or that mother that has to care for her children on her own, without any help. Reality can be a very harsh experience.

It seems that for individuals with Autism, now Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), superior visual thinking is proving to be a very big help for high schoolers to achieve and improve their levels of independence. 

"It's clear that teaching independence to students with autism should be a central focus of their activities in high school."

This is of paramount importance because individuals with ASD have a very carved inability to communicate and interact according our socially defined, agreed and learned behaviours. It is like they have failed to learn the same social vocabulary that we did, although I would prefer to put it as an inability to function in the same level of meaning-making that is agreed in determined social contexts.

"When an adolescent with ASD has a pen that runs out of ink, that student may be more likely to wait for prompting from the teacher before asking for a new pen or just finding a new one,"

Given the literal understanding of relations, social interactions and communications, visual schedules can help students to reach higher levels of autonomy by bypassing the need to be prompted by others to act volitionally. The same could be said about Technology - the example of Microsoft's OneNote or Google Drive in schools could bring some interesting analysis. 

"Visual schedules, for instance, allow students with ASD to act independently, because they don't involve verbal prompting from teachers," Hume said. "Visual information that explains what to do also can be useful in home, school, and employment settings, because it eliminates the need for continual monitoring and support."

At the end of the day, for educators, it isn't so much different of adjusting techniques according to the unique individual.

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