Autism and ADHD
January 2018 by V. R. Duin

AUTISM AND ADHD
CHANGE EDUCATION

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

Autism and ADHD are giving children of all cognitive types a break from boring standardized lessons and testing in our public and private education systems.

Autism may concentrate thought and over-stimulate emotion, thus clouding communication. It is a different way of thinking that does not thrive on standardized lessons and testing. These students may be fixated on one subject or one object, which may be used as a teaching tool. Individuals on the Autism Spectrum may present with a singular 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. Students with Autism and ADHD are providing awareness about education for all cognitive types. Working alongside these students is rewarding for classmates and it provides opportunities to learn patience and tolerance.


ADHD tends to produce inattentive and impulsive behavior. Children with Autism and ADHD may lose focus and have trouble starting or finishing standardized lessons and testing. The active rhythm of rhyme may help these children assimilate into the classroom. Some autistic students process sounds better than visual input. Autistic children often have a greater sense of the metrics and patterns within math, music and rhyming texts. Sounds that go unnoticed by other students may serve as distractions for autistic individuals. The loud sounds of class bells and school announcements may frighten and unnerve autistic students. The squirming in their seats, the wiggling of their feet and the tapping of their pencils should be used as an opportunity to sharpen the awareness of rhythm and rhyme for students of all cognitive types.


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 of us may fail to hear or see. Carefully chosen vocabulary and magical settings may help to stimulate engagement with the learning process for children with Autism and ADHD. Stealth and novelty in the approach to learning often work wonders for all cognitive types. This is particularly true for the boring and unwelcome intrusions of standardized lessons and testing, which 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 focused on one task, rather than divided. Breaking lessons down to specific tasks, rather than using broad generalizations, may help the understanding of all students.


The “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2002 launched an era of standardized lessons and testing. Standardized books coach students for standardization. The law has come at a heavy cost to taxpayers for test maker fees and costs. Students are placed under pressure to achieve good test results. Learning is facilitated by a calm environment. One half of all students are failing these standardized tests. These students are of all cognitive types, including a small percentage with Autism and ADHD. The conviction of eleven teachers in Atlanta for a cheating racket may prove that accountability is failing along with the system of mass standardization. The focus of learning should be on developing individual talents rather than mass thinking.


Students of all cognitive types and their teachers are caught in the requirements of a law for which there is no indication of success. Students are being taught only those subjects with those materials on which they will be tested. There is little opportunity to explore alternatives that may address special needs. 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 standardized lessons 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 of diverse cognitive types, learning styles, socio-economic levels and areas of interest.


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 in resolution of this government induced a frenzy of standardized lessons and testing. In this era of declining literacy, standardized tests often are riddled with mistakes. The content may be poorly worded and contain developmentally inappropriate questions. Test takers of all cognitive types may have to deal with malfunctioning answer sheets and exam booklets with missing pages. This is an unacceptable challenge for students with Autism and ADHD. Students who operate step-by-step may not associate proper actions with misleading words and instructions.


Teachers are not happy with the standardized lessons and testing, 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 elevating those students who cannot, will not or do not understand the coursework. Students with Autism and ADHD may not receive the individual attention they deserve. Gifted students often are bored and under-challenged by this system. 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.


Children of all cognitive types explore our world from the comfort of home or school with stories that teach a moral lesson and stimulate ideas, discussion and activity. Many individuals are visual thinkers. Pictures connect these individuals to the world. 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 standardized lessons and testing that are based on rigid age-based words and concepts.


Paying attention to different developmental levels and to all cognitive types may address the individual needs of students participating in an educational activity. Many students cannot follow long verbal sequences and instructions. Writing may be facilitated by typing words. Individualization helps educators and parents learn along with the students. We all may benefit by learning more about Autism and ADHD. An appreciation of the different ways in which people of different cognitive types think and learn may help to make education friendlier and more engaging for all students. Standardized lessons and testing should not be expected address or assess the variety of needs among individuals with different cognitive types. Each student should be allowed some sense of command over their personal learning styles and methods to achieve success.


Instead, whether students are engaged, unengaged or totally disengaged with the process may be reflected in test results. Autistic students may not switch tasks or subjects readily. They may require preparation to go from math to reading. It is believed that Student Engagement Affects Test Performance. Parents increasingly are opposed to the distress that High-Stakes Standardized Testing is causing for their children. Parents of students with Autism and ADHD are clamoring for a more individualized approach to teaching. A variety of subject presentations is needed for their children. In response, instructors are experimenting with visual stimulation, peer modeling, physical guidance and the repetition of instructions with different wording until understanding is achieved. Schools also are reducing the burden of standardized lessons and testing for the benefit of all cognitive types.

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.