A Different Approach: Learning Solutions for Students With ASD

  • By Angelica Benson, Ed.M.

     

    Many children struggle with problems related to reading comprehension and critical thinking. Factor in a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and it can be difficult to know where to turn to for the right educational assistance. Here is a typical situation that a parent of a child with autism can encounter.  Susan, mom to 10 year old Sarah explains*.

     

    “Sarah can read words accurately, but she can’t easily understand the content. She has difficulty connecting to language she reads or language she hears. We give Sarah repeated reminders to help her sequence information and complete multi-step tasks. This often creates frustration at home and at school. Sarah is liked by her peers, but struggles to respond appropriately. She has made improvement with her behavioral therapist, but as a fourth grader, we wanted to make sure that we had explored every option that would lead her to success.”

     

    Sarah’s behaviors can indicate an underlying weakness in overall language comprehension. The primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating an imaged gestalt, or whole, from oral and written language. This is called weak concept imagery. This weakness causes individuals to only process “parts” of information they read or hear, but not the whole. These individuals have difficulty with reading comprehension, critical thinking, and may not easily follow directions or connect to conversations. They may also have a hard time expressing ideas in an organized manner.

     

    Language and Academic Evaluation

    The right evaluation is the first step in addressing an individual’s learning difficulty. Strengths and weaknesses need to be identified through academic and literacy tests, and the results clearly explained.

    Appropriate Instruction

    Second, the proper instruction, one that addresses the underlying causes of the individual’s learning needs, should be sought out. Know the difference between a remediation program- one that addresses the underlying causes of the individual’s learning needs that will help them to reach their potential, and an enrichment program- one that does not take a step back to focus on the underlying causes, but rather decreases the amount of information that is learned.

     

    Supportive Learning Environment

    Finally, the right learning environment is key. It should be structured so that an individual is engaged and motivated, regular progress updates should be given, and if applicable, parents should have the opportunity to participate in sessions to reinforce the skills their child is learning, so that they can help him/her at home.

     

    Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes co-founder Nanci Bell has authored an effective and dynamic program, entitled Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking®, designed to develop concept imagery.

     

    A Case Study

    Sarah attended her local Lindamood-Bell® Learning Center, where she participated in an individualized one-to-one program, based on her learning strengths and weaknesses. Sessions were continually adapted to best meet her needs.  Sarah’s mom says, “The program sessions were structured to be successful and positive, with specific learning objectives broken down into smaller daily tasks. She received frequent positive feedback during each step of process and we were able to see her progress during regular observations and updates.”

    The focus was on helping Sarah to develop expressive language and vivid imagery connected to language in both oral and written formats. Socratic questioning is used as a basis to help students self monitor and correct. Once students like Sarah can begin to image single words such as horse or airplane, they progress to imaging larger units of language, moving from single sentences to multiple sentences at a time. Eventually, students learn to create movies in their minds eye, reflecting the information they have processed from larger chunks of language, including whole paragraphs and whole pages of text. This skill is used as a basis for identifying the main idea, cause and effect, predictions, and conclusions.

     

    Many students like Sarah have benefited from a program that can address this difficulty. Sarah’s mom found a solution at a local Lindamood-Bell Learning Center. “We knew that Sarah needed to develop her language processing skills so that she could ultimately learn to her potential. Sarah enjoys reading now that she now understands what she is reading. Moreover, she is able to demonstrate her learning at school. She is now able to initiate conversations with peers and responds more easily at home when following directions–she even self-corrects without needing reminders!”

     

     

    *Names have been changed to protect privacy.

     

    Angelica Benson, Ed.M., began working for Lindamood-Bell in 1997. She has been a Learning Center Director, Regional Director and Professional Workshop Presenter, Associate Director of Development, and is currently the Director of Public Relations. Ms. Benson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego and a Master of Education degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

     

    Contact Information for Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes:

    www.lindamoodbell.com

    800-300-1818

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