Sunday, April 15, 2012

Article Review: Effective Interventions for Individuals with High Functional Autism

Lee Ann Melchor
University of Central Florida
College of Education and Graduate Studies
Autistic Middle School Teacher


Article Review:  Effective Interventions for Individuals with High Functional Autism

Ann X. Huang
John J. Wheeler

Children with high functioning autism have a unique challenge than that of both their non-disabled peers and children with more moderate or severe autism.  Children with high functioning autism (HFA) may look and sometimes act normal resulting in being misunderstood or perceived as being a bad child when they display the behaviors associated with Asperger's disorder or autism.  There is a need to identify, develop and to review effective educational approaches and interventions for students with high functioning autism.  This article is a review of several effective, evidence based strategies specifically for children with HFA.

Autism is a disorder that is characterized by behavior.  Children with HFA often have unique needs and interests than that of children with more moderate to severe autism.  Having more up-to-date knowledge of this population including their characteristics, strengths, needs and interests is more important than simply a diagnosis (Kunce & Mesibov, 1998).  After the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the passing of key disability legislation such as NCLB and IDEA, there has been a great interest and need for developing programs and interventions that are individualized and comprehensive.  Successful interventions for children with autism include improving the daily living skills and increasing their communication skills.  Students with HFA need more individualized strategies and interventions that meet the unique needs of HFA than that of an autism one-size fits all approach. 

Several evidence based practices and effective interventions used by special educators and other professionals in the autism field have been identified.  These strategies include structured teaching approaches, peer mediated interventions, self-monitoring and self management techniques, video modeling and the use of social stories.  Structured teaching environments are most effective because they make the classroom environment meaningful to the target children and make necessary modifications to better cater to their successful needs (Kunce & Mesibov, 1998).  Hand-in hand with this approach, comes the use of routines and schedules as children with HFA are highly dependent on established routines.  Children with HFA are primarily visual learners, and therefore, tend to be able to conceptualize classroom expectations through the use of schedules and pictures.  Researchers at TEACCH found the use of routines and schedules enables children to establish consistency and predict expectations, thereby reducing anxiety, decrease behavioral problems and promote student learning (Huang, 2006).

Adaptive instructional strategies are idea for students with HFA because they cannot benefit or learn from traditional teaching methods.  Adaptive instructional methods include:  adjusting the language of the instruction and simplify it into terms students can understand, using written information whenever possible that is clearly organized and contains visuals aids, and capitalizing in on students' individualized interests.  Using peer mediated approaches such as providing a more reciprocal, sharing learning environment in which peers can learn from each other and provide feedback provides opportunities for students to develop generalization of skills across settings, increases social skills and provides students with feedback from their peers that is more meaningful than that of teacher to student feedback.

Self-monitoring and self-motivation has become increasingly utilized as it empowers students to correct their own behavior as well as develop coping skills.  Using self-monitoring enables the teacher to direct more of her time and resources toward instructional time and students with more challenging needs and behaviors.  It also is an easier skill for students to master, thereby promoting independence and self reliance skills.  In order for students to learn self-monitoring and self-management skills, students need to be instructed through the use of modeling whether this is done by video, teacher or peer.  This enables students to see the expected appropriated behavior and encourages students to mimic this behavior.  In addition to modeling, teachers can also use social stories to help the student target the specific behavior in need of intervention.  Students with HFA have difficulty understanding people's thoughts, using empathy and interpreting emotions, reading others intentions and the desired expected outcomes.  Through the use of social stories, students can navigate complex and confusing social situations and pinpoint the appropriate expectations (Huang, 2006).

In conclusion, students with HFA have unique needs that are in need of specifically targeted interventions.  This article clearly identified several evidence based interventions that have stood the test of research and time. 

Huang, A. & Wheeler, J. (2006).  Effective Interventions for Individuals with High Functional Autism.  International Journal of Special Education. 21(3), 165-175.

Kunce, L. & Mesibov, G.B. (1998),  Educational Approaches to High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism.  227-261.

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