Students with Autism and ADHD
January 2019 by V. R. Duin


Those on the autism spectrum
Need adventures that aren't ho-hum
And prefer fun, rhyming word flows
Over straightforward-sounding prose.

Lessons from students with autism and ADHD are helping to improve learning by children of all cognitive types and showing new ways to fix standardized lessons and testing in our public and private education systems.

Autism is a different way of thinking. Autism may focus thought on one interest. It may raise levels of emotion. It may cloud communication. Students with autism do not thrive on standardized lessons and testing. Common Core sets the standards for teaching and learning in the United States. Instead of Common Core, students of all cognitive types may benefit from lessens built around subjects or objects of interest to them. Building knowledge and language skills in areas of interest is a teaching tool. Strong vocabulary and communication skills develop come with a desire to learn. These skills are important to the career development of all students.

Individuals on the autism spectrum may have a single focus and a strong will. An autistic student with an attachment to a particular object or subject may find motivation in math and reading lessons structured around that interest. Studies suggest that as many as half of children with autism spectrum disorders also may have ADHD. The students are providing an awareness about learning by all children. Working alongside these special students can be rewarding for their classmates. It also helps teach patience and tolerance. People everywhere are exposed to opinions and behaviors that are not shared. However, many of these differences need to be accepted.

Rhyme may help learning. ADHD tends to produce inattentive and impulsive behavior. Students with ADHD may lose focus and have trouble starting or finishing standardized lessons and testing. All children are limited to the subjects and teaching methods of these strict programs. The language ability of some children may be challenged. Others may feel they are held back. The active rhythm of rhyme may pull bored children to join in classroom activities. When students are involved, they take in and more fully understand new ideas and information. Some autistic students process sounds better than visual lessons. These students offer ideas that may be used to replace Common Core.

Autistic children often have a greater sense of metrics and patterns. These special learners quickly find subtle patterns in math, music and rhyming texts. This unique ability is behind the success of amazing geniuses. Some of these savants can process numbers with machine-like speed. However, sounds that go unnoticed by other students may be distractions for autistic individuals. The loud sounds of class bells and school announcements may frighten or unnerve these sensitive students. Awareness is needed. The squirming in their seats, the wiggling of their feet and the tapping of their pencils may an opportunity to sharpen awareness. Rhythm and rhyme may be helpful for learning by all children.

Patterns guide learning. Autism has shown educators and parents a link between rhythm, rhyme and the development of special reading and memory skills. Autism reveals patterns and metrics that many other people may fail to hear or see. Carefully chosen vocabulary and magical settings may help to stimulate engagement with the learning process for all students. Students with autism and ADHD may show the way to better social interaction. Behaviors are likely to improve when lessons are interesting and fun. Recognizing the importance of patterns to learning may help bring an end or needed changes to standardization.

Stealth and novelty in the approach to learning often work wonders. This is particularly true for the boring and unwelcome lessons of Common Core. This rigid teaching may cause students of all cognitive types to become restless and disengaged. Some autistic students learn better when visual stimulus accompanies the spoken word. Other students are unable to see and hear lessons at the same time. Attention often benefits when students are focused on one task. Breaking lessons down to step-by-step lessons may be better than broad generalizations or multi-tasking. This focus may help the understanding of all students.

Standardization causes stress. Children do not fit into one box. They do not learn the same way. The “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2002 launched an era of standardization. Standardized books coach students for standardized testing. The law has come at a heavy cost to taxpayers. Payments for test maker fees and costs are huge. Students are placed under pressure to achieve good test results. A calm environment is required for learning by children of all cognitive types. Task avoidance to escape the stress of these drills often causes disruptive behavior. The answer to ending this stress may be to stop making students conform to a standard. Quality and strength of learning cannot be accurately measured for students with many different learning styles.

One half of all students are failing standardized tests. These students are of all cognitive types. Only a small percentage of these children have autism and ADHD. Autism and ADHD do not automatically mean these students have a learning disability. Many of these children have above-average intelligence. They are not alone in their social difficulties. The conviction of eleven teachers in Atlanta for a cheating racket may prove that ethics are failing in this system of mass standardization. The test of time shows these programs are not boosting learning quality or morale. The focus of learning should be to develop individual talents rather than mass thinking.

Standardization is failing our children. Students are trapped in courses set by law. There is no indication of success in learning by children of any cognitive type through standardization. Students are not developing a passion for learning. Students are being taught only those subjects with those materials on which they will be tested. There is little opportunity to explore areas of interest. Special needs are not met by standardized teaching. Greater efforts are needed to bring innovative and ground-breaking ideas to education. The learning process is not yet an exact science. The human brain is not completely understood.

Standardization is causing students to disengage and to “hate” school. Merely allowing extra time for completion may not address the special needs of students with autism and ADHD. These students may require special equipment and tactile preparation for learning and testing. Rather than a mouse, they may need a roller ball or pointing device. It is becoming clear that learning cannot be standardized for individual students. Students have different cognitive types, learning styles, socio-economic levels and areas of interest. They are not products on shelves. They do need to have a uniform appearance to be recognized in the world market.

Parents are getting involved. According to the Harvard Political Review, parents who are not happy with their stressed and disheartened children have accelerated The Case Against Standardized Testing. It is hard to create an at home reading program that works within the government's frenzy of Common Core. Achievement and test scores are stagnant. Parents often do not understand the strange learning formulas. The experimental math is especially confusing and unhelpful for parents. The time may have come to end Common Core. It is proving to be a failed exercise in group-think and guesswork. Not only does it discourage creativity, it removes individual responsibility.

