13 Sep

MSU study: Autistic students needs sometimes overlooked

Leah: Well….it’s about time someone has spoken out about this. It will be interesting if anything changes as a result. The MSU program is interesting, I’ve read some other research coming out of this program and it seems to be lead by a smart researcher. I will keep my eye in what they are doing.

Many teachers in Michigan fail to use some of the most effective methods for teaching children with autism, according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University.

And even when teachers did use those methods, the study found, they often didn’t consistently do so.

There are more than 15,000 students with autism spectrum disorder in Michigan schools.

If they’re not receiving appropriate educational services now, said Summer Ferreri, a professor of special education and one of the study’s two co-authors, that will impact their ability to be productive community members – and the level of support services they’ll need later on.

“If they are not making adequate progress during their time in school, what does that mean for aftercare and taxpayer money and all that sort of thing?” she said. “There are larger implications aside from just individuals with autism.”

The study specifically focused on two teaching methods, the effectiveness of which has been well established by research: applied behavior analysis and “social stories.”

Applied behavior analysis draws on scientific principles of behavior to help those with autism learn how to develop relationships, communicate, play, care for themselves and other skills. “Social stories” are simple descriptions of everyday social situations, which can be difficult for those with autism to navigate.

The study collected information from more than 200 special education teachers and paraprofessionals in the state, as well as 34 parents of children with the disorder.

“We encountered a lot of roadblocks in terms of getting good data, and part of that has to do with important rules regarding the confidential nature of disability status, and so it’s understandable,” said Sara Bolt, a professor of school psychology and the study’s other author.

But, as the study notes, schools are under increasing federal mandates to ensure all students succeed and tracking outcomes of those with autism depends on good data.

“We think that if government agencies and researchers work together, they can potentially design ways to be able to collect this information on a more regular basis, so it can inform decision making in the future,” Bolt said.

The two researchers are scheduled to present their findings to the State Board of Education today.

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