New Views on Autism
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“What can an educator do to enable these children to progress in school?” Fortunately, the answer to both of these questions is at hand and comes from another branch of neuroscience. Neuroscience research offers both an improved understanding of children on the autism spectrum and a promise of new interventions that target the underlying causes of the disorder, namely under connection of long neural fiber tracts essential for educational success. Dr. John Gabrieli referred to the introduction of neuroscience into educational pedagogy as “the new science of learning” (2009). His view is that educational focus on curriculum has been necessary but, when educators face children with learning challenges, a combination of neuroscience and technology can enhance learning capacity and efficiency, even in children with neurological differences. Fortunately, new research provides an altered direction with more promising educational outcomes for students with autism spectrum diagnoses and is beginning to unravel the perplexing variety of learning differences and behavioral issues these children exhibit. Results of research from practitioners include:
- 81% of the children who completed the program showed improvements in attention skills for testing, computer activities, structured therapy activities, listening to stories, and/or group activities.
- 83% of the children showed changes in receptive and expressive language skills, including following directions, understanding humor, using new vocabulary, lengthening phrases, verbal fluency, and response to questions.
- 60% of the children showed improvements in speech intelligibility.
- 76% of the children showed improved pragmatic skills, including eye contact, appropriate attention-getting behavior, ability to verbally negotiate, and initiation of communication.
- 59% of the children demonstrated improvements in academic performance.
- Overall, 77% of the children increased an average of 1.25 years in age-equivalent scores on standardized language assessment after completing the program (Melzer & Poglitsch, 1999).