In this time of falling literacy, standardized tests often are full of mistakes. The content may be poorly worded. It may contain developmentally inappropriate questions. Test takers may have to deal with malfunctioning answer sheets and exam booklets with missing pages. These problems frustrate learning by children of all cognitive types. This is an unacceptable challenge for most students. Students who operate step-by-step may be especially challenged. They may not associate proper actions with misleading words and instructions. A step-by-step approach may be needed to fix standardized lessons and testing. The current system is broken.

Standardization is failing our teachers. Teachers are not happy with Common Core, either. Their evaluations and salaries depend upon test scores, which have been steadily dropping. To receive pay increases in traditional public schools, teachers must focus on raising the grades of lower-functioning students. Many of these students cannot, will not or do not understand the coursework. Teaching does not fully address the speaking and language learning difficulties of students with autism and ADHD. Recognizing that students and learning methods are different may help parents and educators end this failed program. It may be time to bring in new opinions and ideas from outside the system. Parents may be the place to start.

Students with autism and ADHD may not receive the individual attention they deserve. Gifted students often are bored and under-challenged by this system of repetitive routines and narrow subjects. Government barriers to reading and learning are problematic for educators, parents and students. Learning is no longer a pleasant or rewarding pursuit for students. Students of different cognitive types may feel trapped in standardized schools. Learning no longer appears to be happening. The group-think attitude of the public school system needs to open up to problem-solving and decision-making and welcome change. Common sense recognizes there are differences in learning. These different learning styles and abilities cannot be served by the one-size-fits-all approach to education.

Home-schooling is on the rise. Parents are teaching their children at home, instead of sending them to school. For learning by children of all cognitive types, it now is possible explore our world from the comfort of home or school with online lessons and stories. These online connections can help adults teach moral lessons and stimulate ideas, discussions and activities for children. Students with autism and ADHD may be clumsy with motor coordination and hand-eye movements. Respect should be given to visual thinkers. Pictures connect these individuals to the world. Parents can use online pictures from around the world to guide learning at home. Parents can encourage critical thinking and discuss outside threats in a positive way. Parents can guide their children to bravery from the fears that are building in schools.

Great illustrations may help children who have autism and ADHD. Readers who are pre-verbal or verbally challenged and early readers also may be empowered by creative art. In the process of learning, children develop a new understanding of their world at school, at home and in the community. Social and academic performance may improve when children in school are given a break from boring Common Core. These tests and lessons are based on rigid age-based words and concepts. Schools are so similar in their outlook and approach, they can no longer be objective. They cannot evaluate their situation or seek new options. Recognizing the limits of rigid group-think may help parents and educators fix standardized lessons and testing.

Parents can stop the pressure to conform. Parent have a big role in getting early diagnosis of learning differences. They can find special ways to accommodate their special learners. Parents can focus school attention on these different developmental levels and needs. Parents must plan for for better outcomes. They must reach out to educators. Schools must be informed about any individual needs for learning for children with different learning styles. Parents can question how standardized lessons and testing can possibly meet the needs of such a wide variety of cognitive types. Parents can bring in the “devil's advocate”. A new viewpoint might help educators learn from parents and along with the students.

We all may benefit by learning more about autism and ADHD. It is important to understand the different ways in which people of different cognitive types think and learn. A respect for these differences may make education friendlier and more engaging for all students. Many students cannot follow long sentences and instructions. Writing may be made easier when students are allowed to type words. Forcing the use of pen and paper may backfire for students on the autism spectrum. Each student should be allowed some sense of command over their personal learning styles and methods. Avoiding unnecessary conflict may help students achieve success. Giving students some control may improve their participation rates in educational activities.

Test results may be misleading. They may not measure learning or understanding. It is believed that Student Engagement Affects Test Performance. Test may show whether students are engaged, unengaged or totally disengaged with the process. Autistic students may not switch tasks or subjects readily. They may require preparation to go from math to reading. Autism and ADHD are lifetime conditions. There is no cure. Forced testing may not accurately measure learning in any children. Schools seem to recognize that alternatives to tests are needed. The education system is moving to replace must-pass exams. Under development is a new system to serve as a loophole for the graduation of marginalized students.

Parents are not happy with the stress that high-stakes standardized testing is causing for their children. Parents of students with autism and ADHD are calling for a more individualized approach to teaching language, math, listening and analytic skills. A variety of presentations is needed to capture the attention of their children. In response, instructors are experimenting with mentoring, visual stimulation, peer modeling, physical guidance and the repetition of instructions with different wording until understanding is achieved. Schools are experimenting with alternative testing to fix standardized lessons and testing for the benefit of all cognitive types. Parents play an important role in the outcome.

Learning by Children of all Cognitive Types

  • Autism and ADHD Reading Rates says:

    Students with Autism and ADHD welcome stimulation outside of the standardized curriculum. All children like the suspense of problem-solving as they read.

  • standardized lessons and testing Reading Rates says:

    To make reading fun, children of all cognitive types must break from boring, standardized lessons with something exciting and new to see, hear, discuss and learn.

    • All cognitive typesReading Rates says:

      Rhyming verse helps children of all cognitive types sound out words as they learn to read, and it is more memorable than prose.