Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 110 American children as on the autism spectrum–a 600 percent increase in prevalence over the past two decades. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is three to four times more common among boys than girls.
Oscar was referred to Prairie Lakes AEA at age 2 because his parents were concerned about his lack of communication skills and his difficulty with motor skills and play skills.
A team from Prairie Lakes AEA, including an early childhood special education teacher, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist and school psychologist began working with Oscar and his parents. As the team worked on a picture symbol communication system, closed play routines and motor exercises, they concluded that Oscar met the Iowa educational definition of autism and Oscar’s parents pursued and obtained a medical diagnosis.
Before he turned 3, Oscar was speaking in short phrases, playing with some toys appropriately and improving his motor skills. Oscar began attending a preschool classroom for children in need of special education where he worked on following teacher directions, social interactions, personal information, gross motor skills and staying with a task. Prairie Lakes AEA continued to provide support services, including speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and consultation with the school psychologist.
The following school year, Oscar moved to a blended preschool classroom that included general education peers and children in need of special education. His plan focused on social interactions with peers and fine motor skills. Support services included speech-language therapy and consultation for occupational therapy, physical therapy and the school psychologist. Oscar enjoyed the core instruction and social opportunities of the preschool classroom.
For Oscar’s third year of preschool, he attended a different general education preschool classroom that contained more general education peers than students with special needs. His only goal focused on complying with teacher directions. His speech-language therapy was moved to the consultation model. An additional adult was assigned to the classroom to assist in implementing the behavior plan and accommodations such as visual schedules, visual cues, sensory diet, social stories clarifying directions and assisting with social interactions.
Oscar attended a general education kindergarten classroom in the public school elementary. His special education goals included social interactions with peers and following a visual task schedule to assist him in compliance and completion of tasks. All supports from the previous year were continued, including an additional adult assigned to the classroom to assist the teacher and special education teacher in implementation of the educational plan for Oscar. An additional accommodation was added, a word processing device, due to Oscar’s frustrations when requested to write.
First and Second Grades
Oscar continued to attend general education classes with an additional adult assigned to the classroom. Various goals focused on peer interaction skills, compliance with teacher directions and management of interruptions of instruction.
Oscar is in third grade in a general education classroom with an additional adult assigned to the classroom. His current goal is to increase his independence in beginning and staying on task until he completes it. Moving independently within the school building is another focus. He does not exhibit any difficulties with academic skills.
Each year, Oscar’s educational team meets to evaluate and plan the skills Oscar needs to be taught. He is a quick learner who frequently meets the goals set for him.
*Oscar is not the child’s real name and the photo is from stock photography.