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The Cognitive Neuroscience of Autism, Interview Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1007

Interview

Assessments

There are many tools that are available for use in screening and diagnosing Autism and other developmental disorders. Being able to make an accurate diagnosis is closely dependent upon the tool used to collect the data. Clinicians rely on many screening and diagnostic tools to make informed decisions. Nevertheless, all data must be interpreted. CASD (Checklist for Autism Spectrum Disorder) is one tool used in diagnostic screening. This tool is unique because it was designed specifically to diagnose autism, but not other subtypes of the disorder. This tool is often used with DSM-5. There are 30 items on CASD that describe the symptoms experienced by persons with autism. These 30 items are broken down into five categories. These categories help parents and teachers to identify and understand behaviors of ASD. This tool can also be used to design and intervention plan for the child. CASD is conducted in 15 minute parent interviews, the teacher or caregiver has the opportunity to provide input as well. The clinician will ask for evidence for each of the 30 symptoms. Another tool is the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS-3). This assessment is specifically designed for clients between the ages of 3and 22. The categories are based upon the DSM-5 criteria as well. Nevertheless, the evaluation can be conducted by parents, teachers, or clinicians. This tool has six subscales, rather than five. This tool evaluates social interaction, emotional responses, and cognitive style. A final tool is the Early Screening of Autistic Traits (ESAT). This tool can be used specifically by parents and caregivers. Parents do not have to seek a clinician to administer this evaluation. The tool was designed to be used by clinicians on a baby’s wellness visits around age 14 months. If a child fails on three or more indicators, a more in-depth evaluation is warranted.

Teachers & Staff Role

Teachers and support staff play a great role in using diagnostic data to modify and accommodate activities for ASD students (Baron-Cohen, 2004). There are endless ways that accommodations can be made for these students. For example, often teachers will allow students with ASD to complete a smaller portion of assigned work-they may only be responsible for the even numbered items. When students are giving a smaller amount to complete, it serves not to overwhelm them. This technique helps to maintain the students’ attention while giving the teacher an assessable amount of data to determine if the child has mastered the skill being taught.

Another form of modification can be environmental. Having the student’s desk in an area that has the least amount of distractions can make a great difference in the child’s performance. In most cases, ASD students do better when they are facing the front of the classroom (Blair, Umbreit, Dunlap, & Jung, 2007). Some teachers even create a “quiet corner”-a place that ASD students can go to zone out when they become overwhelmed. One study found that sensory blocking materials help to increase students’ engagement by isolating or blocking a particular sense. For example, earplugs may be used to help students focused when general education students are working in small groups. Students who are ASD often have difficulty with noise. So, by allowing them a quiet corner or sensory blocking materials, the teacher is ensuring that the child does not become overwhelmed and remains productive (Blair, Umbreit, Dunlap, & Jung, 2007).

Finally, teaching social skills is very important with ASD students. When teachers and support staff use diagnostic data effectively, they are able to tailor support specifically to the needs of each child. Nevertheless, studies have also shown that general education students benefit from the experiences they have with ASD students. Their interactions with ASD students help them to develop compassion and tolerance for those that are different from them (Harper, Symon, & Frea, 2008). The general education students will also experience a boost in confidence because they are able to help someone in need.

Eliminating Bias

The reality is that many people have biases that they are not even aware of, so how can bias be eliminated? Eliminating bias may be all but impossible, but many things can be done to level the playing field for students who are being tested for disabilities. One common issue that English-language learners’ have is that their language ability affects the learning ability. Teachers and staff have to be careful not to mistake language barriers for learning disabilities. Also, they must be mindful that social practices also affect communication skills. If a child comes from a home where they were not read to or talked to, they too will have communication delays.

Appropriate evaluation must be conducted by multidisciplinary teams to assess all areas of suspected disabilities. The team should use a variety of strategies and diagnostic tools to gather data about the child been evaluated. In other words, more than one diagnostic tool should be used before diagnosing disability.  All instruments used must be valid and reliable (Baron-Cohen, 2004). All administration should be free of racial/cultural discrimination. According to Baron-Cohen, some tests have wording and phrases that may be unfamiliar to various ethnicities. As a result, these groups may score poorly because they are unable to understand what they are being asked. Two great tools for testing minorities are the formal and informal diagnostics of the basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and the cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP). Both these tools are reliable in use with diverse students who are being tested for ASD. Most importantly, no single evaluation should be used to diagnose ASD. Although there are not many, some instruments have been modified to access cultural and social differences experienced by minorities.

References

Baron-Cohen, S. (2004). The cognitive neuroscience of autism. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry, 75, 945-950.

Blair, K. C., Umbreit, J., Dunlap, G., & Jung, G. (2007). Promoting inclusion and peer participation through assessment-based intervention. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 27, 134-147.

Harper, C. B., Symon, J. B. G., & Frea, W. D. (2008). Recess is time-in: Using peers to improve social skills of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 815-826.

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