Autism education and stories of success


Autism is often called “spectrum disorder,” which in many cases can be attributed to not only the severity of the disease, but also to the range of emotions that many go through when caring for an autistic person. As lifelong learners and community advocates we explore the following benefits of education throughout the lifespan of an autistic person and share some motivating success stories that are happening everyday.

Early Childhood Education

Many early childhood educators and parents recognize that the first three years of life are crucial to a child’s development. Although the average age of diagnosis is between 3 and 6 years old, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that check-ups between 18 and 24 months should include developmental screening for autism spectrum disorders (ADS) for all children. Early detection can translate to early intervention, which can make a huge difference for children both behaviorally and functionally for future well-being. The Autism Society identifies various approaches to early intervention including:

  • Intensity - The accepted range of direct service for young children with ASD is 20-24 hours per week. Focus and frequency are both involved with this process as young children with the condition should practice adaptive skills and engage in reinforcement activities.
  • Specialization - This approach uses techniques that have been proven effective through evidence-based methodologies, with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) being the most widely accepted for children with ASD. Selecting a therapist who understands the deep complexities of the condition is important as ABA is based on systematic, planned teaching strategies that focus on determining why behavior changes. 
  • Individualization - This method technically removes the traditional curriculum for young children with ASD and designs treatment around personalized assessments and goal selection. Its success heavily relies upon the support of family members and their home environment.

Although doctors genuinely work extremely hard to provide hope to their patients and families, some believe that preparing them for the worst is often the best approach. Although debatable, there are moments when a child’s strength shines for others to live by. Take Rodeo’s story for example, his mother Trixie Denis tells about her son’s early childhood development:

K-12 Schooling

The primary force driving fair learning opportunities to all is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees free and appropriate education that is based on a child's age, ability and developmental level. The legislature has many principles including the Individualized Education Program (IEP), a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), parent and student participation in decision making and procedural safeguards.

These federal laws overall support the claims of most professionals that school-age children with autism respond well to highly structured, specialized education programs. Educational planning often addresses a wide range of skill development including academics, communication, social skills, self-help abilities, behavioral issues and sensory integration.

One of the most critical developmental aspects during this time is a child's social ability. In fact, as illustrated in our first featured story, many autistic children are non-verbal and struggle to communicate in the simplest ways to others around them. Some however indeed can overcome this common obstacle and excel both socially and academically:

Post-Secondary Education and Adulthood

These stories of triumph that we have read thus far prove that with dedication, support and autism education the lives of those affected can be positive. Although public education has its limits, these children can grow up to attend college, trade schools and eventually attain jobs that contribute to the betterment of our society.

Parents are encouraged to work with their children to not only pick programs and curriculum that foster development, but also find services to support them as they transition to function independently. Students and parents can contact the department of Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Security Administration to determine eligibility for service or benefits for employment.

The beautiful story of success we focus on for this period of adulthood comes from Southern California. His name is Sean Sullivan and he explains how he uses his autism as motivation:

Autism Awareness and Support

Many of the personal stories pulled for this article come directly from the Autism Site in association with the Greater Good, which promotes awareness and support for many different causes including veterans, diabetes, literacy and more. April may be Autism Awareness Month but the lessons we learn from these inspiring individuals and families can extend year-round. At UMass Global, we help give educators the tools they need to teach and support students with autism across the spectrum. From added authorizations to master's degrees in special education, explore what our School of Education has to offer those with a passion for helping others along their paths to lifelong learning. 




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