How the HighScope Approach Supports Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Visual Strategies
Jasmine, Karina, Andrew, and Maddy are playing with play dough during work time. Jasmine and Karina are making miniature chairs for their dolls, Andrew is pounding his wad with a hammer, and Maddy alternates between exploring the scent of her dough and poking it with her finger. When the teacher, Kate, announces cleanup time, Jasmine and Karina start to fold up their play-dough chairs and put them away. Kate comes over to Andrew and Maddy, showing them a folder with pictures of the daily routine segments. She points to the picture indicating cleanup time and repeats, "It's cleanup time. Let's put away the play dough now." Slowly the two children start to put their play dough into the container.
Andrew and Maddy have autism, a form of autism spectrum disorder. Children with these disorders are typically characterized by a lack of social connectedness, difficulties with communication, and unusual, repetitive behaviors. These children also generally process visual information more effectively than auditory information. While this may be true of the population at large, it is especially true for individuals with autism. For instance, most adults prefer having written directions to a new restaurant rather than directions given over the phone, but they are usually able to manage with verbal directions. However, an individual with autism might not be able to find that restaurant at all without written directions and/or a map.And while most children are able to follow verbal directions or requests, such as "Let's put the toys away," children with autism may need a visual cue that it is time to clean up, such as a flick of the lights or a photo of cleanup time-thus Kate's use of the pictures in the folder for Andrew and Maddy.
Because of this difficulty with auditory processing, children with autism are at a disadvantage in a verbal- and auditory-oriented world-which includes most early childhood classrooms. Their behavior is often misinterpreted as noncompliance or manipulation, when in fact children may simply be struggling to understand and process verbal directions. The key to classroom success for these children is similar to that for typical children-a developmentally appropriate framework that allows for individual support. Providing this framework in a general education environment offers many children their greatest chance for success. The High/Scope approach offers a framework that provides support for children with autism in many ways. One of these ways is by providing a variety of visual cues to help children interpret information more effectively. This article discusses a few of the ways High/Scope provides visual support for children with autism.
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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