Special Education 400

EDSP 400: Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Credit Hours: (3)

Addresses characteristics and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders including levels of severity; cognitive abilities; medical aspects; communication, language, and social development; and differential diagnoses. The primary emphasis is on autism and Asperger syndrome although Rett syndrome, Childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS are also discussed. Students learn the impact of the characteristics of ASD on learning in order to develop an individualized program, which would allow students to access the general curriculum as well as an adapted curriculum. Proactive teaching strategies, accommodations, and modifications that support socialization, communication, and academics are addressed.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course provides introductory information related to autism spectrum disorders through lecture and case studies based on The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IVTR Edition. Students will learn:
• The social interaction, communication, and stereotyped pattern of behavior symptoms that can be observed in individuals with ASD.
• How autism and Asperger syndrome are similar and different.
• Information regarding how individuals are assessed and determined to have an ASD and will explore specific tools used in the diagnosis of ASD, for example: CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), GARS (Gillam Autism Rating Scale), CHAT-M, etc.
• The implications of the particular characteristics and their impact on educational program planning including the strengths, needs, learning styles, and uneven profiles observed in individuals with ASD and ways to incorporate this knowledge into a comprehensive educational program.
• The prevalence and etiology of Autism, Asperger syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, which are encompassed under the same umbrella term (Pervasive Developmental Disorders) as autism.
• The need for early intervention and intensity of instruction in achieving positive outcomes for children with ASD.
• Proactive support strategies, accommodations, and modifications that can be implemented based on individual strengths and needs as they relate to learning and socializing.
• Potential members of an interdisciplinary team and how the team can develop effective programs for students with ASD.
• Individualized Education Programs that are appropriate, observable, measurable, and functional based on data and assessment information, including transition needs.
• A general overview of functional behavior assessment and positive behavior supports.
• Encouraging generalization and maintenance of skills across programs and settings.
• The impact of common medical issues for persons with autism (for example: seizure disorders, chronic otitis media, chronic constipation or diarrhea, eating and sleep issues, use of psychotropic medications, etc.) and how to document and communicate critical health related information to team members, especially parents and medical personnel.
• A general overview of effective evidence-based practices including techniques, strategies, and methods that can be used to increase communication skills for people with ASD, for example: Verbal communication, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems, Sign language and Simplified Sign System, and Facilitated Communication
• How to create and use a variety of visual supports such as: visual schedules, Social Stories, Comic Book Conversations, and video review techniques.

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course is conducted through lecture, discussion, cooperative group learning, demonstrations, case study examples, textbook and journal article reading, and video.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Goals, objectives, and assignments in this class address NCATE Standard 1c Professional and Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills, the Council for Exceptional Children Knowledge and Skill Standards in Individualized Indepence Curriculum (coded CC for common core and IC for Independent Curriculum), the Virginia  Department of Education teacher licensure competencies (coded VAC for Virginia’s Adaptive Curriculum), and standards set by Virginia’s Autism Council (coded VC).

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:
•  Describe the diagnosis of ASD, the current understanding of etiology and prevalence of ASD, and how the ASD impact: communication, socialization, sensory responses, and stereotypical behaviors. (CC1K5, IC2K1, IC2K4, VACB1a&b, VC)
• Describe the educational implications of characteristics of various exceptionalities under the umbrella of pervasive developmental disorders including autism, Asperger and Rett syndromes, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS. (CC2K2, VACB1a)
• Describe how ASD may impact auditory and information processing skills. (IC3K2)
• Describe the impact of sensory impairments, physical, and health disabilities on individuals, families, and society (IC2K2).
• Describe the etiologies and medical aspects of co-morbid conditions affecting individuals with ASD (IC2K3).
• Create classroom supports based on how individuals with ASD are similar to and different from other students with and without disabilities and ways that they can be supported within the general education curriculum as well as adaptive curriculum (CC2K5, CC2K6, VACB1a, VC)
• Create proactive and individualized prevention and intervention strategies related to how individuals experience ASD. (IC4K2)
• Analyze classroom behaviors and implement strategies to address problems. (VC)
• Describe individuals with ASD’s behavior in terms of their communication (including those who are nonverbal) and social needs and how to provide nonaversive support in order to prevent the development of problem behaviors, or to support learning skills to replace existing problem behaviors. (IC4S3, IC6K2, VC)
• Describe augmentative and assistive communication strategies. (CC6K4)
• Describe the role of families in supporting development and create a collection of resources related to best practices in supporting individual with ASD to provide to parents, educators, administrators, paraprofessionals, therapists, and other educational team members. (CC2K4, VC)

Assessment Measures

Student performance will be evaluated through differentiated assignments depending on 400 versus 500 level of the course.
All students may:
• Complete reading and homework assignments and participate in class discussions and activities.
• Complete one-two exams at the discretion of the instructor.
• Review 10 websites dedicated to ASD websites using an accuracy/reliability checklist and will write a paper related to the experience
• Conduct interviews with families and teachers of, and/or individuals with ASD and develop a paper reflective of their learning OR read an autobiography of an individual with an ASD and develop a paper reflective of their learning.
• Critique and comment on the learning they received from the presentations of graduate-level class participants (if the class is co-listed with EDSP 500).


Other Course Information

This class may be co-listed with EDSP 500; student performance will be evaluated through differentiated assignments depending on EDSP 400 versus EDSP 500 level of the course. See proposed official syllabus for EDSP 500.

Review and Approval

2004            Course Proposed            Alice Anderson
Syllabus Revision            Leslie S. Daniel    March, 2010